Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I guess I'll close this year with a few last stray thoughts, which might begin with a thought toward chapels, like the kind you find on college campuses, or old New England towns, some, a strange vacancy about them.  What happened to the spiritual life that the eye still sees, somehow tangible?  The place of a higher purpose now seemingly ignored holds offices of  an academic department, the large chapel meeting hall itself a place where the presidents and trustees of the college speak a state of affairs.  Fine and well there might be the offices of higher thought and learning within, no doubt, but the ghost, the remainder, is left ignored.

In old New England towns they often lay vacant, rising above old cemeteries with stones few heed or remember, beautiful architecture, sometimes converted now for touristy things, candle or antique shop.  Spiritually, many have use still, but obviously toned down from the original lay out of the town and the pioneer spirits that wrought shape.  Many are, it seems, abandoned, like stranded ships amidst real estate markets.

A certain kind of spirituality invigorated such towns that dotted the map and connected the darkness of the hills and marshes and stretches.  It filtered down and touched most everything it seems, and even departing from the Bible itself, the spirituality informed the poetry and the thoughts of a town's inhabitants.

Young people crave wisdom, maybe too much, the wisdom found in falling in with bad types and the drunken.  I deserve damnation to hell fire and a millstone about the neck as much as anyone, for I have sinned.  I sinned and trespassed and acted like a fool.  I let chances for a good Old Testament kind of a life pass by, and I am sorry for it.  It was as if I met all the elements of an upright and decent life and failed to recognize them, letting neglect blast them away, leaving me to wander and find greater irresponsibility.  And I sometimes wonder if a stronger presence of a more directly spiritual life would have helped me find the proper way, brought me to more self-control and self-discipline.

But, still, one is left with wisdom, while trying afresh to be spiritual and spiritually upright, as hard as that is.  One is left with the wisdom of observing gluttons and wine-bibbers, publicans and sinners at close quarters.  One is left with the wisdom coming of his own mistakes.

I'd rather stay and read Proverbs than go in and tend bar one more night of this year, New Years Eve.

Au fond, at the bottom of it all, we all face the same spiritual problem.  Which is why we read the stories and texts of the religious canon.  The ego, the money changers, the illusioned, have integrated themselves into the temple, the personality;  it becomes necessary to purify, to get back to the wisdom of spiritual words.  And I suppose--lesson for the new year--as there is sufficient evil to the day, every day we can, we need to attempt the job we can to muster the spiritual.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I guess I just didn't take to the egotistical quality.  That was a large part of it.  To be a scholar, or to take the success of school and run with it, you had to have a big ego, one way or another.  (Look at the egos of the academy today.  Look at the egos of banking today.)

And that was never what I had learned.  I had learned that scholarship was more about finding a traditional way, in the way that my father, being a professor of botany, was far from being egotistical.  He knew the selflessness of real science.  He knew the perspective, the engagement, the equality of real teaching, even if he was not particularly celebrated for what he did so well, even as it was often acknowledged, his deep moral sense of the spirituality of the teaching classroom on the planet Earth.

But where I went, you could kind of smell it.  You did well, you went on and did well further, and then one day counted yourself a success and could look down on other people who had not done as well.

There was, of course, being a great school, still a lot of egoless intellect and art and real thinking.  There were great people who could still be real and let their guard down.  Along with the ambitious and the self-interested.  Some people just slipped into the tradition of the place, which allowed them an excuse, or a way around it.

And so I found myself gravitated toward things like Irish music, or writing whatever I felt like I needed to put down, things that never really had to be done with the kind of greedy professionalism, given what professionalism has become in many sectors.  I know.  People think they don't have a choice but to be a professional of the sort, meaning an exaggerated sort of person, their humanity distorted by the identity they claim.  Like the literary critic too self absorbed to engage with a honest student.

So I chose a line of work that got me far away from the big ego, and into a barroom, where I could not claim a Ph.D, but where doctors and smart people could come and talk and discuss interesting things, never held to a certain topic necessarily.

The problem with egotism, as opposed to something that is more of the soul, less of the intellect, is that there is distracting quality to it.  There is a certain psychological divorce going on.  And this is why we all feel weird now, doing something original, or sitting down and thinking on paper.  There is always the successful person looking over the shoulder, offering the comparison of their own rewarding life within to yours without.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

He cast out devils and could casually number how many in each person.  She had seven, he had twelve, and some even worse than that.  Basic Christian psychology.  It takes its base in the Buddha's wisdom on the nature of Self, on all the cluttering stuff of egos.  And it would seem that any journey of intelligence, that of those of thought and expression, would sooner or later come upon that sense, of the reality of people being that it is very easy for them to let in egotistical identities.  Interesting, from the Christian point of view, that these egotist selves that grow within are not just one, but numerable entities.

Of course, as Jesus said, you have to remote the mote, the beam, the dust, the stick of wood, out of your own eye before you can help someone else sweep out his or her own.  Perhaps, too, they can be like splinters, working their way to the surface.  Gradually, it seems, you become aware of them, in other people, in your self.  As you see them in other people, along with the pull that they have, you see the clutter of your own within.

It could be an embarrassing business.  The things you clung to, in your mind, may have well valued as a writer philosopher seeker of wisdom and truth and witness to deeper reality and the ways of the Universes, suddenly go poof, at least in the way you had defined the tensions caused by the ego selfish devil-genie within.  And maybe such things aren't so devilish, just a part of your atomic ticking, the set up for a transformation, so that like the poor madman whose legions have been cast out into the herd of swine, you too can sit there rubbing your forehead, saying, "Jesus…  thank you," back to the greatest form of normal you've ever experienced.  Maybe you had to chew on such things for the sake of ultimately working out your own balance.  And perhaps relief comes in additional forms in that finally you do not judge yourself for having made mistakes in interpersonal relationships, because as the ultimate truth shows anyway, that there is no fixed Self, no identity you have to fill in order to be a full human being.

Of course, the Christian story is not complete without that Christ running up against the great egos of the day, the powers that be both in the Roman Empire and those of the authorities of the local religious structure.  is it then that he makes what might be interpreted as a final gesture of being egoless, free from devils, free of selfish agenda, for if he had he might have saved himself, if possible.  Of course, being egoless does not entail being free of pain.

Monday, December 9, 2013

I am convinced more and more that it's the egos that people, maybe the entire human race, needs to shed.  Ego and selfishness, people "looking out for their own," soon comes misery, right at the hour of greatest accomplishment.

People do not mean to be so.  They do not intend to be such pains in the asses, but, because there is not that constant message out there, Don't Be an Egotistical such n such, they do.  Then the reaction, between individuals, each saying, I am This, or I am That, to put it into simplistic terms, and from the reactions back and forth a tiresome falseness, a room filled with a white elephant.  The Buddha explicitly points out the root of all suffering, but we don't know what he's talking about, such odd funny terms.

And this is what causes nothing to ever get done, as it all just goes off into this spin of egos, of self-important people.  (Obama strikes one as man of chastened ego, thus his relationship with Lincoln.)

Remarkably enough, there are real people, who still exist, who are, in a real practical sense, important.  This to me is something of a mystery, but, they are good people of humor and faith, and they are nice to talk to.

The Gnostic Gospels talk of Jesus picking up on hints of Buddhism.  Were his preachings an effort to reduce the egotism of Judaism?  Even the best of us fall into it.

What's my own ego?  Am I writer, or some has been, who blogs?  Or does the general picture one struggles along with not some basic picture of humanity, a creature who needs words...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

It's a feeling we might have more often than we'd like to admit, some of us anyway.  I will never fit in to DC.  No way.  Not going to happen.  Might as well admit it.  You just started seeing things pretty much the opposite way from the norm, and it seems you can't really go back.

You go back only when you've really acknowledged all that, which takes a good sense of humor, touched with forms of surrender to the facts.  No sense in trying to impress anyone.  Just like you're from a different planet.

Friday, December 6, 2013

And so I went up to pay my respects to his statue, there behind a Long Fence, while the media was gathering itself at 5 AM in front of the Embassy of South Africa.  Flashing lights along the righthand curbside lane of Massachusetts Avenue.  "That's a pretty good fist," I offered, to a guy there on the sidewalk between the chain link fence and the mud.   He was a radio reporter and he asked me so I tried to explain what brought me here, in my off duty time.  He was from the countryside, that was one thing.  He'd gotten an education and studied law.  He had a great moral sense, obviously, and knew the right place to make a stance.  He had a sense of the deepest deep moral issue behind it all.  He was able to withstand all those twenty seven years of imprisonment, and remain nonjudgmental about those who imprisoned him.  He had the same sense of any great democrat, along with our own tradition here in America.