Category Archives: worship

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Realizing how big a tree is

One of my favorite perception shifts in this life comes from suddenly realizing how big a tree is.

You're walking along, idly thinking or just perceptively assuming that you're passing these giant sticks with branches and big umbrella-tops with leaves, and sure, they're pleasant but they stay still and just hang there providing shade and cool breathable air and most of the time, you don't give them a thought.

Then something happens — You approach a ravine-edge, or some other spot where the tree's roots are exposed.  Or your brain just catches your eyes and your perceptive awareness up to reality, for no reason (it happens!).  And then you see it.

You see — no, you feel, you really realize – that that umbrella thing is in fact twice as big as you thought it was; that fully half its body is deep underground, and that you are walking through the middle of it.

It's not a cute umbrella of truffula harmlessness, that tree.  It's half-subterranean, half light-loving; and its body curves around just so that you, and everything else, can walk and sit and pass right through the center of it.  It is a massive hugger of the world; a giant of a living thing that's utterly friendly to being walked on, climbed through, and hung out in.  You think you're standing under it, but you're passing through it, standing on it, being held by it.

It creeped the heck out of me at first, to be honest.  But I've since come to love the sensation of re-realizing that, of brushing my fingers on a trunk and imagining that I can feel it all spreading out beneath and above me.

Daoists thought that trees were holy because they were always exposed to the elements.  Their entire being was shaped by never once hiding from the wind, the rain, the cosmic radiation.  They had reality so nailed.

Whenever I realize how big they are, and how I'm in the middle of one, I get a sense of awe and of cosmic radiation, too.  I'm such a frail, tiny thing next to this sturdy half-buried behemoth; and yet here I stand, rains of radiation pouring on my head too, and for the moment, we're both surviving it together.

Word Junkie

To remind you who you're dealing with:

the allusive is my everything
(oh lovely self-slogan, all I need and a t-shirt too)

the illusive makes me sick 
(show 'em or go home, gods; this ain't dice)

and the elusive lifts me up 
(mind is the first floor, no buttons needed)

So remember:  They're not puns,

They're pulled punches.

 

Smarter than me: The Dalai Lama’s Eighteen

Oh, too good to not post (and not sure how I missed it before, since it's not very new) — the Dalai Lama wrote a list of eighteen guidelines for Better Living, and every single one of them had me bouncing in my chair.  

These fall under "things you may please remind me of at any time, and no matter how annoying it is, I will thank you"!

And just to note it, incredibly relevant to me lately are #2, #4, #8, #16 and #17.  (By all means tell me which ones are most relevant to you — it's a fun exercise, if nothing else.)

 

1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

3. Follow the 3 Rs:   

     Respect for self.

     Respect for others.

     Responsibility for all your actions. 

4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

8. Spend some time alone every day.

9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.

10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

11. Live an honourable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.

12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.

13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation.  Don’t bring up the past.

14. Share your knowledge.  It’s a way to achieve immortality.

15. Be gentle with the earth.

16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.

17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.

18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

The Tyranny of the Ten Thousand Things

There are approximately ten thousand posts backed up in my brain right now, but I've no idea when I'll get a chance to write them, so instead you get one of the (many!) good bits from the Tao Te Ching:

In dwelling, be close to the land.

In meditation, go deep in the heart.

In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.

In speech, be true.

In ruling, be just.

In business, be competent.

In action, watch the timing.


No fight: No blame.


-Chapter Eight

Gandhi FTW (yes, I’m shocked too)

New quote added to the Random Quotes scroller:

"Seven Deadly Sins:
Wealth without work
Pleasure without conscience
Science without humanity
Knowledge without character
Politics without principle
Commerce without morality
Worship without sacrifice."  – Mahatma Gandhi

I like this more complete formulation of a "sin"…as a Catholic child I was basically taught that single words ("wealth", "pleasure", etc.) were "bad", without any reference to why or how or what could bring them into balance so they could be good.

Gandhi makes the excellent point that a thing or condition like Wealth or Knowledge can be good or bad, depending on whether it's in balance.

I might even add some others:

Cursing without grammar
Gifts without gratitude
Work without goals
Help without sympathy

…Can you think of any?

Smile! You’re not dead yet, somehow

Working on a more meaningful post for later, but in the meantime…

Last week I felt my first ever ground-shimmying-from-an-earthquake.  (I was napping!  The rippling of the concrete under me woke me up.)

And today I'm sitting on the porch (with my family visiting from MI = awesome) and watching the wind blow as my first-ever hurricane gets ready to brush by us.

 

It's strangely relaxing, after a tumultuous couple weeks, to be hanging out and not planning anything (except to sit around talking for a couple hours) and watching the wind blow and thinking unimportant thoughts about how very awe-inspiring things like wind and water are.  I've had the same feeling while climbing mountains, or swimming in the ocean…the thought that the world could just reach out and squish you ceases to be scary when you realize that it hasn't yet, quite possibly for a reason.

I hope everyone is safe and enjoying something today, too, even if it is a brush with disaster.

God is totally naked

ON is OFF.

Or rather, ON is a natural state; OFF is something getting in its way.  To get to ON, you drop the stuff that's holding you in OFF — you take the OFF off.

The secret to mastery is to part the curtain of your own thinking; to get your mind out of the way so that you can interact directly, swim without a wetsuit, use all that sensory equipment in your cranium (and body) without forty "safety" filters in the way.  Those filters may be making you feel safer, but that's an illusion, a sales pitch; you're built to plug straight in.  This is Reality and you're a child of it, and if staring it right in the face shatters your whole frail tangly Psychology, guess what?  You didn't need it anyway. 

Are you made in God's image or not?  Does God need a mental hazmat suit to live in the world?  Is there any reason Adam and Eve can't go naked besides their own fear?

Everyone who has ever done something perfectly — sung, skateboarded, wrote, or even just sat in a room — knows this; you don't do it perfectly by doing it a certain way — you do it perfectly by getting the hell out of the way and letting it be done.  (This is why you have to learn to do it first; until the mechanics of it are rote, second-nature, you can't fully shut off your mind and let it come naturally.  Ask any martial artist.)

You don't think about the results, you don't think about how you look or why you're doing it.  You don't think.  You do, but not in the sense we construct that sentence in English:  "you" don't "do"; more you arrange things so that you are done.  (You yin-do, I would say.)  The activity, whatever it is, happens in a pure unfiltered form; you put yourself between it and Reality as a conduit.  You are spoken through, by Tao, or God if you don't mind sloppy definitions.

But look:  If you've ever sung, or danced, or climbed a mountain this way, you're missing the point if you think it's about singing or climbing; this is how you should be all the time.  This is what mastery of existence is.  Get rid of all the filters…the illusions of control, the attempts at planning, the mental blast-shielding.  The world may look radioactive, but it won't hurt you; in fact, when you do get hurt it's because your hazmat suit gets buffeted, twisted or heated and that hurts you.  Without it, you're invincible.

Isn't this the point of every story, the lesson of every hero?  Strip!  Walk completely without fear and there will be nothing to fear!  Turn off the targeting computer, Luke; suspend your critical disbelief, Bastien; let go of your past and your shame, Vash.  None of it is really helping you…in fact, the opposite is true. 

Pascal said that the source of all our discontent can be found in our inability to sit quietly in a room.  I think he meant our inability to shut things off (turn the OFF off) to the point where we can just sit — or just do anything.  But that's not to make it sound easy (simple, yes; easy, no)…turning off the targeting computer before taking the shot of your life with worlds hanging in the balance is actually kind of a weeny pale description of the level of stress and fear involved, for most people. 

But the fear is just the alarm-system on the hazmat suit; it is meaningless beyond its own confines.  Extreme or life-threatening activities cause you to skip over the fear, to ignore the alarms, because you don't have time, and physical survival is an easy way to trump the insistence of psychology that you Not Go There.  It's not actually hard to be fully present while clinging to the side of a mountain; and this is probably largely why people do it, and similar things. 

This is  why the true test is being able to "sit in a room"…when you can do that, you've managed to drop the curtain on your own, without some kind of emergency to distract you from the discomfort of it, or even a rote task like singing or painting to smooth the transition.

I've never sat in a room, not without some major emotional crisis going on that functioned pretty much the same as clinging to the side of a mountain.

I did, however, walk across a floor today.

It was amazing

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Highlights from “Self-Reliance”

…By Ralph Waldo Emerson.  I copied some of this for a friend the other day, a friend who isn't as happy with "thick" reading as I am, and he made me realize that if you sift through the rather dense weave of old language and dense arguments with your fingers, you can pull gems out of Emerson that will make anyone's day. 

This is a list of the best sentences, if you will, from this excellent essay, with my adjustments and occasional commentary in brackets and elipses.  It's less a collection of quotes, and more an outline of the piece.  If you like it, please understand that the whole tangly mess is brilliant and wonderfully worth it to read and you should do it no matter how long it takes you; but for some geniuses like Emerson, even skimming the bones of his thoughts are marvelously good for ours, so I offer these here for the time-stripped and classics-averse to enjoy too.

  • Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost

     

  • Great works of art…teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility…most…when the whole cry of voices is on the other side.
  • We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.  …but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.

     

  • Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.  [I want that on a T-shirt.  In Chinese.]

     

  • Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the [self-reliance] of every one of its members. … The virtue in most request is conformity.

     

  • Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. 

    [There's a great part right after this where he describes a churchgoer asking him when he's young, essentially "how can you trust your impulses when they might come from the Devil?", and his answer is, "I don't think so, but (quote) If I'm the Devil's child, then I'll live from the Devil."  For Emerson, self-reliance meant having the guts to be what you were created to be, and having enough faith to not doubt the usefulness of your own creation.  <3!]

     

  • Truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it, — else it is none.

     

  • I cannot consent to pay for a privilege where I have intrinsic right. Few and mean as my gifts may be, I actually am, and do not need for my own assurance or the assurance of my fellows any secondary testimony.

    [Italics mine.  An excellent example, perhaps one of the best, of a positive argument from existentialism!]

     

  • It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

     

  • The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is, that it scatters your force. It loses your time and blurs the impression of your character.

     

  • But do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself.

     

  • The sour faces of the multitude, like their sweet faces, have no deep cause, but are put on and off as the wind blows.

     

  • [There are some bits that just can't be condensed...the "foolish consistency" argument is amazing, but it's all or nothing...]

     

  • Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.

     

  • Be it how it will, do right now.  [If that's not Zen, I don't know what is.]

     

  • Always scorn appearances, and you always may. The force of character is cumulative.

     

  • That popular fable of the sot who was picked up dead drunk in the street, carried to the duke's house, washed and dressed and laid in the duke's bed, and, on his waking, treated with all obsequious ceremony like the duke, and assured that he had been insane, owes its popularity to the fact, that it symbolizes so well the state of man, who is in the world a sort of sot, but now and then wakes up, exercises his reason, and finds himself a true prince.

    [Fascinating that we don't seem to have a story like that nowadays.]

     

  • What is the nature and power of that science-baffling star, without parallax, without calculable elements, which shoots a ray of beauty even into trivial and impure actions, if the least mark of independence appear? 

    [This one I put in just for sheer gorgeousness, and to point out that science has informed beautiful literature for a long long time...this whole section is a great example.  And by the way, the "power" he's referring to here is Spontaneity or Intuition, if you were curious. ;)]

     

  • The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so pure, that it is profane to seek to interpose helps.

     

  • Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say 'I think,' 'I am,' but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. 

    [This, and what follows it in the text, may be my favorite bit.]

     

  • [Only Life] avails, not the having lived.

    [In the original it's "Life only avails", but that antiquated construction confuses the point for some people.  I love, love, love this one; I think it's the greatest wisdom one could possibly carry forward into growing old.  Only Life...not the "having lived".  It's sort of a restatement of my Higher Law #1:  Keep Trying.  Only said much, much better...but there's no shame at all in being jealous of Emerson I think.  (Well, he would think there was.  But he dead.  ;)]

     

  • I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.

     

  • Henceforward I am the truth's. Be it known unto you that henceforward I obey no law less than the eternal law.

     

  • The populace think that your rejection of popular standards is a rejection of all standard, and mere antinomianism; and the bold sensualist will use the name of philosophy to gild his crimes. But the law of consciousness abides.

     

  • Prayer that craves a particular commodity, — any thing less than all good, — is vicious.  [AMEN!]

     

  • Another sort of false prayers are our regrets. Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will.

     

  • Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him.

     

  • Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other.   [Fascinating point, which he supports with arguments later on; for example, "The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. ... He has a fine Geneva watch, but he fails of the skill to tell the hour by the sun."]

     

  • Great men…leave no class. He who is really of their class will not be called by their name, but will be his own man, and, in his turn, [a] founder.

     

  • Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long…They measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is.  But a cultivated man becomes ashamed of his property, out of new respect for his nature.

     

  • Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.  [These are the last two lines. ;)]

     

*One last comment — Emerson refers to "man" and "manhood" throughout this piece, and others.  I believe his sexism is ignorance, and further I firmly believe that if I had an hour with the man, I could talk him right out of it, because he was obviously a clear thinker and a believer in honesty and universalism of principle.  Hence, it doesn't upset me here like it does in some other writings…in the time he was writing, to say anything else (he/she?) would have been pretty literally unthinkable; it would have been such a huge point as to require a separate essay.  But it is worth meditating on how this wasn't that long ago, really, that freedom and education and uprightness and full life meant, literally, "manhood".  And that not only doesn't it mean that today, but I can openly write here about it, throw my education around and furthermore, openly threaten to kick anyone's ass (or perhaps flash my tits at them) who disagrees with me.  Viva las modernity.  ;)