Archive for the 'fairy tales' Category

Winning the chess game

September 2, 2012

The transition from seeing the world in three spatial dimensions plus time (or whatever we usually do) to something with more depth and less chronology and no dualism can be tough, I think.  I think it’s like learning to breathe while swimming.

Some people get stuck trying to “win” life in the material world as if it were a chess game or winning were achieving a fairy tale ending.  This keeps them breathing as if they were on land, not in the water, and hence limits their ability to swim.  The pursuit of power, wealth, health, etc. keeps them from detaching enough to perceive the chess game as nothing more than it is, an exercise, not the end in itself.

In the pursuit of trying to “win” the chess game, clever human beings have done the equivalent of breaking one of the pieces in one of those three-dimensional wooden puzzles, in order to get that last piece to fit.  I see some medical interventions in this light, for example, and other attempts to overpower and modify nature.  The chess game at its most fundamental level cannot be changed, and to the extent that our material world is secondary to that fundamental level, we cannot change the world in an absolute way — we can rearrange the chairs, not actually eliminate them, even if we dismantle and burn them, they carry on in a new form.

While some people are trying to muscle their way to winning life, others wait for fairy tale developments to occur in their lives, perhaps even insisting that certain people in their lives play certain roles in that drama — rescuing hero, evil villain, etc.  It’s tough when a soul wants to hold out for what seemed like a promised ending to the tale, rather than allowing themselves to come to the realization that it’s just a story, whatever the ending.

I think there’s something to be said for having a sense that this is the task, to recognize material life for what it is, just as it helps to recognize another person’s emotional and behavioral profile — seeing through something allows us not to contribute negatively to the situation, for example.

But how do you teach someone to accomplish the actual task of seeing through life or a person?  At some point they actually have to do it themselves, not just have an intellectual understanding of the task.   (And for some people, knowing what’s ahead makes it more difficult for them to do it, through their self-consciousness or impatience, for example.)

I think teaching in this context is really only about coaching, helping a person develop their skills for the activity.

The skills are simple, I think.  Willingness and listening, both of which require increasing levels of self-awareness and openness for clear hearing, and then following the guidance.  There are “special ed” versions of participating in this process, but ultimately there are no couch potatoes in this, everybody makes their own art project (to use three images in one sentence).  And then the person eventually starts noticing that is an art project, an object separate from themselves.  And that allows them to get up from the chess board or say something like, “This is where I came in,” as if they were at a double feature movie matinee years ago.

The game board remains, the movie continues for the others in the audience, but the self stops looking within those confines for an ending.  They realize that the “end” is the end of a phase of perception on their part, not the end of what they’ve been perceiving as either triumph or tragedy, winning or losing.  Hence, not needing to win is a secondary effect of having recognized all this, rather than a concerted effort of the will not to be competitive or something, and not needing the fairy tale ending is a consequence of seeing why the idea that there would be one occurred at all.

I’m not sure the details of these realizations are that important beyond their usefulness in moving the person to the perception — I think they can even be idiosyncratic rather than the generally accepted patterns of thought taught in recognized spiritual disciplines.  Once the person sees through, the means by which they did wither away regardless of their quality.

Which is good news for people who get a little lost in their journey — we just have to get there, we’re not graded on whether the journey was efficient or elegant.



March 18, 2012

I wrote a lovely post on the possible relationship of erotomania to the story of Cinderella and to the perception of being the beloved child of God.  And when I tried to save the draft, it disappeared, except for the categories and tags.

[The “networking” got into the essay because I mentioned how encountering those goats at the res had reminded me of the saying that sometimes the circus really is in town and the hoof beats are those of zebra and not a horse, which then spawned an observation that there were 17 swans on the res today and a musing on how they do their social networking.  I was trying to figure out how to discern between delusion and low-probability events.]

Not requiring things to be better than they are

November 26, 2011

I enjoyed Joe Nocera’s column today, I thought the story it told was attractive and provided a nice view of other people’s lives.  My reaction to it was perhaps cranky and uncharitable, but I think my frustration with the genre of uplift goes beyond my own perhaps petty issues: there are ways of living many kinds of difficult lives without needing to conform to commonly accepted standards of happiness and success.  While I’m not addressing here the issue of lives wracked by experiences like war and rape, and I do want to acknowledge that some people are living such lives, I am addressing at least some of the lives that are not going to have fairy tale endings or even enough of what most people consider positive things to be comfortable.

Life can be full of external events that have negative impacts on us, and that isn’t going to stop, the way I see it.  In my own, I’ve heard that things are going to get better for so many years, and it hasn’t helped.  What has helped is that I have learned that things don’t have to get better externally for me to feel better internally (maybe other people know that before their lives become difficult, but I didn’t).  And it’s not that I make a break with reality and live my life in a fantasy world, either.  A lot of it has to do with shifting my perspective, with not taking adversity too personally (either by blaming myself or by blaming somebody else), with being clearer about what’s my responsibility and what isn’t, with finding emotional support through the less tangible forces of the universe when my fellow human beings can’t meet my needs (this is one reason I prickle when I read that the key to something or other I should have is human relationships — it’s a piece, to my way of thinking, but only a piece, and it’s a piece that seems to work differently in different lives), with framing things as challenges and trying to learn a different way of doing things from them instead of regarding them as intrusions that shouldn’t occur and trying to “fix” them in a manner analogous to breaking a piece to one of those complicated 3-D wooden puzzles in order to try to make it fit so the object can be put back together.

There are other tools or techniques, but these are the ones that come to mind right now, and my point was just to indicate what an alternative to a relentless insistence on uplift and happy endings might entail.

I also think this point is important, at least to me, to make, because other systems for dealing with adversity and looking at life seem to by definition leave some people in the dust, to reward some subset of people, however large, at the expense of the rest, due to their norms for what a life should look like, and while perhaps helping some people, make others feel worse.


And they all lived happily ever after

November 15, 2011

I’ve come to think the deeper meaning of this tag line at the end of fairy tales and the like is actually an allusion to leaving the confines of the tale, waking up from the dream, not looking for an ending — kind of like getting off a carousel while it’s still in motion — and by doing this, sliding into a more timeless and contented state of being.  I think doing it involves no longer needing a particular outcome, rather than having achieved a desired ending.

Getting to the point of not needing a particular outcome seems to in turn involve re-enacting some scenes from the past and accepting this time around others’ limitations within them and the limitations of our own part in the play.

What I am puzzling over at the moment is how we sometimes remain part of the troupe and within the drama even after we seem to have reached this point of reconciling ourselves with it, so that others in it can finish playing out their scenes.