Thursday, April 23, 2009

useless advice

For some reason, I woke up thinking of my children, whom I love. I was thinking of advice I might give them if I were no longer around to give it. Not that I could expect them to take it, but just ... well, what would I say? And what came to mind was:

-- Be as smart as you can, but do not be unkind. Intelligence and ignorance are equally capable of cruelties and there will always be people who are smarter and dumber than you are. Intelligence sees many possibilities, ignorance sees few, but since possibilities are endless ... well, seeing possibilities is a good idea but relying on possibilities is another matter entirely. Do not be unkind, whether with yourself or others.

-- It is rare for anyone to reflect much on the life they choose to lead and yet without reflection that life will always be subject to the whim of others... their beliefs, longings, convictions or whatever all else. Because we are social animals, there is a longing to be included and loved. Simultaneously, there is a longing not to be ruled -- to be easy as a hawk resting on an updraft. Many, if not most, spend their lives being buffeted between the twin longings for security and freedom ... whining endlessly about their bruising fate or singing hosannahs to imagined joys, but never breaking free. It is the discipline of reflection that can put such matters to rest. But if you cannot set them aside, if you cannot manage some honest reflection, at least do not be unkind.

-- You may think that because I have liked Zen Buddhism I am therefore suggesting you follow that path too, that my way has somehow been the best way. But that is not how I feel at all. True, I think Zen practice is an excellent thing for those inclined, but the anguish and uncertainty that human beings feel is miles beyond the confines of any religion or philosophy or particular practice. I wish you what you wish, but since what you wish requires some effort, I suggest you reflect honestly and carefully within whatever confines you may choose. If you think religion is a crock of shit, well, OK. If you think philosophy is for pinheads, well, OK. Set aside what you find useless, identify what you find useful, and then, assuming you would like a little peace, do not fail to reflect with patience and courage. Do not imagine there are answers ... just reflect and see what happens.

-- Correct what needs correction. Repeat what is fruitful. You're doing fine. Never doubt it. Just reflect and do not be unkind....

I suppose I could go on writing, but since I do not believe advice is the kind of thing one person can transmit to another, I guess I'll have a cup of coffee now.

I love you.

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