A Yankee's Musing

Monday, July 14, 2008

I Wonder

The following two quotes are from The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier:

1) Some people don’t want to know of the presence of personal demons; they
pretend not to know even when they do know. And there are others whose consciousness merely dances around the edge of their dark-side really all their lives. Those folks never step close enough to look even one demon in the eye.
But listen, the day one decide to take the reins of one’s own life into one’s own
hands, to captain one’s own ship, that’s the day the dance around the edges starts
to slow down, bringing that person to a place where gnawing questions will no
longer lie still (219)

2) The whole process of survival tells us at there’s a morality to these natural rhythms, and that this morality is woven into the fabric of nature. For humanity, part of that fabric is the higher consciousness I was speaking of earlier. I feel that to aspire to that higher consciousness is to align ourselves with the natural order –in essence, to let go of the self. When we do this, when we rid ourselves of the petty little ego drives that get in our way, we find ourselves much me in tune with the natural harmony, and good things can happen (199-200).

Here is another quote from Winter Study by Nevada Barr:

1) One of the reasons humans tended toward insanity was the weight of fear they carried. The blessings of storytelling, the handing down of knowledge and warnings, had a flip side. People carried the collective fears of their history, the biases of those long dead, the paranoia of other ages (144-145).

And the final quote here is from The Refuge by Sue Harris:

1) We don’t own the earth—just occupy it at the whim of Nature (71).

The reason I saved these quotes from recent readings this summer is because they relate strongly. I think they speak to the egotistical mania of Humans. Humankind has come to think of itself as the top of the heap, the heap of life. And as the king of this hill, we are the decision makers, the intelligence that rules the earth. But somewhere deep down on a subconscious level, we have a sneaking suspicion that maybe we are not all that, and from this inkling, arises the paranoia, the fears, that rumble their way through the history of mankind. We try to satisfy these rumblings with something we create called religion, a system of controls that say yes, we are made from the image of something called God who is responsible for all of life of this earth, and since we are made from his image, then we are indeed the top of the heap of the natural world. We created all kinds of concepts to make our status more concrete, one of which is ownership. We own our little spot on this planet, and together, it is all divided up into little spots that unite into bigger spots, and my spot is bigger than your spot, and my spot is better than your spot, and we fight for expansion of the spots that actually we only own in our own mind. And all the while, we are destroying each other and the earth and all that is on it, all in the name of intelligence.

Well, as Poitier says, all this shit just oozes out of our dark side, the part we don’t want to acknowledge, and as a result, we become more and more out of tune with the natural harmony of life. If we really were intelligent creatures, don’t you think we would take responsibility for our own actions? Yet it seems like instead, people use that “intelligence” to create more and more elaborate excuses and drift further and further away from any sense of natural order. I think about my part in this charade. I think of what my priorities are and what demons am I dancing around rather than facing full on. I wonder about these things as I kayak further and further out in the ocean to “discover” an uninhabited island that might have a sandy beach, a quiet cove, an osprey nest with proud birds guarding their eggs, a group of seals sunning on some flat rocks, an ocean mist stinging my eyes, and 5 knots quickly changing to 15 knots and carrying me faster and faster at the whim of white tipped waves. I think about this when I am far away from the man made order of things and I can feel the natural order seeping into my every pore. It is a humbling experience. I am no less nor greater than anything on this earth and in this universe or any other. I do not need to create false images to secure my worth. I am worth no more or less than anything else in the natural world. And that is enough, it is more than enough. It is a designated place within the natural order of things.

But I have demons, mostly regrets for something I may have done or wish I had done. I have been consciously trying to accept responsibility for my actions for quite a while now. Sometimes I think I may go too far, take responsibility for something that I could never have anticipated, or else take more than my share of responsibility. It is a matter of finding the balance, as is most things I am beginning to discover. But I must say, in trying to live every moment to the fullest, it means I also wish to do so as honestly as I possibly
can at that moment in time. I cannot let “I wish I had,” or “I am sorry I did” rule my time and take chunks out of my life in the form of guilt and regret. Those concepts are totally ravenous when it comes to taking over ones thoughts and absolutely runs havoc with living to the fullest. Guilt and regret are corrosive and dangerous. They are a waste of time. I guard my time since I have been ill, and I guard it with a vengeance. I work hard at not wasting it, so I must live life honestly and responsibly. This past year at work was a real test in this. It was rigorous, demanding, and required me to really be vigilant and honest about my actions. It is hard because it allows for a degree of vulnerability that is not comfortable. It requires me to be introspective rather than judgmental. Poitier says it takes you “to a place where the gnawing questions will not lie still.” It is hard work and scary and tiring. It requires a kind of trust in ones own ability to survive ones own actions and mis-actions.

And so I kayak. I take myself sometimes out on the edge where I am dependent upon letting go in order to flow with the elements. Fighting the natural elements in the ocean, something that is so keen to change is not safe. The same with the river’s current, swollen by the rains, ripping along at 45 miles an hour, obscuring the hidden brush and stumps, as you make your way. There is a sweet spot, a place where you do not fight the current, but don’t completely give way to it, where you can slip through the rocks and hidden dangers and come out intact. When you find that place, even for only a moment, the feeling is exhilarating. But the work to find that moment of pure balance is difficult and requires complete concentration and trust. I am learning these things. At 16, I learned that driving a standard shift required finding the sweet spot, the place where the pressure on the clutch and the pressure on the gas are just right. Somewhere in my early twenties, I learned that moment in the classroom when the energy from me to the students and back to me finds that sweet spot, that place where we are really hearing each other and are exhilarated by what we are learning together. It is almost spiritual it is such a natural place to be. I suspect everything in life requires these intricate balances, and it is in the finding of them, if but for a moment, that really makes life make sense.

But I am not a philosopher. I am not an academic. I am a woman who wonders most of the time.


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