THE BENDING LINE by Dr. Charles Frost
Western philosophy, the way we think, act, and build our society, has been dominated by male-animus as opposed to the female-anima influences of Eastern philosophy. This linear Western way of viewing the world has provided a hardness that has served industry well during our march toward an affluent society. However, a straight linear procession requires blinders as distractions are seen as the enemy. The circular Eastern way of thinking in recent years has gained ever more influence. This change is a natural growth process of accommodation to the new needs that can be allowed, now that our society can slow down and examine itself more thoroughly. We have far to go before we adopt, if ever, a circular Eastern way of processing thought. However, the line is bending.
The condition of our society desperately cries out for some direction, a way of viewing what is happening. A philosophy which can help bend the line and ease the tension of a linear Western way of thinking, holds the promise of an end to our painful frustration.
To attempt to write about this subject is troublesome as written words do not have in them the feeling and emotions that we want to convey. As Hermann Hesse contended in A Journey to the East, words do not express thought very well, they express the emotions of thoughts least well. Yet we are compelled to forge ahead but caution both ourselves and our readers of the serious limitations we must labor under.
Philosophy is a personal experience to be affectively taught---it is something you can not absorb usefully through books or lectures alone. Everyone is unique and to communicate you need a give-&-take process so that involvement and experience is integrated with the thinking-learning-change process. Therefore, I implore you (and hope to follow the rule myself) to read and stop, read and stop, read and stop. Think on what is being presented and how it applies to your own experiences. Keep always in mind that philosophy is part of everyday decision making. So take what you read into your life and test it, challenge it, and please come back to read again.
At the same time that I am challenging you to think about what you read, I also warn you not to do this in a linear Western way. Western thinking is dangerous.
"The mania of thinking renders one
unfit for every activity."
"If you start to think about your physical or moral condition, you usually find that you are sick."
Do not grab these thoughts and run with them. Explore them. Feel them. See how and why they speak to you. Incorporate into your thinking processes the emotions that are a part of you. Don't think yourself sick, instead, incorporate your thinking processes into all the rest of your life and make them one healthy growth process.
"Unless all existence is a medium of
Revelation, no particular revelation is
Keep a healthy, open, Beginners Mind ready to receive and process what is presented but remember Gary Snyder's admonition from Earth Household:
"(Beware of anything that promises freedom or enlightenment-- traps for eager & clever fools---a dog has a keener nose--- every creature in a cave can justify himself. Three-fourths of philosophy and literature is the talk of people trying to convince themselves that they really like the cage they were tricked into entering.)"
Enough of such admonitions. You have been duly warned. Philosophy has only one rule, a meta-rule---there is a difference between truth and error. It is now your task to apply the rule to this philosophy.
TO BE HARD AND SOFT
To be hard and strong. To be a man.
To be soft and yielding. To be a woman.
Although many readers may easily dismiss these old worn ideas, they are still very much with us embedded in stone, beaten into bronze memorials in a thousand towns across our Western civilization. And with this thinking goes, as the hand in the glove, our inability to see beyond the blacks and whites. We must stop looking at only what is in the outstretched hand and examine what is in the closed hand behind the back. All gifts have a price. All beauty is the key to some ugliness. Look into the shadows before you accept all the warmth of the sun without question and remember that the storm with all its destructive powers is also the source of renewal.
To be hard and soft.
To be strong and yielding.
Western thinking resists this type of "conflicting" duality. The Western world, since Aristotle, has demanded that our thinking be logical. A is A and not B. A is not non-A. As Aristotle explained: "It is impossible for the same thing at the same time to belong and not to belong to the same thing and in the same respect; and whatever other distinctions we might add to meet dialectical objections, let them be added. This, then, is the most certain of all principles..." This "logical" approach has so dominated Western thinking that it now seems natural.
However, Eastern thinking has proceeded in a rather different fashion. This other approach is captured succinctly by Chuang-tzu with the following statement: "That which is one is one. That which is not-one, is also one." Taoist thinking states this fundamental by saying that: "Gravity is the root of lightness; stillness the ruler of movement." Or another Taoist lesson informs us that: "My words are very easy to know, and very easy to practice; but there is no one in the world who is able to know and able to practice them."
To be hard and soft.
To be strong and yielding.
To be a full person who is not caught up in these contradictions but can see the male-femaleness in us all. To be open to all aspects of ourselves and our world. This is what one must strive toward as the base on which to build an understanding of how we have been trapped by linear Western thought so as to not see the complexities, subtleties, and beauty that abound all around us. Life is by design a joyful process that we have seriously damaged by our thinking about it in simplistic ways. Kick back, slow down, stop and enjoy. Accept that not everything has to be one way or the other, black or white, hard or soft. Open yourself to the idea that everything is both good and bad.
Maslow points out in Motivation & Personality that: "Western culture generally rests on the Judaic-Christian theology. The United States particularly is dominated by the Puritan and pragmatic spirit which stresses work, struggle and striving, soberness and earnestness, and above all, purposefulness. Like any other social institution, science in general and psychology in particular is not exempt from these cultural climate or atmosphere effects. American psychology, by participation, is overpurposeful...No textbooks have chapters on fun and gaiety, or leisure and meditation, on loafing and puttering, on aimless, useless and purposeless activity...American psychology is busily occupying itself with only half of life to the neglect of the other---and perhaps more important---half."
To be a balanced person requires that you are open to the duality of life, that you are a concrete person who also accepts and incorporates the soft, the pliable, the unknowable mysteries of life into your existence.
WE ARE ALL ONE RESIDING IN A MARVELOUS UNIVERSE.
Before we proceed further, it is only fair that I share a strong bias that infuses this philosophy. Humans are social creatures by nature and must be concerned with the welfare of others as well as their own welfare
"For to him that is joined to all
the living there is hope."
An injury to one is an injury to all. We cannot get around this central point and still contend that we are civilized.
As Pablo Casals so eloquently states: "Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that never was before and never will be again. And what do we teach our children in school? We teach them that two and two make four and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we teach them what they are? We should say to them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all of the world there is no other child exactly like you. In the millions of years that have passed, there has never been a child like you. And look at your body---what a wonder it is! Your legs, your arms, your cunning fingers, the way you move! You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must cherish one another. You must work---we must all work to make this world worthy of its children."
This does not lead you to an all giving, no getting position. We must maintain balance. The "do-gooder" is a dangerous creature because he does not have his own act together. We must continually work towards a balance of giving and getting.
As Castaneda stated: "Don Juan said, 'I cannot imagine that he (referring to a man smoking while lecturing on the evils of pollution and Vietnam) is concerned with other people's bodies when he doesn't like his own.' Our first concern should be with ourselves. I can like my fellow men only when I am at my peak of vigor and am not depressed. To be in this condition I must keep my body trimmed. Any revolution must begin here in this body. I can alter my culture but only from within a body that is impeccably tuned-in to this weird world. For me the real accomplishment is the art of being a warrior, which, as Don Juan says, is the only way to balance the terror of being a man with the wonder of being a man."
Perspective is ofttimes our salvation. To be able to laugh at ourselves is essential to the struggle. Without humor we can too quickly take off down roads that lead us nowhere and fool ourselves into thinking that we are off to see the Wizard-- wake up Dorothy! One of the most splendid ways to develop perspective so as to avoid hedonism, or its counterpart of thinking you are the one who will save us all, is simply to gaze into the starry night.
An astronomical unit is the mean distance of the earth from the sun, about 93 million miles. Jupiter is 5 astronomical units from the sun.
Pluto is 40 astronomical units from the sun. At about 100,000 astronomical units from the sun are same billions of tailless comets, kilometer-size snowballs slowly circling the distant sun.
Our galaxy is a vast, ponderously rotating pinwheel of some 250 billion suns and the dense central plane of the galaxy, seen edge on, is the diffuse band across the sky that we call the Milky Way.
Our galaxy is one of at least billions, and perhaps hundreds of billions, of galaxies.
A light year is about 60,000 astronomical units (60,000 x 93,000,000 = 5,580,000,000,000 miles, 5 1/2 trillion).
From a few dozen light-years away the sun would be quite undetectable to the unaided human eye---a distance of a few dozen light-years is only about a thousandth of the distance from the sun to the center of our galaxy.
The earth is 4.6 billion years old.
If each star had a solar system with 8 planets and every galaxy had the same number of stars and there are 100 billion galaxies, then the universe would have 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets.
With all those stars winking at us, with an awareness of our true place in the universe, it is hard to take ourselves too seriously. At the same time the beauty of it all makes me appreciate my responsibility to engage vigorously in the struggle to preserve and encourage that beauty. Humor has fantastic depth and healing powers. Don't take yourself, life, death, anything too seriously. Laugh at the silliness, laugh at your vanity and ego and childishness. Laugh and move on. Move ahead. Peel back the layers and examine every opportunity afresh.
With the above as the introduction and exploratory framework, we now will proceed to look at a variety of concepts and how Western and Eastern philosophy are at odds with one another. Hopefully this will give you a basic way of examining what you do with your life. These concepts are only examples used to help structure a way of viewing the world. Use them to study the way and examine the advantages to you of thinking in a more circular and fuller Eastern fashion. However, remember that these concepts are all intertwined with one another, the separation and study of them one at a time is a necessary evil, an artificiality that we are using in an effort to help us along in a step by step fashion that will only succeed if you remind yourself regularly as you take the steps, that life is circular, the line reaches around and touches itself, joined together all the concepts are one as you are a total person that has been rendered into uncomfortable parts by a linear thinking process that needs now to be healed and rejoined.
Possessions: Simplicity versus Complexity
"Most insidious evil perpetrated upon the people of Micronesia in the past 400 years" was the way Senator John Mangefel, from the island of Yap, described the necktie, in a proposed bill to outlaw "this nefarious invention" as "offensive to the morals of the people of Micronesia" and an article of clothing with "no redeeming social qualities."
Sounds funny? But it really is not funny any more than obscenity is funny. We are chewed away at by the ever more complex world about us. We find it all too difficult to understand and be comfortable with that world. We rely on others to fix, repair, build, teach, bake, do our taxes, run our government... and none of them are doing it right. It all is too much. It builds anxiety. And then to cope with the anxiety we consume because as Erich Fromm noted in The Revolution of Hope, Toward a Humanized Technology, "Compulsive consumption compensates for anxiety. The need for this type of consumption stems from the sense of inner emptiness, hopelessness, confusion and tension. By 'taking in' articles of consumption, the individual reassures himself that 'he is', as it were."
However, it is a squirrel cage because the consumption creates more complexity, more anxiety and an ever-increasing need to consume. Also much of the consumption, as it is an artificial process, creates meaningless jobs, ones that have no value and in-themselves create anxiety. (See Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward.)
When technology is used---quite absurdly---to increase employment rather than get rid of it, work becomes "busy-work"---an artificial creation of ever more meaningless routines, an interminable production of things that are not so much luxuries for physical gratification as pretentious trash. Technology, then works against Eros and, as a result, labor is all the more alienated and the necessity for violent outbursts increased. As Marcuse says, "to link performances on assembly lines, in offices and shops with instinctual needs is to glorify dehumanization as pleasure."
"Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion
of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral."
The Prophet/Kahlil Gibran
"We are the things we possess, we are that to which we are attached. Attachment has no nobility. Attachment to knowledge is not different from any other gratifying addiction. Attachment is self-absorption, whether at the lowest or at the highest level. Attachment is self-deception, it is an escape from the hollowness of the self. The things to which we are attached---property, people, ideas---become all-important, for without the many things which fill its emptiness, the self is not. The fear of not being makes for possession; and fear breeds illusion, the bondage to conclusions. Conclusions, material or ideational, prevent the fruition of intelligence, the freedom in which alone reality can come into being; and without this freedom, cunning is taken for intelligence. The ways of cunning are always complex and destructive. It is this self-protective cunning that makes for attachment and when attachment causes pain, it is this same cunning that seeks detachment and finds pleasure in the pride and vanity of renunciation. The understanding of the ways of cunning, the ways of the self, is the beginning of intelligence." (Krishnamurti)
It is very easy to get sucked into these traps. The growth-is-good linear thought system encourages, if not demands, that we consume, have an ever more complex system of things rather than encourage the love and richness of people. Most of us, perhaps all to varying degrees, would assert that we choose this as our way of life. I love Oscar Wilde's little story that very adequately answers the person who feels it is their choice. (The following story is entitled ILLUSION AND THE INESCAPABLE and can be found in Richard LeGallienne's book THE ROMANTIC 90's.)
"Once upon a time there was a magnet, and in its close neighborhood were some steel filings. One day two or three little filings felt a sudden desire to go and visit the magnet and they began to talk of what a pleasant thing it would be to do. Other filings nearby overheard their conversation, and they, too, became infected with the same desire. Still others joined them, till at last all the filings began to discuss the matter and more and more their vague desire grew into an impulse.
"'Why not go today?' said some of them; but others were of the opinion that it would be better to wait till tomorrow. Meanwhile, without their having noticed it, they had been involuntarily moving nearer to the magnet, which lay there quite still, apparently taking no heed of them. And so they went on discussing all the time insensibly drawing nearer to their neighbor; and the more they talked, the more they felt the impulse growing stronger, till the more impatient ones declared they would go that day, whatever the rest did. Some were heard to say that it was their duty to visit the magnet, and that they ought to have gone a long time ago. And while they talked, they moved nearer and nearer, without realizing that they had moved. Then, at last, the impatient ones prevailed and, with one irresistible impulse, the whole body cried out, 'There is no use waiting, we will go today. We will go now. We will go at once.' And then in one unanimous mass they swept along and in another moment were clinging fast to the magnet on every side. Then the magnet smiled--- for the steel filings had no doubt at all but that they were paying that visit of their own free will."
The answer to complexity is not renunciation, renunciation is not balance. Renunciation can be as great a part of the problem as consumption.
As Krishnamurti warns us:
"Renunciation to gain an end is barter; in it there is no giving up, but only exchange. Self-sacrifice is an extension of the self. The sacrifice of the self is a refinement of the self and however subtle the self may make itself, it is still enclosed, petty, limited. Renunciation for a cause, however great, however extensive and significant, is substitution of the cause for the self; the cause or the idea becomes the self, the me and the mine. Conscious sacrifice is the expansion of the self, giving up in order to gather again; conscious sacrifice is negative assertion of the self. To give up is another form of acquisition. You renounce this in order to gain that."
The answer to the complexity created by anxiety, consumption and the linear path we have trod is to start bending toward simplicity, to reach out to the anima in us, to slow down the squirrel cage so that we don't continue to suffer from the dizziness it creates.
The first step is to do whatever you choose to do as well as you can. Don't crowd your life so that you do many things poorly. Better to live slow time and do each thing well. This limits your endeavors and hopefully you will move toward quality and away from quantity, doing instead what is of the greatest value to you and your society. Remembering that what you do today makes you what you are today. So be the best "you" now! Try to limit purchases to what you need now---avoid buying for anticipated needs (an item you think you'll need someday). Limit your desires and appetite to that level of consumption that will not give you digestive complications---don't buy what you can't handle, repair, maintain, use efficiently. Things you make yourself are often superior because you know them intimately and they are less likely to constipate you.
This is a more balanced, softer approach to life. It requires that you allow both the anima and animus to flourish within you, to not close yourself off to either side but to allow yourself to bend, to be more yielding.
The Balinese have a saying which wraps this discussion up quite nicely as it communicates a softer more circular path that is not pushing us into possession, consumption and the death-like ways of anxiety: "We do not have any Art; we do everything as well as possible." (Also see The Harried Society).
Love: Giving versus Getting
To love is to trust. The degree of risk we are willing to take is a reflection of the depth of our trust.
One must practice trust, trust yourself and those you love even when that is dangerous to your security. Only by risking can you build confidence and strength in that love.
Giving and getting often are all mixed up and distorted because of the failure to trust. Many people are good at giving or at getting but few are able to develop a balance and be comfortable at both. If you are significantly stronger in either direction it is because you are using that to cope with your anxiety over trust, you are not sure of your love and give, give, give in order to be sure of the love or you take, take, take for the same reason---a need for confirmation of your love.
Love is giving, giving time, giving honesty, giving without fear, openly. However, love is also accepting love. One without the other is linear, off balance and destructive as it closes down the opportunities for risk and trust.
Love is a very dynamic daily process of change and growth. It is never something you have reached and now can stop working on. You must give and take and communicate your love in a nurturing way.
"Not only to be loved but to be told I
am loved. The realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave."
In "An American Tragedy" T. Dreiser examines how we steal the beauty from love through our insecurity (made into the movie A Place in the Sun). By fearing to trust those we love we rob ourselves of beauty. As the Grecian Urn told us, "Beauty is Truth, Truth, Beauty". The truth is trust and the beauty is love.
It is easy to talk of a balance of giving and getting but it is recognized how difficult this can be. We must focus on small steps, not attempting miracles overnight. Peter Altenberg's story, In the Park, gently tells the story of and points the way to the little nuances:
"I want to have a pink balloon," says little Phyllis.
"Here is a pink balloon, my darling."
And then her father explains to her that there is a gas inside the balloon that is lighter than air, and therefore, et cetera, et cetera.
"I'd like to let it fly away," says Phyllis simply.
"Wouldn't you like to give it to this poor little girl who has no balloon?!?"
"No, I'd rather let it go."
She releases the balloon and watches it as it rises towards the sky.
"Aren't you sorry you didn't give it to the poor little girl?"
"Yes. I should have given it to her."
"All right, then. Here is another balloon."
"No, I want to let this one go, too." And she flings it into the air.
So they buy her a third one.
She goes voluntarily over to the poor little girl and says to her, "Here. You let it fly away!"
"Oh, no," says the poor little girl, as she looks with ecstasy at the pink balloon.
Later, when the poor little girl gets home she lets the balloon fly up towards the ceiling, and in two days it has shrunken down until it looks like a sick eggplant.
And the poor little girl, lying on her bed, stares up at it and says, "I should have let it go up into the sky---and I would have looked after it---after it---!"
Value the sensate over the cerebral. Touch slowly, gently. Feel, deeply, warmly. Relax, fully, sensuously. Love family, home, earth, sky, growing things, accomplishments, growth, learning, yes even love yourself, all of you. But love these all within the context of being loved. Of giving and getting. They are empty without the reciprocal mutual love, deep and powerful, full and unrestrained, gentle and strong love of a partner.
As Carl Sandburg urged us in Plunger
Empty the last drop.
Pour out the final clinging heartbeat.
Great losers look on & smile.
Great winners look on & smile.
Take a long breath & let yourself go.
In The Arrangement by Elia Kazan he points out that : "In every suicide there is an element of revenge." When we become linear and unable to both give and take in a balanced way, we encourage a balancing in some destructive fashion. We can hurt ourselves and those we are attempting to love very seriously. We can hurt our nation, and all of Western civilization as well, as we have seen through our history of "helping" the Third World countries.
We want so much, so badly---fidelity, acceptance, joy, spontaneity, security, freedom, trust, growth, respect, friendship, admiration, dignity, grace, togetherness, space, ad infinitum.
No matter how hard we try we can have none of these without a balance of giving and getting. While we pour from the pitcher we must also have it filled by the one we love.
"Life is far too short for fussing and fighting."
The Beatles 1965
The fussing and fighting will go on forever without a balance of giving and getting. Without a recognition of the duality of life and the need to be both the mover and the moved.
Love: Acceptance versus Expectations
When you relate to those you love expectationally you set into motion certain dynamics that force you away from the very person you wish to be close to. With expectations, it is inevitable that some are unmet and that fear becomes part of the process as we feel we must meet the expectations in order to obtain the love. With the fear we gain frustration and anxiety and then anger and guilt evolve from this frustration. It all becomes repetitive, endlessly feeding upon itself and killing that which we wish to see grow.
Break this cycle. Don't feed the expectations. Don't absorb what people are expecting of you. Be your own guide and do your best for your own satisfaction.
As Hyemeyohsts Storm points out in Seven Arrows:
"No, my son, there is no such thing as good and bad. This is only a tool used by the whiteman to create fear among themselves. It is only the man who searches for good who will also discover things that he will perceive as bad. If this man then tries to dictate his own perception of what is good to others, he will ultimately become a bad man himself. And now here is the next paradox, which is the Other Twin. The man who dictates his own perception of what is bad to others is also bad. One is mirrored into the other. Because in truth they are one of the same Forked Pole, and are always perceiving the mirrored image of themselves.
"The answer to this conflict is the Give-Away. Whenever one gives from his heart, he also receives" (p. 126).
As Frederick S. Perls says it in GESTALT THERAPY VERBATIM:
"Take responsibility for every emotion, every movement you make, every thought you have - and shed responsibility for anyone else.
"Wanting to be helpful is doomed from the beginning.
"I do my thing, and you do your thing.
"I am not in this world to live up to your expectations.
"And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
"You are you and I am I,
"And if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful.
"If not, it can't be helped."
Yet another way of expressing it is the following by Hermann Hesse:
"Despair is the result of each earnest
attempt to go through life with virtue,
justice and understanding and to fulfill
And yet another way of helping us to accept and understand this most important lesson is the following from the Journal of Katherine Mansfield entitled THE CHANGE:
"For a long time she said she did not want to
change anything in him, and she meant it.
Yet she hated things in him and wished they
were otherwise. Then she said she did not
want to change anything in him and she meant
it. And the dark things that she had hated she
now regarded with indifference. Then she said
she did not want to change anything in him,
But now she loved him so that even the dark
things she loved, too. She wished them there;
she was not indifferent. Still they were dark
and strange but she loved them. And it was
for this they had been waiting. They changed
They shed their darkness...the curse was lifted
and they shone forth as Royal Princes once more,
as creatures of light."
Jung, speaking before a group of Ministers in 1932 addressed this issue as follows:
"We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses...If a doctor wishes to help a human being he must be able to accept him as he is. And he can do this in reality only when he has already seen and accepted himself as he is. Perhaps this sounds very simple, but simple things are always the most difficult. In actual life it requires the greatest art to be simple, and so acceptance of oneself is the essence of the moral problem and the acid test of one's whole outlook on life. That I feed the beggar, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ---all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, yea, the very fiend himself - that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved - what then?...Had it been God himself who drew near to us in this despicable form, we should have denied him a thousand times before a single cock had crowed."
People change and love best in an atmosphere of acceptance, not through expectations. Hopes are acceptable. I hope you can help me...and if not, then I will find another path through the woods without any hard feelings. If you can get into "now time" you will find no expectations can survive there.
Expect something from a person and they will inevitably disappoint you either occasionally or frequently.
Expect nothing from them and they will continuously provide you with joyful experiences.
This is not a simple process. You can't think about it and have it happen. You must practice it every day and make it a part of you. A natural integrated part of you that no longer requires you to think about it.
As Krishnamurti says:
"Thought, with its emotional and sensational content, is not love. Thought invariably denies love. Thought is founded on memory, and love is not memory. When you think about someone you love, that thought is not love. You may recall a friend's habits, manners, idiosyncrasies and think of pleasant or unpleasant incidents in your relationship with that person, but the pictures which thought evokes are not love. By its very nature, thought is separative. The sense of time and space, of separation and sorrow, is born of the process of thought and it is only when the thought process ceases that there can be love" (p. 15).
Our mind is a wondrous creature; ofttimes with what seems to be, at first glance, an existence all of its own. It can literally be an enemy to our real best interests and can kill us off if we threaten its life. Beware of valuing thinking over feeling. One can mature intellectually and never maturate emotionally, avoiding the love that is essential to a full existence. It takes other people, relationships, to mature emotionally. You can't do it by thinking about it. Our insecurities often lead us away from love and relationships into fantasy as a way to gratify our needs to be wanted, trusted, touched, and loved.
All this thinking and fantasy will never bring us into balance. Only acceptance will bring us into a bending of the line.
As Oscar Wilde once said, "Children begin by loving their parents. As they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them." Rarely do they understand and accept them. We must move away from judgements and expectations and rescue both ourselves and our loved ones through acceptance.
Pull off the masks. Face the reality. Don't put your demands constantly out onto those you love as some challenge, because it won't work. The constant demands of the "should be" erodes beauty and truth. As Lenny Bruce cryptically stated, "The truth is what is, not what should be. What should be is a dirty lie."
Love: Focused Attention versus Taking for Granted
"Not only to be loved but to be told I
am loved. The realm of silence is large
enough beyond the grave."
One of man's greatest failings in this life is his ability to take things for granted, and thus not work to promote their sustenance, growth, and survival. We take such delicate and endangered things for granted as the greenery that gives us our air to breathe, love when it magically arrives, and the very life we have been mysteriously granted.
We need to develop focused attention. Take responsibility for every emotion, every movement you make, every thought you have - and shed responsibility for anyone else. Wanting to be helpful is doomed from the beginning. And anyone who is totally responsible to himself is of value to everyone around him.
Love is an independent dependency. Love is a contradiction. Love is knowing you can depend on someone without depending on him/her. One, each one, must be as free of the other as humanly imaginable at the same time that the two are united and inseparably one.
In The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran speaks of love and marriage:
"...Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each others shadow."
Free to have time and activities alone if the urge takes. Free to reject participating in a partner's plans without either partner feeling rejected. Free to do things together without feeling you have to always do things together.
One of our greatest dangers to the nurturing process love needs, is our self-defenses, ego protecting, conscious and unconscious, refusing to go all out.
We must say to ourselves that Love is All. That we, therefore, shall focus our attention and work to make love stay alive. It is not the dramatic gross abuses that maim and injure love. It is the subtle abuses that slowly and inevitably erodes and creates a lack of caring.
"Speech is civilization itself. The word - even
the most contradictory word - preserves contact.
It is silence which isolates."
Sometimes, even very sensitive people who are capable of focused attention take those who are closest to them for granted.
As Peter Altenberg explains in What is a Poet?:
"He saw a strange young girl walking all alone on the seashore. She was deeply tanned, had beautiful, wavy hair, long hands and feet, and wore a pale-yellow bathing suit.
He could never, never forget her.
He saw a troupe of Japanese acrobats perform small miracles of sustained balance and physical grace. The youngest one of this group was a little girl of five; she had an apricot complexion, a lacquered, black, doll coiffure, and a nose so tiny it looked like one of God's happier afterthoughts. An enchanting, animated toy.
He could never, never forget her.
He read in the newspaper that a nineteen-year-old Venetian girl of great beauty, who was an accomplished fencer, had thrown herself from the roof of the family palace and had instantly perished.
He could never, never forget her.
He had someone beside him, day and night, someone so close that her presence could never possibly be overlooked---but he could forget her---forget her---as if she didn't exist at all."
"Sacrifice to the day the hours that the day's bitter
demands ask of you, but always remember that you're only
moments of true happiness and ennoblement come to you when
the eyes of a loving woman bid you a joyous welcome."
Peter Altenberg's Evocations of Love
Time: Now versus Future
Western time is very much future-oriented. It is fast paced, goal oriented and we are willing to sacrifice today for tomorrow even though today is all we have.
The slower, now-oriented Eastern way takes into the picture the sense of time-as-having-to-stop. Time cannot dominate the way we function without destroying us in the process.
"Why should you trouble yourself about the future? You do not even properly know about the present. Take care of the recent, the future will take care of itself."
Live in now-time. Don't try to make tomorrow's decisions today. We waste time wondering what to do later and do nothing now. Live a day at a time. Plan for tomorrow only to the extent that it doesn't interfere with today.
Future hopes, dreams and plans.
Each has its values and beauty. The trick we must learn is how to use the past, present, and future in a balanced way, obtaining from each what is of help and value to us in the here-and-now.
In order to live and love deeply, we must pay attention to time. A fast, high energy pace is acceptable but only if we have moments of slowing down every day. What often happens is that we get wound up on the job---"wired"---and by the time we begin to slow down at the end of the day we are off again. We must choose our job-friends-environment so that the pace does not literally destroy us.
We sacrifice slow-time to the gods of expectational-time. Trying to meet goals our parents-teachers-bosses-society-spouse-self have set without consideration for what the expectations-speed-up does to our mind-body.
Knowledge: Acceptance versus Understanding
This is a very basic building block to a thorough understanding of our thesis. Western thought is explanatory. Everything can be understood and explained. It is a medanistic approach that marches down an unwavering linear path to facts. Unfortunately it ignores all data that does not support its bias in favor of explanations. Eastern thought is open and circular, it recognizes and makes room for the sensual and spiritual that cannot be understood but obviously are present and must be accounted for.
"The more you talk about it, the more you think about it,
the further from it you go. Stop talking, stop thinking,
and there is nothing you will not understand."
In A Separate Reality, Further Conversations with Don Juan, Castaneda tells us that:
"You think about your acts," he said. "Therefore you have to believe your acts are as important as you think they are, when in Reality nothing of what one does is important. Nothing! But then if nothing really matters, as you asked me, how can I go on living? It would be simple to die; that's what you say and believe, because you're thinking about life, just as you're thinking now what seeing would be like" (p. 86).
Old Zen saying:
"To a man who knows nothing, mountains are mountains, waters are waters and trees are trees. But when he has studied and knows a little, mountains are no longer mountains, waters are no longer waters and trees are no longer trees. But when he has thoroughly understood, mountains are once again mountains, waters are waters and trees are trees."
Growth: Evolving versus Goals
When we have that home in the suburbs, or the vacation cottage, or the motor home, or, or, or...then our goals will have been met and we will find peace and happiness...or so we tell ourselves. But goals don't work that way. Peace and happiness is not a place or a thing. It is not static. It is an evolving process of growth that may not even have the same form and substance tomorrow that it has today. Since life is change, we have no permanent answers. The closest thing to death is stagnation - the resistance to change.
"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
"Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."
Act, yes, but make it part of an evolving process of growth.
As it is recorded in the Bhagavad-Gita:
"Let your reward
be in the actions
Never in their fruits.
So be not moved by
the fruits of actions;
Nor let inaction
dwell in you."
Death: Continuation versus Termination
Although Western man's religions all tell him of life after death, his philosophy - the thoughts that guide his daily actions - tell him that when he dies, that's the end. He fears growing old because old is the goal, the terminal spot, where death takes over. He struggles to maintain his youth and deny the inevitable. Sadly, his struggles are all in vain, for he dies. The sad part is not the dying. The sad part is the senseless struggle against growing old and dying. The struggle erodes and makes less of what can be a beautiful process.
Instead of seeing death as a terminal stage, Western man needs to bend the line and begin to view death as a point on the continuum of our existence - a new stage of experience equally rich and varied as all the others. He needs to remove the struggle against death and substitute a struggle to understand death, to accept death, to love death - without in any way succumbing to her wiles.
One day the sun will grow great. The Polar Ice caps will melt and vast land areas will once again be covered over with Salt Water. Man may, by this day, be gone, the insect may rule supreme. But it will not matter much. For after the Sun's growth, its final burst of searing energy, it will die and with it our solar system will die.
It is good to remember that all matter, all life forms, all energy, comes and goes. All is transitory.
My life is but a speck of time amidst the centuries of nature. I come, I will go. I leave nothing behind me that will last. No man leaves lasting works, not Ozymandias, not Keats, no man, no creature or force can leave anything for posterity for posterity is a cunning, beguiling, joke we mortals play upon ourselves in a tireless effort to avoid the reality of death.
As death gives meaning to life
As death shows us the door to life
Death also imbues us with anguish,
sometimes with fear, always with
puzzlement over the "why" behind
the grandeur, infinity, beauty,
and consistency of the universe.
We seek answers to the why---
and thus fall into the trap---
one more devoured fly in the
web of "the need to understand."
Accept whatever we can and move on
Live life out without understanding
Live life joyfully, savoring its
eternal mystery but LIVE rather than worry.
"For to him that is joined to all
the living there is hope."
As Castaneda states in A Separate Reality:
"Thus to be a warrior a man has to be, first of all, and rightfully so, keenly aware of his own death. But to be concerned with death would force any one of us to focus on the self and that would be debilitating. So the next thing one needs, to be a warrior, is detachment. The idea of imminent death, instead of becoming an obsession, becomes an indifference" (p. 150).
And God made him die during the course
of a hundred years and then He revived him
"How long have you been here?"
"A day, or part of a day," he replied.
The Koran, II 261
Theodor Reik, in "Curiosities of the Self", explains that:
"Freud stated that our conscience is inaccessible to the idea of death and we do not possess any instinct that prepares us for the belief in our own death.
...Unconsciously we really think we are surviving our death in some form or another.
"Only that wonderful 'willing suspension of disbelief' enables us to look hopefully into the future of our children and of mankind."
It is popular and books are written about life after death. The people who read the books, for the most part, choose to read into them false hope and use them to avoid the real issues of death. Death is change. Nothing more, nothing less. For those who fear change, death will be a fearsome topic. For those who accept the inevitable nature of change, there is hope.
The final departing sentence in Gibran's The Prophet is as lovely and hopeful a tone to close with as I can imagine:
A little while, a moment of rest upon the wind, and
another woman shall bear me."
Pain: Learning From versus Covering Over
"I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles---
most of which never happened."
Most pain cannot be learned from or covered over as it is imaginary in nature. This is not to belittle such pain, for imagined pain is as painful as any other variety. However, the lesson from imagined pain is that it is what it is - imagined. I wish to focus on the real troubles and pain of life. Although this type of pain is in the minority, it is the stuff from which the real lessons of life are taught.
"...suffering is the greatest guide along the ascent which leads from animal to man."
Report to Greco, Kazanzakis, p. 48
Not the only guide, but perhaps the greatest.
The person who suffers is potentially richer because they can, through the suffering, discover human qualities as opposed to the savage qualities.
Savage qualities can equal a desire for wealth when this requires war and degradation of our fellow man, consumption, etc. etc. etc.
Why does suffering have this ability...? Perhaps because it causes us to pause in life's pathways and consider what is happening, why the pain, and how to avoid it. When we see it clearly, we also see it in the context that, pain tolerated toward others is a danger to oneself.
"In my early youth I
reached out to god out
of my need for love.
In my later youth I
rejected god because only
a cruel god could
create a cruel world.
Now I see that
the world is as it is
because it must be
so. Suffering is as
much a part of it all
as joy. Suffering is
a face of joy.
Therefore, a god is no longer
rejected on those grounds.
Perhaps god is simply
another word for nature,
I said to the almond tree,
'Sister, speak to me of God.'
And the almond tree blossomed."
In John Fowles' The Collector, the victim, the young girl destroyed in a most painful way, delivers the following lines to herself:
"A strange thought: I would not want this not to have happened. Because if I escape I shall be a completely different and I think better person. Because if I don't escape, if something dreadful happened, I shall still know that the person I was and would have stayed if this hadn't happened was not the person I now want to be."
"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."
Pain, when it is used as a medium of learning, when it is not covered over, brings us out of our monotony and repetition into a greater state of awareness. The flip side of pain is growth.
As Castaneda states in A Separate Reality:
"I have heard you say time and time again that you are always prepared to die. I don't regard that feeling as necessary. I think it is a useless indulgence. A warrior should be prepared only to battle. I have also heard you say that your parents injured your spirit. I think the spirit of man is something that can be injured very easily, although not by the same acts you yourself call injurious. I believe that your parents did injure you by making you indulgent and soft and given to dwelling.
"The spirit of a warrior is not geared to indulging and complaining, nor is it geared to winning or losing. The spirit of a warrior is geared only to struggle, and every struggle is a warrior's last battle on earth. Thus, the outcome matters very little to him. In his last battle on earth a warrior lets his spirit flow free and clear. And as he wages his battle, knowing that his will is impeccable, a warrior laughs and laughs."