I feel grateful (not to God, but to the vagaries of weather) that our power is still on, given what's been happening today in other parts of south Salem.
We've been on the edge of a rain/freezing rain divide, created by the clash of cold air flowing down the Columbia Gorge and warmer air coming in from the Pacific.
Nasty stuff, freezing rain. I'll take snow over it anytime.
At any rate, being pretty much housebound I've had more time to stare at the non-Feng Shui piles of paper on my desk, which includes some scribbled ideas for Church of the Churchless posts.
Might as well do some winter cleaning.
The scribblings are worth a couple of paragraphs each, but given my inclinations toward verbosity I might revisit one or more of these themes on another day.
Encounter while getting the newspaper. Usually there's nobody around when I walk up our driveway to get the newspapers.
But one morning a guy I didn't recognize was walking past on our rural road just as I reached to grab the Salem Statesman Journal and Portland Oregonian.
"There's nothing new in there," he yelled at me. I felt like defending my newspapers. "Hey, there's some kind of new news every day," I told him.
"You want news? We're all going to die," he said, walking away. Great response, I thought. Maybe we have an unrecognized Zen master in the neighborhood.
Getting real at the end of an evening. I'm not a hugely social person. I can handle small talk for a while, but eventually it bores me. That's why I enjoy those rather rare moments when people tell it like it is, rather than how it isn't.
I've found that these usually occur near the end of a get-together, after a lot of chit-chatting. We've gotten through the usual acceptable conversational topics: politics, weather, children, health problems, vacations, and such.
Then somebody clears their throat and says, "I've been wanting to get this off my chest, but didn't feel comfortable bringing it up before."
Ooh! Now I'm interested. So is everybody else. The room is silent. All eyes and ears turn to the throat-clearer.
Who proceeds to say something that is so real, so human, so honest, so revealing, it makes what was talked about before seem utterly unimportant. I'm so thankful to that person for getting real.
And wonder why I, and others, can't do the same all of the time. Not just face to face. In cyberspace also, like on this blog. What keeps on the masks that we all wear?
What would happen if we took them off? What if we decided to say what is really in our hearts and minds without worrying about how we look to others?
I'm not sure if this would be a good thing. But it sure would be interesting.
Concentration versus letting go. I used to think that meditation, and spiritual practice in general, was largely about focusing one's attention -- concentrating on doing this or that, not being distracted by superfluities.
Now I'm much more into relaxation, letting go of rigid concepts, dogmas, expectations, commandments, rules, theologies.
Focused concentration can be useful when there is an object to focus on. If a screw and nut are rusted together, a problem I faced yesterday, you need to zero in on the recalcitrant pieces of metal and try to get them moved apart.
However, when the intention is directed toward ultimacies, the Big Picture, Consciousness, Oneness, the Meaning of It All, objectification defeats its purpose.
If my aim is to sidle close to an ultimate truth that is way bigger (not spatially, but truthily) than I am, focusing my attention narrowly isn't going to encompass what I'm out to grasp.
Especially if that "what" isn't a thing, but is the root of me (consciousness) or the cosmos (existence, being). Relaxing as much as possible into ultimate reality then seems to be the way to go.
Or the non-way to not-go.
Writing is intuitive, not intellectual. I get irritated when people say to me, "Brian, you think too much." For one thing, you think too much is a thought. So why don't they lessen their own quantity of thinking by not expressing that thought?
More importantly, though, this advice seems to be based on an assumption that speaking or writing is an intellectual activity at odds with intuition -- which most people consider to be how spirituality or mysticism is expressed or grasped.
Lao Tzu did indeed supposedly say, "He who speaks does not know; he who knows does not speak." I wish he hadn't, because this part of the Tao Te Ching gets wrongly interpreted.
When I talk, I'm expressing a knowing that sprang full blown into my psyche in a flash. Boom!
Everything I want to say pops up in an intuitive instant. It then takes a while to unwind or explain that inner knowing in a fashion comprehensible to others.
Same with writing. I remember going home for Christmas my sophomore year in college, faced with having to write a massive term paper that I'd put off all semester.
It was a contrasting of Sartre's "Being and Nothingness" and Zen Buddhism. I set up a card table in my mother's living room. I got out my trusty typewriter.
As soon as I sat down in a chair to get to work the term paper was written. I knew it. I could see everything I was going to write. Not in detail, but in a clear outline. And so far I hadn't yet put down a word on paper.
It was a wonderful feeling. Which is repeated in a less dramatic manner with every sentence I've written before or since. When I start to type the words proceeding a period, they're already written.
See, I just did it again. Like, I bet, almost everyone does who writes or says anything. We communicate after bursts of intuitive insight. This is a soulful process, not an intellectual exercise.
If you don't know what I'm talking about, that's fine. Maybe you haven't paid much attention to how your mind works.
I just wanted to point out that people who can clearly communicate their intuitions aren't more intellectual than people who can't.
They're simply better able to use speech and writing to share what's inside of themselves, while others find it difficult to transplant hidden seeds of intuition into an observable thought-field.
Karla, I feel good that you've resonated with the description of what I felt. It doesn't change death, or our reaction to it, but it's good to know we're not alone.
I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said, "We read to know we are not alone." So true. Books. Blogs. Whatever.
Reading about other people's experiences shows us that while we're all different, in another sense we're all one.
And maybe this is the key to opening the door that leads to not fearing death so much: oneness. Sounds like a New Age platitude, but it just might be the reality of our universe.
I wish I understood what I said in those last two paragraphs. I do in a sense, because I wrote the words.
Yet underneath (or beyond) those words -- all words, really, not just some words -- is an enigma. Mystery. Ineffability. Suchness, as Buddhists put it.
Whatever that is, and I've got no clue, it's what I feel binds us together. Whether we agree or disagree, love or hate, fight or embrace.
We're all in this together. Life. Existence. Reality. This.
Some people don't need to ponder the nature of "this." They simply live it.
Well, I'm a ponderer. And I'm thankful to everyone who has read my ponders and shared their own on this blog in 2008.
With a few exceptions, I've never met you. However, sometimes I feel like I know blog visitors better than acquaintances I've related to for decades.
That makes me happy.