On public radio yesterday, an author was discussing his book -- a book that seemed to be devoted to eyewitness accounts of 'historic events.' For example, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the demolition of the World Trade Center towers in 2001 were mentioned.
I guess historic events are the events that stand out in our attention -- overshadow the purchase of six bananas or a flight of geese headed south. Historic events seem to need widespread agreement as well. If lots of people agree that World War II or the crucifixion of Christ are important, then their historic clout and the cohesiveness of those who acknowledge that clout is cemented.
I wouldn't disparage this tendency, but I do think that it can fuel a free-floating uncertainty. Historic events stand out or are elevated above events that are not especially historic. In the background of historic events is some doubt or curiosity about all the other events -- the ones that don't quite make the cut, the ones that are not historic. Are historic events different from or separate from the purchase of six bananas? Who says so? And if they aren't different, does everything kind of slide into a bland and serene puddle of appreciation, a puddle in which no one ever says "wow!"
Not everyone is likely to look into this matter. Collectively and individually, the separation of one thing from another -- historic or important from plain or not so important -- is acceptable and social and creates a sense of agreement and contentment.
But I think it might be worth investigating if anyone wanted to lay the background hum of uncertainty to rest. What's not historic about the purchase of six bananas? Certainly it's not the same as the demolition of the World Trade Center towers, but can it honestly be separated? Is history somehow discernibly segmented? If we give one thing more importance and another thing less, well, whose doing is that?
Without criticism, I think historic events refer to ego, collective and individual. It's not good and not bad, it's just what is ... or anyway that's my guess. But that collective and individual comfort does raise the question, "What's the matter with six bananas?" or, stated differently, "What's the matter with my life?"
Relying on something else -- historic events, momentous thoughts, heartfelt beliefs, soaring emotions, supportive agreements -- seems to have a downside: Comforting on the one hand, but somehow inaccurate on the other.
And perhaps all of this might be called one of the rivulets of spiritual endeavor. Without mustering the patience and courage and doubt to investigate "historic events" or "six bananas," the sense of free-floating uncertainty remains unresolved and the question, "What's the matter with my life?" goes unanswered.
Yes, it has a spooky element -- investigating what 'everyone else' agrees to. It feels lonely and the envisioned outcome(s) don't seem especially appealing. But, with some determination and with some patience, I think things will work out fine.
And what does "fine" mean?
I think "fine" means that for the first time you will be able to enjoy yourself. When the Fourth of July rocket explodes against the dark sky, you will go "oooohhhh" just as you always did. When you buy six bananas, well, isn't that nifty? And when the Berlin Walls of this life come down, it will just be history in the making ... now-history, now-history, now-history, now-history ... but this time, there will be no doubt about it.
How neat is that?!
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