The strident, even desperate, tone of today's politics. The exhortations to consume and buy which roar over our television sets and radios. Gangs of pudgy, motorcycle riding near-the-end-of-middle-age men invading towns on weekends, seeking a lost youth which exists only in their imagination, and which can in any event never be found again.
I notice that nowadays, even many of those who write about spiritual matters often have a hidden but nonetheless palpable negativity; again, proclamations, exhortations. No matter who we are or where we find ourselves, we live in the age of proclamation. And everywhere, this negativity; even those who claim to work on themselves, angry and frustrated about this, that, and everything. A determination to interfere, to tell others they are doing it wrong.
When did we forget how to be quiet? Or did we ever really know in the first place? Righteousness, which already starts out suspect, goes bad.
Deep within us is something starving, something which can only be fed by proper impressions of the planet. All of the substitutes we invent are unable to slake this thirst; the soul was born into, and longs for, impressions of the natural world–plants, trees, animals. All of these elements are part of what we are, yet we have extinguished them and replaced them with the equivalent of corn syrup.
Well then; these are the impressions that fall, willy-nilly, into this organism trying to organize itself. Many of them seem useless; only those that go deep, into the marrow, can be used for anything practical.
And it is this question, above all, that comes up: what is practical? What can add to practice? What feeds the inner life?
Walking the famous dog Isabel towards the Hudson River today at lunch time, it struck me that I, like everyone else, am full of judgments.
The mind seizes everything.
It presumes to judge: in fact, judgment itself is a presumption, that is, an assumption that begins in advance of what is there. The mind encounters life and says, “Oh yes, of course. It's just like this.” Or, “it's just like that.” Or, " It ought to be such and such.”
There is only one thing that is true here, and that is that everything is just like it is.
There is such a thing as real Judgment. Real judgment-- as opposed to the egoistic determinations I slap like Band-Aids over everything I see– has already taken place before anything arrives in me, because what is, simply is.
Real Judgment takes place objectively, within the relationship between the events, circumstances, and objects outside of me. It begins as an objective process, and yet the instant it reaches me, the mind seizes it and turns it into a subjective one.
Is it possible to just be a quiet piece of stone that a shadow falls on?
Can the mind be still?
Can the breath become so quiet that it's almost unnecessary?
If the world arrives within me, and there is no judgment to meet it, no assumption, no predetermination, then it expresses something more real. Instead of meeting a kind of thinking that is forever in the air and in orbit, it encounters gravity. The organism has the potential for gravity; if energy in it is rightly aligned, the gravity draws one down in a straight line through the center of the self, towards the surface of the planet, and everything that meets the senses aligns itself with that vertical direction.
This organic sense of being, this gravity, cannot be cultivated or forced; it can only be encountered and valued. We do not orchestrate such instruments, or the tunes they play: we are in the audience, invited to listen carefully, but not to act as critics. There is a need for this music to be received softly, gently–yes, we must go gently into its good light, which is not dying–no, not at all.
On the contrary, it is seeking birth, and life.
Our problem is that instead, we rage. We rage out of some obscure conviction that the light is dying. Yet the light never dies. Certainly, it darkens when it enters the narrow corridors of our mind; and maybe this is where the fear arises. But it cannot die.
Our fear of its extinction is just one more sign of how profoundly we misunderstand everything.
May our prayers be heard.