Archive for the 'material world' Category

Earth and sky

April 7, 2014

Many religions seem to focus on developing our relationship with the divine who is out there and up there, not (also) the divine who is in there and down there.  In a way, we connect more to the sky than to the earth in our spiritual lives, perhaps because we are aiming to transcend our material world and foster a relationship with something else.  But that something else also abides in the earth, and that aspect of it we connect with, I think, by going deep within ourselves.  We are conduit between earth and sky, a mixture of many kinds of energy.

When I connect with the earth, I feel, among other things, her pain.  I feel it as the pain of a mother who has lost some of her children, who has been battered by the impacts from heavenly bodies crashing onto her surface, who has been exploited by some of her children — that is, by us humans.

Some of that pain may be my own, but when we pray, our pain and divine energy mingle, I think, and we experience one another’s pain.  Our own pain may give us a pathway to feeling the other’s.

So when I am reminded of divine suffering, I feel called to draw attention to the suffering within and the suffering of that part of our heritage — the earth.  We pay lip service to being made from dust and returning to dust.  That material contains the divine spark, too, I think, and it also contains suffering.  I think it is helpful to give respectful and loving recognition to that aspect of our connection to the universe, too.

Flaws

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.

The world must be a certain way for there to be “God”

August 7, 2013

I was reading opinion pieces and comments on prayer on the NYTimes website the other day, and there was the usual dismissal with certainty of what many people with faith believe and do.  It occurred to me some time after that that it’s not just about rejecting the straw man or red herring of God conceptualized as a cranky parent, it’s got something, I think, to do with reacting to a notion that God’s existence should mean that the world is perfect or on balance pleasant.

But I don’t think that thinking about the “existence of God” as an all or nothing proposition is all that helpful.  Lots of believers experience God as a force who strengthens and comforts and imparts flexibility and resilience for life’s difficulties.  God doesn’t even have to be a “who,” God can be much more impersonal than that and still be the source of the kind of energy that guides us and gets us through.  It’s a matter of accessing that guidance and help, the strength, flexibility, and resiliency — it is such a matter for believers, and I don’t see why “non-believers” wouldn’t be able to seek things like strength, flexibility, and resilience through a process of their own.  I don’t think it’s necessary to “go through” “God” to access those things, in the sense of believing in a particular concept of a divinity.  I think the idea of asking God helps some people focus and open themselves up to accessing these resources (strength, flexibility —  which I mean in the sense of not being brittle and breaking —  etc.) — but I think they are accessible without traditional belief in a traditional God.

I think theism vs. atheism is one of our dualistic pieces of human nonsense.  There’s no reason for us to form up into two such teams.  Once the world is allowed to be as it is, and a more perfect world is not the objective of belief in God — the controversy stops being about whether there is a happily-ever-after — and then maybe more people can entertain that there is more to the world than what is visible and material.

This is a version of what I had written this afternoon, and I’m too tired now to do much more with it tonight, but I wanted to try to post something on it before I head south to New Jersey tomorrow and probably become even further removed from my original thoughts on the topic.

[God is part of creation, we are in a sense inside the belly of God — God is not outside of creation. — This is a note leftover from before, I’ll leave it here as an afterthought.]

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.

Window cleaning

October 20, 2012

The window panes in my house sorely need to be cleaned.   I will probably at some point hire someone to help me deal with it; Jordan doesn’t believe housekeeping is necessary,* I don’t think I can do it myself (this house has, I think, something like 13 windows on the first floor, 15 on the second, 4 on the third, 5 in the basement, 3 door panels, and a stained glass window, the older windows have “issues,” and even on stools and small ladders, I have trouble reaching the tops), and Jonas is not available.

In the meantime, I have noticed that I can see more clearly through the screens.  With open spaces, residue doesn’t build up.  I like that as a metaphor for what happens with us depending on how we interface with the world.  The more open we are, the fewer unhelpful encrustations we accumulate, I think.

I sometimes have thought of these encrustations as “our human crap,” but I am working now on feeling more compassionate towards humanness, towards flaws.  It has become clearer to me that finding a balance between our ego-driven selves needed to navigate the material world and our greater selves needed to harmonize with the world at large is an important task.  I guess at this stage I would see myself trying to find what ego tools I can use which result in the least damage to my spiritual connection and to others while allowing me to deal with this world effectively.

*How much of this is depression and how much of it will respond helpfully to pressure or encouragement is not clear to me.  My sense and experience are that I can get him to do a limited number of limited tasks, but/and, if I trip the “overwhelmed” wire, which on him is rather low, he will shut down (and not just about the task but about the rest of his life, too).  So I’ve learned to try to ask for something close to what he seems able to tolerate.  Raking the back lawn with a friend of his who was visiting yesterday worked out fine, for example, although he did ask me to bring him water.

Bodies

October 10, 2012

I wrote about appreciating human flawedness yesterday, in my last post, and this morning I was reading about accepting the body as “good, worthy, [and] holy” in Richard Rohr’s daily meditation.

It got me thinking about bodies, how they can be a source of pain and disappointment, how some people find a way during extreme difficulties experienced through their bodies (I’m thinking about rape and torture but also about illness and accident) to attenuate their relationship with their own.  I don’t doubt that Father Rohr is accurate that this leads to trouble in the long run.  Techniques like disassociation have drawbacks, too.  They’re coping strategies but they are only stopgap measures for people who were unprepared to deal with the difficulty in some other way without these costs, I think.

But, as a general proposition, old coping strategies can be transcended.  It’s much harder, I think, when the difficulties are on-going or there have been secondary consequences to the difficulties that led to a rejection of the body, consequences with their own difficult dynamic, but I don’t doubt that making peace with the body and bodily existence will result in new possibilities, even if it doesn’t lead to repair of old ones.

I wonder how much of addictive behavior, which Father Rohr relates to this issue of alienation or separation from the body, is really just a distraction to keep from dealing again with that which was so painful or which actually no longer works, or never worked, and for which an alternative (without the downsides of addiction) should be sought.  Maybe if we let go and wait for an understanding of where might lie an alternative to experiencing the situation as too difficult, and an alternative to using a maladaptive response, we find some progress.

Temptation

November 29, 2011

Someone in an email group I belong to included the following, which may be commonly known, but I had never heard it before: “‘A woman has to be in the mood; a man has to be in the room.'”  There has been much discussion, much in a jocular vein, about this ever since, among other members of the group.

But I actually found it helpful in a more pedantic way, because it said to me that maybe some men don’t trust themselves and that’s why they avoid certain kinds of relationships with women.  Which in turn got me thinking about “What Temptation Means to Me.”

For me, temptation is usually about signing on to someone else’s view not just of the world and how to be in it but of me and how I should be in it.  The (mis)step I take is something like, “Oh, they must know something I don’t” and I jump right into their idea of what I should be doing.  A good example was when my son was struggling in high school and I called all the right people for advice and they told me to convene a meeting and it turned out to bring things to a head in a way we were not prepared for (and not what was supposed to happen — many rules were broken, but as I learned, unless the student and family have the resources, including time, to go through a hearing process, there’s not much that can be done when the rules are not followed — more than one lawyer told me, “Yes, you’re right, there really is no accountability there, they are used to that, and that’s a large part of the problem.  Muddle on.”  We muddled until he graduated.).

So, one of my temptations is to take other people’s advice, and when it means adopting a worldview that actually doesn’t work in my context, if indeed it actually works for anybody — sometimes I think it just becomes more obvious in my life because the issues tend to get played out in heightened ways — I end up sitting on the ground inspecting my bruises and trying to accept that what may be appropriate for other people may actually not be what I should be doing, and that it’s part of my contribution to the situation that I asked for and took their advice.

Bruises are one thing.  I can get back up on the horse (elephant?) and keep going.  It’s when the advice tells me something akin to, “You shouldn’t be riding that horse,” or any horse, that I risk trouble.  My sense of what horse I should be riding I think has to come through me, I don’t think I can take most people’s word for it.  When I sense I’m on the wrong one, I do have some success asking someone like Gita, who does see other people’s stuff pretty neutrally, about why I feel confused.  It usually even then takes my actually seeing it for myself to accept it, although the suggestion about where to look is invaluable.

The temptation with which I am currently struggling involves the perennial favorite question, especially in middle age, “What should I be doing with my Life?”  I don’t feel like a failure, the way a relative recently reported to me she feels, but I do feel tired and that I still haven’t found a modus vivendi since Willy died that feels like it works for me.  I have opted for the “function and be responsible” part of the program, and hoped that eventually I would find the opportunity to regroup in a way that would feel more comfortable, especially since in the long term I need a way of living that is less exhausting.  I don’t know.  Maybe I am too loathe to abandon my responsibilities in favor of something else, or maybe the lesson is to find a way to meet those responsibilities without becoming so exhausted and with discovering a way to find contentment in my life as presently constituted.  I do somewhat better with answering the smaller question of, “What should I be doing right now in my life?  What is next?”

Relaxing into intuition?

November 7, 2011

This is actually about the interpretation of “thawing out,” again.  I have been turning over my interlocutor’s interpretation of this stumbling around as reflecting decreased hypervigilance.  I would have tended to see it as the result of navigating with what some people call “intuition,” what I think of as throwing the task (here, of navigation) onto the universe.

But it doesn’t have to be a matter of “either/or,” the two “answers” can be different aspects of the same phenomenon.  Maybe when we relax our coping mechanisms that we developed in response to difficulty but that also had the effect of cutting us off from other parts of ourselves, we regain our broader spectrum of ways of perceiving.

Then I’m left with wondering whether this stumbling is apt to improve, as N. seems to think it will.  My take on that is that it will as consensus reality shifts.  Because that’s what I really think this has been about, revamping our consensus reality to conform better to its original orientation and correcting for a distortion that had crept in and thrown off what had been a self-sustaining dynamic.

So my guess is that it will feel to me, and others, like stumbling around for some time to come, but that eventually a new normal will take hold, and consensus reality and intuition will become better aligned with each other, and we’ll all be more comfortable in time to come.  In the meantime, I do get by, with the kindness of strangers.