Sunday, September 07, 2003

So. Back to it. Knees sore, drenched in sweat, but so much happier. A full week since I practiced last.

This last week -- well -- theme music from Star Wars -- sound of desperate space-battles -- and scrolling down on the screen:

-- Ngondro, Episode V: Samsara Strikes Back --

Temptations crowding in. Once upon a time, remembering Screwtape -- "what really delights [ the Devil ] is to gain a man's soul and give him *nothing* in return." I thought of taking as my motto, "Make the Devil pay!" As I recall I pictured it in black-letter, spelled quaintly: "Mak the Divel Paye!" I've lived under worse mottos.

But mostly, of course, the temptations are of the sort Lewis imagined: the temptation to piddle away my time in computer games, or rereading seafaring novels for the umpteenth time, curled around a bowl of ice cream, or listlessly stirring up a half-dead libido with stale pornography. Anything repetitive, hermetic, and sterile.

I focus on the livelier temptations, not because they're really more dangerous, but because they sound more like temptations, the sort of things St Anthony had to deal with. And of course they're part of the continuum: without the real delights lingering in memory the pale echoes of them wouldn't have such power. The devil does grudgingly pay, every once in a while.

But only when his back's against the wall. Which is why the cycle runs this way: when I've really been practicing, when my mind comes up out of its torpor -- that's when I become capable of real pleasure, and meet with real temptation. What I do with that temptation, actually, is not very important. So long as it doesn't draw me away from practice.

It's easy -- and absolutely fatal -- to mistake the location of the temptation. So I'm tempted to go off to the strip bar next Friday, when Cassidy and Dionna will be there. It's not actually Friday. I *can't* resist going to the bar Friday, when it's Sunday. That's not the battle: and the solution is not to resolve not to go on Friday. The battle is "who owns my mind right now?" And the solution is to turn my mind away *now*. That's all I can do. Resolutions simply fan the flames, increase my focus on Friday, and on the strip bar. Maybe the temptation will comandeer me Friday: I can't know that. But I can let Friday's temptation happen on Friday. The temptation now -- the temptation I can deal with -- is the temptation to focus on hypothetical future pleasures, rather than focusing on what's right here, right now.

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