The reader is being reimagined. While this is happening, I’ll shake my notebooks free of the rejected scraps of previous essays.
After that, maybe a new phase can begin. A phase in which writing plays second fiddle to something I can’t really name. I’m not a writer and I have no intention of being hitched to any writerly discipline.
The commitment to a discipline feels narrowing. An intentional commitment feels like I’m putting on blinders and being yoked to a practice that promises its own enticing infinity. An infinity within a narrowing frame.
Within the frame of a painting, a book, a movie (maybe), a garden, something infinite can emerge. But if these disciplines become the method by which we find meaning in living, then they become limited infinities.
Math is no doubt an infinite world. There is no limit to the creative derivation of formulae. But to those of us who are not mathematicians, it’s also clear that math is a limited world, regardless of the infinity of its particular dimension.
The same is true of any art. When I yoke my life energy to an admittedly infinite dimension such as writing, I lose sight of the frame or limitations of that infinity. Then writing begins to dominate perception, to become the destination or purpose of living. Then nothing has meaning until it finds expression within that limited infinity, in words. Or in math, or in sculpture or dance, or even in a garden.
It’s the difference between loving those activities and being yoked by those activities. And the difference is often hard to distinguish. But I wonder about that. I think we actually know the difference on a subtle level. We feel the pull of ambition as a force dividing our attention, driving us beyond the last trace of wild joy that initially made us adept at one thing or another.
It’s difficult to know how to handle a talent, how to keep it subservient to an invisible and uncontrollable energy. How to find the true fulfillment of any skill.
Words, for instance, have the potential to bring us to the edge of themselves, to show us the edge of their own infinite frame. Thus, by default, opening us to a kind of natural humility lost in the self-deceiving cons that come with any over-wrought aspiration. And most are overwrought.
And until that edge is discovered, words crawl all over the world, smothering perception in a kind of mental glaucoma.
It’s not that words need never be used again! But they need to know their own functional limit. Then they blossom like a flower in its proper location.
Anyways, this all relates to the first rejected scrap I’d like to post (below).
Rejected Scrap #1: I Am Not My Better Angel
I would bet a billion dollars that even members of ISIS feel righteous, feel like the good guys.
I’m sure the US Army feels righteous too. And the Russians. Armies who all believe they are separate from one another, and separate from their own darkening shadows. And trying to beat back the evil-doers, thereby justifying their own evil.
And by now all sides have plenty of evidence that the other is evil. Drones, suicide bombings, throat slashings, invasions.
But let’s look at the peace activists, because I don’t think they’re much different.
Why is it that so many good intentions fragment into competing causes or devolve into personal catfights? Why do even the most inspired intentions inevitably funnel through the narrowing lens of ambition?
Look at how the apex assumption of separation tacitly reasserts the old fracture between activist and “nature”, activist and evil-doer; leader and follower.
So even these well-intentioned movements devolve into controlled, warlike pursuits of idealistic ends. They lose touch with their own inspired moment of origin. And they become self-defensive, denying the warlike seeds they themselves spew. Our love for the earth is eventually worn out through this translation from moment of inspiration to movement.
The assumption of separation urges me to find a way of fighting back the onrushing environmental catastrophes. But where do we end up if the route is predicated upon this divide? We end up at war.
A war mentality doesn’t believe in unforced change. It wants to reach across the imagined divide between itself and others, with solutions, with gifts. Therefore it tries to impose peace and freedom on the enemy, the other, before learning to read the implications of its own warlike spirit.
The assumption of separation lays the fault on others, not on my own good intentions. It delays learning about my shadow side until after the limited victory is won. But one battle rolls into another.
An assumption of separation is an assumption of the need for control. There have been too many false prophets of spontaneity. They flounced about with mere childish abandon, mistaking their own self-conscious whims for real selfless absorption in the world.
What I wish to acknowledge now, contrary to all conventional wisdom, is that a genuine immersion in the world, purposeless, aimless, wandering, spontaneous and uncontrollable, is nothing less than an empathetic response. These moments are inherently responsible. The organizations they form don’t evolve into self-protective, self-sustaining and self-propagating structures which subjugate perception and experimentation to its rigid context.
A perfect example is Bohm Dialogue, which has no fixed purpose other than to learn. It’s a structure that has nothing to do with duration, is entirely circumstantial, lasting forever or a second.
I don’t say this in order to demean the good people themselves. I say this to make the shadow of all good intentions become more obvious. Simply because it’s the truth. Come what may. I don’t have a program to correct it. I just think it needs to be recognized.