Tuesday, February 28, 2012

putting rainbows in their place

A lot of years ago, as a young reporter, I got assigned to the police beat. That's the way it worked back then -- the journalistic puppies cut their teeth on the police blotter and various attendant illegalities. Barroom brawls, drugs, car thefts ... same ol' same ol'. After a while doing that, I would sometimes cover Superior Court -- a step up in the mayhem department. Here the crimes were more serious ... up to and including murder.

I was fascinated by courtroom drama. Aside from teaching me that accuracy in reporting was essential, it also whispered in my ear, posing questions about the law as a human construct. When I would visit lawyers or judges, sometimes we would sit in offices whose bookshelves were packed with what were clearly law books. Shelf after shelf after shelf ... it was like being on a TV set. Some of the lawyers took their profession and surroundings with a solemnity that might make a Jewish devotion to the law pale by comparison. Some were less knotted. But whatever the posture or posturing, what whispered in my ear was a fascination with the willingness to codify human behavior and mete out agreed-upon pleasures and pains. Philosophy was important ... but did philosophy actually corral the open arms of human capacity? Of course it didn't and yet without this limited approach, how could human limitlessness find its say?

The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 inspired a host of media tales of Wall Street bankers and other business men who were positively peeing in their pants to take advantage of the potential money-making adventures in this new market. Just think -- a country with what was then 13 time zones, each of them an arena in which to sell and create new consumers! There's money in them thar hills! Minerals, oil, and plenty of room for another MacDonald's. It took a while, but eventually the businessmen backed off their original enthusiasms: Russia was, and remains, a place of vast corruption. There is no rule of law to order and protect the captialists as it does in the United States and other 'civilized' countries. Law is important ... as important as it is confining and unrealistic.

My Zen teacher once said, "Without ego, nothing gets done." Without the fabrications and delusions and personalities and desires, nothing gets done. Whether on the upside or the downside ... nothing gets done. Ego, the arbiter of good and evil, creates the format -- from law to lawlessness -- within which people actually do things ... things that are sometimes called accomplishments.

Without the law, there would be no lawyer jokes... or crooks either. Without formatted religion, there would be no bloody depredations or vast kindness. Without limits, limitlessness is just an imaginative limitation.

Limits and ego ... what a good beginning. Pick your limits, from law to bank robbery to religion to altruism to being a Ku Klux Klan member in good standing ... that's how things get done. Everyone constructs the limits that some, with luck, learn to chafe under. What looked like freedom becomes a bondage. What looked like an enriching move constrains and impoverishes. Some claim contentment within their limitations and speak of necessary compromises ... and yet there is something uncompromising and unfettered in the depths of the heart and the back of the mind. What is it and why does it nag like some pesky dog that needs to go out and pee?

Without ego, nothing gets done. What would that be like -- to get nothing done? How does anyone go about doing nothing? Sure, there are slick answers, but really ... how could anyone possibly do nothing? Would it be good or bad? Would it be too frightening for words? Would it assure a steady peace? If you could do nothing, would it be limited or limitless?

I guess what I'm getting around to in my own bloviating fashion is this: Everyone picks their limits, or, if you are feeling less responsible, is chosen by them. And those limits are perfectly fine -- literally, perfectly fine. Lawyer, doctor, Indian chief ... all limited, all perfectly fine. Each and every limitation, each and every ego is the perfect starting point.

But starting points are not the point at which a nagging limitlessness is willing to stop. Some try to improve or dismiss or camouflage or escape their limitations. But this is not possible and since it is not, the better course is not to improve or escape anything ... that's just another limitation.

Starting points are points from which to start.

The trick is ... just don't stop. Follow and investigate whatever the limitations are until there is no more juice in that particular orange ... and then follow and investigate some more. Follow the Yellow Brick Road of ego right to the end of the rainbow. And don't be tricked by rainbows.

Don't stop ... that's the trick to stepping out of a world called "limited" and into a world called "limitless" ...

You know ... this world.

No comments:

Post a Comment