Friday, February 18, 2011


Chris Rock had an interesting metaphor for the American Tea Party movement. He said it was a bit like “kids acting up before they go to sleep”. All riled up and then they’re knocked out. He said it makes him hopeful, because it seems like racism’s last gasp in this country.

I do hope he’s right.

There’s been an astonishing shift in the Middle East, though it’s still not easy to tell where all the chips will fall. Certainly it’s herd mentality working in the opposite direction. Normally the “herd” is swept into mindless idiocy, but this time they’re encouraged by each other’s good examples. If one group of people can break free of a dictator, then others in other countries feel empowered to try as well. I recall the story of a town in India where Amma and her swamis were working to build homes for the poor and disenfranchised. The villagers stood around and watched them, but as soon as they saw them working together, everyone started to pitch in. That is the kind of infectious cooperation that one hopes for—it manages to turn a human liability into a strength.

As I said, it’s hard to interpret recent patterns. Are they an emerging trend, or just a temporary swell? It’s tempting to view this as a swing of the pendulum away from older orders, but there are many complicating factors. To see it in such terms is to re-engage in the perpetual good/evil battle. And such a battle does not really exist; it’s a hallucination—an interpretation based on how we are affected by a given event.

Though one wonders how “real” something becomes if enough people participate in the hallucination.

There is a tendency to want to “measure” the existence of God by some human yardstick. The common yardstick is answered prayers. George Carlin had the old joke about praying to Joe Pesci, because his prayers were answered 50% of the time—odds about the same as praying to God. But this is a faulty yardstick. It assumes that a. God is a real anthropomorphic being, and b. that God is there to shower you with favors. A “good” life is evidence of God. A “bad” life marred by misfortune is evidence that there is no God.

Recently I read a story about the witches in Romania. The government is now taxing their services, and apparently they are liable for punishment if their spells don’t work and their prophecies don’t come true. The rationale for this is the same as the God/prayer rationale—the measure of the “realness” of something is statistically significant results. In fact, this is absurd—not because there isn’t a Mystery to confront, but because the very thing you are confronting is a Mystery. You might try to influence the flow, work with it, maybe even fight it—but you can’t control it.

The whole point is that it is beyond our reasoning and nature. If we could understand it, it wouldn’t be a mystery. You notice I don’t say “being”. I don’t have any evidence that the Mystery is a being. The notion of “being” is a convenient metaphor.

Amma once said of prayer that it has to be for everyone. If you pray for something individually, you take away something from someone else. To answer one prayer is to deny another. You might pray that no one in your town dies, but the undertaker has the opposite prayer. After all, to answer your prayer is to put him/her out of business.

This isn’t to say that people don’t or shouldn't have individual goals and aspirations. You can take whatever steps you like to fulfill them. But a certain amount of flexibility is required. Sometimes the path that you think is most logical isn’t the way life flows. And if you just go with the flow, you end up where you need to be—and may get other things in the bargain. You might even find that you don’t really want the thing you thought you wanted. Or that your desire was actually harmful.

I imagine I am thinking about this because I feel like I’m being pulled in multiple directions right now. Not by work, but by an unresolved past and present unknowns. I don’t really know how things will shake out—and I can’t worry about it. I take it one day at a time, and see what develops. We always get what is ours.

In the meantime, I am trying to turn my own liabilities into strengths, and pour them into writing. Not just blog posts, but things for publication that I have been stalling on due to lack of inspiration. Nothing inspires like conflict.

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