Thursday, February 11, 2010

connecting the dots

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Yesterday, I caught myself out:

Once upon a time, when it came to spiritual interests, I was desperately grateful for support ... anything and everything that would bolster and advance my hope that this was a realm I might find trustworthy. Mostly, I sought out support in books, but occasionally I would get to a lecture or go to some temple in search ... in search of a proof I could put together with other proofs and, when my collection of proofs was brought to bear, I could trust that spiritual life was not just some smarmy, dumbed-down, group-hug bit of human idiocy. I didn't want to be an idiot, to be taken for a hallelujah ride, to be blind-sided and hurt. I wanted to be intelligently assured and reassured.

And one of the facets of the reassuring gem I was fashioning was this: I really liked the stories, the histories, that pointed out connections in time and space and appreciation. Here in India, in 3,000 BC, was a text saying something inviting and seemingly profound and 2,000 years later in China, in a place and time unlikely to have had access to the earlier text, was someone saying almost precisely the same thing ... sometimes in almost precisely the same words. And the links did not stop there. On and on it went ... India, China, Greece, Rome, Israel, Russia ... in times and places too far apart to have relied on the times and places before ... all saying similar things ... sometimes right down to the wording.

The Vedas wrapped up the human need for credible data with the words, "Truth is one. Wise men call it by many names." I liked that hip-pocket aphorism for a long time. I too wanted to connect the dots and when someone connected the dots for me through time and space, then ....

Then I could credit the experience about which the spiritual adventure was talking. I could feel more comfortable putting my bet down. I could feel less as if I were buying a pig in a poke, something that would let me down, something that would blind-side me in times to come. True, I might not be able to lay claim to the experience, but connecting the dots was one way in which I felt less worried and more assured: I might not have the experience, but with the dots connected, the experience was, for me, credibly worth having.

What I realized yesterday was this: Where once I wanted proofs and reassurances and connected dots, now I honestly didn't care. I was not attributing to myself some exalted understanding or capacity. Just, quite literally, I didn't care if the dots could be connected or needed to be connected or ... well, whatever. And I was slightly surprised, somehow, that I didn't care. How did that happen? There was something slightly magical about it ... like being in a biology class discussing how babies came into being -- all the explanations and meanings and scientifically provable facts -- and then thinking, "Now tell me how it REALLY happens."

Yes, there is some experience on which to premise the understanding that the spiritual adventure is no lie. Yes, there is a laziness that is simply willing to surrender and say something stupid like, "Hell, it's just a fact." Yes, there has grown up a more easy willingness to be wrong and not worry about it too much: "Of course the dots connect through time and space ... but that's like saying 'the sky is blue' when the sky is already blue." I no longer need convincing ... even if I don't honestly know how that REALLY happened.

When I wanted to connect the dots, I would have been skeptical and disheartened if someone said, "The dots are already connected, silly!" or "What dots?" But these days I can find it exhausting -- and sometimes cranky-making -- when someone goes off on a connect-the-dots crusade, the very crusade I myself joined and relied on with mounting fervor.

Once I said, "Tell me it's true."
And the response came back, "OK. It's true."
Once I said, "But how can I believe it?"
And the response came back, "Believe it."
Once I said, "But what if I'm wrong?"
And the response came back, "You're not wrong."
Once I said, "But how can I know that?"
And the response came back, "Trust yourself."
Once I said, "How can I trust what has proven so untrustworthy?"
And the response came back, "Trust yourself anyway."
Once I said, "Give me credible evidence."
And the response came back, "OK -- how about this and that, the lines between the dots?
Once I said, "But that's not really enough. Give me some real proof."
And the response came back, "Trust yourself."

And that really pissed me off ... until I decided to try it.

Oh well, just noticing a change of heart. It may be that I am just getting too old and fat and lazy to fight and scramble and collate any more. But that's my problem, not yours.

You don't have to be so dumb.

Trust yourself.
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