Thursday, July 13, 2017

Organic Agreement of Being, part 2

Notes from Shanghai: April 7 2017

This morning, I began to read Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf. Part of my program to fill in voids in my understanding of English literature, which were created by my concentration on German literature during my college years.

One of the things that strikes me this morning is that the attraction of the external so strongly encourages us to forget to lead our own lives. We are exposed to so many other things; so many other lives, so many other influences; and each one attracts us. Instead of being drawn into ourselves to see how we are and what we are, we are drawn outside towards how other people are and what they are. This is a nonsensical conflict; because of course we ought to invest ourselves quite firmly in what we are, and yet this tension arises. One wants to be someone else.

At the same time, as Woolf so subtly and deftly captures it in the very first pages of her book, sacred influences flow into us. They are varied; and sometimes a person who is "insane" is more open than others, more prone to see the transcendent in life. One must pay back from this secret deposit of exquisite moments, thinks Clarissa to herself; and it is so. This is the sensitivity to the small and daily things that Meister Eckhart said were so vital to an understanding of God's priorities.

It brings me back to this question of organic agreement — to agreeing to my life as it flows in. After 17 years of studying this question of being a vessel into which the world flows, which has led to as many new questions as it has understandings — probably more — this question of the inward and outward flowing of life and being is still acute. Even if one is aware of it and responsive to it, the question remains as to whether or not one is in agreement with it. To be in organic agreement with it is to have a consonance of purpose between the intellect, sensation of the body, and the intelligence of feeling. Only by bringing these three parts together at the point where the inflow takes place creates an agreement: that agreement is a harmony.

Following the trace of the words, one discovers that agreement comes from a Latin root that means pleasing; and of course the word harmonious is also used. Harmonious is pleasing; agreement is pleasing. 

That is to say, it satisfies something real; and satisfaction is a kind of food. 

By extension, agreement is a kind of food; and agreement with what I am, with who I am, and where I am consists of a willingness to acknowledge that food and consume it. If we look carefully at Virginia Woolf's treatment of her characters at the beginning of the book, we see that they are accepting and consuming their lives in one way or another; so there is an understanding implicit in the writing that perhaps hasn't been recognized from the esoteric point of view.

I don't bring this up to extol the virtues of Virginia Wolf; one simply has to take into account that this woman, who had an enormous and insightful talent not just for writing but in actually seeing things about the human condition, suffered enormously during the course of her life, and as a consequence saw some things that generally escape us. This question of harmonious agreement — which, by the way, absolutely can include conflict, it's important to remember that — is essential to understanding the human condition. 

I don't agree with my condition; this is where all the problems begin. If there were a harmonious agreement present in life, an organic agreement as to what is, I'd be quite different. Instead I begin by disagreeing; first with myself, and then afterwards with everyone else. 

I can see the results of this all around me, yet I'm blind to the fact that it begins with my failure to achieve an organic agreement of being within me. 


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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