Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Conversation Four

I wrote a long conversation earlier today to post here, but just never got around to logging in and pasting it in the blog. Now here i am, late at night, unable to sleep so with the time to post it, but finding that it wasn't what i wanted to say anyhow.

TS Eliot, said in the Four Quartets,

You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
      You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
       You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
       You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
       You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

I think that is pretty self-explanatory, so will only comment on the last few lines, because they do point to what i want to say. This conversation is about the pitfalls we find on our journeys and the quote Do not search for the footsteps of the masters of old, search for what they sought.

What are the pitfalls on the trail? It's not the hills, it's not the climbs, it's not the weather, it's not getting lost, it's not anything most people would usually list in their top ten list of pitfalls. In reality, there is only one pitfall, and that is falling into the habit of thinking that what you are searching for is in the words and letters of the "masters of old." Of thinking that you're on the right path just because you're on a path, instead of taking the path out of the equation and singlemindedly looking for what those masters themselves dedicated their lives to looking for.

The problem is similar to finding yourself very deeply moved at a movie when the heroine finds that her husband has just died in a car accident, leaving her and the children with virtually nothing, and yet, rising above it all, she works through it and builds a new, successful, and fulfilling life. And then going home, with eyes still red from the tears, only to find a message on the answering machine from your daughter saying that your husband had just been in a bad car accident, wasn't expected to live, and could you please hurry to the hospital. Now it is YOUR life. Now it is real. Now it is your path. Now it is no longer an intellectual study.

What do you do? Does it do you any good to analyze what the heroine did in the movie? Does it do you any good to rerun the script in your head as you drive frantically to the hospital? Does it do you any good to use the movie as your guide as you try to rebuild your life?

Eliot was right when he said, "In order to arrive at what you are not you must go through the way in which you are not." The old masters didn't find the answers by following a script, by following what others told them. They didn't get there by continuing to be who they were; by continuing with old norms. They got there by 'boldly going where no man has gone before,' directly through the way in which they were not.

They got there by giving up the words and letters of others and admitting to themselves that "what you do not know is the only thing you know." By coming to the realization that every material thing that they owned was only on temporary loan, with a return due date no later than the day they died. Realizing that "And what you own is what you do not own." That the only thing they DID really own, completely, with no need to return, was what they didn't even have the ability to return, what was with them when they were born and will go out with them when they die.

They got there by seeing that "And where you are is where you are not." Where you are, is not where the non-you is, where you are when you take the conditioned you out of the picture.

The pitfalls are forgetting to wonder who it is that just got angry when you said spiteful words. Forgetting to wonder who is breathing through your nose. Forgetting to wonder who is using your name even when you are not thinking any thoughts. Forgetting to look for the man behind the mask or the woman inside the suit. Forgetting to wonder.

The masters of old found something extraordinary, and they found it by looking within. Not by looking for a path and following it. They found it in that infinitely large eternity called the Here and Now. And they did it while living in that world of the here, there, and everywhere else and the yesterday, now, and tomorrow. And yet, they found something. Or, should i say, they woke up to something that was already there.

So later this morning, when i get out of bed, i hope to remember to start my day with "I wonder...."

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