Sunday, May 22, 2016

sap and syrup

Come March here in New England, the days grow warmer and the maple tree sap begins to flow. Cool nights and warm days are best for the collection of maple sap that drips from taps in the trees. Nowadays, long plastic tubes are sometimes used to harvest the sap, but when I was a kid, two lumbering dray horses pulled a large sledge through the remaining snow. On top of the sledge was a vat (what was it? -- 100, 200 gallon?) into which the kids would dump the harvest from the tapped trees in the surrounding woods. The vat was then dumped at the sugar shack, the boiling-fires would be set and fed, and the steam would begin to rise through the still-bare branches ... boiling, boiling, boiling the sap down like some Kentucky still. And in the end, there was maple syrup -- a thick and viscous and astronomically sweet stuff distilled from the watery sap. The flavor of that syrup seemed to reach back and back into the earth that had given birth to the sap. This was the result: A single drop of syrup spoke of gallons and gallons of sap. A single drop of syrup told the whole story and there was no longer a need to repeat every detail of the story.

Isn't this the tale of any devotion -- great and particular effort expended and then, with the passage of time, a shorthand of understanding arising? One phrase is enough to paint an entire tableau ... and everyone's tableau is different. But no one has the energy to reprise all the energy spent: The phrase or drop of syrup will do. Others may consider it far too facile or just plain wrong, but that's OK -- sweet is sweet.

I think of spiritual adventure. Drip, drip, drip. And of the various drops of syrup that I employ and others may deride. They're just reminders of the warming soil for me and some sound like this:

-- No baby ever came forth from the luxuries of its mother's womb imbued with a spiritual persuasion. Spiritual life is an acquired taste and this means that individual responsibility is a sine qua non. No amount of wriggling or petition or argumentation can erase this fact. Read 'em and weep.

-- Just because you are indispensable to the universe does not mean the universe needs your help. Yes, kindness is a more salutary direction whether in terms of self or in terms of others, but cruelty is apparent at every human turn and so must be granted a place at the dinner table.

-- Explanations are like cock-teasers -- all promise and no delivery.

-- Belief and hope are useful tools in the initial stages of spiritual adventure, but over the long haul they are destined by their nature to lose force as experience kicks in. Belief and hope are limited and yet what is sought is not. From this it may rightly be inferred that the deeper the belief and the more touching the hope, the greater the doubt. And yet what is sought is beyond doubt.

-- Nothing is for free, but when has freedom ever concerned someone else?

-- Is there room for laughter. I think there is.
These are not clubs I would use to beat others into submission. They are just bits of syrup in my life. A formatted spiritual adventure, of whatever sort, has only one purpose -- to provide an adherent with the ammunition to shoot down that persuasion and recognize that "this is bullshit" and "I can do it better." And that observation is 100% on target ... you can do it better because you are the sole proprietor of whatever spiritual persuasion you choose. You can do it better -- that's the point of a formatted spiritual persuasion.

You can do it better.

So do it. 

That's the whole point. 

Drip, drip, drip.

Just noodling.

1 comment:

  1. To feel joy and not be foolish. I doubt such a pill is impossible, or would ever be made available to the masses. And so we must do the hard way what they've yet to find a way to outlaw. Religion generally props up those who make such decisions, and so few of us will ever make something honest of it.