Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bippity, Bopitty Boo

The soul has a secret entrance to the divine nature, when all things become nothing for it.
—p. 573

There is a light in the soul where time and place have never entered. Whatever has ever touched time and place never came into this light. In this light a man should stand.
p. 576

—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, p. 573

Sometimes, in this space, I just think out loud. That is, after all, what personal diaries are for. So if I stray a bit too far from the beautiful implications of the above quotes, please forgive me.

I think that our search for Being can become overcomplicated; and whether one buries oneself in rituals, details, or magic formulas, one becomes lost.

Our cultural obsession with analysis of detail is of time and place; and if the soul does not step outside this, it never stands in the light. I fear I always want some kind of magic, as if God and the world were not good enough just as they are.

This raises a question in me. I was thinking about it a few weeks ago in New York (at this writing, I'm in Shanghai) and it occurred to me that what we were brought up on as children may have influenced us all too much.

When I was young, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, some of the most exciting and popular things for children were Disney movies. Cinderella; Mary Poppins. Fantasia.  And then there were the books — of course, I read the ones for boys: The Hardy Boys. Tom Swift. You get the picture. It was the dawn of the media age; no one saw where it was going to go, and everyone embraced it like a lover.

One of the characteristic things about this was that everything was supposed to be magical. Children were extraordinary and powerful (a dollop of nonsense that is still being served in huge piles.) Everyone was secretly special; it was a world of princes and princesses, and no matter how evil things got, there was always a deus ex machina that came from outside the real world, outside the system, to fix everything. Hence the American obsession with superheroes, which continues unabated to this day. (I can still recall holding the first issue of Spiderman in my little hands. Who knew he was going be reincarnated — and endlessly regurgitated — as a movie star?)

With all of this on the table, I remember the single childhood book that had the greatest influence on me. It was called "the Little engine that could," and it featured the idea that one had to make efforts and try in order to overcome obstacles in life. The book just fascinated me. I can't explain why.

Although the lessons this book brought appear to be outer ones, somehow they ended up inside me. For whatever reason — I suppose these things are generally inexplicable — my whole inner life ended up forming around this idea that I had the innate potential to be positive, to believe that I could make an effort, and to try to do so. There was nothing magical about it. The idea of the book centers around the premise that one can form an intention and stick to it.

This is pretty far away from magical kingdoms and problems that that get fixed by superhuman beings. It's pretty basic and stupid, actually; it supposes that one can roll up one's damned sleeves and get down to business, and, furthermore, that one ought to. It's not a particularly complicated idea. As I encounter myself in the middle of life, beset by complications and confusion, and I see others in the same position, I see many of us floundering. At this age, especially — I will be turning 59 shortly, and many of my friends are in their early 60s and staring down the barrel of the retirement gun — the evidence of magical thinking and the belief that some extraordinary event will "save" us from the consequences of our lives and ourselves are all too prevalent.

 I think this business of magical thinking, of a world where we are special and special things can happen, is actually a destructive force in many cases. I see it active in myself; and yet this kind of imagination is useless, isn't it? No one is going to wave a magic wand over us and say bippity, bopitty, boo and fix everything.

Nothing drove that lesson home more firmly than my father's death earlier this year; we grow old; we grow infirm; and we die. The fact alone ought to instill a kind of sobriety; and it is in contemplation of this, which ought to be acceptable to myself and indeed all of us, that I examine my life today. (Speaking of sobriety, most readers will know that I have spent 33 year battle against alcoholism; and anyone who thinks that battles like this are won, and that one can walk off the battlefield, doesn't understand the disease or its nature. Outward life itself may oft become a comprehensive form of addiction and drunkenness; and one had best see this early on.)

I don't have any answers. But I am fairly certain that all the magic formulas, the fairies, the masked men and women in tights and capes which we were raised on  and have conferred a Hollywood immortality on, represent a clear and present danger, because in some peculiar way, they are inside me—in all of us— in a deeply misleading way.

 I keep preferring this question of The Little Engine That Could—effort, and a positive attitude. Of course, it isn't going to save me either; but it has a practical value that the magical formulas and mystical beings don't.

The one thing that I am sure is that this question of our contact with the divine is not just a question; it is a truth.

That truth ought to flow into me and inwardly form a right attitude; but everything else that I encounter ought to be encountered practically, without recourse to magic tricks.



  1. great post. Just came across this on mary poppins (as u know Travers was in a g group:
    I can't paste from this link but one of the contributors claims the mary poppins bks 'unquestionably offer work related ideas' :)
    Interesting that you note 'outward life' as a form of addiction. We have yet to see enuf emphasis given to G's interest in 'hypnotism' - altho there is a study of Tamdgigi, (G and Hypnosis).
    today the emphasis is on receiving finer/angelic energy....but if we are 'hypnotised' how will that happen :)
    'There is a crack in everything, that's where the light gets in' (L Cohen).

  2. also, this idea of 'one can roll up one's damned sleeves and get down to business'
    is PRECISELY' what G says ad nauseam, as well as the groups, that we are INCAPABLE of doing without much work, and for some, many reincarnations :) (altho that is, of course, ludicrous).


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