Archive for November, 2013

The other side of the roast beef sandwich issue

November 28, 2013

I figure if I have had a hang-up about a guy doing me wrong and withholding something from me (see previous post), I (or the person whom I am helping) probably did something that was perceived in a similar way by a guy.  Here’s a spiritual story that shows a fundamental, spiritual version of this part of the paradigm.  (There’s a version involving sex and what turns out to be an underage girl, but we’ll pass over that one.)

A girl is recognized as having potential to develop as a mystic, and her younger brother feels left out and envious of her training and status in the community.  To placate him, she promises to “bring back” whatever she learns and experiences from her good fortune.  Unfortunately, once she has had the learning and experiencing, she realizes they are not something that can be had vicariously or by proxy.

Of course, her brother doesn’t understand, when she is not forthcoming with what she had promised him.  He feels wronged and betrayed, and here we go with a long and damaging feud.

Roast beef sandwich

November 28, 2013

Jordan looked at me sheepishly this morning and said he had something to apologize to me for.

He had eaten a roast beef sandwich he had bought for me.

He had gone out with friends after class yesterday, and at a restaurant they ate at, had ordered a sandwich for me as take-out.  On his way home, he had stopped at the home of a friend he’s known for ages, who was home on break from college, and he stayed there into the evening.

He got hungry while he was at the friend’s house, and “there wasn’t anything to eat,” which was plausible, not so much because of want but because of what I might call “food issues,” so Jordan ate the sandwich he had with him.

I told him, that despite the fact that he doesn’t agree with my “karmic nonsense,” I was going to tell him how this was actually great news to me in a way;  my nagging issue that some guy “done me wrong” and took from me something that was mine, had been reduced to my child eating a roast beef sandwich because he was hungry — that scenario didn’t bother me, and, he was apologetic about it (not to mention aware of what he had done — and he said he plans to get me another sandwich).  I have a very strong sense that this pattern of feeling wronged by a guy who doesn’t give back, and takes advantage of my having given to him first, is a very old pattern for me, or possibly for someone I have been helping (I do think I help people clean up their old and difficult karma when they get too stuck).  When the pattern reaches an innocuous iteration, it’s like the last ripple of a wave, or the boat getting close enough to the dock that one can step or jump out onto terra firma.

So I am quite happy, in a way, to hear about my missing roast beef sandwich.  I like feedback that progress has been made.  I feel like I have successfully let go of something that was impeding me, finally.  And I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving

Finding balance

November 27, 2013

I am aware that there are plenty of people who are more spiritually adept than I, clearer than I in trying to explain how someone with one foot in the spiritual realm sees the material world, more perceptive than I in the seeing itself, more effective at working with damaged people who have an aversion to faith and belief.  But with all due respect to Jackson Browne, I do sometimes think I see a reason I am alive (that’s in reference to “For a Dancer,” towards the end, the part about how there may be a reason we’re alive but we’ll never know — I love the song, though, it is so evocative, I can ride its waves to see so many things).

I see myself as figuring out how, in a sense, to walk and chew gum at the same time, to rub my stomach and pat my head simultaneously, while at the same time, adding in the third piece of having a conversation.  The first two activities are maintaining a spiritual connection while living in the material world, the “conversation” part is talking about it without losing my coordination and failing at the primary activities.

And then there’s the piece about keeping my balance.  That can be a balance between taking care of others and taking care of myself, between focusing on their needs and paying enough attention to my own.  It can also be about finding a helpful balance between having a message worth expressing to others and spending energy on making that expression effective.

There is a balance that needs to be struck, I think.  The irony is not lost on me that some of the people with the best bully pulpits have fundamentally flawed messages, from my point of view.  It’s as if the universe requires through its impersonal laws that we find a balance between attending to the messenger and attending to the message.

People have tried, consciously or not, all different ways and ratios for combining these elements.  For me, this life has been about letting go of the version of collaboration.  I really thought the most effective way of combining medium and message would be for one person to develop the delivery apparatus and for the other to develop the content.  But it doesn’t seem to work out, the delivery person tends to try to do both, in my multiple experiences of trying to collaborate.  Even when the delivery person pays some attention to the message-gatherer, they tend to distort the message that has been gathered through an inability to really see it.

I spent some time thinking this constituted some sort of failure to get something important and necessary to work, but now I don’t see it that way.  I figure instead that that way of trying to arrange things doesn’t work for a good reason.  (Trying to resolve the issue by having the message person spend more time on developing a delivery system just doesn’t work, it changes the person so much that they lose their ability to really see the message.)  The reason I see is that people need to come to discern the message themselves, not hear it from someone else.  If we can facilitate this process, maybe that’s something we should do, but that facilitation is more effective when it is indirect, I think.  I’ll invoke Jackson Browne again:  sometimes words are not enough (see “Late for Sky”).

I’m aware that this interpretation includes an assumption that the correct explanation is not that I am doing something wrong, which, interestingly, is often my first go-to explanation.  But this understanding about why collaboration isn’t the answer comes from that deeper place within, and it’s tied to the understanding that however interconnected we are, “in the end there is one dance [we] do alone,” even if that dance isn’t, in my opinion, the dance of death but rather the dance of enlightenment.

Geese on the ice

November 26, 2013

At the res this morning, there was ice all the way across the water.  Nevertheless, there were a whole lot of geese flocked together in the middle.  I realized they were walking on the (frozen) water, or sitting on it.  Clearly they couldn’t get to their usual food through the ice, and I wondered that they stayed.  It didn’t look comfortable for them, either.

They didn’t stay.  They left, in four groups of a fair number of birds each, they took off serially and headed off, all the groups in the same direction, but spaced by a few minutes in between in their departures.  They started low above the water and then lifted up and headed over a field and then up higher and away, probably above and beyond the trees in the distance.

It was kind of cool, because it looked like they had an organized plan, the way they took off serially in groups, with the same flight pattern and apparent flight plan, but I don’t know how conscious of any organized plan they were.

Behind damaging behavior

November 26, 2013

I’ve written about this before, I’m pretty sure, but I thought I’d follow up my last post with a brief explanation of how I see the rest of what other people call “Evil,” the part of the phenomenon that lies behind the behavior.

It’s a force, I think.  Like the force I’ve heard when people in the throes of suicidality or psychotic depression speak and can’t be reached through rational thought.  May not be the same force, but I think the same process is going on.

My sense is that it’s an energy that the person is encountering, that it’s welling up within them.  If the person can’t get enough of themselves out of the way, either through applying a technique in the moment or through having cleaned up their issues and trained in techniques in advance, then the force spills out embedded in difficult behavior, including in damaging behavior.  It impels such behavior.

Maybe we see this state reflected in brain chemistry, but I don’t believe brain chemistry, or anything else in the material world, is the prime mover or original source of anything.

I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically “bad” about the energy, just as there’s nothing intrinsically “bad” about a horse that gallops fast.  You just have to be a better rider (I know very little about riding, but I suspect that there’s an analogy in there somewhere that works).  With energy from what I think of as “God’s Dark Side,” there’s nothing wrong with it, but to let it pass through you without harm to self or others requires either the innocence of a baby in an original incarnation or a lot of clean living, prior interior work, and technique;  otherwise it gets caught on our fears and desires in a way that produces big-time problems.

It could be thought of, in the alternative, as a force of creative destruction, if we don’t want to use the vocabulary of faith.

My point is that it does not have a nasty attitude, it’s more like a tornado.  It’s when it mixes with human emotions and behavior that we get the kind of package that we find so difficult to handle, whether it’s implosion or explosion, and label “Evil,” I think, in some ways out of desperation, frustration, a sense of impotence, and fear.

Exception?

November 26, 2013

I don’t get it.  I’m reading Father Rohr on discerning good from evil, and vice versa, and yet he’s also talking about becoming liberated from dualistic thinking.

I tend to see “evil” in terms of damaging behavior.  Behavior has impact.  Damage is just one kind of impact.

Early dinner

November 24, 2013

We ended up with Thanksgiving dinner, in a way, yesterday.  I cooked it, so I can’t claim it happened to me passively, but I didn’t plan it.

My son’s friend came over, to hang out, to enjoy our internet connection, and to help do some pruning around our yard.  He does landscaping work professionally, and my son has helped his family with things like winching up docks, so it seemed like a fair arrangement, and I let the young men know I would pay them besides.  I haven’t gotten to much of what I normally do on my own, in terms of pruning, this year because of my fiduciary duties to my father’s estate and to my mother.

I had bought a small turkey already and trimmings on Friday.  My own Thanksgiving plans are up in the air.

I decided, why not, roast the turkey and have it with Jordan and his friend.  They’d probably be hungry after yard work.  So I did roast it — stuffed it first — made the cranberry sauce, etc.

After dinner, his friend and I did the friend’s laundry.  He has recently moved into his own apartment, and this saved him a lot of logistical hassle, I think.  It’s also why he was enjoying our internet connection.

He had planned to stay the night as well, but his father called and said he wanted to have breakfast with him this morning, so he left last night.

This friend is going through a difficult patch, and he has before.  I am aware that not everyone would be open to doing what I did.  What struck me was that, while I am aware of this, it wasn’t why I did what I did — I did it because it worked out well for all concerned, myself included.

What happened flowed in a way that didn’t seem to come from me.  It felt, in a way, like following a lot of cues.  When that happens, it feels as if I am filling in a piece of a puzzle.  Sometimes it feels as if I’m participating in a reenactment of something that has happened before.  In any case, it feels “necessary.”

Sometimes these episodes that feel like reenactments or puzzle pieces are painful, but yesterday’s wasn’t.  It helped me to be in a role of asking Jordan’s friend for a favor and also then being able to do something for him that he needed.  The other parts of what happened, including the meal, elevated it above some sort of bare-bones give-and-take — there was good feeling involved.

I think I’ve wished to participate in this kind of scenario with myself in the friend’s role, but that pattern always seems to fall short of suiting everybody involved in some way.  It has often felt as if I’ve done the pruning, but there is no meal, no internet, no laundry, no desire to help in return forthcoming, so to speak.  I’m not sure what that means, but I will say that the pattern yesterday and my role in it suited me just fine — I enjoyed the day.

Incubator

November 22, 2013

I was trying to reconstruct my five year old’s train of thought that led to my thinking that a premature baby was carried around by his parents in a basket.  I mentioned this conclusion of mine in my previous post.

I think I probably heard the word “incubator” in the radio reports about the newborn Patrick Kennedy, and asked what an incubator was.  I suspect I heard something about a special kind of bed for a baby.  The neighbor’s new baby I had first seen sleeping in a bassinet, and that had had a woven, basket-like feel to it.  So I probably concluded that an incubator was something like a bassinet.

I suspect that my parents explained to me that an ill baby has to stay in the incubator all the time, and, well, I knew a baby needed to be with its parents, so I guess that led me to conclude that Patrick Kennedy was being carried around in a basket everywhere by his parents.

May they rest in peace, all of them.  A lot of sadness, but they did so well despite all the sadness, it seems.

Where I was

November 22, 2013

I was standing on my front lawn.  I had half-day kindergarten, so it was after I had gotten home.  I was five.

The Dugan man was delivering bread and such to each of our abutting neighbors.  When he got to Mrs. Rosenfeld’s house, she came to the door and I heard the man tell her that President Kennedy had been shot.  I went inside and told my mother.  She didn’t believe me.  She put on the radio and called Mrs. Nelle.  Eventually everyone knew.

Part of why I had President Kennedy on my radar screen as a five year old was because I had heard about the birth and then death of his infant son Patrick a few months before.  Those reports on the radio news had caught my attention.  I remember not understanding what they were saying about the equipment that was being used to care for him, and asking my parents to explain the words.  For some reason, I ended up thinking they were carrying the baby around with them, everywhere they went, in a basket.

Anyway, babies I knew about.  The Nelles had had one when I was three and I hoped we would have one, too.  The Kennedys’ experience of having a new baby was so different from the Nelles’ experience.  That gave me something to try to make sense of.

I knew that famous people died because I had heard about Pope John XXIII’s death earlier in 1963.  Something I was watching on television was interrupted by an announcement of his death.  I’ll never forget the gravity of the voice making the announcement.  I knew from the sound alone that something important had happened.

So that was my context for processing President Kennedy’s death, that was the angle from which as a child it seemed important to me, as I tried to relate to and understand news as I heard it.

A spiritual parallel

November 21, 2013

The creative gap-filling I wrote about in my last post I think has a spiritual analog.

We’re here, live human beings.  We’ve forgotten why we’re here, and we are unaware that we’ve forgotten.  And so we get creative and try to fill that gap.  The result is all kinds of human art, technology, innovation, production, and consumption.

So these fruits of our creativity are not necessarily bad, on this view, just kind of the equivalent of going off “on a frolic and a detour,” to use one of my favorite phrases from law.