Sunday, December 18, 2005

Somebody Else

I keep reading about Churchill, who fascinates me, and identifying with him, knowing full well I am a character much more in the Chamberlain line. Not defeatist, exactly, but so anxious to cut my losses that sometimes I start cutting them before they are incurred.

I wonder about the usefulness of all this. When I was younger I plumed myself on this ability of mine to see my faults and imagine different modes of being, but the usefulness of such an ability depends on actually being able to change. If I can't change, then imagining different modes of being only amounts to more uncertainty and indecisiveness. I don't remember who the teacher was, but some confident, expansive, dynamic rinpoche was once asked by a student if diligent meditation practice would make him (the student) as outgoing and enterprising as he (Rinpoche) was. Had meditation made him that way? "Oh no, no," answered Rinpoche, laughing. "I was born this way."

It is true in my observation, as in Lorianne's, that meditation tends to make extroverts more introverted and introverts more extroverted. But still, we're not talking Chamberlain-to-Churchill, here. I've felt the shift myself, but it's such a gradual shift that even if I'm given forty more years, the continent's not going to drift all that far. Which is not to say that it's not worth doing. There are wider contexts than just this life. But I'm not sure that just waiting until Oregon's coast is snuggled up to Honshu is the best plan.

At issue here I suppose is the assumption -- of which I'm becoming more conscious -- that I can only do whatever life-work I'm called to do, if I'm somebody else. And so I've spent a great deal of my life's energy in trying to become this other person who can get the work done, and in recrimination because I haven't succeeded. Maybe it's better to leave self-transformation as something to incubate by way of meditation -- the only even moderately successful of all the methods I've tried -- and to look for a life-work within my immediate compass, a life-work that a shy, hesitant person might accomplish. It needn't be glorious. It need only be useful.

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