During this time of Thanksgiving Holiday here in America, I had occasion to sit with friends, family, friends’ families, and family friends, to share a meal (or two). A side effect of the modern family and its bifurcating reality is that there are Thanksgiving meals going on for the better part of the week. I participated in or heard about gatherings taking place on just about any day of the past week and at one point I thought- what a miracle that all these different ‘sides’ of all of our families can orchestrate all these events so all the required combinations and permutations of beings can occur. A quantum computer could not have solved the problem more efficiently. Stepping back, we were like one big whirling, swirling, recombinant half-time show of giving thanks.
At one point a discussion came up. One of those discussions. The solution to the problem of the world is… [blank]… I enjoy these conversations mightily but I was struck by the difficulty of sharing my current “position” on the subject. You know, the one that says, “All of our brilliant ideas and good intentions won’t do it- not if we don’t heal our perceptions, allow ourselves to discover the world isn’t what we thought it was, and allow ourselves to remember that we are simply and powerfully… Love.” I experienced the challenge of espousing a view that is “different”, of espousing a view that is not obviously “logical”, of espousing a view that is not even clearly “actionable”.
I did speak up and say- along the lines of Herbert Spencer’s quote “In vain do we build the city, if first we do not build the man”- that the only real problem we have is within our own minds. Mild bit of disagreement on that point there was. Understand this do I. Where do we go with that one?
I think the dissenting perspective is based, at least in part, on a sense of the intractable difficulty of modulating “human nature”. We need, therefore, solutions that work in spite of who we are… Also, aside from and beyond the difficulties inherent in “getting people to change”, for some persons there is the issue of what is real and viable. In other words, if there is not a solution rooted in the tangible- in the proper analysis and diagnosis of symptoms and systems, leading to the subsequent technologies or policies they inform- then one faces the even greater dilemma of there being no solution at all. For, if it is not something we can build, construct, fabricate, write down, outline, or sketch out on the board- it is not real. How often have we been told that we need real solutions…?
I cannot sketch Love out on the whiteboard. Does that mean it is not a real solution?
* * * * *
What I do know is that I’m past the point of no return. I’m past the point of enjoying healthy discussion for its own sake, as if it were one more feather in the persona’s cap, as if the debate of ideas were a vigorous and worthy past time, like exercising or going to the art museum, growing heirloom vegetables, or refining one’s taste in literature. I’ve gone off the deep end and bet everything on the Invisible. It’s simpler that way. I’ve placed a small but utterly comprehensive wager on the notion we truly are changeless. During these days I see a few of those items I’m holding in reserve, and I gently push them into the middle of the table, too. This is how I spend my time. I find those parts of me that remain on the outside looking in, and I take them by the hand to walk them into the middle.
We’re doing this together, actually. No one can do this alone. It’s not logical, but it’s how it happens.
All around us, bets are still being placed. We’re bringing our scattered bits and pieces to the Center.
Somehow we discovered: Grace is the dealer of this hand. We suspect She may have stacked the deck… We’re curious what card She will turn over next, knowing it will be from an altogether different type of deck, and that it will remind us this isn’t the game we thought we’ve been playing at all… It’s been That One all along…! Ha…!
(She’ll turn the card, once we get all our wagers into the Middle.)
* * * * *
(I walked out the front door today to take a walk and it was beautiful. And for a moment, I was needless. There weren’t any reasons for that, either. This is how we practice. This is how we allow ourselves to quietly dissolve into a new rationale.)
“May all my love flow towards You alone
O Beloved , may they all ascend towards You.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore
“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved” (Psalm 127:1-2; cf Acts 5:38-39).
Thanks, Wayne. Your presence here is always a blessing and a revelation. It widens my view of what it means to be part of this Connection. Hope you are well today. Michael
Very thoughtful post…I loved the line: I cannot sketch Love out on the whiteboard. What is it about speaking about the concept of love that makes some people think we are simpletons? They look at us with an expression that says, ‘How quaint.’ I think that you expressed well when you said it starts with each individual and their perception of things. Change always starts with one person’s perception birthing into a great (hopefully) idea. When the idea is birthed from a person who is living in the seat of love, the ideas can have the power to transform our lives and the planet for the better.
You said that beautifully, and it has brightened my day. Your words remind me there is something truly beautiful in being simple- not simpletons- but simple in a way that is rooted in everything else. It reminds me actually of the comment I made on your site about Christopher Alexander’s work. He has a description in one of his books about the beauty and simplicity of this particular Buddhist monastery he had visited- how it was so beautiful you might just take it for granted, and so simple you would think nothing of the abiding presence that must have gone into the sequence of “giving birth” to such a scene and place. Love is simple, beyond explanation, and has the power to transform by flowing through us, as you say. Here’s to our collective birthing! Michael
You may enjoy similar thoughts on the same themes from a voice I find quite at home with me:
There was take out reheated and served in my home on the big T day, but the trade off of choosing to have a meal like that was the takeaway of very consistent, conscious deep dishing of philosophical delights in conversation (did miss the leftovers of a turkey sandwich on a homemade hot roll usually provided in the world of “normal” the next day though 🙂 ).
Really enjoyed the link and particularly the appropriate use of profanity in Neil’s writing. 🙂 And the deep-dishing of philosophical delights sounds like a perfect T Day! We had four different family gatherings to attend this year. On the actual T Day there were just four of us, and it was warm and lovely. My wife made some incredible roasted brussel sprouts, which were a kissing cousin to a dish we were treated to earlier in the week, and we had a corn bread stuffing she has made the past few years we can’t live without. Otherwise, we pared down significantly… Simple is good, right?
Thanks so much for all your sharing here.
How wonderful to have a partner in crime in the world who enjoys cooking!
N and I can be proficient when we want to be, but the passion for creativity is usually found directed to other areas than cooking. We both have deep appreciation for anyone who is an artist in the kitchen though… and we both always will do every dish needing to be done when someone gifts us with their cooking.
Safeway (might only be a western chain market) makes a really good corn bread stuffing at their deli, but I think your wife’s would always win with the addition of homemade love. Kiss the cook often and treat her to a sharpening of the knives and your table will always be blessed with deliciousness.
Will do! 🙂
Late to the game here…
I so enjoy this post and your circumnavigation around difficult topics. Perhaps we are witnessing and participating in some very big changes. Why after a few millennia, would the world be ripening to changes that would bring some harmony and peace in a world that has experienced so much pain and destruction? Maybe our perspective is and will continue to change because of technology. But, as well, that same technology that brings the bigger picture and shortens the distances between us, can also bring destruction. I think we all sense this, but like you say, we all are placing our bets, in everything we say and do. No pressure, lol 🙂
I think too that living with the question and not needing to be convinced of any particular solution is necessary for keeping the doors open, and the blood flowing.
P.S. I really like your blog!!!
Thanks, Debra. I should say your blog stretches my thinking and feeling every time I read it as well. There are so many doorways into this mystery… It is a pleasure to explore them.
You touched on something I can’t help exploring: the question about “why, after a few millennia, would the world be ripening to changes that would bring harmony and peace in a world that has experienced so much pain and destruction?” I think this is a HUGE question, because I think it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that radical improvement is unlikely- or perhaps impossible, or perhaps not in our “lifetimes”, etc.- on the basis of history. Because REALLY, who hasn’t desired something far better at all those points in history? How could it be that such changes are possible now? Why haven’t they already happened, as surely people have desired them every bit as strongly as we have…? Were they not possible then? What is the difference?
I’ll be horribly incorrect if I try to speak the language of Hillman, who I only really know through your blog so far, but I’ll try anyway. Please forgive me in advance… The notion I wanted to borrow is the idea of images, and it seems first off that history is an image, and our translations of what it truly is and was may be incorrect. We’re simply incorrect if we think we’ve tried all possible choices and exhausted all the available alternatives, and the world cannot be remade, re-dreamt up, whatever… In A Course of Love, which is probably for me personally right now that source of inspiration and wisdom that reverberates in my chest the way it seems Hillman may do for you, Jesus says, “WILLINGNESS is now upon humankind.” The door has always been open- there for us… available. We’ve just been busy trying a few other routes…
But the “story of Creation” is simply not yet complete. We are living inside of it. This is why I think the unknown is so nearly tangible- (if we allow it to be so). The unknown is like the space in which we are discovering another alternative, an alternative living inside of us, and we’re discovering it even as we dare to express it. We’re willing to “go there”. I have no crystal ball. I don’t know if what I feel maps onto larger elements of the collective. I do see that this willingness to engage the frontier within us will result first in a reinvention of who we know ourselves to be- not as beings with addresses, names, and careers- but as beings whose actions give rise to the expression of this story not yet completed, not yet fully birthed. We are birthing it. And how could this not somehow transform the world?
I really don’t see technology as being relevant other than as a byproduct of the process. I don’t see it driving the process at all. Living with the question is the answer. We ask how living with questions could ever drive radical transformation. I hope we find out! Together.
I think we’re very ripe to make a big step, collectively as well as indivdually.
I see us in the story of creation too and history can help us refine our essential needs and desires and how they’ve driven us to the place we’re at now.
Prior to modern technology, humans pined for simple needs, clean water, food and shelter and freedom from disease. Now that we seem to have more of those creature comforts either taken care of or potentially available, it seems that technology distracts many of us who don’t have the collective memory to remember the times when people did struggle just to survive.
The point being that we’ve veered of course and the very abundance we thought would create a better, more loving society, has created a change in our identity that is separating us more and more from each other.
Perhaps because we don’t need each other or rely on each as we once had to.
That is how I see technology as relevant, perhaps as you say, one of the routes we’ve been busy trying…
But, I think you and I and many others who are willing to keep this conversation alive do agree that we are birthing a new way of being related to ourselves, to each other and to the world that births us.