Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Motion Without Motive

No, but listen. Just how did God do it? Of all his works, the most bizarre. To squeeze himself into a man?

A man who doesn't know. "Who touched me?" he asked.

(Why, you're God. You know who touched you. But he doesn't.)

So the story of the Buddha, now, that story makes sense. And that may be the real problem with it. You see, the Buddha became God, and he never looked back. Just as you'd expect.

But when I become God, it's only for a little while. One moment. Three moments. Memorably, ten moments. So actually I perform the deed I have just designated as of all God's works, the most bizarre. How do I do it? How do I do it inadvertently, casually?

Okay. That's a mystery. But not so urgent as the other mystery, which involves similar dislocations of time and space. All the instructions, all the practices -- millions of pages of teachings, voices talking ceaselessy, the dharma spoken all over the world, like the wind in the leaves -- and the advice of friends, well-meant and intelligent -- but they all fall dumb at the critical place. The infinite regress of motivation.

So wait. Back up, Dale. Are you really saying that? Is there a time when the desire is gone but the clarity is unlit, when there is motion but no motive?

You're scaring me. But I get good advice, sometimes, and it's like standing outside of a locked car, with someone giving me all sorts of perfectly true and useful advice about how to drive.

Yes. Yes, I'm sure that's true. Yes, I most definitely appreciate your good-will, and your learning, and your experience. But the problem is not that I don't know how to drive. It's that I can't get in the car.

The orthodox answer, I think, and probably the true one, is that there is no motion without motive. I'm just not looking closely enough. Or I'm looking in the wrong place. Or, most likely of all, that I can't see the key, because it's clenched in my fist.

But mind, now -- that seems reasonable, yes, but I can't see that it's true. My experience doesn't ratify it. It assumes that fear is a chameleon. Open my hand, and look! It looks like my hand -- but only because this creature is sitting on the key, cunningly disguised as the palm of a hand. How likely is that? Well, I think we've already established that likelihood is not going to be a useful test of truth, in this situation. Whatever the answer is, it's going to be improbable.

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