Thursday, May 8, 2008
This morning, I read from Ecclesiastes. This, to me, one of the most extraordinary chapters in the Bible. A few of the passages that struck me today were as follows:
"This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun in the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot."" (Eccl. 5:18)
The verse encourages us to appreciate our lives, to take the ordinary and consume it as a gift. It reminds us that the work we do -- the effort we engage in -- is worth enjoying for itself, and not for the results it gives. Personally, I have almost always found this to be so. It is within the organic engagement of the moment that the satisfaction within life takes place.
"See, this alone I found, that God made human beings straightforward, but they have devised many schemes." (Eccl. 7:29.)
A reminder, it would seem, to abandon form in our effort to perceive and understand. It is our complexities that ensnare us. This "devising of schemes" -- the formulations of the conceptual mind -- appear as repeated themes in many religions, almost always presented as an obstacle.
In a day, occasionally, there is an extraordinary moment when nothing stands between the experience of self and the impression of reality. Ordinarily, the formulations of the conceptual mind insert themselves between these two elements (which, loosely put, are indeed the inner and outer conditions of real life.)
Enough attentive effort with the finer energies which may become available from time to time in the body can indeed produce moments -- usually unexpected ones -- when the conceptual mind drops away temporarily.
I had one such moment this afternoon at lunch when I went to the gas station to have my positive-minded friend Washington fill my Prius with gas.
I was sitting there at the pump, staring in front of me, attending to some specific events within the inner centers. In the process, the conceptual mind ceased to exist for a moment.
In front of me I saw two entities. They were trees, but the label did not arrive with the impression. Instead what took place was that I truly saw the bark of the two trees, which was not bark, but two different and quite extraordinary languages, speaking in tongues that cannot be heard with the ears.
The impression was persistent; even as the conceptual mind remarked on the matter and attempted to insert itself, the moment asserted its integrity independent of any possible interference.
Well, one could go on about this a great deal. One could even discuss what is taking place now, but it is not possible to put much of what takes place under the conditions of demand and effort into words. Perhaps it is better to just let the matter rest as reported, and spend a moment together here--me as I write, you as you read--sharing the mystery and the beauty of this life, as we drink it deeply--seeking to draw the substance of our life deep down into our bodies, so that it feeds every cell within us.
Can we sense that?
Short of attending to our inner state and turning the soil in such a way as to allow the relationships within us to grow, such things are not possible. And, in equal measure, it is important to attentively turn the soil of our outer relationships so that they, too, grow, and that they grow not twisted plants in barren soils, but healthy herbs that bear fruit for both us and those we associate with.
Over the past few days, I have been reminded once again of how extraordinarily fortunate I have been in my life in terms of those who have been sent to me to support me, and those who have stood against me to challenge me. There is a deep sense of gratitude in me for these people, and a sense of gratitude for the struggles I have had to engage in. Coming back again to the question of taking enjoyment in one's toils, which the author of Ecclesiastes recommends on at least three occasions, I see that this particular toil -- this work of staying in relationship-- is the most important food for me.
As I sit here, I consider it all in the context of ordinary daily experience-- whether it is a new kind of relationship with the bark of two different trees, or an appreciation of the relationship of a friend who reminds me of our work together. Whatever the relationship is, if I attempt to mediate, while attending to what is within me, something is created which never exists without the effort, without the attention,
...and without the gratitude.
In Ecclesiastes, we begin to get the impression if we read enough of it that we are here, from the author's point of view, to suffer. To suffer, above all, our vanities-- the many schemes that we devise.
One might argue that it is, oddly, within our iniquities themselves that we have the opportunity to discover Grace.
And if that is true, it is a transsubstantiation of an extraordinary and inexplicable nature.
God bless all of you. May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.