It's Groundhog Day, and I did a thread on Twitter that I was thinking about yesterday. I was trying to figure out how to do it here so it would show up there as a thread. I don't think it can be done.
Anyway, my office is still a catastrophe and there are other things I probably ought to be doing, but I feel compelled to do this. The thought of my own mortality has been with me more and more of late. I don't know why. It doesn't bother me, but it does kind of offer some direction. Maybe that's a good thing.
A little background first. I went through some stuff back in the day, more than twenty years ago now. Much of it was unpleasant, but some of it was amazing, transcendental and, ultimately, transformational. It wasn't easy, and I didn't do it alone and some people suffered along with me. But I'm glad it happened.
So now the disclaimers. First, I'm an authority on nothing, I make all this shit up. You're encouraged to do your own thinking, it's the only thinking that matters.
Second, some of this may sound glib or facile, or it may feel like it's minimizing the pain you or others may feel. That's not intended. I acknowledge the pain, and I'm sorry you're feeling it. I think I'm safe in saying, in the case most of you, as it was with me, it will pass. Won't mean the end of pain, but feelings pass. I should have included that in the Twitter thread.
Herewith, the lessons:
The inner voice is an unreliable narrator. It's a habituated recording that mostly plays on a loop. But it's there all the time, and you would be wise not to trust it.
Introspection is a useful habit to cultivate. Consider it interrogating the inner narrator. Likewise, meditation can lower the volume.
All forms of personal transformation involve loss. That means you will grieve. You will suffer. You will experience the five stages of grief, and they will in large measure parallel the hero's journey described by Joseph Campbell.
I know the five stages of grief are out of favor with many, and they've been misused and misunderstood by some, but in my experience they're a pretty accurate description of how we process loss. Campbell is likewise a problematic figure to some, but I think the hero's journey narrative holds up quite well and can provide a valuable context and framework for understanding one's life.
We all want to be the hero's of our own narratives, do we not?
You see this in pop culture a lot. Examples: Groundhog Day, The Matrix, Joe Vs the Volcano, Cast Away, The Legend of Bagger Vance, the list goes on.
Each is a meditation on death. Chuck Noland didn't survive on that island, if you think he did you missed the point.
I was thinking about Cast Away this morning on my walk, and I had a surprising epiphany, I didn't think there were any left in that movie for me. It'll come up later.
If you find the inner voice telling you "It'll get better when...", it's a lie.
"It" never gets better until you do.
"It" isn't the problem. You are.
There's a typo in the tweet, corrected here. We insert our ego in all the wrong places, and ignore it in all the places where we should be paying attention to it. "It" doesn't get better when I get more shelves for all these cameras. It gets better when I stop feeling like have to have them.
The only power we have is the power to choose. That's the only power anyone has. Our character, the meaning of our lives, is an emergent property of the consequences of our choices.
I did a bunch of posts about the nature of power on the old Groundhog Day blog. Suffice to say, this is really the only one you need to understand.
This next one is the epiphany I had this morning on my walk.
When Chuck Noland said, "I had power over nothing," it wasn't a declaration of despair. It was an exaltation of liberation.
We do have power over nothing.
The negation of nothingness, an act of faith, is the foundation of existence.
The "pay attention" part was directed at myself. How did I miss that?! It's huge! Huge!
"Dear God, whose name I do not know, thank you for my life. I forgot... how big!" (That's from Joe Vs. The Volcano. They're basically the same movie.)
All we have are moments to live. Where you choose to allow your consciousness to exist is up to you. The past and the future don't exist. You make your choices in the moment.
No matter where you go, there you are.
Be here now.
You can't own what doesn't belong to you. You can't fix other people. Which leads to perhaps one of the biggest lessons.
Love isn't owning other people. We each own our own shit. Compassion is probably harder anyway. Work on that.
We are not here to "change the world."
The world is here that we may learn to change ourselves.
This is the foundation of Ghandi's "Be the change you wish to see in the world."
The world is here and you are in it to learn to change yourself.
If you're in the world, and you're seeing cops killing black men in the streets and your inner voice is telling you, "They should have complied."
Well, kind of explains why we're in the mess we're in, I think.
As an aside, if the inner voice is telling to become part of a system to "change it from within," it's lying.
You never change the system.
The system, every system, changes you.
Beware, my lobbyist friends.
This is just kind of a converse of the preceding lesson, together with the unreliability of the inner voice. None of us, I think, ever truly escapes all the influences of the systems we're a part of. But we can try to be aware of them, and use that awareness to inform better choices.
Your mileage may vary.
Faith and fear. Love is faith in action, the first derivative of faith for the calculus types. Courage is love in action, the second derivative of faith.
Anger is fear in action. Hate is anger in action.
Balance the equations.
The two aspects consciousness presents to the universe. Yin and Yang. Yes and no. Faith and fear. Haraclitus' binding opposites.
Okay, that's probably enough. Nobody can teach you this, you have to learn it on your own. You have to take the step. You must enter the woods. The wasteland is an unpleasant place, but it reveals much.
It's probably not enough, but it's a good start. Anyway, I'd hate to die without passing those along.
We're all in this together, and none of us gets out of here alive.
I'll put all this together in a post at the marmot, with likely some expansions and diversions.
But I'll close with this:
And here goes...
"May the Lord bless you and keep you:
The Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you:
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace."
Happy Groundhog Day.
I'm not much of a religious person. Mitzi and I were in Ireland and we stopped by the church where Yeats is buried. We went into the church and the Priestly Benediction was on a wall or something. I'd heard it, of course, but not often and certainly not the decades since I'd stopped going to church. Mitzi said that it was a Jewish prayer. The priest came out and we had a nice chat and Mitzi recited it in Hebrew.
For some reason, it spoke to me. Still does. When I was so angry about my congressman, John Rutherford, lying to me and his other constituents a few years ago, I closed a blog post with it as kind of an appeal for myself.
Anyway, we're all in this together and none of us is getting out of here alive. I wish you good luck in your journey.
Happy Groundhog Day.Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:49 Thursday, 2 February 2023