Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On the Pitfalls of Fundamentalism (of any kind)

God and Satan were walking down the street one day; the Lord bent down to pick something up.

He gazed at it glowing radiantly in His hand. Satan, curious, asked, “What’s that?”

“This,” answered the Lord, “is Truth.”

“Here," replied Satan as he reached for it, "Let me have that--I’ll organize it for you.”
(Ram Dass)

Friday, April 2, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

     What is it that slowly begins to tear down all that appears to have been built up? All that a soul first anticipates, creates, begins to count on day by day, year after year, and then can’t live without? Both the building up and the tearing down have to do with those hard-won lessons of realizing that almost nothing is as it appears to be, and learning to distinguish between appearance and reality. 
     And what is life, but building up and tearing down, creation and destruction. What is life worth if all goes on unnoticed, unexamined? If not noticed and examined, the pain is endless, the tears many, and the road traveled never opened to mysterious and glorious vistas. What it will do is turn back upon itself, so that we find ourselves in the same unpleasant spot, no matter how familiar. Like a recurring dream—one from which we long to awaken. But, we are either too afraid to veer off the path: can't see another way to go, or, worst of all--like Dante, see the way, but must go through hell to get there. Yet, it is only with the hunger and hope of our desires, or the anxiety and desperation of our fears, that can prop us forward.
     So we move around again into the dangerous curves, spurred on by the many illusions of what we think we or others need; what we think we or others are, or must become; what we wish were true for ourselves and for others.     The nature of this circle of desire and fear is such that once it establishes itself, it is nearly impossible to detect, let alone observe. To observe it we would have to step outside ourselves and look in, as if looking at someone other than ourselves. It might happen by accident that we catch glimpses of another way and falter.  Then it fades, and we continue on blind or groping, sensing at times the grotesque, illusory forms created out of our fears, desires and distorted memories. Sometimes we are forced to see under the brilliant light cast by pain and given the means to see with the kind of clarity that can stun, change or break us. Very rarely do we turn, with deliberate intent, stopping to observe the pattern that has so elaborately formed—it is hard to turn. The prisoner would prefer to stay in the chains, gazing into the shadow forms, rather than the harsh source of light.
     By the time I was forced to look within at pattern of my life--however safe it appeared to others, I experienced it as a wild and dangerous garden, overgrown with vegetation—some of it green, dense and thriving; some withered and dried; some blighted, or trampled down, as if by great storms, and here and there completely barren spots, as if from draught and darkness.
     Even if we are forced to look, it takes a long time, maybe the rest of a lifetime to understand. There are those who look and turn away, convincing themselves they have not seen. Some look and are lost forever. Then there are those who look, begin to understand, and even come to respect what has been—who can even love the stunted growth and barren spots -- without them they could not now say, “This has been and ever will be part, but only one part, of my garden.” When I had looked long enough and hard enough, I thought I could see a glimmer in the distance, beyond an overgrown path.


The Wayfarer,
Perceiving the pathway to truth
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
“Ha,” he said,
“I see that none has passed here
in a long time.”
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
“Well,” he mumbled at last,
“Doubtless there are other roads.” (Crane).