(About a 9 minute read)
Grey skies, greyer rain.
We shelter our hearts
Together you and I
Beneath our bright
Where are the best blogs? I’ve come across several in the past few weeks, but not nearly enough to slake my depraved thirst for other folk’s pleasantly twisted, often unique, vibrantly creative, or revealingly truthful perspectives on all things life.
If you know of any great blogs that fit any of those descriptions — or for that matter, are great and snerklesome in any other way — please link me to them! I’d love to check them out!
A young man, about 20 I would guess, recently told me that we know we are right when “the voice within” confirms we are right. He was responding to another person’s question, “How do we know when something is true?”
I think, from what I’ve heard and read, that the notion we can discern the truth or falsity of an idea merely according to whether or not some “inward voice” tells us that it sits well with us, or feels right or true to us, is a popular one these days.
Frankly, I also suspect it is evidence of a disturbing lack of a competent education. If that young man honestly didn’t graduate from high school knowing how — at least in principle — to sort what is true or from what isn’t true, he should consider suing his school board for negligent injury and malpractice, and name his teachers as co-defendants.
He should go for blood, too! Settle for nothing less than hundreds of thousands. It’s arguable that part of the foundation of any decent education is to learn what makes something true or not.
Whether the law will actually allow him to file such a suit is almost irrelevant to the fact that he does honestly deserve compensation — if he was not himself somehow to blame for being left ignorant of how to judge whether or not something is true.
He deserves it because he’s almost certainly going to pay for it again and again in the currency of messed up life decisions until he does learn.
Every politician and scam-shark out there can already smell his blood.
I confess. As you probably suspected, I just now cheerfully made up the newborn word, “snerklesome”. I have no idea what it should mean. Do you? Suggestions, please!
If I had this day to own
I think I could sit here for an hour
With nothing more important
Than coffee and this pen
And how much better living’s been
I don’t do a lot these days —
It’s so crazy, but it’s fun
Just recalling what I’m missing
It ain’t about good or bad
Or anything so grim —
I remember well your beauty —
But the mornings still have been
Lighter now without you.
Is the desire for rebirth, renewal a human universal? It seems ubiquitous enough: It’s found in every culture and society that I myself know of. Perhaps it really is a universal, or nearly universal, trait of humans.
I really do need more blogs to read. “Please, sir, I want some more.”
“What? More? The boy wants more?” Said the master bloggers in unison and disbelief.
“That boy will be hung”, said the author of a science blog. “I know that boy will be hung.”
The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty. — Kenko, Essays in Idleness (Tsurezuregusa).
Sometime around the age of 50, I began to notice how predictable, repetitious, and boring life was becoming for me. The weariness took hold gradually, but steadily grew over the next several years until it reached something of a crisis in that I was becoming lethargic and dissatisfied under the weight of it.
Ironically, those years were still the happiest of my life up until that time. Yet the boredom rose and began to threaten that happiness. What to do?
I would prefer to tell you now that I found the perfect solution, but I didn’t, and I still haven’t. I have, however, managed to greatly reduce the problem through more than one means, most of them commonsense (“Try new things”, “Break at least some of your routines”, “Turn to the arts and sciences for fresh ideas and ways of seeing”, “Start a guerilla war with the kids on your lawn”, etc.). Some of them, however, are perhaps a little bit more than commonsense.
When I came across Kenko several years ago, I was struck by two things. First, the novelty of his view of uncertainty. Most of us, I think, are annoyed by uncertainty. We even seem to run from it. For instance, how often do we embrace all too tightly beliefs about the world that we cannot possibly — if we were honest with ourselves — be that certain of? And how often do we cling to old, outdated, now worthless habits and routines for no better reason than they make our days more predictable? We are usually inclined, I believe, to view uncertainty as anything but “precious”.
So Kenko’s view of uncertainty first struck me for a view I’d never come across before. And in the second place, it struck me for a view I didn’t understand. Why did he think uncertainty was so precious? Was he really seeing something? Something I myself had never seen before? If so, then what could it be?
Something I’ve become acutely aware of is how we tend to turn to stone over the years: To ossify in our beliefs, daily activities, relationships, and self-identities and images. Indeed, I’ve written about how and why our self-image can become our greatest tyrant and oppressor here. The problem is that it does very little good to merely say to ourselves, “Don’t do it!” That’s about as effective in practice as “Just abstain until marriage” sex-ed.
What has worked best for me to solve the ossification problem is to look for uncertainties in my self-images or self-identities. Seeing how uncertain my notions of myself are has significantly helped me to hold at least many of those notions tentatively, lightly. It even seems to me now that a lightness of heart or spirit begins with a lightness of self-image.
Thank you, Kenko. You got me to barking up the right trees, sniffing the right crotches, for an at least partial solution to my problem.
Is there an absolute reality?
That’s a bit different from asking if there’s an absolute truth. Ideas are like maps, reality is like the terrains the maps refer to, and truth is a quality of the relationships between the maps and their terrain. So when we ask, “Is there an absolute reality”, we are not really asking if there is an absolute truth.
Artists of all kinds so often think they must seek out new truths. Perhaps their most vital service to us, however, is to make old, solid, and well-known truths once again visible to us.
For such old truths have become clichés, and few of us see much beyond the surface of a cliché, see it fresh, and as if for the first time. Consequently, old truths so frequently have less impact than they should (for our own sake) have on our views, actions, and attitudes.
Recently, I saw a man in anger destroy nearly at once several friendships that only moments before were important to him. He did it because he felt slighted by two or three individuals, and to retaliate, he entirely broke off relations with a whole small group of people, and not just the two or three members of the group who he felt had slighted him.
“A man can only take so much”, he said.
But it was not the man who suffered the slights, it was the ego in the man who suffered the slights. A more rational thing to have done might have been to look more deeply into the matter, for when someone slights you, they either do so accidentally, or with just cause, or with injustice.
If accidentally, forgive them. If just, apologize and forgive them. If with injustice, dump them and forgive them (Forgiveness is not for their sake, but for yours. It’s unhealthy to carry around a grudge). But whatever you do, don’t lose friendships valuable to you over such slights. The poor fool was a puppet of his pride.
We make too much of beliefs.
We are taught to make too much of them by our cultures, and then we never seem to get around to de-programming ourselves of such an insidious notion. We are even taught that we are our beliefs. That they are the very substance of our selves. But a self made out of beliefs — no matter how profound those beliefs are — is a shallow, superficial self.
For beliefs — even when true — are no more than the maps we use to negotiate reality, and just like paper maps, they are not at all the reality they refer to. A person who thinks his or her beliefs are their selves is like a hiker who thinks the trail map they hold in their hands is the trail itself. You can’t lose your virginity by reading a textbook in biology, and you can’t really know yourself if all you know are your beliefs about yourself.
Beliefs should be worn lightly, tentatively, hesitantly. They should never become balls and chains on our ankles. How, then, can we dance light-heartedly through life?
Laughing under summer skies —
Would have thought we could fly —
And the winds pass on by.
Holding hands while the river flowed —
Came a time to let you go —
And the waters pass on by.
Now for all that I know
You have a good life
Filled with the stars,
The sun, and the trees.
But all that I do know —
It’s the life you should have,
You were to me.