Monday, October 13, 2003

So tired of struggling against myself, this decades-long inconclusive trench warfare, this miserable war of attrition. Sooner or later one side will run out of energy, maybe, and there will be a victory. Or, much more probably, I will simply run out of life.

The more exasperating in that I don't believe in it. I don't believe there's a wicked Dale and a good Dale struggling for dominance here. Or a good-soldier Dale and an artist Dale facing off. the whole thing's absurd, a mistake, a misunderstanding.

Why am I so often tied up in knots, immobilized? I act like a prisoner, doggedly waiting out my sentence -- passive, sullen, and given to secretive plotting. I pour my energy into mild trangressions -- writing here, for instance, when I'm supposedly working, or going to the strip clubs when I'm supposedly at the gym, or studying German over long breakfasts when I ought to be meditating -- while my "official" activities, my actual work, my dharma practice, my relations with my family, my exercise -- get squeezed into the times when my guilt has gotten the better of me and insisted I do something, for god's sake.

So it goes on.

Is it better than it used to be? Has there been any improvement over the years? Well, yes. The transgressions are less destructive. I believe in them less, they're a little less compulsive. But the basic structure of my psyche hasn't changed much. Much of my life I spend thinking like a prisoner. I'm just an older prisoner, now, less apt to kick against the pricks, cagier in my subterfuges. And in some ways it's worse: my lunges against living this way, though they were by far the most destructive phases of my life, at least reflected a determination to change things.

Ngondro seemed to be threatening to really break this open, but now it's been incorporated into the structure. Now it's part of my "official" life, the life I live for show, the life I do as little in as I can get away with. Of course, I've only managed to absorb it that way by not really doing much of it. I think it still has the potential to break things wide open.

I'm reminded of William Stafford's poem about a prisoner having locks smuggled into his cell in pies, sneaking extra fetters in past the guards, working carefully by night to fit extra bars into his cell-window. That's the sort of prisoner I am.

For the present. In some versions of the story. There are others.

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