Or suppose you just opened the empty page and waited long enough for something to arise?
Monday, November 23, 2020
I would guess that my most consistent error, in recent years, has been not making the space. Not sitting still. Yes, I have let myself be eaten up by political thought. I had to do the political thinking, because my former thinking was wrong. But my conclusion at the end of it all was that I had nothing very useful to say, certainly not directly. It may all rise to the surface eventually. Who cares? No point in taking responsibility for dubious futures.
If there's something I have spent years of thought and meditation on, it's just that fundamental, first question: how should I live?
And although I manifestly do not know how to live, I also manifestly am further along than I was before.
When I began blogging, I was first engaging with Buddhism. A long and fruitful struggle, ongoing. I might still qualify as a Buddhist, I don't know. I've misplaced my membership card. But anyway, at one point I had a bit of a readership that looked to me for wisdom, which was gratifying, if poisonous. If I knew so much about domesticating my mind, why was it so frantic and feral? Why could I not control (for instance) my eating? I felt fraudulent. I backed off. I thought: before I swagger around dispensing advice, shouldn't I actually be able to change my behavior?
So I did actually change my behavior, eventually. It was a huge effort, and is still a huge effort. It has been a surprisingly practical and detail-oriented effort. One of my many false expectations was that something would fall into place. I'd get my mind and my attitude right and suddenly the difficulties would fall away.
That's not what happened at all. Instead I had to attack a thousand small problems and solve them one by one. What time do I eat lunch? Do I add carrot slices to my salad? Do I put salt in my morning oatmeal?
In a way, you could say it was just a matter of getting my mind and my attitude right: but much of what I had to do was lose my disdain for practical planning and detail. The right food has to be in the right place at the right time, or I'll eat the wrong food. I have to know how much I'm going to eat before I start, or I'll eat too much.
So here I am, three years later. I've succeeded in that one behavior, anyway. A year and a half of losing the weight, and two years of keeping it off: I no longer worry much about the possibility of relapse. But I come back to weighing the role of meditation in it, and my role as a dispenser of wisdom, and I find that I'm not very interested in it any more. I know far less about how anyone ought to live than I thought I did, and anyone else's way will lie through a thousand details, just as mine did: details I know nothing about and can't meaningfully help with. I don't know if you should put salt in your oatmeal. I don't know if you should meditate.
Probably this dispenser-of-wisdom stuff was mostly in my head to begin with: I didn't really have gaggles of people clustering around me wanting to know how to live. Such attraction as I had from the start, maybe, was my willingness to confess that I didn't know how to live. That allure, anyway, I should still have.