Memory drifts and fades
By mid-August thousands of birds that flooded this valley in April to mate and raise their broods have moved on, leaving a feeling of vacancy in their wake, a feeling now punctuated by the solitary trill of a grasshopper.
They are gone and I can barely remember the splendor of their songs, or the curved lines of their flight. Memory is a crude tool. Even when exercised for optimum performance it only serves to keep a fraction of our experience within our psychic powers of recall. Limitations demand we rely on seldom examined filters to determine what’s worth saving and what should get discarded. It’s a tiny sliver of experience that memory captures, a scant whisper of the reality we traveled through, now fading with the light of another precious day.
Life on Earth, or the Enlivened Earth?
This lichen clings to the blue stone of our patio. I’ve probably stepped on it dozens of times this summer going about my business. And while I’ve gone to great lengths trumpeting the value of care in my process, from the standpoint of this here lichen, I am simply oblivious. Yet to find a similar life form to lichen on any other rock floating in space would be considered the discovery of the century.
In my process I’ve gone to great lengths to acknowledge my bumpkin-ness, the sophomoric greenhorn that never quite gets what is really going on. Jung made the point that we are but in caveman kindergarten. And to that end, whenever we work hard enough and dig deep enough, it’s possible to come up against the broader collective reality that is awaiting a breakthrough to consciousness. Is it really life on earth? Perhaps the point is that we are part of the enlivened earth. The quickening that occurs around this planet is not designed primarily for man and lest we wake up to our ignorance, a rude awakening awaits us. The scales of the climate will happily topple us from our usurpers thrown.
An offering from the stillness one step beyond confusion…
“All this talk about values!” I recall a philosophy professor bemoan during a particularly passionate (complexed?) lecture. He wanted philosophical discourse to be focused elsewhere for sure, primarily on his sense of ideas, which by the way, he valued more.
For him, values indicated that the psychological was seeping into his treasured philosophical domain, and he wanted no part of it. Since those formative years in my journey, my path has veered in a decidedly psychological direction. The lived challenge of moral experience consistently outweighs any consideration for ethical systems of understanding. Although it would likely lead to the dismay of my dear professor, I’ve become somewhat of a champion for values.
The difficulty, and perhaps the insight at the root of my professors disdain, is that values held aloft in the abstract like a flag, and not embodied in our lives, can lead to hypocrisy. When we do this, I would argue, we in fact value hypocrisy, but just not in a conscious manner.
The value at the core of my life operates both extrinsically and intrinsically, getting embodied in a variety of private rituals that are offerings of and to soul. The alchemists called it their opus. I prefer practice. Without practice, all the other values simply drift off. There is no traction.
The difference, for instance, between an active practice of acceptance and a passive “whatever” is night and day. Practice can teach us to turn affliction on its head. It guides us to let go of those harried attempts to control what will never yield. “Letting go” need not be a cliché. Acceptance, properly integrated, forms the raw material of authentic offerings to all the unseen forces that shape our lives, stretched as we are taught as the shaman’s drum, between heaven and hell.