Category Archives: philosophical questions

RECIPR0CAL LOVE

In the midst of the aftermath of hate – a word or two about love.

I find it wondrous that the fragile and most important experience a human being can have – love – can exist within two people simultaneously; that if I make the ultimate commitment of my emotional self and let down all my many self-protective mechanisms – and love you, you might just do the same and love me too.

This kind of love is not only romantic: it is the solid foundation of friendship, the unshakable bond of family, the thread of cooperative civilization.

Reciprocal love is the most natural thing in the universe, the mainstay of our existence as human beings. It’s in our DNA…along with some relics of a more feral past; it is the heart of our humanity. Our job, as the occupants of the top of the food chain, is to choose to act from our higher selves, and to de-fang our baser instincts. It requires consciousness and choice – every day that we live in this world.

It is in reciprocity that love finds it’s ultimate strength, its power to conquer hate. It is better to both give and receive, than it is to do one or the other.

 

Byways

Life is a game of random intersections, set in motion by arbitrary choices. If you took the left fork last time, then all the possibilities that went with the right fork are gone forever. But are they? What if it’s all really an adult game of Chutes and Ladders? So, you can experience the ups and downs, but you may just wind up where you began.

Mercifully, we feel like we make progress (or the counterpoint – loss of ground); we live inside the linear illusion that keeps us efforting to get somewhere (to win? to get to the finish line…in a good way?)

Occasionally, the veil parts and we see our gerbil cage, and feel our feet running nowhere on the wheel. That always comes as a surprise: one which we can allow to subside, struggle harder to change, or – and here’s the big one – we can step off the wheel. It’s just a step, but it feels like it’s over a chasm.

Fear keeps us doing what we’ve always done. And that’s okay too. Remember, it’s really all just a game that we imbue with meaning. NO, NO!! you say. There’s real meaning. – That’s true, too. It’s all true and not true.

Yes, this is the aftermath of hanging around a hospital for six days; feeling fear, sadness, hope, and many more mundane feelings. One comes out of that a little more Zen, a little more jaded, a little more grounded…one or more of those seemingly disparate states of being.

IN PRAISE OF HOPE

Yes. I am the same person who has bashed hope all over town; the same person who wrote The DARK SIDE OF HOPE. But, as with most things, there’s another side to the story.

Hope is a haven. It’s a place of respite in the midst of the gray, ashen, and endless march toward nothing. (Dramatic? Why not?) I just caught myself feeling infused with hope, at the prospect of my partner in crime being released from the hospital earlier than I had anticipated. It was something his doctor had said, and my entire being ran with it – to the happy place that would replace the tight, managing but always feeling slightly adrift (at best) sensibility I have been walking around with since Wednesday last. For those few moments the world was a beneficent place. I was lighter and …well… hopeful!

I quickly told myself not to cling to that fantasy; replace it with a realistic and dimmer prospect.

But now I think I have to mitigate my harsh point of view. Why not enjoy the abating of tension, stress, anxiety, sadness? Where’s the harm? Yes, one might have to put back on that crappy suit. So? Will it be worse if you were without for a few moments? No. It will not.

In fact, my own experience just now is that after the hope itself abated, I was calmer, less twisted into the knot of dread. Will it return? Possibly. But for now, I’ve had my drink of the hope tonic and I’m better for it.

NEW THINGS

Don’t you just hate new things? I’m serious.

New things come with embedded pressure: Be careful! Watch out! Don’t mess it up…get it dirty…screw it up. See what I mean? Pressure. Now take something old, or worn, or broken-in. No one is looking over your shoulder to make sure it remains in its pristine state.

Why is this on my mind? Because, after giving good service for too many years to count, I just replaced my teapot. Yes. My teapot. The old one was made of metal – maybe aluminum…not sure. The new one is the shiniest stainless steel. It’s beautiful. So, I have to make sure I don’t scratch it, mar it, let it get dingy. Oh, I know, this won’t last forever. But it’s upon me now.

I must confess that I’m sort of in love with it (the teapot). It’s just so bright and the lines are really clean. I know, it’s just a teapot, but this is how I get. Overcome with pride and a desire to preserve the new gorgeousness. This stage is fleeting, and then all that’s left is the memory of the pure beauty that lived briefly and was overtaken by the forces of time.

INCONSISTENCY

I don’t mind it (unless it’s in other people).

I spent many hours recently organizing my many blog entries into a coherent form, in order to try to create a book. In doing so, I came across certain things I had written which seemed to be at odds with each other. That is certainly true when it comes to two core issues: weather and children. My attitudes are all over the place and I don’t feel even a twinge of discomfort about that fact. I’m just fine with it.

Why shouldn’t I hold various positions at different times? Why should I be confined to rigid thinking or immovable belief? Flexibility of thought, a capacity to occupy opposing positions – these are, to me, indicators of lucidity and openness.

But, on the other hand, if a friend or relative, who I’ve pegged as (you can fill in the blank, but it would be something like) a morning person, a finicky eater, a hard worker, shows evidence of being a night owl, a gourmand, a sloth, I would be disturbed. The universe – my universe – would be out of wack. It is held firmly by the consistency of others. That seems to be necessary for me to be free. Paradox? Not quite. It’s just that feeling confident about external limits saves energy. I don’t have to be vigilant and I can redirect all that unused energy into the service of free-wheeling creativity.

Makes sense, right? But it’s inconsistent.

IF MY GRANDMOTHER HAD WHEELS

Let’s not get the PC police all riled up here. I am most assuredly not dissing my grandmother or anyone’s grandmother. This is a philosophical statement delivered with some raised-in-Brooklyn homespun wisdom.

The entire statement is: If my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a trolley car. Do I have to explain what a trolley car is? Now, that just makes me feel old. Okay – here goes. Used to be, there were trains that ran on the streets of Brooklyn and elsewhere. (Everyplace other than Brooklyn can be easily reduced to “elsewhere.”) There were rails embedded in the gutters (that’s the streets – for you folks who think gutters are things that collect water or leaves around the perimeter of your roof).

Whew. This digression is making me thirsty. (Anyone get that Kramer reference?)

So, here it is. A statement of ultimate truth. You are what you are. I am what I am. We are what we are. And, especially, we are not what we are not. Most of the “ifs” and the vast majority of the “woulda’s” are just a big ole waste of mind and jaw energy.

Let’s embrace the truth of what makes us who we are, and – in that way – we will have greater access to our authentic strengths. The fantasizing, the aspiring to superhero-hood, the blowing of smoke up the skirts of anyone who will even pretend to listen…all non-productive.

This is another approach to the valuable but extremely uncomfortable issue of taking responsibility.

Sadly, in the service of our individual and collective fantasies, we retire to the inner workings of our minds and live “as if.” The actual universe doesn’t give a rat’s ass what we think; it just goes on chugging out the challenges and the opportunities and some really dastardly stuff. Let’s stop the pretense and pay attention. We are quite capable, but first, we have to tell the truth.

Coolie and me

He (that would be my partner in crime) said (as if it were an obvious truth), “Coolie is autobiographical.” Such a wrong interpretation. I might be autobiographical, but Coolie is authentic. That probably deserves some explanation. Okay, here goes…

Coolie’s story arises directly (as far as I can tell) from the source of all things – the cosmic mind. Not particularly my mind. I don’t ever decide what I’m going to write; it shows up, as if bestowed as a gift from an unseen source. I don’t amend or judge what is given. I just translate it onto the page.

I, on the other hand, am a contrivance, a quasi-intentional representation of who I think I should be. (Aren’t we all? Well, maybe you’re not.) I would love to say that I just “am” or (to put it more awkwardly) “be,” but that would be part of the same system of pretense.

If ever I have gotten to the core of self it was only to touch down and bounce away again like an encounter with a very hot potato.

Coolie is my evidence that being and nothingness are one. Not an original thought but an oddly comforting one. He’s the real deal; I’m the construct.

How do you know when you’re old?

 (This will, I suspect, be an ongoing theme. Here’s the first installment…)

  1. When the obvious isn’t so obvious anymore.
  2. When you have to stop and think, “which is the right button to push on the remote control?”
  3. By the time you get to number three, you’ve forgotten what it is.
  4. When you wait to cross the obstacle course of strollers and shopping carts until the bus is stopped. I used to blithely skip through them while the bus was in motion.
  5. When it makes you happy when others can’t remember proper nouns or what they ate for dinner last night

THE RULES.

I thought I would offer to simplify everyone’s life with a few basic rules. You need them. Who can ever have too many rules? Well, in truth nowadays, good ones are hard to find.

1. Don’t be stupid. Maybe all we really need is this one rule. You know what stupid is…don’t pretend you don’t. Just don’t do those things that you feel compelled to do but know you shouldn’t.

2. Don’t disparage stupid TV or fringe political candidates. You never know what your friend/relative/co-worker has embraced.

3. Offer to help. Sure, sometimes people take advantage. Weigh that potential against the positive value of giving someone a hand. There’s really no contest. Your soul (or psyche or some other deep aspect of your true self) will be burnished by this.

4. Listen. Increasingly, we all are enamored with the sound of our own voices. Resist the urge to dominate the landscape. Other people have something worthwhile to say. You will never know what it is if you don’t listen.

5. Take vacations. No matter how important you are or think you are, they can do without you for a while. Without time off, you will get stale. Surly and stale and many other unpleasant “s” words. Think about what they might be. Go to the beach or the mountains or travel or visit grandma or go on a guided tour. Just change the scenery – inner and outer.

6. Use your words. Holding everything inside or flinging it around is not recommended. It’s harder to say what’s on your mind and in your heart – but ‘tis a far better thing. It’s your best shot at being understood; and you will actually process your experience by verbalizing it.

7. Spend time around children. If you have your own, you have this rule built-in. If not, make an effort to be in an environment where you will encounter the little folks. The ones who haven’t made bullshit into a religion yet. We need to have the counterforce of the unvarnished truth that children see and say.

8. Touch someone. I mean that literally. Physical touch is as necessary as breathing. If you don’t have a live-in, reach out to friends or relatives that are touchable. If not, get a massage. Technically you are being touched. But it’s all the same.

9. Try not to put off the things that matter. Sometimes it can’t be helped. But much of the time delay is caused by resistance. Make the call, take the trip, sign up for the course, start your diet, tell that person you love them.

Don’t you think nine rules are enough? I do. At least for now.

 

AGING GRACEFULLY?

Those two words popped into my mind as I was examining the lines that have taken up residence on my face. Never having questioned the meaning before (never having chosen to think that hard about aging) I paused to consider just exactly what “gracefully” signified.

I’m not sure.

Is it about letting the indicators of lost youth show? Or is it something of a grander design?

When I run across the street with agility and a fair amount of speed, I feel pride. Should I abandon that feeling?

I’ve worn a mantle of grey hair (undyed, unapologetic) for decades. That was easy. It happened slowly and began when I was still young, so it didn’t portend what the skin-signs auger.

I guess I have an image of someone who has aged gracefully – but she is MUCH older than me. At least ninety (I’m sixty-eight). So it’s mostly a concept I haven’t had to get too close to.

If I’m willing to stay focused on this less-than-delightful issue for a few more seconds, I will have to admit that one must (even with the finest plastic surgery in the land) cope with inevitable losses as time marches on. The memory of details (proper names – huh?); the texture and tone of muscle and flesh; reflexes; number of hair follicles; gravity writ large on your ass.

So what to do? Well, I guess the first graceful thing is to stop denying it all. Then, perhaps move to good humor. Yes, laughing about it can – at least – make others feel less uncomfortable. And isn’t that what grace is all about. The happy by-product is that you yourself will feel better if you can chuckle about your newfound droopiness.