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Sunday, January 11, 2015

KNOW THYSELF IN EVERYDAY LIFE

sigmar polke

The verse from the Tao te ching I put here a few days ago, #33, has been floating in my mind. Knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering yourself is true power. My journey of self-knowledge included about six years of psychotherapy. A time came I felt self-examination with a therapist was the next step, guided, putting aside self-pity. So it was. My main concern at the time, the enigma I could not unravel, was why was I drawn to controlling women? The answer is obvious, but I needed to find why it was obvious. This was just the starting point. Much came up and everything that rose to the surface was dealt with and allowed its place. It wasn't about learning how to be normal, but for peace of mind. Much was brought up for examination, brought into the light of awareness where it can be seen both objectively and subjectively. The purpose was to find my own truth, not a truth outside self. I took it for the path of "Know thyself," first noted by Socrates, then by Jesus the Christ affirming Socrates. I took it to heart as a part of my path. I chose for self the path of love instead of the path of knowledge. I started from no understanding at all to, by now, a heart that can cry with a donkey when she loses her baby. It has taken forty years. By now, I feel I understand love to some degree and live it to some degree. By living love, I don't mean missionarizing about something I don't understand, or getting married or raising kids, or having a relationship. I meant to find love in everyday life, practical love that can flow freely, wherever and whatever the circumstances. I feel like I know the people I know with a loving heart. I train my pets by love and love only. They love me in turn, want to please me because they love me, and perform better when it comes to "minding" than scolding or hitting inspires. I'm told I spoil my pets. So what. 

sigmar polke

People I know who raised kids without hitting them, without talking down to them, raised kids who went through PhD on scholarship all the way. People I know who hit and berated their kids brought up kids full of anger, resentment, low self-esteem, and spikes of guilt in their heads making education difficult to focus on. This online journal is a project in knowing self. It functions in self-knowledge by bringing up particulars of my individual point of view, articulates them, gives me perspective of self in the world out there and the world within. It brings up issues I carry in mind that pop to the surface from time to time and sink back down out of sight to rise again and sink again. They seldom get articulated or examined to see what they're about, what they're telling me. I follow an issue here like talking with a therapist, the one who is now my friend, one of my favorite people in my life, a valuable soul. I'm not even sure talking to a therapist is more important than talking to a friend. I suspect people who talk to friends don't need therapists. By talk to, I mean cry with, empathize with. Writing in this daily journal becomes a meditation, a focus, searching for words, phrases, sentences, bringing up ideas, thoughts, feelings, exploring them, seeing what they have to tell me. It takes about an hour to write one of these paragraphs. Sometimes a little less and sometimes a little more. It is four to five hours of sitting here searching for sentences, one at a time. I think of it at the same time a yoga,  a meditation. I will not start with an agenda and follow it through. Avoiding agendas is number one guideline for self in this journal, except when I want to write about an agenda. Missionary is not my style. I start with no idea where I aim to go, just write a sentence or two, whatever I have on my mind, then the next sentence and the next. A time comes soon when I see where it is headed, open up and flow with it, see where it goes. One thing leads to another, and another. 

sigmar polke

I feel like I have a far better understanding of self than I did five years ago when this exercise was in its first months. Driving on the round trip to town yesterday, I was questioning the meaning in the lines of the Tao te ching verse, and embrace death with your whole heart, you will endure forever. I cannot find it to say I embrace death with my whole heart. Initially, it seems kind of morbid, kind of Goth, fingernails painted black. It's not about wanting to die or suggesting suicide. Death, in my imaginings, here has to do with living without attachments to this life, this body, emotions and mind. The self that activates this body is the self that lives on after the body falls away. If you stay in your center, the center one's innermost self, may be the higher self, or consciousness, what have you. I like to call it consciousness, though it gets confused with consciousness associated with the fore-brain  that we like to think separates us from the animals. I think of it a word with two distinctly different definitions. like tear and tear. Somebody with a PhD in psychology would more than likely tell me I've got it all wrong. No doubt I do. I'm not giving instruction in absolute truth. I'm telling it as I understand it. At this moment, here is how I understand it. Maybe a year from now I'll see it another way. Maybe if I read some books on the matter, I'd see it an entirely different way. I don't care enough to study it academically. I have enough of a sense of it to have my own names for my own understanding. I'm not spreading it as truth, just admitting my limitations. In this illusion that is not even a vapor or a hologram, but a dream in each one of our minds, each dream is radically different from any of the other dreams in this world of more than seven billion embodied souls. A majority of us dream staggering poverty. 

sigmar polke

This is where I get my joy reading accounts of how others than myself see this world we live in, how other people experience this world, multiple points of view. This is where I find the benefit of reading. I can read Wendy Salinger's LISTEN and feel as another feels in a beautifully written memoir that is a joy to read for the writing in itself. A biography, SITTING BULL, by Robert Utley, is an entirely different experience from my own. Thanks to someone who took on the research and writing what he found looking for Sitting Bull's central core, Sitting Bull the man as he lived, I can see into the mind of someone who has something to say to me. Sitting Bull, the man, opened a new dimension in my life. I found that his values are my values. He seemed like somebody I already knew, somebody I knew well, whose values I shared, or they came from association with him I don't understand. I painted a simple portrait of him that hangs on the wall to the right of where I sit. For me, it seems to have touched his spirit somehow. I doubt any Lakota who saw it would say that. Doesn't matter. It's for me, not anybody else. I painted it because I wanted him on the wall the way some people keep a picture of Martin Luther King on the wall. A reminder, memory, of the values this individual represents. I'd never have known of Sitting Bull's life if I didn't take an interest in points of view other than my own. Knowing someone like Sitting Bull through learning his story adds a very great deal to my well being as a human being. I have refused to give my mind over to corporate brain-drain. I can be aware of the world I live in, but don't have to be of it, don't have to give it my power. I don't give over my power because somebody wants it. My power is for mastering myself, according to this verse in the Tao te ching, knowing yourself is true wisdom, mastering yourself is true power. These are my conundrums the last few days.   

sigmar polke


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