It's hard enough to simply haul myself around some days. Yet I'm still spry enough to have little trouble managing these garage crawlspace stairs. (After all, I just took twenty years off of my life).
But pushing a heavy box of books up the stairs and through the narrow opening, that's an extra energetic load. I just repeated the job a dozen times, putting back stored books that had to be removed when our garage got some earthquake strengthening.
The light at the top of the stairs came to seem more than metaphorical. After a few trips up and down, I began to feel more than a little resentment toward my previously dearly beloved books, several hundred of which fell into the spiritual/religious/philosophical genres.
They were damn heavy, that's for sure. Yet what had I gained from reading all that poundage?
About a year and a half ago I wrote about becoming my favorite book. I've still been buying books, yet not with the same oh, yeah, this could be it! expectancy.
Like lots of other people, I've had the implicit expectation that reading or hearing certain words would unlock a treasure trove of understanding—the Open, Sesame fantasy. Indeed, sometimes it'd seem like the door would open a crack.
Before it'd shut again.
Words aren't reality. Echoing Magritte, I know this is not a blog post. Not really. Eight English letters don't begin to capture whatever the hell it is I'm doing at the moment.
At the same time, words are part and parcel of my current awareness. So words are reality. Just not as real to me as the thoughts that precede my keyboard tapping, or the intuitions that precede the thoughts.
More and more, I'm realizing that what I'm looking for in spiritual books I already have, just as what I write about I already know (but need to form into a sense that can be shared with others). Like I said before about my flash of insight in a bookstore:
Then the flash of insight hit me. What I was looking for was a spiritual book that exactly expressed everything that I already hold to be true. In short, I wanted to read about me. My beliefs, my approach to fathoming the meaning of life, my meditation practice, my God-philosophy.
I wasn't searching for fresh truth. I wanted a validation of what is already true for me. I wasn't trying to find answers to the big questions of life. I hoped to find that someone else had dealt with the questions in the same way as I am.
I still do this, but to a lesser extent. Most mornings now my pre-meditation reading starts off with the sports section. I don't try to fill my head with someone else's spiritual thoughts before I try to clear my head of my own.
I've been accused of thinking too much, often by me. In my defense, allow me to point out how many culprits contributed to my recent straining up the stairs.
Books published by Radha Soami Satsang Beas filled up several boxes. This supposedly is a path of love, not of thinking, but the RSSB gurus and disciples definitely love to talk about their thoughts about love.
Similarly, Buddhism advises that the dharma raft doesn't need to be carried after having crossed to the other shore. I have to assume that lots of Buddhists are still paddling. And writing about it. Voluminously.
Ditto with Sufis, mystical Christians, and everyone else who wrote the books now reposing in the crawl space.
Other books I'll probably always keep close at hand. These tend to be writings that pull the rug out from under themselves, urging me in one way or another not to read them. Like Emerson's essay on self-reliance.
Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato and Milton is that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men, but what they thought.
A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.
Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
And also, in my case, with some huffing and puffing.