Friday, May 20, 2011

what came before

I don't mean to set off a relativistic firestorm, but it strikes me as interesting:

No one who ever took up a spiritual practice or even just a belief system did so because they were so damned happy.

Because they were so damned assured and pure.
Because things were so damned clear to them.
Because the tears had stopped.
Because they were indubitably at peace.

Their efforts -- even if they expressed themselves with the starter kit of a belief system -- were aimed at some improvement ... even if the improvement were only a matter of income and accolades. Something needed changing and spiritual life seemed like a reasonable tool to use. What came before was not as good as it might be.

But no one can escape what came before. They can bury it, hide from it, rationalize it, beatify it ... but there is no escaping it. And bringing an honesty to what came before is clearly one of the tenets of all but the huckster versions of spiritual endeavor.

For all that, I do think that the best anyone can do in a world full of hucksters is ... make every effort not to become yet another huckster. Hucksters are the ones who try to evade or embrace what came before. They are notable by their multitude and there is nothing saying we can't note them. But there is no need to join their ranks with our praise or criticism. Say "no" or say "yes." Call a spade a spade. That is enough.

The malapropism that Yankees manager Casey Stengel once uttered cannot be overrated. He said, "If the people won't come out to the ballpark, you can't stop them." You can't stop them. You can only choose to go out to the ballpark or stay home. Your life. Your choice. Your peace.

What came before is neither different nor the same as the aims of spiritual endeavor, that whole-life effort that cannot escape and therefore does not try to. As Gautama allegedly said, "It is not what others do and do not do that is my concern. It is what I do and do not do -- that is my concern." Activists can go apeshit when they hear such words, but I would argue that that is just because they aren't listening or can't yet hear.

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