Sunday, January 16, 2011


Interesting human phenomenon, the notion that because I have learned some hard lessons, cut my way through one thicket or another, somehow others should not be required to do the same. All I have to do, for example, is tell someone my conclusions, they will listen and hear ... and they won't have to raise a sweat on that subject.

Parents, if they're anything like me, do this all the time -- hoping against hope that their accrued wisdom can somehow be passed into their children. No parent wants his or her kids to be lonely or sad or too cocky ... so there is the effort to point out the hard lessons the parent has learned. No one who has been to war (short of psychotics) would wish such a thing on anyone else. The experience is just too horrific, too compelling, too wounding even when you set aside the physical wounds. And in spiritual endeavor the wish is the same -- that all those tears and all that sweat will have some meaning and that that meaning can be transmitted.

But there is one more hard lesson that goes with all the other hard lessons. It cannot be transmitted, no matter how ornate or intricate or sensible the explanations. Kids have to go through their own thickets; the wounds of war serve little or no wider understanding; and the mounds of wisdom collated in books or minds will not suffice in spiritual endeavor.

The hard lesson is -- experience cannot be shared. And that can feel pretty lonely right up until the moment that its factual nature is accepted. The fact that experience cannot be shared does not mean we cannot converse or point out the particulars of a problem. We don't have to be stupid or heartless. But that pointing out is not the same as the experience of a particular thicket -- a thicket that may rip the skin off your heart or fill you with an unspeakable peace.

I guess the bottom line of the fact that experience cannot be shared is something like, "Patience!" and "Get over yourself!"

Why anyone invented koans when there are living situations like this ... well, it beats the hell out of me.

1 comment:

  1. It became obvious as soon as I had my first baby that tabula rasa is a myth and he came equipped with the deluxe karmic package and thus had his own path to trod and tangles to navigate. It seemed to me that what I could do was to let him know that he was unconditionally loved for being him, and try to give him the best tools I knew to navigate his thickets.

    My kids are grown now, mid-thicket you might say. I certainly passed on many of my delusions and fears, that unconscious content we transmit to our offspring. But I also see in them toolkits they employ that have ethics, and self control, and compassion, and self-inquiry, some of which I recognize as part of my legacy as their mother.

    So I'd say yes, your kids can't 'know' your experience, but you can show how you navigate it, both in conversation and (most importantly) in demonstration.