The scene, fictional, a typical downtown office building setting, second floor down a corridor, somewhere near Connecticut and M, a small office, not overly lit, two chairs facing each other, somewhat embarrassingly, a middle aged man explaining the problems of his psyche and his life to his therapist, a younger woman:
So I got dragged up to the country club... I was tired, kinda wanted to get back into the stream of my neglected attempt to locate and define my values, like you instructed. I... a country club, not so much my scene, I guess, when you're tired and come off a couple of long do-it-all-by-yourself kind of a shift, the last table, running dessert up from the first floor... I know, like you tell me, watch out for being negative. But I will say, being out in daylight from 11 to 4 was good for me. I've been getting up at a decent hour. I went and took care of a doctor's appointment for a little men's issue, got a physical in, blood work, peed into a cup, no errant fingers anywhere yet, no, 'time for the old colonoscopy...'
And I wonder, all the night shifts I've done, that have gone on into the late night, twenty years of them, going to bed when it's getting light out by the end of the workweek... So, here I am, getting up, at say, by 10. What do I do with myself? I have to wait for my job to begin, the prep for it beginning around 2, 2:30... So what do I do? How do I act upon my values? Where do I start, at my age... What do I do?
Now I will say, wine is an interesting subject, particularly if you apply your values to it, like all those old school wines that speak of the particular place they're from. I've been reading Kermit Lynch, watching documentaries on youtube... I'm lucky to be where I am, a wine list with Madiran, Bandol, Marcillac, Chinon... It's not a pain in the ass kind of a list, it's good, old school, tried and tested, great value. All you need in a wine bar bistrot.
Well, I even got out for a walk, and a walk turned into a jog, a run even, once I got down by the stream in the woods... I did my yoga when I got back, and work was cool, even if it's a bit like dodging two linebackers in tight space while you're trying to hold a conversation, wipe off glassware from the machine, having to make cocktails, when you need to open a wax-top $300 bottle of Chablis Premier Cru.
So what are my values... I'm fifty and I still don't know... Is it like the fruit tree in the gospels, good fruit from the good tree, unfruitful from the wicked... values sort of organic, just being there, coming out from within because they are innate... Maybe what Jesus is saying is something like, "just be a human being," just be the tree. The tree bears fruit.
(Well, then... We might have to wonder about our political system then, being all about who has money to play the game to influence whatever they want to influence. Both sides play that game, of course. It's how the system works. But where are the innate values of the tree?)
I stand and wait on people, even when they're tipsy... There's a sense of self-entitlement, that being a function of their professional lives, their opinion of themselves... I know, people earn it... I mean, my dad was a college professor, and some might say there's a certain arrogance about that, but he really thought about what liberal arts meant and what teaching was about. If he'd not had the self-confidence as a young man, that path, mentored as it was by a particular guy, Dr. Torrey, might not have opened up for him.
So you see, a lot of people in Washington have that unquestioned self-confidence. Can't blame them at all. Go for it. But I know how... how one-sided their conversations can be, how they want to preach but will not listen, will sound well and broadly read but care not to have any curiosity to another's opinion. And all of this goes on on a daily basis. In every city around the world.
There's the good side of it, self-confidence, through work, parlayed into credential, parlayed into job, which is the manifestation of values, undeniably.
(The cynic, to a Jesus or a Buddha, "who the hell are you; what gives you the right? your arrogance is far more stunning and blasphemous than our own.'' Like the Grand Inquisitor, who's 'earned' his position.)
I wonder, what the hell happened to me... Too fair-minded, too tolerant, too not caring about making a good buck, about sealing the deal... "Give 'em an inch, they'll take a mile; nice guys finish last." Or just plain old deflating depression at an inopportune time keeping you from sticking with it... Or, you just think too much, ask too many questions, get neglected for not being mainstream scholarly... You realize too late that people are judgmental, personal, professional...
And all you are, as humanity is in its true nature, is a big bucket of kindness: generosity, the wish to teach and enlighten, open channels in the mind for people through reading poems that have some science to them, some powers of observation... That which is at the heart of the stimulation that education provides. Kindness. The kindness to shine the light the things people create when they are just being who they are, writing poems and such.
They're finding this out in inner city schools. That one in Chicago, where there was a hunger strike, the school board wanting to shut it down, an arts school they were judging by the standards of those people who administrate, make a lot of money doing it, then move on, not giving a crap. "Math and Science," the administrator preaches, and cuts the life's blood of natural curiosity and self-examination and rhetorical thought that fires the mind of the creature that is the human being..
And take in the end any, you know, relationship-partnership-couple thing... What in the end to you really wish for them, or about them, or from them, your beautiful partner... I mean, sure, you want love, but it's also simpler than that: you just want to be kind, and receive kindness, un, un, what's the term, unqualified love, un, yes, unconditional love. Unconditional love. That which is always passed down, in one form or another, in any healthy parent child relationship. That is, I'm sure of it, what I had from both of them... A person comes along who's like your DNA match. That's how I think of it. Matches are highly specific. Matters of fate.
As a male, well, yes, you might think you have designs on that "chick with nice tits, a fine big booty ass, etc." But in the end, like you she is a person, a being subject to aging and infirmity, and you really just want to be honest with her, to not be a liar...
I have no choice, but to look at that it way. I'm too old and poor to pretend... I'm not that fun. I don't do interesting popular things with my time. The blood has cooled, however Shakespeare would put it. But, you know, there might be some consistency, which you finally become self-aware of, and it's not a bad thing. It's an honest thing. You're not a living advertisement of some such'n'such kind of crap. You're more or less equal to your fellow being, not just human, the wise and the informed tell us. You become real.
All answer to the laws of karma. Which is simple and all-reaching. Those who have the appropriate correct general kind of values, accurate to the true divinity within, never to be besmirched, don't have so much to worry about as far as the truly important things.
The details they might totally fuck up, ending up homeless, which sucks, but, well, you hold out as long as you can and make the best of the situation and see, well, maybe in fact there is some wisdom in it.
Kindness wins the day. The creature has always existed through that, in whatever relationship... I mean, except for 'those people,' the Mongol Horde, the Genghis Khan, the movers and the shakers, those who, in other words, have subscribed to some illusion maybe, or who maybe are desperate to protect themselves against that which they cannot... Old age. Obscurity. Lonesomeness. Infirmity.
Am I just being too wise-sounding, full of shit, in other words. You could easily say, "well, look around you; everyone is trying to wage their little war for their own self-interests, conquerors, empires by their own little scales." Is everyone waging war and fighting against the other in an aggressive act of competing for... whatever... And the sweet people just see through all that, but then it looks like they're not playing the game, not making any effort to set forth and fight for their deeper values of love and mentorship and the good of education, as the clock of life ticks and ticks and speeds and speeds, faster, faster, aging, aging and "why didn't you make the most of it when you had the chance and could have been aggressive, seizing the day, 'the purple host' victorious," a voice inside my own head. "Thank you, mind, thank you for reminding me..."
You want to educate? Read them Shakespeare. He had it all. Math, language, psychology, sciences... We just have to pull it out of him. It's like Keats or the Buddha said, it's all about awakening the knowledge within; thou art that which is. You want to be Shakespeare yourself, go into a barroom and see them all act their moment upon the stage... The error is in not writing enough, or forgetting, like, who you are.
Have we lost that voice? Have we lost the sense of the basic, good fruit from the good tree, bad from the wicked tree, the tree not in touch with its season in the deeper sense. Yes, because now even more than before maybe, we must be ALL ABOUT the buck, the clever deal...
Which personally I cannot fathom, but simply show up for work and attend to what happens, dragged upon by these ego weights of stone...
Now I'm up at a decent hour. Health. This must be my value. And the day is daunting, scary. What do I do with it? How can I pass the time usefully, fruitfully. How can I be employed? How can I make the most of things, the best of things. How can I help? What have I missed?
Time's a strange thing. Maybe I've got too much of it on my hands, I don't know. Yeah, but at least I'm writing. Trying to untangle all these thoughts...
Actual life, Doctor, is actually like a skit from Saturday Night Live. (I had "drunk girl" in last night at the bar.) It's like people quickly become caricatures of themselves. Quite as if they strove to do just that. Am I being harsh?
And one of the pleasures of it is turning out a good sentence. A good phrase. Words, words, words, a comfort in our times. Writing, for me, is a most satisfying way to communicate. The rest is simple kindness, so plainly obvious...
Showing up. Just simply showing up. That's what you have to do in life. I haven't always been good at that. I have a hard time doing what I'm told, I guess. I think too much, too impressionable, too much going on in my head. That's why I have to meditate. You don't show up, you're missing out. Anxiety causes that. You get nervous, you think too much. So circumspect you end up not living your life.
Reflecting, later, walking home: Yes, that was my problem, not knowing just to be kind, or, perhaps rather, just having confidence that all you truly needed to do was be kind. Somehow that's hard for young people seeking out their relationship territory. Kindness, that is all. We all have feelings.
I emerge into the daylight, finally, shyly. Does it make sense that people are most easily approached through wine, thus my profession?
Be still, monkey mind, caught in time. The present, the readiness, is all.
I wanted to be a teacher, like DeMott. Waking up minds. Waking up people to the poetry of life. Because that's all there is. The rest provokes boredom. Could it be that we're all missing something, the way we live, what we think of, the aggression, the judgements... I don't know what I'm saying. But each of us has a particular talent, and that you have to manifest. It might not be anyone else's talent. It might be the core talent we all share through the divine spark of creation. Drill down into it when you are alone with time to think and reflect. Apply the natural focus where it belongs.
You see a cute girl, she haunts you because of her soul. That's why she's attractive. But we don't talk about that. To do so would be weird.
And yet all the great men... find that focus, I suppose. That ability to be alone. To find that inner talent. The Beatles had that impact for releasing that power. That alignment. The outer and the inner one. Not sold to the lowest common denominator. Not competed for, because it is natural and inherent, like all the important rights we speak of. The moment of Lincoln being alone with his deeper thoughts... It's a generic talent, shared equally, but not always awakened, called upon. Maybe it seems too weird, takes too much time. Not social.
It requires a lot of a person. You really have to go look for life's meaning. But that comes naturally. Doesn't it?
That's why it just happens, why some of us just end up spending part of our time here alone. It's time to think, and thinking is what we do. It's what we do best. Is that an accident?
How did wine come about? Where did yoga come from? How did miracles come about, for that matter... Time alone to think. That's why we protect minds, persons, education... Establish a base, then allow for the education to take off on its own.
We try too much to do the wrong things... Attempt to control that which we cannot.
A follow-up visit:
But you can't blame people for mastering information. That's what you have to do as an adult and live in the world. You do have to become an expert. You can't just float in the wind. You have to keep reading, keep studying, keep taking tests... And maybe, for whatever reason, I fell down about that. I was a good student. Then what happened, is mysterious.
Did I get discouraged, once my great teacher DeMott departed, no longer my advisor? I slowed down as a reader. I fell into the night.
Sunlight, simple plain old sunlight, we need that. And now I'm trying to rediscover my discipline, my native curiosity, intelligence you could call it.
Where did my interest and faith in science go? It's like I put my head in the sand. "I'm going to be a writer" is simply more laziness. Or, if you are going to try that, go on an adventure, travel somewhere, tell a story in all its complications.
I know I could be studying something, being a student, but I don't know where, how or when... I need to play the adult game of thought-out decision, not just following my emotions around, staring at my navel.
But then, yeah, there falls upon us the wisdom of the Buddha.
I like to study the nature of reality. How do we do that? What makes things so?
Karma is consciousness. The ability to see that which is appropriate to you. Perception.
We were predestined to meet so, for me to sit in this office just so. Not unlike meeting a parent, except here we have a copay and 45 minutes.
This is what Moby Dick is about. That last bit of info when we attempt like Ahab to "strike through the mask." Into meaning, into why... Ahab and the White Whale are preordained for each other.
But yeah, I would hope there are happier things coming when we know the nature of reality, the karma to have the instinct about how to perceive someone as appropriate or not, what their meaning as far as reality might be. What you yourself are... My beautiful friend from Mexico coming to visit, like sunshine.
So forget all I was saying about, you know, experts, egotists, that's just the way they perceive their reality, their usefulness upon the Earth...
That expert talk, be it about sport or politics, that's just what happens, and a barman has to put up with it, and it's a healthy thing. But is it about deeper reality? Is it about the nature of perception? Those are conversations you almost have to have alone. The difference between Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump in our deeper psyches... guess what... which one is presidential in our consciousness, in our karma... I'd rather talk about one than the other. One is shallow, one is deep. If we've identified that, we know 99% of the issue. We can then connect the dots to the important matters and issues...
(I suppose good or bad can happen. Hitler-types seem to arise out of somewhere.)
I'd think one could be a bit shy toward these sorts of understandings. The thinking part of the brain would be distracted with worry about practical things, until the meditation comes, and then, things fall into place. The neighbor is a very deep person. That girl back in college, well, it didn't work out, and that's okay, the formula hadn't been formulated as of yet, the wisdom was still being born and had to learn to walk.
I'm an old man, by some standards, now. Middle-aged at the very least. And I am not unproud about that it I might grasp at a few things as we blinded beings must.
It aches a bit, to be so wise, I guess. But in a good way. That ache when you find yourself attracted to another person and you feel sort of shy about it... Wanting to do things that come as a surprise to you, seeing the difference between dry rehearsal and going live. That's when a sort of atomic explosion goes off, of finding yourself with a good a guess as any about things and why they happen. Because of your karma, your mind, your consciousness, all the things that shaped you to, primarily, last of all, truly see, even though it will always be a mystery to you, inexplicable.
To discover our nature is to discover our nature. That's the saint's own business, to find like the lamas find the reincarnation of the old one in a child.
That's what the artist works with. The archetypes that are key to understanding deeper nature. Like King Lear or Hamlet, like the Christina's World painting, or pretty much a lot of what Emily Dickinson put into verse. Or the ancient stories, the myths, the Bhagavad Gita... All keys, archetypes to help us see that perception is consciousness, which is finally something akin to karma...
And the mainstream way of thought, no wonder it leads to the beheading of deeper truth, unfortunate acts of an animal bent on destruction...
"Like John the Baptist..."
Yes, doctor, like John the Baptist. The slaughter of a guy who gets the archetype reality... And the archetype himself is calm, knows when, where, what to see... the ass waiting for him...
That's the holy grail, to find calm in this world, in this body...