Archive for the 'flaws' Category

Organ pipes

July 8, 2014

I was reading the quotation from the poet Hafiz at the end of Father Rohr’s Daily Meditation.  It reads,

I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath
moves through—listen to this music.

The image comes to me differently, or at least I perceive the image differently.

For me, we are more like pipes in a pipe organ, and we have different lengths.  The hole part of the image for me has to do with our each having different holes in different places, according to how much of our ego we have cleaned up, how many and much of our flaws we have sanded down and polished.  For example, I have a small green jade Buddha and a small uncut green stone, and for me, that’s representative of spiritual development.

When the breath of spirit moves through us, we make our own sound, but in concert with everybody else.



March 19, 2014

I think we all have flaws as we live in the material world.  Just as Willy used to chide me that when we have nothing on our “administrative matters” to-do list it’s because we are dead, when we have no flaws, I think we are just spirit.

But some flaws are more of impediments to navigating in the world and developing our potential than others.  So we try to reduce the big impediments, in order to reduce distortion to our perception and in order to reduce damage to others and to ourselves.

As to the rest of our flaws, I think we adjust for them through collaboration with others — like blind men feeling parts of the elephant, if we pool our perceptions, we might make up for one another’s limitations.


March 6, 2014

I was reading Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation and its emphasis on how inadequate development of the self during the first half of life may undermine spiritual development later.

What I have seen as a problem undermining spiritual development later is unacknowledged damage to the self.  This  tends to lead to regression, rather than to progress, when people are faced with the challenges in their lives that might deepen and develop the spiritual aspects of themselves.  Some such damaged people “break” beyond what they can put back together themselves when confronted with the challenges that might expand them spiritually, other people survive the experience sufficiently intact but end up with only a partial spiritual awakening, or so it seems.  Some of this last group seems then not to want to get back up on the diving board to try again, in order to finish the job, but want to act as if they have finished the job sufficiently.   It can be that the damage has not been addressed because of reluctance to revisit the issue or discuss it with others.  Of course, the person may think their psyche is perfectly healthy — that may be part of the problem, that they have internalized a view that will not hold up in the throes of huge challenges, but they don’t realize that in advance.

Partial spiritual awakenings I think are sometimes less dangerous to the partially awake person than they are to others around them.  Other times partial spiritual awakenings result in severe distress to the person themselves, a sort of spiritual emergency.

I sometimes think that maybe we are all like Persian rugs, with a necessary flaw in ourselves which keeps us embedded in the material world.  I think it helps if that flaw is not of such a kind that it incapacitates us either spiritually or socially (or physically).

The teacher came and the student said, “Never mind.”

August 29, 2013

I was using, in a news comment online, the old aphorism about how when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

Sometimes this happens, and instead of a learning experience, what occurs next is a dissolution:  the student realizes what is entailed and does not follow through.

It can look as if the student was lying about being ready, but I think the problem is that the teacher forgot about free will:  the student has the power to bail out at any time.

What can make a mess of an essentially simple situation is when the teacher has sacrificed on behalf of the student and predicated what they have done in preparation for the teaching on the student’s following through.  That leaves the teacher in an impossible situation.  The student won’t help.  It’s a lesson for the teacher not to go that far for a student.

What has gone wrong is that the teacher had a some personal investment in having the situation work out.  That, together with the student’s capacity to believe their own lies, is enough to have created what looks like a false promise.

The teacher may be left in a difficult situation, but the teacher is the one with the tools and the knowledge.  They know how to let go by simply observing what is going on.  It does not require that the student change what they are doing.  It does require more emotional health on the teacher’s part than the teacher had going into the situation.  But that is between them and God, it’s not about the student.

It’s much easier to see all this if one is a teacher who has been happily married.  Expecting bachelors to navigate this kind of unbalanced relationship is unrealistic.  Expecting bachelor teachers who have been upended by this scenario to ask for help immediately was also unrealistic, but eventually even they got tired of replaying this scene over and over again with the same dismal results.

I can see why they kept at it, though, because the resolution of the situation is very sad and very disappointing, and that’s on top of all the damage done.  It’s kind of like retiring a bad debt and not being seduced into pouring more money into subsequent loans on the hope that this will lead to the entire amount being repaid in the end.

Part of the situation is really what could be called “continuing education” for teachers.  Teachers can have flaws, too.  Teachers may need a tune-up and some gentle supervision, may need some help themselves to bang out a ding to their emotional apparatus.

The teacher can, in time, be grateful to the student for showing them how they have a flaw of wanting to help a student more than serves the greater good of student, teacher, or anything else.  But it’s tough all around.  Nobody walks away unscathed.  When everybody walks away at all, we see it as a success.

Weeds in the lawn

May 5, 2013

My grandfather, my mother’s father, lived with us for a few months after my grandmother died, until he found a retirement home he liked.  While he lived with us, I watched more baseball (with the sound off).  I want to say it was the Mets, but my mother doesn’t think so.  But I do clearly remember he thought the dandelions in the lawn should be left alone.

I think I have that thought about what I have thought of as spiritual spam — miscellaneous stuff that comes in when I open myself up to the universe at large.

Gita made the obvious point to me not long ago that there’s a difference between the psychic and the spiritual.  We were talking about a neighbor of mine, and Gita commented that she could be psychically and not spiritually developed.

I think, maybe, I am too tolerant of the psychic because I think it contains the potential for spiritual development.  Maybe I’m wrong about that.

I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about how the psychic and the spiritual relate to each other beyond that the former seems to me to be about relationships on a horizontal plane and the latter about relationships either along a vertical axis or into other dimensions.  But I think I’ve thought that the apparatus used is the same — like using the same cell phone for different types of phone calls.  But that’s just an unexamined assumption I’ve been working under, and it may well be wrong.

So I am going to let that issue percolate somewhere within me:  what do the psychic and the spiritual have in common and how are they different, including in terms of technique and apparatus?  Are they related to one another?  Can one mimic the other?  Has that confused people and deterred them from spiritual development?

Gita has counseled me for a long time to practice better spiritual technique so that my spam problem dissipates.  I don’t know if it’s willful laziness on my part or heeding a deeper call that I don’t.  Gita calls me a kinetic sponge, and that seems to be a pretty accurate summation.  Maybe that’s how I’m supposed to be, I don’t know, in order to do what I do (or have done), but I suspect that issue is entangled with my tendency not to distinguish the psychic from the spiritual — I open all channels, take it all in from whatever means the sender can muster.

Willy got a kick out of garment tags that caution the buyer not to mistake the “slurbs and nubblies” in, say, a sweater, for mistakes and defects.  (I think they’re called “slubs,” I suspect “slurbs and nubblies” was Willy’s contribution, maybe modeled on “nooks and crannies” from the Thomas’ English Muffin commercials, but maybe a riff on a phrasing that was actually contained in a tag.)  I wouldn’t want to do something similar.  Certainly we try to figure out an appropriate posture for dealing with the slurbs and nubblies of our humanness.

But I know I run up against an unpleasant pattern of being caught up short by having mistaken a person’s abilities of one sort for abilities of another, and that doesn’t serve anybody.

If nothing else, I can be aware of all these factors even if I’m not sure how they fit together — a little detachment is often a first step towards sorting something out.

Falls and phoenices

March 1, 2013

Is that the plural for phoenix?

I’m thinking about public figures, especially politicians, who take a fall.  Some rise up again later, and I was wondering about why some do and some don’t.  Clearly behaviors that are used after the fall make a difference — the apology (or not), the PR firm hired, the length of withdrawal from the fray, the willingness to take whatever the next step turns out to be for reinvention.

What I’ve wondered recently is whether one variable could be how much the individual truly believed they deserved their (first) success in the first place.  If they harbored misgivings about how they came to be elected or land the nomination or whatever, and then they fall from grace in a scandal, do they have the wherewithal to think of their situation in terms of, “Well, this is interesting;  I wonder what will come out of it and how this all serves my greater good”?

I wonder whether people whose house has been built, not upon sand, but with a flaw in its foundation, implode when they fall.

Do we ask them to take the fall nonetheless?  I think we give them a raincheck until they can fall safely.

If they continue to repeat the pattern, eventually they will find themselves with new teachers and classmates, as the old cohort moves on.

I’ve been getting seemingly random wrong-number phone calls, on both my cell phone and my landline, in which there is a pause followed by an automated “Goodbye!”  I’ve wondered what it might represent metaphorically, and all I can come up with is what might happen when a soul is finishing up its final incarnation and makes good on a promise to bid one of those serial “I won’t jump because my parachute is defective” folks goodbye before she does.

Changing the narrative one person at a time

December 7, 2012

I wrote a response to Paul Krugman’s column in the NYTimes today about part of what I think lies behind the classism he sees in the (callous) attitude towards the jobless, especially the long-term jobless, evidenced by politicians’ apparent disinterest in keeping their focus on reducing unemployment.  I said that I think there’s a self-serving narrative that some successful people tell themselves about how they achieved their success, and I said something to the effect that I think this narrative has to be corrected before their narrative about others and others’ achievements (or lack of achievements) will change.

Someone (walker, from Boston) replied to my comment making a point about how changing the narrative through [communism] failed.

So I thought, since the opportunity for me to reply to the reply on the website is not available, I might as well launch my explanation into ether here.

I think self-serving narratives are corrected one person at a time through an individual’s developing increasing self-awareness, I don’t think there is a short-cut (through developing intellectual doctrines, for instance) to correcting even a collectively-held pattern of self-serving narrative.  I think once there is a critical mass of people seeing themselves more clearly, consequences to the group as a whole may become more apparent.

People complain that not enough people want to devote themselves to teaching school.  I would say the same about people wanting to do the plain-spoken work of coaching people to become more self-aware.

Achilles’ heel

November 26, 2012

I sometimes get the impression we have a blind spot in our spiritual life like the one we have in our vision from our optic nerve.  Maybe that’s what the notion of Achilles’ vulnerability through his heel is.

I wonder if we all have a flaw we can’t get rid of, beyond the generic limits of human mental processes.  Maybe our identity of self is what gives us our vulnerability, no matter how well-cleansed that self is.

I like imperfections in antiques, in rugs, in all kinds of things.  I like anomalies that add interest or texture or “character.”  Maybe that’s analogous to celebrating life as we live it in the material world.

Providing a handle when asking for help

November 26, 2012

The point of departure is that stereotype of guys who won’t stop and ask for directions when they’re driving and lost.  It’s probably an outdated stereotype, what with GPS and Google Maps.  But my point is the dynamic between the person asking for help and the person who could provide it.  That process often goes awry.

I think each party to the helping dynamic needs an emotional posture that works for them and also is conducive to the other partner responding in a constructive way that furthers the transaction and the relationship.

Damsel in distress and knight in shining armor is one, not necessarily to be emulated, example of such a dynamic.  Nowadays in our culture, there seems to be a posture taken by families selected for extreme home makeovers, or fund-raising drives, or the like, that facilitates people’s wanting to help them.  Between student and teacher, patient and doctor, client and social worker, there are dynamics that work and those that freeze, fizzle, or even explode.  If the helper has no ego needs involved, there is, I think, more allowance for unhelpful postures on the part of the person being helped — a “saint” will be open to trying to help regardless of how the person needing help presents themselves.  I think all this also goes on in relationships among family and friends, but I think it’s more subtle and so more difficult to see.  I can even imagine social programs, whether public through government or private through charity, being engaged in this dynamic.

What people require people who need help to do can be a serious impediment to getting a helping transaction or relationship started.  Needing to strike a pathetic or pitiful pose, or to have the right combination of strength and weakness to be judged worthy of help will screen out some people who need help and don’t do those things.  But it might turn out to be the case that people who need help might, as a practical matter, and “unfair” as it may seem, need to give potential helpers, who may be limited in their own ways, a point of access to them.  The tussle may actually be over vulnerability (how much vulnerability must the person needing help show or admit to) or even “bending at the knee,” but I am thinking that those issues may be transformed into something else, maybe even through humor, into issues more acceptable to the person needing the help.  I do think, though, that a person needing help makes it more likely they will receive it if they give the person who could help them a leg up, a hand-hold, a handle to grab — some point of access.

The person who needs the help may have the opposite need — the need to have their situation acknowledged as being intrinsically and objectively worthy of help and of having their view and emotions validated.  And of not budging an inch off of where they are emotionally to get that help.

Finding common ground between the two sets of needs doesn’t always happen.  But maybe a little more awareness of the dance going on would make it more likely that some common ground is found.


October 24, 2012

It was this time of year nine years ago that I began a long struggle to receive payment of the life insurance benefits on the policy Willy had had through his employer.  It involved, apparently, a discrepancy between the system of requirements the insurance company was saying it had and the requirements the employer had communicated to their employees.

Who pays when there is a flaw in the conduit and the transitive property in mathematics doesn’t work?  When it’s like a game of telephone and the original message arrives garbled when it reaches its destination after passing through links?  If there have been multiple links, how is responsibility attributed?

With the life insurance benefits, the employer and insurer settled, I received the benefits in dispute from the insurer, and the employer and insurance company parted ways.

With spiritual matters, there are other alternatives, even when the three primary parties won’t or can’t settle.  A fourth party with access to infinite resources can come in a say, “Not only will I pay the beneficiary the benefits in question but I will pay the life insurance company and the employer any profit they they expected to make.”

And then it’s over.  Any reopening is actually an opening of a new relationship among the parties, should they wish to engage with each other again.

A conduit can be flawed for many different reasons, but one that is not uncommon in spiritual matters is when the conduit as it were siphons off for personal use or gain some of what is being exchanged by the parties at either end.  That didn’t happen in my life insurance case, but I mention it because it is a pernicious flaw in spiritual cases because it produces one of those “death spirals” in which a small perturbation eventually downs the entire system as its consequences snowball.  Luckily there are folks who recognize the stupidity of letting it get that far and intervene gratis.