Tuesday, May 15, 2012

the 'edge' of a very personal 'abyss'

It's not so much the abyss itself that beckons and strikes sparks of fear. Isn't it more the edge of that abyss -- the point beyond which there is falling-to-who-knows-where or the point at which anyone might just as easily step back into a safe haven whose consoling confines have proved suspicious?

Setting aside the wisdom or posturing of the wise who may disdain duality, still I think human beings find the edges of their own lives, recognize them and then either step back in horror or forward into the other side of light, the other side of shadow, the other side of love or anger, the other side of poetry or prose ... life is edgy and the human heart seeks out that edginess, perhaps to leap, perhaps to step back ... from the edge. At the far reaches of beauty, ugliness beckons; at the far reaches of liberalism, the conservative waits waits; at the far reaches of discipline, the drunken dervish laughs; at the far reaches of light, darkness purrs like some assured and curled-up cat.

It's nothing fancy or adroit or elevated. I just think people find their abysses and the edges that mark the spot beyond which those abysses yawn ...  as surely as a dog knows where it has peed before, marking its sacred or sacrilegious ground. Beyond the edge lies who-knows-what? Before the edge lies comfort and its inevitable constrictions. This is not philosophy -- grease monkey or guru, it's the same.

I guess what brought all this to mind was a bit or argumentation send along in email -- an essay by Chris Hedges that was ostensibly about why the Occupy movement frightens the corporate and political elite. Hedges is not just some liberal whiner. As a former New York Times reporter, he has been around the experiential block. He has some street cred, at least in my mind. When he thinks out loud, I am willing to listen. And these days, he is talking about a revolution that is more profound than electing the right candidate or slapping some Band-Aid regulations on the latest economic wounds. Others may stay safely within the social and political box -- step back from the edge. Hedges is talking about losing the box. His strident insistence may, in the end, constrict even him, but in the meantime, up the revolution! off the edge!

And then there is Brad Warner, a frisky expositor of Zen Buddhism, announcing, invitation-fashion, that "Zen is Boring." As someone who practices Zen, Warner has some street cred and the piece, to my mind, is more Dharma talk than a lot of well-fashioned, serene and sutra-laced, quirky and come-hither "Dharma talks" I have heard. In one sense, Warner invites those enticed by Zen Buddhism to see the edge, see the abyss, and then ... and then ... and then make a choice: Step back and be a 'good' Zen student or step forward and ... who-knows-what?

It's all pretty easy to talk about, explain, find meaning in, analyze and all the rest of the blah-blah-blah. But, from guru to grease monkey, the world is not some philosophical or psychological lollipop to be sucked with delight. Nobody's a successful philosopher about their own life. There are abysses. There are edges and it is more personal than halitosis. Perhaps the abyss yawns in a flirtatious smile or a bloodied child or a checkbook in the red ... anywhere, anytime, the edge is here and yet beyond the here is the other side of midnight.

'There' is different from 'here.' Here, perhaps, things are confused; but there, things are at peace. Here, perhaps, is a beauty beyond compare. There, beyond the edge, is an ugliness that beckons because ... because ... because...

Well, because it beckons and to turn our back on what is whole -- really whole, not philosophically or psychologically or spiritually whole -- opens its arms like a welcome-home mom. Will that hug be 'good' news or 'bad?' Will it be nourishing or fatal? Will it be safe and sound or uncaring and dangerous as a great white shark?

Step back at your peril. Step forward at your peril. Be courageous at your peril. Shrink in abject fear at your peril. Be holy at your peril. Be self-serving at your peril.

No one can escape halitosis.

No one can escape a hug.

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