Thursday, March 30, 2017

Wise Words

How to avoid the pitfalls of being all too human? A marriage of intellect and emotion might guide us more clearly. Were we to read and read almost all of the very many books available to us on the journey toward enlightenment, we might yet more-better evolve. Some of us attend theosophical meetings; participate in congregations; watch documentaries. We might more purposefully gear ourselves toward monitoring our habits, question keeping our tradition for tradition's sake, or following along for the sake of following. Yet we enjoy being included into a group. After all, to teeter at the edge of being too different, particularly if there are no other birds of a feather to sustain one, becomes too lonely. "Who do you think are?" can cut to the quick.

Words wield wonders, or not. Books invigorate, affirm, entertain, instruct. So might an essay. And a collection of essays, threaded into a complementary narrative, can take one on a journey that is at once enlightening. Such is the work of Edward Butterworth. Heard of him? Then there is also Mortimer J Adler. Read his work? We could go on. You could inject into this missive a host of other authors. Our libraries are burgeoned by those who would have us see through their eyes. And my sharing the particulars of their narrative, that is, of Edward Butterworth and Adler's narratives, here, may not evoke further interest from you. Yet beyond individual styles of presentation, and beyond individual idiosyncrasies of contention, there is a synchronicity with our human condition that bares hearing, that bares reading about. Sentences that would inject wisdom into you, and me, are surely to be shared? (So too for the Bible, one may aver; or what about the Bhagavad Gita, might another. Or what about....? And the list may go on and on.)

"I have no doubt that there are countless millions of people," writes Butterworth,(p.1031) "who are committed to personal/spiritual growth in full knowledge of its implications for the wellbeing of the planet. Each of those people is affecting a circle of others around them, making a change that is below the radar of the mass media." Indeed! So too may each contribute toward the health of the whole! And as Adler writes (p.166): "The common elements that will unite all human beings in a single cultural community will be related to such essentials as truth in science and philosophy, moral values and human rights, man's understanding of himself, and the wisdom that is the highest good of the human mind." Yes! But oh what a tangled web we weave when we try to prescribe 'moral values and human rights', let alone 'truth in science'! Think of the enormous storms raging over whether we have 'climate change', or not. Think of the massive restructuring of morality in religion we'd need afore marrying the East with the West. Indeed, we think this, believe that, and feel honour bound, duty bound, and passionately devoted to the precepts and percepts of that which has guided us heretofore.

Butterworth backpacked India. Adler, apparently, philosophized from his ivory tower. Yet both men gleaned from life the essence of an integrative stance. They saw that the individual can evolve. They felt that one can progress through the maze of differentiators that separate and divide and adjudge man, so that one might attain a place of acceptance for all that is, that was, and even more significantly, that shall yet be. (Not to do so is perhaps to despair so deeply for the future that one becomes despondent, depressed.) And even more, both Adler and Butterworth continue to provide succour for those who would read their works, who would feel affirmed, who may be affected, intellectually as well as emotionally, by the insights of their contentions. Yes, they are influencing "the well being of the planet."

You and I are richer for their influence. We are richer for the very many other words that come our way, words that evoke us toward wanting to be yet more enlightened. And though there be countless tomes of books that so too may add to our personal oeuvres, I give full commendation and recognition of Edward and Mortimer's works. Here are the links, (both available at Amazon):  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Half of Life

Constraints confine us. (For children, even more than for adults.) Strictures cling throughout history, anchoring us down from wishful aspirations, cementing us to others’ realities. Lies abound. Children learn of Tooth Fairies, Santa, and the Easter Bunny. Teenagers bend to peers. Religions pervade. First-time lovers are told by a lot of literature and song that ‘love will last forever’. Our choices are often but a continuation of the acculturation to which we've become accustomed. What a parent believes is what we adopt. Yet slowly we may change; after all, being gay or ‘out there’ is no longer necessarily a significant point of departure from the norm. Divorce is now de rigueur. Yes, we submit to society’s expectations rather readily. Though some wear ties and suits, and some wear turbans, we all know where ‘tis safe to stand in the nude.

“I cannot divorce,” a friend tells me, anguished. “My religion forbids it. I made a vow before God, and now I must live with it. Perhaps that's why God had us make these vows before Him. He knows that if we did not, we would surely break them, over and over. I fall in love so often!”

He talks, I think: Commitment can be crazy. Without it we too easily can give up the marathons; leave when the going gets hard; divorce at the first fight. Yet there's many a mantra urging just one more step to Eldorado! Don't give up, we often hear. And somehow we’re supposed to keep at it, year after year, until we're old and grey and just plumb wore out. (And there, but for taking the gates toward other opportunities, goes many a malcontent.) Yet some deep sense of glory can pervade the self too, when not giving in, when not giving up! Matters of celibacy, of veganism, of spirituality, of belief, of maturation, insight, and of one’s very enlightenment can be so taxed by the presence of others, or not. Our reaction to everything, in the sum total, is a most internal thing. Others are not always privy to what's really going on. No, not necessarily.

“But I cannot divorce,” he restates. “And she won't either. Besides, she doesn't want to lose me. It is I who wants to go! I am….”

He talks, I think: Difficult spaces are the dissolution of paradigms in which we set up for the new.  They may result in horizontal shifts in which we accrete, accumulate, and swell, or they may be vertical spirals of enlightenment in which we garner yet more compassion, insight, and peace. Enlightenment indeed is a pathway, not a product. Such is the journey. Selfishness, egoism, self-righteousness, betrayal, dishonesty, and deception are all part of the parcel. We each in some measure live this. We fib to friends, to our bosses, to our parents, to our siblings, even to ourselves. Our 'sins', collectively, one hopes, become not only the reason no longer to perpetuate them, but also to have compassion for those we witness doing so. We can still love our friends, despite their misdemeanors. We can still love ourselves, despite our deceits.

He looks at me. He sighs deeply, "Tell me, what should I do?"

I say: “I am not the one to tell you what to do. Nor, actually, is anyone else. Only you can decide what you must do. Ideally it will feel right, will seem right, will be the best thing you can do for all. And even then, there will be consequences.”

He looks at me. “That does not help at all. I'm miserable. I have half of my life yet to live!”

Half of his life? Yes, time slips away from us all. Yes, perhaps one should say what one thinks!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Eroding Elitism?

An ugly term inhabits a world view: 'Suurstofdiefie' (oxygen-thief, is the Afrikaans idiom.) Other expressions charge our sensibilities: Fool; idiot; fatso; wastrel. We deliver one-up-manships rather easily. After all, degrees of intelligence, of talent, of beauty, of ability are evident to us all. We live with differentiation. Still, despite conscious efforts at compassion, an unwitting sense of suffocation can arise. It gathers around the self in one's company, one's job, one's town or city or province, state, and country. Yet we each breathe hardly beyond the immediacy of need for our own oxygen. An aircraft fuselage is like that; a cigar box of recycled air. Air shared by all. Guests come, and go.

Apportionment is at issue. Schools are like that; constricting rules, or you're out! Associations are like that; a governance by forces. The Fukushima Power Plant eruptions; the South African farmers' genocide; these appear as isolated events beyond our apprehension. Yet they each affect the rest of us. We hardly can be isolationist. And in our collaborations, we conspire. We become invigorated, or dulled. Degrees of thinking can become impeded, or elevated, by communion with others, yes? Twit!

Quality is at issue. Yet there is much that would deny degrees of 'more-better' by comparisons, especially to others. Habits of speech, of thinking, of topics to discuss, of interests, drive deep into the status quo, such that to be an outlier, to be a dissident, to be ahead of one's time (or even too far behind,) is not to be de rigour at all. We rise or fall by meeting expectations. And we must perforce pretend to be on board, to be abreast, or to concur with the basic percepts at hand. To speak out of turn, above one's station, as an instinct at being precocious, or even as a matter of wanting to address a grievance can seems so snobbish, so up-start-ish, so misplaced as to bring upon oneself too severe an ire. No wonder we have kith and clan and nationhood and school districts and accents and neighbourhoods defined by the bell-curve. It is the anomaly that disquiets: "Just who do you think you are?" Even the most gentle of intentions, the softest tones, the most caring of dispositions may not be sufficient to dispel the raised hackles of the ones in distrust. We share space. We share ideas. We share expectations. We share air!

The big deal is that a huge disparity lies in the sharing of our oxygen, our water, our intelligence quotient. After all, if the sum of all energy indeed remains a constant, then might it not be true that we vie for bits of energy ourselves? (as though your using up energy is an appropriation of mine)! Oxygen thief! Well, when it comes to resources that is exactly what we do contend! We absolutely assume that we have rights to energy that others are evidently too lazy, incapable, impoverished, or recalcitrant to appropriate unto themselves. And as such, we each live with our own apportionment of resources, if not enclaves of such. Our country is richer, yours is poorer; we work harder, invest more, and thereby deserve more. So too for our quality of life. So too for our right to an education system, (if not heaven itself.) Is that not why there are various religions? (Matthew 17). Is that not why there are various nations, various neighbourhoods? An eagle, or a fish? My parents were not rich enough to outrank yours. I did not have the privileges. Snob!

Unfairness is a way of life. We see beautiful or handsome as an inherent trait, (especially in those not old enough to wear makeup). We are very conscious of weight, height, and even hair colour. "She is the one with buck teeth! He has jug-ears!" And we can be decided enough purposefully to maim our children, mar or dock pets, or scar even ourselves in the name of perceived beauty. (Psychological impacting can sometimes be so subtle.) Yes, we are indeed judgmental of material wealth, of talent wealth, of mental wealth. After all, "He cannot carry a tune. She cannot carry a ball." But she is, "first in class". And we easily name another a fool, an idiot! But openly to declare that another is stifling one's own development, is holding one back, is preventing potential, well now, that is another matter altogether. Elitism can be horridly arrogant. Idiot! Suurstofdiefie! Still, we do share space and time, and thereby needs share our air, indeed.