Archive for the 'spiritual stories' Category

A variant that worked

July 11, 2015

Yesterday morning Jordan left the house before I left to take a walk around the Res.  Some documents had come in the mail that I needed first to photocopy so I could scan both sides, and then to scan and attach to emails and send off to multiple parties, making sure the attachments were not too big for my commercial email server’s settings and making sure that my email program was not inserting an email address other than the ones I intended.  Then I filed away those papers, and a couple of others I had put off filing because it meant moving around stacks of cartons of files in the attic, so by the time I got out of the house, Jordan had been gone for a while.

So Jordan reached me by cell phone as I got to the Res, and he asked if it was okay if he invited a couple of friends over in the evening, to play boardgames and card games, and whether one of them could do a load of laundry in our machines while he was over, and I said it was fine, after reviewing what Jordan needed to do that day.  So when Jordan asked when I thought I would be back, I thought he was calculating when he was going to do something or other, either a chore or some prep for the game night, that he wanted to do before I returned.  I told him I thought I’d be another hour, and I didn’t pay the exchange much mind.  He had said, earlier in the conversation when I had asked where he was, that he was coming up the hill to the house from the bus stop.

And I took a glorious walk.  Saw a Great Blue Heron flapping over the water, saw small dark fish with iridescent tails in the shallows of the water near the shore, clambered down to the shore in less accessible places that seemed to have things that needed to be seen, found a sea shell and saw a rabbit.

So I get back to my house, climb the front steps up to the porch, and notice, as I am fumbling for my keys, Jordan’s messenger bag on one of the chairs.  And then I notice other stuff on the middle chair, and no, not Goldilocks in the third chair, but Jordan himself — he hadn’t left his things on the porch by mistake, but he was there with his iPad doing his millennial generation screen engagement thing.  I was a little surprised to see him sitting there.

I thought he had taken his key with him when he had left, but, as I learned, he had forgotten to.

After we clarified that, he said, “I didn’t want to tell you because I wanted you to take your time and enjoy your walk.”

I generally don’t like being deceived, and sometimes an attempt involving deceiving me has backfired royally, as when someone says they will come and help in some way, perhaps thinking that that sense of back-up will encourage me to do more myself and that by then I won’t need their help.  When the person doesn’t follow through, I have found my reliance on the promise and my continuing need for the help to be a difficult combination to deal with.  The reliance produces a shift in me that is difficult to undo sometimes.

But Jordan’s variant on this mix of inducing an attitude on my part and not being completely straightforward actually worked for me.  I had a great walk.

Jordan was absolutely correct that had I known he had forgotten his key, I would have been at best somewhat distracted.  It’s summer and he’s 23, so I wouldn’t have worried, but his waiting for me so as to be able to get back in the house would have been in the back of my mind to some extent, and I might not have taken as much time as I did on my walk and in my explorations and gazing, even though it turned out that I got back from my activities in the amount of time I had estimated it would take me and which Jordan had accepted without any discussion.

For me, this was an iteration of a pattern that had been quite painful rearranged into something quite pleasant, including my appreciation of Jordan’s considerateness and thoughtfulness and that he knows his mom and her issues.

That this episode involved someone returning home and another person waiting for the return had resonance for me, reminding me of a tradition of stories in which someone is told that someone will be coming back.  I had been thinking recently of a version of such a story, in which the little girl left at an outpost in the wilderness would have been much better off without the promise of a return by the grown-up, who told her he’d come back in part to make himself feel better and in part because he didn’t realize she had better coping tools than a false promise.  So my experience of a deceit involving a return home and a wait in which the elements have been reshuffled to produce happiness all around meant a lot to me — I like to think it reflects that progress of some sort is being made.

And Jordan had brought back with him to share with me a free chocolate candy bar that he had been given at a table in front of a yoga studio near his gym.  Priceless.


April 7, 2014

I think self-consciousness gets in the way of our clear hearing of internal guidance, of the voice within.  I think those among us who are the least self-conscious may hear the most clearly.

On the other hand, such people may lack the ability to communicate to others what they hear.

Does it matter if they can’t?

It matters if they have difficulty communicating with others if they can’t get their needs met, it matters not at all if they can’t communicate to others their spiritual perceptions — they are for them, after all.

Somebody long ago cottoned onto this phenomenon and decided to try to find that point at which spiritual insight and human communication are as symmetrical as possible.  He wanted to hear the insights he couldn’t have.  (And yes, this is one of my “spiritual stories.”)

He thought he could be helpful (and powerful) by sharing the insights.  Instead he succeeded in accomplishing something else, and that is our world today.

Hawk’s gotta eat

October 3, 2013

So there was a smallish hawk in the tree above my compost heap this morning.  I think it was squawking, it might have been a juvenile, it didn’t have a very broadly developed tail.

There were small birds flying around near it, maybe trying to get it to leave or distract it from a nest?  Then I saw a small critter up in the tree, it looked black in the early morning light, and it seemed confused.  It tried climbing different ways in the tree.  I think its movement may have attracted the hawk’s attention, and the hawk went after it and, I think, got it.  I went inside, reminding myself that hawks have to eat.

I also found myself thinking about the Ralph McTell song “Heron Song,” in which he sings about wishing he had the heron’s wings, as a suggestion for how to rewrite the story I linked to in my post last night.  I think the girl needed to grow her own “spiritual wings” in order to get down safely from where she had inadvertently ended up in a spiritual quest gone awry.

Inconsistent defenses

September 4, 2013
  • “I was daydreaming.”
  • “I was addressing someone else.”
  • “I thought I was addressing someone else.”
  • “You were hearing someone else.”
  • “I was lying and you should have realized that.”
  • “I changed my mind.”
  • “I’ll do it later.

I remember learning in law school about inconsistent defenses.  In terms of zealous defense of a client, I can see where they have a place.  In terms of social relations, they tend to undermine credibility.

The above list come from a spiritual story in which the guy has promised the girl marriage.  In earlier versions he has given her a ring, but in later versions, the idea is reworked as a treatment of how people use words.  For me, it’s really about how one person’s indulgence in a diversion can be a serious, and potentially devastating, issue in the other person’s life.

Abraham and Sarah (and Hagar)

October 9, 2012

Abraham may be the founder of a religion but he is portrayed as being very rooted in the earthly concerns of progeny.  How he handled some of these concerns did not redound to his credit.

On the other hand, perhaps Isaac can be taken metaphorically, perhaps the banishment of Ishmael can be taken as an indication of an attempt to put away such personal and earthly concerns.

In any case, I don’t see it as the final version of the story, and I don’t see the story of Jesus’s birth as the final revision either.  I do see human society putting the dice back in the cup and shaking them up again, over and over again, until the elements play out in a way that is most helpful and allows for stasis.

But unlike true dice-rolling, the dynamic of the retelling and reconfiguration includes feedback from the previous iterations; they are like the previous layers of spackle in a plastering repair.  (And Einstein’s comment about God and dice can rest in peace.)

It certainly helps to be able to view this storytelling from the perspective of an outsider, but going in as a re-enactor I don’t think is easy to do even when they have such perspective.  They can trace what is going on but not necessarily affect the iteration in which they are involved, and it takes a greater sort of patience to do one’s part without sharing in the fruits or without bending one’s role in an effort to do so prematurely — or without stepping out of one’s role prematurely for whatever reason.

Happy endings

August 5, 2012

I thought I should post my understanding of the resolution to the “Spare My Children” story.  After many incarnations after having experienced the crash, the protagonist figures out that the key is to remain celibate.  No sex, no children, no social obligations of that sort, no exceptions to willingness, no resistance.  And that leads to a spiritual marriage with another human being, I want to say like the one between Ramakrishna and Sarada.  Finis.

“Spare my children”

August 4, 2012

I was reading Father Richard Rohr on not resisting pain and suffering as a (the?) way of handling it safely.  And it got me thinking about an old spiritual story a piece of which I have been trying to recover.

And that piece turns out to be “Spare my children.”

The protagonist encounters spirit, has a holy encounter, and is quite willing to be caught up in it completely.  She doesn’t resist personally, but as a parent she senses the encounter may have a negative impact on her children, so she predicates her acceptance on the request that her children not be negatively impacted.

Socially that’s quite a reasonable thing to do, but spiritually it doesn’t have the same dynamics.  Spiritually, resistance is resistance, it doesn’t matter its intent, its moral underpinnings, its motivation.  It’s more like aerodynamics — drag is drag, too much drag is too much drag, it doesn’t matter if it is caused by a holy object or fulfillment of an obligation or anything else, it’s effect on whether the item is aloft is what it is.

So the protagonist in the spiritual story does something laudable by social standards, but in so doing she actually and unwittingly distorts the dynamic enough that her children are harmed; which in turn devastates her, and so the whole enterprise crashes.

This is the story I’ve pieced together from the “guitar” I was asked to play, if I may use as a metaphor the idea in Richard Shindell’s song “Your Guitar.”

Impossible choices

May 14, 2012

I’ve been feeling frustrated by my sense of how we are manipulated by others into framing things that happen in our lives or in others people’s lives into narrative arcs with certain heroes, certain assumptions.  I think this results in our not coming to grips with loss.

There’s a story of a girl whose boyfriend promised to marry her, maybe even suggested that they already were married in the eyes of God.  She is abducted, abused, disappeared for many years, but buoyed through her years of torment by the promise of her boyfriend.  He lost hope, however, and married somebody else.  The girl from his youth reappears, and now what?

What to do?  What’s the lesson?  These are two different issues.

I think the girl finds the spiritual note of wishing her former espoused well and being glad to have had the promise of their marriage to get her through a terrible time.  I think she may even move on to find someone who can devote himself to her whole-heartedly.  Or she marries God.

I think the guy finds himself with an impossible choice of whom to hurt, and here’s King Solomon and the baby recast in a romantic scenario.  I think the resolution for the guy is to find in his heart the wish for her for someone to take his place who is not otherwise committed.

This is an old story, but it never got resolved, because the girl kept committing suicide every time it was re-enacted.  She was too damaged to do anything more than to fall into waiting, loving arms. She couldn’t sound her note of altruistic love, so he couldn’t echo it back.

So the story got rewritten, separating the abusive relationship she ended up in from marriage, and she had a healthy marriage.  Both those relationships end, she’s ready for her old beau, he’s otherwise engaged, and now she has the wherewithal to wish him well.  This allows him to focus on himself and not his feelings of guilt over a suicide.  Of course, it also changes a sense of how wronged she has been (although according to her perspective, she did what she did for reasons beyond her own choosing).

But we finally get to an ethical and loving resolution.  It does require some letting go, though.  That part was only accomplished by having the girl mirror back to the guy his own worldview until she drove him away.  She didn’t want to, but mirroring occurs at a level beyond the reach of wants, and so the universe ultimately ended this story despite the participants’ incapacity to do more than pass the hurt, and their maladaptive responses to it, back and forth.


Fake coral

May 2, 2012

I bought some glass coral beads yesterday, inexpensive but pretty and won’t run when wet the way dyed coral will.

I doubt such a necklace could be used the way a real coral necklace sometimes is in some cultures to keep away “the evil eye” from a baby by having her wear it.  I  also know of plenty of stories in which an unwitting buyer has ended up with glass “jewels” instead of the real deal.  But it occurred to me that there is a place for fake jewelry, even when jewelry is worn for its protective or healing properties.

Eventually we are healed and through other means protected, and then we do okay wearing even glass beads, unless somebody suggests otherwise and successfully talks us out of it.  Glass beads can provide a transitional phase, in which we are riding the two-wheeler without training wheels without realizing it —  the beads give us confidence to try out our abilities to use other means to remain safe.

I suspect a problem arises as well if someone interferes with this phase and tells us too soon the beads are faux.

But overall this way of seeing a role for fake jewelry allows me to find a place for it in a story in which it often has assumed the role of leading to heartache and tragedy.

Worn moccasins

October 4, 2011

I came across this the other day and have been trying to resist interpreting it ever since:

A friendly note to our customers

Please do not attempt to return worn moccasins for credit or exchange.  We will not accept them and they will be returned to you.  Thank you very much.

At first I thought about interpreting this in terms of trying to walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins, even maybe taking the negative aspect of the message to warn against trying to live someone else’s life for them, or, having done so, trying to decline the karmic results they would have incurred.

It also reminded me of a story about a young girl who was given the wrong partner and didn’t speak up to point out the mistake, because she felt that having accepted him at all, perhaps at betrothal, she was honor-bound to go through with consequences — it would have been like returning moccasins she had worn a bit.

But I eventually came to a more positive interpretation, that we should not reject our moccasins’ having become worn, or the memories the dings and worn spots  may evoke — pushing that sort of thing away usually makes a discomfort worse, I think.  An old pair of moccasins may not be a trophy, but maybe we should find some way to preserve their memories in a respectful, if not loving, way.