Monday, March 15, 2010

cause and effect

One of the baited hooks that landed me on the spiritual-endeavor dock was cause and effect. In my reading, Swami Vivekananda underscored cause and effect and since cause and effect were so 'obvious' in my own life -- since I was willing to credit it and believe it and make it a cornerstone of sorts -- well, the invitation to think things over in terms of cause and effect was compelling. It was an antidote to the suspicion/fear that spiritual life was nothing more than a bunch of swooning air-heads and fanatics.

If cause and effect were an integral part of the spiritual-adventure tapestry, it became less threatening, less idiotic, less poorly-founded in my mind. By pointing out cause and effect, what I perceived as moronic sincerities were alleviated ... no, Adam, you don't have to be a nitwit in order to believe in God. And lord knows I didn't want to be a fool.

So there was cause and effect. I could see it, understand it, feel comforted by its concrete factuality ... and hold on tight. Cause and effect made sense and I could hold on in a realm that often didn't have a lot of hand-holds. If I hit my thumb with a hammer, it would hurt ... you can't get much more down-to-earth than that. When you hit your thumb with a hammer, the Magical Mystery Tour that spiritual endeavor sometimes puts on display can take a hike.

I was comforted. I was relieved. I felt a lot less suspicious. I felt less threatened by unfounded or at least unprovable idiocy, however delightful. And as time passed, my hand-hold pal, cause and effect, may have become less rebellious, less insistent, less needy ... but it was still my good friend.

Cause and effect. A-a-a-a-m-e-n!

And even today I think cause and effect are a sweetly-baited hook -- a factual reminder and a true observation ... especially when the airy-fairies get too insistent. Cause and effect are as sensible as salt.

But too ... this life does not require condiments. Hand-holds are not required except when they are required. For conversational purposes, cause and effect are good indicators and good friends. We hold their hand as circumstances arise.

But circumstances provide no hand-holds. They arise and fade away and arise some more. Good friends just come and go. What was a hand-hold yesterday may be an impediment today and a hand-hold again tomorrow.

If we need convincing, then perhaps cause and effect are a good hand-hold. But where holding hands can steady our balance in one instance, it can also throw us off balance in another.

Circumstances arise. We create and meet them. We fall prey or prey upon them. Cause and effect come and go and come again ... but it's just circumstances, isn't it? Circumstances don't require our salt, however sensible it may be. It's just circumstances. It's just life. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to know that pounding your thumb with a hammer hurts.

And as the Zen teacher Rinzai once put it, perhaps the best advice is simply, "Grasp and use, but never name."



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