Tag Archives: What Is

Sense of direction

Men are notorious for refusing to ask directions.
Can the Left concede any differences between men and women?

Continue reading Sense of direction

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2) Give up the word “deserve.”

<– 1) Do for yourself… Home 3) Get your hands dirty. –>

John C. Dorhauer’s “An Open Letter to White Men in America” begins:

Dear White Men,

You are persons of privilege.

You didn’t earn it.

This distresses me far less today than it did when I first read it.  Maybe I’ve become more comfortable with having things I don’t deserve.  More likely, I’ve lost all interest in whether people have things they don’t deserve or deserve things they don’t have.

I encourage you to lose all interest in it, too.

Continue reading 2) Give up the word “deserve.”

Mooring oneself in What Is

Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

When not at sea, a boat is normally tied, or moored, to a dock.  The waves rise and fall, the winds blow this way and that, but the boat is stable and secured because it is moored.

The storms of life buffet us this way and that, and one can lose oneself in the chaos and confusion.  Managing, coping, requires that one have some mooring somewhere.  Some folk moor themselves in a concept, a dogma, such as Biblical inerrancy or the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church.  Others moor themselves in the dogmas of an ideology, such as Progressivism or identity politics; or a cause, such as environmentalism; or even a romance (a particularly bad choice).  I propose instead mooring oneself merely in What Is.

Everything else is subject to change or question or dispute.  There is no disputing What Is.  And the underlying principles, the principles that underlie existence itself, never change.

Contemplation and “Deep Silence”

I have previously discussed silence:  “About silence.”  Another term for this state is “contemplation,” which I have avoided using for reason that (1) I don’t care for a multiplicity of terms, and (2) there’s a lot written about it that, frankly, I myself don’t understand.

As taught by Ambrose Worrall, the discipline of silence has as its goal the attainment of a state he calls “Deep Silence,” the contemplation of a level of existence where there are no ideas, no thoughts, no opinions, no theories, no images, no value judgments (“shoulds,” “oughts,” approval or disapproval); but merely What Is.  After 35 years of practice, I myself rarely attain this state.  It seems to depend on how much Presence or mindfulness I’ve practiced during the preceding day.

As to the absence of value judgements, Rumi said:

Out beyond all thoughts
of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

This was the Edenic state.

There is a state beyond Deep Silence.  In “Silentium Altum,” Worrall speaks of

… the realm of Absolute Silence, which we could call “Silence Unlimited,” or perfect and complete silence.

This is the condition in which God dwells.

In Absolute Silence there is neither time nor space; motion does not exist; there is no observer and nothing to be observed; there is nothing to learn, for all things are known.  It is eternity; it is infinity; it has neither position nor size; its center is everywhere and its circumference is nowhere.  This is perfection and only the perfect can understand it.

Man can approach the Absolute Silence but cannot enter it.

God created existence, being, based in a set of coherent, well-ordered, harmonious principles.  It must be so; otherwise What Is would quickly disintegrate into chaos and non-existence.  Mooring oneself in those principles can’t help but tend to establish coherence, good order and harmony in one’s soul, one’s mind, one’s life.

The inevitability of turmoil

In nature

Despite the order and harmony of the microscopic world — electrons move placidly in and among their orbitals; charged particles willingly follow paths of electromagnetic fields — at other levels of the physical universe, we see sometimes great turmoil: hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and so on.  All ultimately derive, however, from simple fundamental principles.

Three factors determine our weather: humidity, barometric pressure, and sunlight.  They are completely independent, and so never conflict with each other; but their interactions make weather fair or foul.

Sunlight always causes water to evaporate; the more sunlight, the more evaporates.  And warm air can hold more water vapor than cold.  But air at high barometric pressure can also absorb more water vapor than air at low pressure; it’s like a larger or smaller sponge, that can only take in so much before it becomes full, and then begins to empty itself as rain.

High pressure systems are associated with clear weather, high clouds, sunny days and low relative humidity.  Low pressure systems are associated with low clouds, high relative humidity, and the likelihood of storms.

When a low pressure system passes over the ocean and sunlight falls on it, increasing amounts of water will evaporate into that air.  In addition, the absorbed sunlight makes the air more energetic, so that the system rotates with increasing strength, making high winds.  This may develop into a hurricane.

So from time to time I may find myself unhappily outdoors in the middle of a downpour, with heavy rain pelting my skin and drenching my clothes and belongings; and having to lean into the wind to keep from being blown over.  This may ruin my plans for the day; as a homeless man, the steps I’ll need to take that night for the sake of my clothes and belongings are less convenient than if I had my own place.  I have my choices.

I can resent the whole situation, be angry, wish it would all go away.  I can do that with all my might.  Or I can accept it and say, “This is what’s happening now.”

In society

I have only recently come into these understandings.

Social turmoil is, in some ways, analogous to turmoil in the weather.

Feelings, affects, or emotions aren’t just within us individually.  We broadcast them.  We send them out as, as it were, spirits — not living things, but spiritual materials analogous to gases — oxygen, water vapor, the smell of alcohol, the smell of roses, and so forth.

So, for example, if you walk into a room full of people who are in a foul mood, you may pick up on that, like a foul smell.  If they’re in a happy mood, you may pick up on that also.

All these masses of gases are out there, and they develop their own high- and low-pressure systems, and under the radiance of God’s sun can become energized — and sometimes give rise to social storms.

In the past few years, I have seen any number of intense controversies come and go.  The media stir up hysteria, and folk get heavily invested in feelings, and there’s a ton of sturm und drang, and a lot of people’s feelings get hurt — not to mention the possibilities of bodily harm and property damage.  I myself have got caught up in more than one, and became passionate about it, and felt like this issue was my calling from God, and the most important thing in the world — until the media lose interest, and the thing dies off like a burnt match, and nothing’s changed.

In short, shit happens.

I don’t necessarily have to involve myself in it.  I don’t need to defend my beliefs; I do need instead to live them.  I don’t need to refute others’ beliefs; I do need instead to love them.

That is What Is.

Between people

Many examples are available; I need only focus on one.

Different people are in different places, and thus of necessity have different points of view.  The easy resolution would be for each person to understand the other’s point of view, in which case they might all agree on What Is.  But different people also vary in their degree of empathy — the ability to see another point of view.

The most incompetent supervisor I ever had was seriously empathy-challenged.  Discussing this or that approach to some need or project on the job, she was utterly unable to grasp any point of view other than her own.  I tried and tried, every way I could think of.

Now, we sometimes think or speak of empathy in moral terms, or as a feature of emotional maturity.  In her case, I came to the conclusion that it’s neurological.  She lacks the equipment that makes empathy possible.

So it is also with psychopaths: they are physiologically incapable of empathy.  They lack the equipment.

That’s the way God made them.

It is What Is.

Within oneself

We could start with the turmoil I myself have just gone through in composing this very portion of this post.

The short conclusion:

It’s OK to be torn up.
Don’t get torn up about being torn up.

On the one hand, in a composition about attaining inner peace, it would seem unseemly to propose the inevitability of inner turmoil.  So, I haven’t wanted to say this.  On the other hand, as I have pondered the different causes of inner turmoil in my own history, it becomes clear that I have made tremendous progress in recent decades, by applying the principles I am seeking to teach here.

I used to get real torn up
about being torn up.

Even last night as I wrestled with the memories of the decades I often lived in agony — that I was able to maintain my composure, in the company of sixty disorderly men (at the homeless shelter), would have been beyond me years ago.

Related:  A short route to agony

I’ve been through a lot worse than homelessness.

For the moment, I suppose there are three causes of inner turmoil: indecision; karma; and dis-acceptance of What Is.

Indecision pertains to conflicting desires.  It can be eased if one is willing to do the work to become pure of heart or balanced.  It can be exacerbated by a defective worldview, such as if one is zealous to discern and act according to “God’s plan.”  Kierkegaard referred to the latter as “existential angst.”

Karma for me is reflected mainly in my lifelong karmic obsession with racism.  The related posts in my blog evidence the progress I have made in recent years toward accepting racism as a feature of What Is, and accepting also the What Is-ness of my own skin color.

Dis-acceptance of What Is.  For decades, I suffered from an invisible disability, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS).  I may go into the details elsewhere.  But the past few days, anticipating this writing, it has seemed to me that this condition marginalized me, made me as “differently abled,” as if I’d been born without arms.  Now, had I been born without arms, that could be karmic, or instead merely the way God made me.  As far as I understand things just now, it seems to me to be the way God made me.

Difficulties rose in my interactions with other people, with the job market, with institutions, and I became distraught over my inability to fit in.  This led to the situation described in the post, “A short route to agony,” linked to above.

Had I only known then what I know now; had I only had then the religion I have now; had I not lived in a world of “oughts” and “shoulds,” but instead merely accepted What Is; my life might have been far more joyful.

Conclusion

For all the turmoil we observe in nature, in society, in relationships and within ourselves; at bottom, God created the universe as an orderly, harmonious place; and one can focus one’s attention on that harmony and order.

This is God’s unchanging hand.

Issues with upcoming posts II

Part I:  Issues with upcoming posts

If I’ve learned anything in the past two years, it’s this:

(1)  The Way of Peace works, and my calling is to walk this way.  But it takes work that I’m not always willing to do.  Call it cross-bearing.
(2) A large portion of the poor will inevitably be poor forever.
(3) No one can prescribe another person’s dreams.
Continue reading Issues with upcoming posts II

Ulterior motives are funny.

One’s ulterior motives can be wholly different from anything one would expect, and can make one do funny things — that one likewise would never expect.  At least, things that have nothing to do with one’s real needs.

Decades ago, my brother Francis, the dentist, knowing that my prescription medicines include SSRIs, asked whether I grit my teeth at night; for it’s common for such patients to do that.

I don’t grit my teeth, but I do take special joy in crunchy foods.  This has been on my mind, as this hankering has been prominent in recent months.  On occasions when I got turned away from the shelter, I would buy lots and lots of potato chips to include in supper, since they’re crunchy.  Also, potatoes are high in tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin; so that potatoes are, in fact, a mood-enhancing food. Continue reading Ulterior motives are funny.

Secrets of the Dead Sea scrolls

The real secret:  There aren’t any.

Christmas day, when I sat down in the shower line at the shelter where I stay, Comet was showing the last 15 minutes or so of a movie.  The din in the room normally precludes hearing any dialogue, but a momentary dip allowed me to hear this:  one man told another on the phone, “The missing gospel has been found.”

There followed a long sequence of a woman writhing and screaming on a bed, while blood flowed from her hands, feet and scalp.  This was interspersed with black-and-white scenes of Jesus’ crucifixion.  The bedroom was engulfed in flames.

The next scene was of a man digging in the floor of a church while a nearby statue of the Virgin wept blood.

The movie concluded with three stills of white text on a black background.

The first still read to this effect:

In 1945, near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, a scroll was found buried in the sand.  It began with the words, “These are the secret teachings of Jesus Christ.”

The scroll can say whatever it likes.

The second still read to this effect:

Known as “The Gospel of Thomas,” scholars the world over have agreed that this scroll contains the closest thing we have to the actual words of the historical Jesus.

It’s highly debatable that there’s any such consensus.

The third still read to this effect:

Even so, the Vatican refuses to recognize this text, and has gone so far as to call it heresy.

The Vatican is free to choose what it does and does not believe.

No horror movie will persuade me about the Gospel of Thomas.
Continue reading Secrets of the Dead Sea scrolls

Forgiving the cosmos

For years, I’ve had a special sensitivity to reports of child abuse.

This one may give you nightmares for the rest of your life.

victoria-martensVictoria Martens

According to the police report, on her 10th birthday, the mother’s boyfriend and his female cousin injected this little girl with drugs “to calm her down.”  They proceeded to strangle, torture, rape and dismember her.

While her mother looked on.

Where is God, or what is God, when such an event can occur?

Continue reading Forgiving the cosmos

Forgiveness

Friday, October 14

At the homeless shelter where I stay, bunks are supposed to be assigned daily strictly on a first-come, first-served basis.  But they try to give each man the same bunk as he had the night before.  It’s an imperfect system.

About a month ago, we got a whole new crew of peacekeepers.  They have their own favorites, and I am not among them.  About ten days ago, Kelvin and Marvin were in line behind me.  Steve, who was assigning bunks, sent word out to ask if they were there.  They got called in and assigned their bunks.  I got turned away.

Continue reading Forgiveness