Tuesday, May 4, 2010

the bolt holes

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Strange to think: There are those who seek out spiritual life as a bolt-hole from the slings and arrows of a more mundane existence ... an escape, a succor, a warm place against the cold.

And yet those who seek out spiritual life are frequently found seeking bolt holes that will protect them from the requirements of the spiritual life which they sought out as a bolt hole in the first place.

Yes, there is some longing for relief and clarity, perhaps, but having entered the realm of promise, the first words out of anyone's mouth or out of the depths of their most secret heart are, "Yes, but...."

The alternative is too daunting, too lock-step, too night-of-the-living-dead. No one wants to be a pawn if they've got any sense. But the bolt hole that was invited in has its demands. So then, perhaps, there are bolt-hole exceptions, bolt-hole doubts, bolt-hole nostrums with which to paper over the friction between longing for a bolt-hole relief, and seeking a bolt hole from the realm of relief that is chosen.

I remember sitting in a college classroom and being absolutely smitten when I heard that there was a philosophy that "everything changes." That simple statement, to my young and peppy mind, was one of the few philosophical principles I had heard that had some relevance and empirical proof in my life. I was purely in love with the philosophy and the philosophers who worked on that basis. I was one of them. I was at home at last. What a relief to find a home! Until ... until ...

Until I realized that everything might change, but my relationship with my then-girlfriend was exempt in my mind. Surely that would never change. Surely that was too compelling in its affections and wonders.

And I was caught between a rock and a hard place. Espousing an everything-changes point of view made perfect sense, a perfect home ... and yet ... well, surely it couldn't include this scrumptious relationship ... and yet it did ... and yet surely it couldn't ... and yet it did ... and I busied myself finding a bolt-hole that would get me off the hook.

Intellectually, all of this interests me about as much as piss in a snowbank. But as a personal matter, something that assails anyone who might seek some peaceful relief in one way or another ... well, that's important.

So what about the bolt-holes we seek in the bolt-holes we have chosen? My view is that it is no good trying to paper them over with ever more fervent assertions of bolt-hole theology (whether or not the bolt-hole is spiritual).

Better is to acknowledge and examine the bolt-holes sought in the bolt-holes of choice. What limitation have we invited into our lives? Are those limitations necessarily bad or sad? Who wants relief from this relief, escape from this escape, freedom from this freedom? Just take a look and don't try to solve anything ... just look and ...

See what happens.
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