Thursday, February 6, 2014

tabernacles and tantrums

Doesn't all spiritual life begin as wishful thinking? This morning, in a somewhat sleep-deprived state, I think it does... wishing the spring floods would not wash away the newly-planted crop; wishing the loneliness could be appeased; wishing for some surcease that can hardly be named; wishing the shoelace might never break; wishing for a realm in which wishing was no longer so insistent.

And from that initial wish, however it shapes itself, it is easy to find others who have similar wishes, similar longings, similar uncertainties. Like bits of blobulous mercury on a table top, the wishes meld into each other and suddenly -- spiritual or otherwise -- the tabernacles and tantrums of a social effort coalesce and religious communities take shape.

The harmonies of a collective voice are warming, soothing, convincing and seem to take the edge off what had begun as a single cry, this solo wish. Religions are born and you can see their gilded roof peaks from afar. What was wishfully alone now has company. God, it is lovely to be in the company of fellow believers! How long I have wished alone! How grateful to be assuaged in the company that knows my song!

In secret times, I used to think there was some trick to spiritual life, to religion, to codified wishful thinking. Of course I never called it a trick ... but in secret times I wished it might be so -- that if I sang my hymns loud enough or ironed my robes perfectly enough or prostrated frequently enough or followed the rules closely enough or believed deeply enough then, suddenly, at some unknown time, my wish would be fulfilled ... some light switch would be flicked and ... and ... and things would suddenly be OK ... and even better than OK ... sort of a super-OK ... not blissful, perhaps, but super-OK. "Heaven," perhaps, or "enlightenment" or some realm whose name I honestly didn't know but wished for ... secretly I thought it might descend upon me. Secretly, I thought there was a trick and I, like other credulous companions who had come before, could know it... and in knowing it, my wishful thinking might come true.

And who knows -- maybe I was right. Maybe there is indeed a trick. And if there is, then perhaps it can be stated in this: You have to be what others only believe. You have to step away from the enfolding chorus of wishers and well-wishers, the ones who diluted the loneliness and fired up the determination and shaped a scene of tabernacles and tantrums. Step away into the place that once was just a formative wish. Step away and stand up.

To step away in this way means that you can now move freely among the believers. Their tabernacles and tantrums are OK. Not imperative, but OK. Wishful thinking is OK. Not imperative, but OK. Step away and there is no improvement ... you simply are what others may choose to believe.

Are things "better?" Yes and no: When you step away, the word "better" does not compute ... and it is better. The trap snaps shut, but the quarry is (so to speak) missing.

It's tricky shit ... without the trick.

I sure do wish I could hit the lottery!

1 comment:

  1. There's no tricks. Think about it. This one is that far out there how could it ever surprise me.