Thursday, February 17, 2011


In a past so distant I am not sure if I actually remember it, I once read that at Hindu ashrams, newcomers were assigned light, easy chores whereas the most experienced monks were given the dirtiest ... cleaning outhouses and the like.

Besides giving arrogance an obvious lesson, the format strikes me as a good exercise for anyone ... finding the ability to begin again with the difficulties that began one quest or another -- the ones we may now feel, because of age and experience, we are beyond.

Resting on our "accomplishments" is a thorny bed -- common enough, I grant, and perhaps widely accepted, but probably foolish and sometimes painful. Why? Because those accomplishments rely on the good will or acknowledgment or obeisance of others... and the notion, however subtle, of "others" misses the mark.

I'm not suggesting that everyone ought to devolve into a puddle of forelock-tugging humility -- so virtuous and self-effacing that butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. I am suggesting that accomplishment, like failure, is a tentative matter and its tentative nature needs to be addressed if peace of mind is to be nourished.

Everything, so to speak, is always beginning. Or perhaps it just is ... brand new as a penny. The sun that rises this morning is ... well, what is it? Is it the same or different from the sun that rose yesterday? The accomplishment that swelled the heart with satisfaction ... seriously, is it the same today as it was yesterday? What ever happened to that gold star you got on a third-grade math quiz or the applause that followed some public talk or the raise that showed up in your paycheck?

As I say, this is not some philosophical or religious matter. It's not something to force, like putting on a hair shirt. Some people never get past their accomplishments or their failures, but maybe revisiting the scene or investigating the outhouse, or setting aside the respect that is "my due" makes some sense if a settled peace is on the agenda.

The sun rises in the East. How kool is that? It sets in the West. How kool is that? A gold star on a math quiz. How kool is that? A round of applause for accomplishing this job. How kool is that? Making use of the outhouse. How kool is that?

Pretty damned kool, don't you think? Brand new, bright as a penny ... no need to ask a penny to be a dollar. No need to ask the sun to be the moon. No need to polish old medals. Things are light as a feather and twice as kool.

Let's stick with what's kool.

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