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Saturday, June 28, 2014

OLD MAN RIVER


Talking with my neighbor Gary this afternoon, we were connecting a battery charger to the battery in my car, trying to figure out how to read the needle. He suggested something and said, "Wouldn't you think?" All I could say was, "I don't know what to think, ever, about anything." Everything in this world is a confusion to me anymore. I've spent my life trying to understand it and have failed. I know less now than when I started wondering. I've come to the Socrates place of saying the only thing I know is that I know nothing. Jesus affirmed Socrates by quoting him when he said, "Know thyself." In one way of looking at it, what else can we know, but ourselves? Our experience is our own, even shared experience. Self is about the most enigmatic subject there is to study. Self-awareness is the beginning of the spiritual path, the path of know thyself. Shedding false selves periodically, moving forward, moving in on the reality of the soul is how I have to characterize the path. No matter how far along the path one is, the goal continues infinitely far ahead, like Ralph Stanley's Great High Mountain. Therein lies the allure for me, even mystique. It's the road that goes ever on. I'm drawn to moving with my own flow. When I get there, when I ride the rhythm of my flow, contact with the world "out there," like bank, grocery store, gas station, can rattle my flow such that I fall down on the bed returning home and don't move for an hour. I lost touch with my flow, going with traffic, driving in parking lots looking all the way around for somebody backing up or no telling what, anything, paranoia about highway patrol--quotas have gone up appreciably in the last couple years. I see scatter-brained behavior everywhere, people with more to do than they can handle trying to keep up, multi-tasking, tweeting, stopping whatever they're doing to answer the cell phone. Conversation in America amounts to interrupting anecdotes with anecdotes. Interruption is the nature of conversation now. Cell phones interrupt with urgency. I've become so weary of interruption as expected conversational etiquette, I'd rather not talk. Now, when interrupted, I let go of everything that went before, intentionally forget it, knowing we're not coming back to it, let it go from mind because it is over. Superficially is the only way I can talk comfortably with anybody in this time. It's an unspoken code in America that when you see two people talking, you are duty bound to interrupt them. It's inescapable.  
 
 
I can't defeat a social trend so pervasive it has become the nature of the American character. And I cannot say this shortening of collective attention span down to nothing is necessarily a bad thing, because I don't know. I don't want to live in another country, so I adjust to the social context of the moment. Americans have become collectively addicted to distraction. The attention span that thirty years ago was about that of a cat is now nonexistent. There is little to no attention span left. Television has been sacred from the beginning. By now it is the holy of holies. I have not paid attention to television since 1961, but for brief spells for a car race and at other people's houses. I call it MBC, Mammon's Broadcasting Corporations. Mammon is a false god, and not a benevolent one, the ultimate trickster. The continuous broadside of sound demanding attention and flashing visuals equally demanding attention makes me crazy after a few hours. Beyond a few hours my head goes numb and I fall into a grumpy mood. I want to be home and hear the birds. A nation of people obsessed with money, where money is the only value, has its foundation in the shifting, whispering sand. Andy Warhol suggested attaching the amount of money somebody paid for one of his paintings to the wall instead of buying the painting. Anyone who sees the painting sees how much it cost. Ah, you have a Warhol!, more impressed by its dollar value than the image. The only thing the painting means on the wall is I-can-afford-it. This has a great deal to do with why I feel it refreshing when I see art on somebody's wall that is an image put there in appreciation, whatever it is. I have friends with a stunning waterfall painting on the wall, a print that came with the frame for maybe ten dollars. It has a waterfall in it that is painted in such a way it pulls the eye closer and closer. The closer you look, the more the waterfall looks like water. It's a gorgeous waterfall painting that looks almost like it's in motion. The image is loved in the home for its subjective aesthetic value instead of its dollar value. They appreciate that they got so much for so little.


Earlier, when I realized the car's battery was dead from trying to start it, I opened the door, turned in the seat with feet on the ground, looking at the bank of wildflowers across the road, thinking: dying really is a solution. One more reason to rejoice when I see it coming. I recall my fear of death falling away some years ago. I've had to watch it ever since, it's so easy to relax into accidents by any of two hundred thousand ways. Before, I had an automatic pilot that took care of self-preservation. Now I have to pay attention to self-preservation and remind self not to be frivolous with this life. It is important to be in the body until this journey is completed and the time is right to move on to what's next. I do it consciously by understanding this lifetime needs to come to its own balance before going on. I don't know when that time is. It's important not to know. It has to be important; nobody knows their time but on death row. I catch myself drifting into thinking not much matters because I don't have a lot of time left. Another mind tells me it matters right up to the last second. I even look for ways to perk myself up, give self incentive, legitimate reason, not fake reason. I think I can distinguish the fake reason as ego, thoughts about legacy. Twice I have been asked by peers what I will leave for my legacy. I answer, Nothing, not even a tombstone. But you have to leave some kind of legacy. Why? The only thing important to me in this lifetime has been my own spiritual path. I take the path for a human path, not a tightrope with hellfire for a net, but a path through a loving universe where the only problem is the human mind, the driver's seat of illusion.


I've characterized the spiritual path in my own vision something like water from a mountain spring flowing on its way to the ocean. I'd call the spring the time of self-awareness, committing to the path. It makes a fast-moving stream that rushes down waterfalls, splashes over rocks, races through rapids, churning, dramatic. The self predominant before, changing fast. Changes happen first on the inside and manifest on the outside in sometimes chaotic, seemingly out of control ways occurring so fast, simultaneously and in succession, it makes the head spin and question one's own authenticity. As a result of understandings and insights, we change first on the inside. Some of the ways of thinking that went before are not practical any longer. They don't work, don't satisfy. People we know and are close to drift away, one at a time, and we wonder what is going wrong. I thought I was becoming a better person and my friends are abandoning me. It's a lonesome period of time until waking one morning and realizing you're in a world of new friends, friends more compatible with the new self than the ones that fell away. The waterfall changes to fast moving creek into fast moving river, and slows its pace at lower elevations, widens with smooth surface, flows into the delta, twists back and forth like a serpent sunning on a rock, turning in on itself, taking its time in slow motion. Closer to the sea it stops and backs up at high tide and flows again with the lowering tide. I feel like I've been through the waterfalls, rapids period and the fast-moving river period that lasted at least 20 years. My path has characterized the second half of this lifetime. I feel like I've gone through the slow-moving river and now am flowing in the delta, slowly, slowly, twisting this way and that, direction changing continually. Meandering is the word. I feel like I've been meandering within over the last few years. I feel honored in this lifetime to have the chance to complete this cycle in the Way from a mountain spring to the sea. I don't believe this is the path of my enlightenment in one lifetime. I see it a  cycle through this lifetime in self-awareness, saying in signs I've done well not to get side-tracked, passing through opportunities for distraction, indulging some and letting them go, returning to the flow, allowing the flow, trusting the flow that just keeps rolling along.       

caterpillar
photos by tj worthington
 
 
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2 comments:

  1. Enjoyed how you compare your life to a river...ever changing with time...Completely agree with the way communications are going what with cell phones and lack to face to face..years ago I read a novel where people were connected to the computers and couldn't get unhooked and could not communicate at all other then thru a computer...seemed a bit far fetched but look how it is happening...but keep on living ...everyday is a precious one with new adventures and trials to over come..Good blog...

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  2. An astrology teacher of mine did an entire 4day workshop on the 8th house and my major takeaway was that we are to remain conscious until we make that transition and that this conscious awareness is the set up for the next adventure. We are adding to our soul awareness through our experience and growth. Stay present was the message. What you've written here describes what many of us are all thinking about and going through, too. Thanks for spelling it out so clearly.

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