Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Another impression garnered from a morning walk along the Hudson with the famous dog Isabel, who does not make up stories.
One of the traps that I think we fall into is to perceive our life as a story, a myth, a romance that we make up as we go along.
It is true that our life is an adventure in which we never know what will happen next. The unfortunate fact is that the ego tempts us to make up the story line. Just about everybody falls into this trap; we all begin to invent reasons and meanings for everything, and to write scripts not only about how things ought to turn out, but also scripts about how things should have taken place.
We all become the authors--and the victims-- of a perpetual rewrite. We are heroes, we are victims--above all, we are always the central character. Everything revolves around us. The rest of the world is just the backdrop, the canvas upon which we paint a master picture. (Okay, I admit I am mixing metaphors. So sue me.)
This kind of thinking is what leads us to feel regret for the past, and invent relatively absurd fantasies about the future, almost none of which will ever come true. If we learn to observe ourselves, we can see ourselves inventing tiny little fantasies like this all day long. The habit penetrates down to the smallest details of life. It swells up to occupy entire lifetimes.
This morning I was musing that the parable of Don Quixote is pathetic for two reasons. One of them is that he is completely wrapped up in his self invented fantasy of the life of chivalry. He absolutely and irrevocably believes that everything he does, he does for good, and for honor, and that all his actions are noble.
We understand that to him these things are real, and that is why he gains our sympathy. At the same time, we see that he is a complete idiot. He invents one fantastic story after another based on his personal interpretation of events. All of his ideas about things are wrong.
This complete and utter misunderstanding of what life is is one source of pathos.
The second source is how wrong everything keeps turning out. His fantasies lead him to take one colorfully wrong step after another, and he does objective damage in successive situations as he labors under the illusion of doing what is "good. "
There you have it in a nutshell. Every single one of us is Don Quixote.
How can we live in this moment of life without inhabiting a storyline of our own making? How do we separate the bathwater from the baby and throw it out?
Perhaps we have to start from scratch. Every single moment has to become a blank slate, a moment that exists only within this moment.
Pretend there is no story. Pretend that nothing ever happened before this. Pretend that we are characters on the first almost blank page of a novel who have been given an identity, but nothing else. Everything that happens from here on in happens unexpectedly-- incredibly-- and the character must react to it with the most intelligent improvisation and sensitivity he can muster. He has nothing to rely on but his own heart beating, his own being -- who he is, as he is.
Now pretend that that it is like this all the time. Every new second is a new sheet of paper and the character is always a new character. An entire unexplored life is before him, in which anything is possible. Lets play the devil's advocate --nothing has ever happened before, nothing ever can happen before, because there is no before. And nothing can happen ever after, because there is no ever after.
Happily ever after is a fairy tale.
I agree this sounds impractical. Nonetheless, I believe there is a possibility in front of us to throw away much of what we think we are and much of where we think we come from. We can toss the assumptions and the presumptions and get on with the consumption, that is, the consumption of life from a point of view that begins in an original moment -- a moment as original as the unique and true originality of each moment.
The less baggage we carry with us, the fresher everything seems. If we invest ourselves and our experience of this moment, and accept it with as much joy as we can muster from an attitude that begins from optimism and an inherent faith in the truth of this moment, I think things will weigh us down less.
until tomorrow --
Till the soil, tend the garden, toes in the dirt with joy.