Friday, April 9, 2010

the profound and divine

For personal use only and not as some matter of public policy:

If you seek for or seek out what is profound and divine, what happens to everything else -- the other stuff that is not profound and divine, the stuff that is confounding and confusing, the stuff out of which anyone might venture in search of the profound and the divine?

I don't mean this as some slick-willy, spiritual-life question that, when asked, seems to place the one asking at a distance from or somehow above the search for the profound and divine.

Roughly speaking, I think that the longing or search for the profound and divine is human and touching and perhaps even a necessity when settling life's nagging questions ... what about disease or old age or death or love or freedom or god or ... well, you know, those questions that get asked at 3 a.m. under the bedroom ceiling.

Roughly speaking, I think the ordinary way is to distinguish the ordinary from the extraordinary, the shallow from the deep, the mundane from the divine. And why not? It does seem to build an encouraging fire under what may be a lazy or sorrowful ass.

Temples get built, texts get written, and there are indeed people with serene demeanors to be found and followed. There are disciplines that point more and less clearly towards the profound and divine and within those disciplines there are glimpses and glories, for all the difficulty they can present.

But, for personal use only and not as some matter of public policy:

After positing the profound and the divine and setting ourselves on a disciplined course ... after claiming to long for what we claim to long for, doesn't the question come up ... is that what you really long for -- the profound and divine -- and can you really go that distance? Really?

The American civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, once said, more of less, "It is not what's wrong with the world that scares people. What scares people is that everything is all right." And to the extent that this observation holds any water, what would happen to the profound and divine if everything were truly all right?

As I say, this is just for personal use and not a matter to be enshrined as public policy.

It seems to me that it's all right if others want to maintain the temples and texts that betoken the profound and the divine. Martin Luther King's observation is not for the faint of heart, not something believers can attempt. The profound and the divine are wonderful encouragements in ordinary terms, human terms, and sometimes even humane and believable terms. Within the framework of the profound and the divine, we can all long for what we claim to long for without being confronted by what we long for.

I think it was the Beatle John Lennon who said, "Life is what happens while we were busy making other plans." The profound and the divine are probably a pretty good plan, a pretty good effort, a pretty wonderful direction. Or anyway, I think they are quite human.

In Zen Buddhism, there is the saying, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!" This suggestion has a pushy feel to it -- as if someone were establishing a public policy -- but really, I think it is just what any of us might do as a strictly personal matter: Isn't seeking out the profound and divine another way of placing a Buddha in the road? And no matter how much light this Buddha emanates, no matter how profound or divine or holy ... well, what's the honest up-shot? Not the upshot as a matter of public policy, but the upshot as a matter that is intimately personal ... and perhaps scares us to death with the recognition that what might be longed for is really and truly what is longed for.

What happens to everything else when the profound and divine come true? Could the profound and divine be true if there actually were something else, something ordinary, something mundane, something sinful, something elevated or debased? What happens to all that stuff ... seriously: Cut the religious bullshit. Seriously -- muster some courage -- what happens when the bedroom ceiling becomes the bedroom ceiling?

As I say, this is a matter for personal consideration, not public policy. There are no kool, religious or philosophical answers. But there is your answer, even if you can't say word-one about it.

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