Sunday, November 17, 2013

quid pro quo

"Quid pro quo" is a Latin expression that means "this for that." It is an expression of hope and expectation: If I pay a dollar, I can get a candy bar; if I brush my teeth and floss, I will not have to go to the dentist as often; if I give this, then I will get that.

Quid pro quo is a merchandizing approach to life's activities. In a deeply habitual format, it can take on the clothing of cause and effect, a situation of trade-offs so ingrained and so predictable that it is hard to imagine any other result.

And of course there are less tangible ways in which quid pro quo can assert itself: If I extend myself and am kind to others, they will be kind to me; if I work hard to be good, then I will get into heaven; if I follow the Yellow Brick Road, I will end up in Oz.

Quid pro quo ... this for that.

Spiritual discipline generally begins in the realm of quid pro quo, I think. Hope and expectation inspire all sorts of efforts, all sorts of prayers, all sorts of rituals, all sorts of meditation. Without hope and expectation -- without a quid pro quo -- the effort founders ... at least in the beginning.

But what is good enough in the beginning is hardly good enough in the long haul. Pascal's Wager is a pretty slick bit of philosophy, but philosophy and a couple of bucks will get you a bus ride. Quid pro quo reaches so far and no further.

Quid pro quo ... this for that. It is worth investigating, I'd say.

"This for that" means that there are two things, a "this" and a "that." There is the current state of affairs, "this," which is traded in on a new and more pleasing state of affairs -- "that." This-for-that implies a separation and differentiation.

The carrot of spiritual endeavor is that separations are resolved or dissolved, that sad-making distances are erased, and that there is some over-arching peace to be achieved or actualized. "Oneness" is the most frequent separation asserted. "Oneness" -- another quid-pro-quo bargain. It can be confounding when things are not-two and yet not-one either, and yet, since quid-pro-quo does not reach far enough, it seems to be the only game in town. It is at this juncture that I think the spiritual aspirant can be excused for exploding, "Shit! Shit! And more shit!" Can't move forward and refusing to move back to an easy-peasy quid-pro-quo ... who wouldn't be frustrated and understandably pissed?

In Sanskrit, there is an expression, "tat tvam asi." It may not be the preferred translation, but I have read that "tat tvam asi" may be translated as "thou art that." And maybe tat tvam asi is one attempt to point out that which precedes or brings life to the "quid' and the "pro" and the "quo." No more duality. No more unification that can achieve little more than embellished separation. Things aren't for other things. How could that compute when 'other' has taken its leave? How could oneness compute when the facts are clear? No big deal ... tat tvam asi.

I just checked my computer and it assures me that today is Sunday.

Who knows? Perhaps it's true.