Archive for the 'analogies' Category


May 16, 2015

I was walking in a colonial-era graveyard the other day, and I was visiting a great big maple tree there I like.  And I noticed on the ground a piece of a limb that had apparently fallen off — there was a jagged stump up in the tree from which it probably had broken.

It hadn’t happened all that recently — the wood was exposed without bark.  And that made it easier to see the small holes that I am guessing reflect the activity of critters — insects that bore into trees.

I think I started reviewing other objects that fall from trees, like fruit, like Newton’s apple, like enlightenment.  And that got me wondering, in keeping with the Adam and Eve story, whether with knowledge come less benign influxes, too — there could be critters still abiding in the piece of wood that fell, ready to branch out if one were to take the wood home, say as firewood or to use as fencing material or out of which to create a sculpture.  Do we increase our knowledge but also import with it into the world greater capacity to do with it something unhelpful, for example?  We have the internet, we have hacking and identity theft, for example.

I am not sure how we would measure the things I am trying to compare over time — the seemingly positive increases with losses elsewhere in our collective lives.  How has our quality of life improved and how has it deteriorated?  We would need a large group to survey, so as to filter out idiosyncratic anomalies and so as to take into account lots of differently situated demographic groups.

Anyway, things fall — apples, branches, pine cones, flowers.  (Rain, too.)  Some provide a vector for other things to come into our lives, too.



February 7, 2015

While I was helping my mother unpack into her apartment in November, we came across some pieces of lava, probably souvenirs from a vacation trip abroad.  My mother didn’t want to keep them.

I was thinking about them this morning.  I was thinking about a spiritual practice Gita was encouraging me in some time ago, to connect deep within in the direction of the earth.  I think it’s harder to conceptualize infinity in that direction, but, analogous to the idea of physics on a level of particles and strings and such, I think it’s possible.  This is in contrast with prayer connecting me upwards and outwards to the cosmos.

When I connect inwards and in the direction of the earth and its molten core, I tend towards conceptualizing in imagery of soothing reddish-brown substances welling up within me.  When I pray up and out, I usually end up with light or water images.

Anyway, it occurred to me this morning that lava can be so porous and yet it is a rock of sorts.  Can I use this combination to help me feel well-dressed to deal with other people?  I am protected by something hard and yet it is a porous substance allowing for exchange of some sorts of things.

I don’t know, but I find a theme of my life is looking for a way to interact, as myself, with others and without becoming too damaged by the interaction.  I don’t see sealing myself off, I prefer not to withdraw from interaction, but I am as porous as the day is long and I don’t think I am supposed to change that or to incur crippling damage either.  So I am always open to figuring out a way to feel protected and porous at the same time.  And while I can “turn over” to the universe particular difficult situations and interactions, and I do, I feel that I need to improve my overall posture so that I have a more continuous, baseline sense of well-being.

One practice is to let incoming assaults pass through me instead of engaging with them.  I can feel them become diluted and dissipate through my connection upwards and outwards, as clean energy mixes with such incursions.  But that does not speak to my sense of being a sitting duck sometimes for material from others I don’t want to deal with, especially stuff they should be addressing to forces greater than ourselves, not to other human beings.  In this category lies huge anxiety and distress and a sense that everything is terrible — I have people who try to interact with me who have more of those than I can process comfortably, and my posture is that they should stop trying to get me to process it on their behalf.  But they continue, I suspect because we have an instinct to survive that does not always get channeled in constructive ways.  And so I look for what I can do at my end to maintain my equanimity while they do, because it takes a lot of time and energy of my own to clean myself up after being slimed by such incursions.

I think lava may be a helpful concept for me to do that.  I think it can help me feel strong and soothed and protected and porous.  Hardened it is brittle, molten it is suffocating (I think), but like light being both wave and particle in some way (again, my caution that I may be misunderstanding the science), I think it is possible in some way to think of lava as both protective and porous, flexible and brittle.  If lava can participate in all of these characteristics over time, then I am hopeful that on a spiritual plane, without the constraint of time, I can participate in those characteristics simultaneously.  Surely one of our human difficulties is holding paradoxical ideas in our limited heads — doesn’t mean that such paradoxes cannot be understood in other ways.

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.

Re-establishing the status quo

September 6, 2013

Nowadays we can get tracking information for our packages so we can monitor the progress of their transit.  At first this seemed to be a gain.

But now I feel that I’m back at square one.

Jordan ordered coursebooks from his campus bookstore.  He commutes and having them delivered here isn’t actually very expensive and in his case makes sense.

Some came.  Some didn’t.  But all were issued tracking labels.  Some never progressed in the system beyond that.  The bookstore says, “They must have fallen off the truck” (sic).  Jordan took an hour yesterday to get replacement copies from the store, in person.

This morning I was checking the status of a different package, and again, we’ve got a shipping label acknowledgement by the carrier.  I called the vendor, and they assured me this was normal, that the package was actually in transit with the carrier, and will indeed arrive next week.  I asked them how they could be sure, and cited by way of example the recent experience of Jordan’s books.  The customer service agent said that the lack of information that the package has made it into the carrier’s system is normal.

So tracking information has now become somewhat random.  Maybe it gives one real information, maybe it is misleading.  It is not dependable, does not give us a basis for a realistic expectation of whether the package will arrive.  It does not seem to me that it leaves us better off than we were before we had access to it, at least when the tracking information gets stuck at this stage of “label created, not yet with carrier.”

But there’s always, for me, the possibility of an analogy.  There’s always a lesson I can find in my circumstances.  The situation is not a useless exercise in frustration or in unmet expectations from what technology purports to do (and maybe even did for a time).

Here it could be how psychism interferes with faith.

For example, there’s a spiritual story about a person who “tracks” other people with some sort of supernatural powers we might call psychic.  They eavesdrop and insert messages on a frequency most people don’t notice because they don’t have enough awareness to pick out within their thoughts and emotions these intruded thoughts and emotions as not being their own.

During a subsequent incarnation, these psychic people have that same ability, but without the quality of discernment as to which individual they are communicating with.

They eventually figure this out and are quite indignant.  They think they’ve got defective machinery.

But they don’t.  They have machinery helpful for a different task and helpful for teaching them not to rely on psychism to navigate their lives.  The “different task” is empathic healing, in which it is quite helpful not to know the identity of the person being healed.  And not being able to triangulate and strategize about what move to make based on inside information forces the person back onto faith and reliance on internal guidance from their core.  They can’t track the package, or even know it will get there, they can only do their part and then wait and see, until they receive feedback actually addressed to them; and in the meantime, they can (only) do what their guidance suggests.

But they cry out and complain and sit down and refuse to participate.  Or they demand extra help to compensate for their inability to untangle the strands of what they hear and attribute them accurately to individuals.  Because in addition to being able to undertake empathetic healing, the person in the story is also capable of being one of those “mixing bowls” (like Plato mentions somewhere), and can mix various strands of energy or information in a way that forms a new whole, but they don’t realize that’s what that talent is for, either — they see it, again, as a defective device for manipulating people.  They don’t understand their function, probably because it isn’t part of the belief system of their culture.

Along comes the IT support, the spiritual geek squad, and they check out the equipment (by trying it out themselves).  And they report that it works just fine, it’s just not meant for tracking other people or manipulating them or building social relationships, it’s meant for healing shattered souls, including by creating pieces that may be missing and lost.

I have no idea whether I will receive my package.  I have no idea where it is.  I can only wait.  While I wait, I can stop scouring my external environment for clues and listen to what I hear within.

The package in question is a representation of Kwan Yin.  She would not be who she is through means of trying manipulate on the basis of pieces of external information or trying to manipulate other people.  She hears the cries of others as cries welling up within her, she navigates and heals by means of looking deep within herself and connecting with those forces.


August 8, 2013

I was thinking again recently about the difference between having faith and not having faith.

The situation reminds me of one of those optical illusion pictures where looking at the sketch one way, you see one image, but when you refocus, you see something entirely different.  I haven’t seen one of those pictures in a long time, or I would cite an example.

My point is, though, that we’re really seeing two different things while we’re looking at the same thing, and i would argue that both images are really there — it’s just about what the perceiver perceives — I tend to think it’s always just about what the perceiver perceives.

Flight control systems

June 29, 2013

My father was an electrical engineer by profession, worked for Bendix Corporation his whole career (it got bought by Allied and then Honeywell, so the name changed, but his place of work didn’t).  He worked in aeronautics.  He designed flight control systems for commercial and military aircraft.

That’s about the extent of what I know about what he spent his time doing.  He didn’t discuss it at home, I think largely because some of it he couldn’t, because it involved classified information.  I doubt the flight control systems for commercial aircraft actually did, but I think he dealt with the classified information issue by just having a blanket policy of not discussing his work.  And there was really no reason for him to.

But the concept of flight control systems is something helpful to me.  It helps me understand something I experience in my spiritual life.  (It was also a neat thing to learn about in the aeronautical context, and I was proud and fascinated that my father knew how to do what he did.)

My father once explained to me that what he designed allowed a pilot to steer a jumbo jet with he same ease with which the pilot steered a small plane.  My difficulty is not the same sort — mine is more like needing cross a deep gorge on a bridge without rails.  It can be done, but I can get in my own way if it’s too clear to me what I’m doing.  So I have help that just gives me what I need to know — what I need to know to do what I need to do to walk across that bridge — for all I know I’m walking across a lovely parquet floor in an expansive ballroom while I do it.

My talent is not bridge-walking, it’s trusting, it’s willingness to be guided, and it involves surrender.

When I’ve gotten to the other side, I come to know that I have crossed a gorge, when I am encouraged to learn to modulate my trust with the free will I had largely suspended.  That process leads to an understanding of what I’ve done, as if a curtain is being raised or a veil removed.  It’s kind of like the pilot deplaning and for the first time seeing how big the aircraft he was flying actually was.

I think my father’s job was something important in its own right, but I also like that what he did helps me to interpret what I do.





Hearing or knowing

March 14, 2013

I think adults are counseled not to confuse children by using the analogy of going to sleep for dying — makes some kids scared to go to sleep.  I’m thinking that using “hearing” for how we pick up internal guidance may be a similarly counterproductive misnomer.

If I’m getting guidance from somewhere significant, it comes to me as “knowing” — I don’t actually “hear” something internally.  The thing may make little sense to me — as in, bringing my checkbook with me on that errand, and then while I’m running the errand, something unpredicted presents itself for which having the checkbook is really handy — but I understand I should do it.  (I could also refuse, of course.)  Hearing my own thoughts, or even someone else’s, sounds different.  (Yes, I know, we’re not supposed to be able to hear other people’s thoughts, but here’s an example, maybe I’ve used it before.  I was at a concert, sitting in the way back, and the opening act was on stage.  And while I did notice it was going on for longer than opening acts usually do in such a venue, I started hearing this thought, “Who does she think she is?  She ‘s acting like she’s the main event, in her stage manner as well as the length of her set …  I guess you can sing like that but why would you want to? She’s so young …  What is it she’s wearing?  I guess that’s a look …”  It went on.  It really wasn’t in accord with what I was feeling — which was more like, “She playing a lot of songs and I really did come to hear the main act” — more simple, succinct, and superficial. Then I turned my head, and standing against the back wall a few feet away from me was the main act herself.  And I thought, “Well, if those are her thoughts, she’s hides her negativity well in her performance persona.”)  Once I was in a health foods store and I heard “selenium,” so I asked the clerk about selenium, and it actually seemed suitable for me at the time.  I’m not sure I even knew what selenium was before that.  So thoughts I would say I “hear” as words;  guidance wells up as an idea or concept, an “understanding” or perception.  At least, that’s how I would describe the two different phenomena.

Guidance wells up when I’m quiet inside.  If I’m rushing around or thinking constantly about to-do lists, I’m not in a frame of mind to notice a perception.  They tend to well up when I’m walking, when I’m showering, when I wake up briefly in the middle of the night, when I go up to my study in the attic (which is not visited by many people other than myself).  And when I pray.  But I also get what some people call spam, apparently because I take in stuff at lots of levels and through lots of apertures.  I’ve been advised that a well-trained person doesn’t do that, they focus on their inner core and take in information, and only information (not the emotional window dressing), and through a high aperture.

I ask for guidance, but I also just am pretty open to it much of the time.  But if I’m angry, I am also not in a frame of mind to notice a perception.  A discreet and passing eruption of anger isn’t a problem, but if I’m feeling constantly irritated, that gets in the way.  Intermingling with irritated people can be an impediment here.  I do try to clear myself of that sort of thing, but I have developed a healthy respect for hermits — it’s sometimes a lot easier just to be alone.

So maybe the concept of “hearing guidance” needs to be put into less confusing language, so people realize I’m talking about concepts and ideas that may then be put into words (or not), not sentences of words, or individual words, to be parsed.  And that I don’t “hear” them, they well up and I discover that now I know something I wasn’t aware of before.

Let me just close by saying that I am thinking I need an equivalent to Paul Krugman’s warning on his blog that a post may be “wonkish” (or slightly wonkish) — because I suspect some of my posts on subjects like this one are received by some with skepticism, an eye-roll, or worse, and I’d like to have a way of acknowledging that such posts may not be for everybody.  But I also feel a responsibility to put them out there nonetheless, even if they put some people off.  I think we need to broaden our sense of what’s “normal,” kind of like Our Bodies, Ourselves did for female health and related issues years ago.



February 25, 2013

When I listen to the radio, I am aware of listening to another person’s (or a machine’s) playlist.  When I choose a CD to listen to, often I choose it for a particular song.  There are CDs which I love from start to finish (and can listen to over and over again as I drive a long distance).  Then there are more modern ways of choosing individual songs and making our own particular compilations of songs.

But today it occurred to me that I can be in the mood to listen to an album that I think I don’t really like all the tracks on, and listen with an open mind to being surprised, and pleasantly surprised, at what I hear and its effect on me.

I think that could be used as analogy to going along with God’s will (to use one set of vocabulary — surfing the waves of the universe might be another) or insisting on our own:  listening to the album as is , or exercising our free will and, for example, playing one song repeatedly and skipping over others.

Some days maybe we’re more open to accepting letting the play list be chosen by someone else, not by us.  And not by an equally flawed human being with their own issues, either.  That makes a difference for me, at least — the same thing understood as serving a greater good I have an easier time accepting than accepting it because some other person is trying to force me to agree with them.

And that brings me back to worldview.  I can see helpful results from difficult experiences which other people might dismiss in purely negative terms.  The continuing challenge for me is maintaining my own perspective while listening to theirs.


February 16, 2013

President Obama was reelected, a Pope has resigned, and a meteor broke up above the earth, shattering glass, injuring people, but not destroying us like the dinosaurs.

I want to say, “The worm has turned,” but apparently that means that the worm rises up against its previous tormenters.  What I really mean is that something fundamentally has shifted, but more like as if the piece of clothing in the suitcase that was not only getting wrinkled but was also preventing the suitcase from being closed has been refolded and repacked.

To me it has actually seemed to be about the unclogging of a drain or the passing of a kidney stone or the coughing up of a foreign object or a way to provide aerodynamic lift to a very heavy object — or the search for the piece that doesn’t belong to a puzzle and getting it back to its appropriate box, kind of like helping E.T. to return home.  Actually all of them combined.

If I had any sense I would try to write this within a poem or cloak it as a spiritual story or otherwise disguise its origins and dress it up as art to make it more socially accessible and acceptable.  Maybe I will later.

And it’s not that I think President Obama’s presidency is some sort of apex in history or that there won’t be a new pope or that we won’t have more meteors or even asteroid impacts, but my sense is that something important has healed, some energy that needed to be released has been released, that something has been put into a more helpful posture.  It’s only a step, and it doesn’t impact me personally any more than it impacts anyone else personally, but I do have a positive reaction to all of these events.

The moral equivalent

November 15, 2012

I think by this Willy meant the thing equivalent to the point of reference in terms of some essence of the point of reference — Willy used the phrase a lot, to find an analogy that would explain a problem at hand.

Someone once explained to me that in Judaism men find their spiritual lives through prayer, women through applying the rules of kashrut in their daily lives.  These could be seen as moral equivalents, at least according to the perspective of the speaker.

I’m looking for the moral equivalent of the female “oracle” of ancient times.  We have Moses the guy who brings his community the Ten Commandments; is he the moral equivalent of someone like the Delphic Oracle?  And if not, what should a man be doing if he takes up the role of being a mouthpiece for God, for expression of Platonic forms, for understanding of the forces of the universe?  Maybe he’s a physicist or mathematician like Albert Einstein.

Any way, this is a question I’m pondering.