Tuesday, September 28, 2010

salivation and no food

If you are anything like me, then there has been a time when you were enthralled by mystics. These were the men and women who beckoned convincingly from the page or pulpit. Somehow they had a bead on things that excelled my own and simultaneously made me long for that wider understanding, that wider stance, that peace that eluded me.

A mystic is partially defined by an internet dictionary as:

noun:  someone who believes in the existence of realities beyond human comprehension
adjective:  having an import not apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence; beyond ordinary understanding ("The mystical style of Blake")
The deliciousness of such an understanding was by turns profound and confusing and magnetic. Something in my life responded like one of Pavlov's dogs. Yummmmmy!

And so it began -- that willingness to seek out in very grounded ways some essence that was not yet grounded in my life. Jesus, Mohammad,  Buddha, Tao ... hell, even Rasputin. At first it was an intellectual believer's search. Follow the yellow brick road of ritual and belief; store up explanations as a squirrel stores up nuts; fill the mind with text and encouragement. Later it would segue into a literal practice -- something you actually did instead of something you actually praised or memorized. In my case it was Zen practice -- a sit-down-shut-up-erect-the-spine-and-focus-the-mind exercise that wasn't quite so yummmmmy, but had the advantage of bringing experience, to bear. No doubt others learn to really pray or sing or dance.

Just thinking this morning that the mystics of our lives, the exemplars I may have constructed out of my own need and hope ... how useful they were and how thankful I am to them: Men and women who, often as not, had no sense of anything 'mystical' and yet encouraged others who longed for mysticism, longed for something 'beyond,' longed for something 'else.'

I feel pretty fortunate not to have gotten mired down -- ritual, religion and the like -- in the wonders of it all. Or rather, to have gotten mired down and yet found a practice that washed off the very-useful mire. Experience trumps belief every time and yet belief is an inspiring starting point. It only falls on its face if that is the best anyone can do -- believe, conceive, go mystical... what a hellish life that would be... not as a starting point, but as a destination.

Religion ... imagine that! Salivation and no food.

But for starters, all those mystics, all their pointings, all their holiness and serenity and peace ... thank you very much.


  1. I just woke up, it's a work night ahead so just spent 12 hours in the bed, wake up in a few, minutes, coffee, look around. Silent day, holy night, then comes the way of medical meanderings... to see what gifts of Santa brings, internal life as offerings.

  2. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" (but give thanks!)

  3. "Experience trumps belief every time"

    That man behind the curtain had a balloon as I recall the story. Give thanks indeed.

    You seem to have a sense of the relationship between belief and experience which is precisely backward.

    To me it goes: Experience births belief (or faith or trust) every time. When the experience of THIS, in Zen talk, came along, I knew it.

    At that point, in the language of Zen: nowhere to go and nothing to do is just how it is. Now is enough just as it is. The need for trumps or relative weight falls away.

    Perhaps I read you in error but if you think this, as experience, is only it, you are quite mistaken.

    "I feel pretty fortunate not to have gotten mired down -- ritual, religion and the like -- in the wonders of it all.


    However, all religions, in one manner or another, are an expression of the "that which is other than me and with me and of me" experience and not to be dismissed quite so casually as you seem to be suggesting here.

  4. Hmm...

    These few weeks I have been playing a computer game called Tropico 3, it is about a managing and running a Carribean island and imagining oneself as a dictator.

    What perplexes me was the number of factions on the island: Nationalist, Environmentalist, Religious, Militants, Capitalists, Communists, and so on. Life was easier when Gautama was always right and Devadatta was always wrong; but like now, when I build more farms and more uneducated migrants come to my island, Communism strengthens and not surprisingly, the Capitalists demand for more income disparity.

    When too many migrants come, the Nationalists will cry for an isolationist policy.

    The best part is how a farmer, once a Nationalist, can swing to become a Religious, then a Communism, then a Capitalist, all within 20 years of my make-belief regime.

    I spent my whole mandate pleasing people, and nobody got pleased, and my Swiss Bank account was still $0.

    Then I found myself visiting this blog happily. There seems to be no 'Isms yet :)

  5. The man with the balloon made like a prom dress and took-off without Dorothy, if you recall Mr. RED. And still we give thanks!

  6. Shane,

    He did indeed. Ole Dorth' was forced to rely on what she already wore on her feet.

    One last Ozian twist in the story line.

    "Oh look Toto, I'm back home in Kansas."

    I think we are on the same page on this one.