Monday, May 26, 2008

I Don't Mine

This week's "topic" for classes is "What *Can* You Take With You?". I woke this morning with "Can't take it with you" running through my head and I wanted to consider what it is that folks do take along, from lifetime to lifetime, creaturedom to plantdom, humandom to sentient specks in the airstreamdom.  The quick and dirty answer, to me, seems to be the universe of creativity, the deeper well beneath us which is constant and full, larger than us not out of some kind of SUV superiority (and their sales are on the decline with rising gas prices, by the way!) rather, just out of a "natural hierarchy" as Chogyam Trungpa would put it - we are the four out of a million visual bits per moment we can digest - or, we think we are only that, anyway, that plus the constructed whole we make from those parts and then some - and underneath, emanating far more and receiving back the core of our actual lives, often bigger than even we can see, is that - that universe, that creative force, what some call god, some call spirit, and what I tend to just call "universe".  As John McQuade, my Miksang teacher, puts it: "just rely on the universe to do its thing - it is far more creative than you will ever be. Let the universe take a photograph of ITSELF." As Natalie Goldberg puts it "A moment so great that you were able to get out of the way enough to write down". None of this is meant to be derogative toward that ego, that personality, that bit more than the parts that makes the whole - we need who we are, and when it's not getting in the way, it's quite lovely, actually. However, when it comes to creativity, which I suspect is far more of our lives, in the natural science of nature all the way to creating the things we call "art"; when it comes to creativity, the universe has it together better than four bits a moment, so we best move out of the way.

My Marquette students would balk at this - I can hear them in my head. "What about reason?" Yep. Reason helps us drive a car. Reason has helped us get this far and this far is nothing to not write home about. But what about beyond reason? Even Einstein didn't think that reason was everything. I certainly don't denigrate it, but there's no reason to believe reason every time anymore. 


"Sleep comes, it's like a dream...I don't mine." Listening to Psychedelic Furs again a bit lately, and thinking of my teenage years. The period especially, the "blue" period as my therapists would call it, between the deaths of my parents. What is mine of that period and what is not? So much of adolescence felt like a dream, still does, and does now to many teens I know. A very lucid dream. The kind of nightmare when you wake, realize you are dreaming, and are awake in the dream knowing your are only asleep, but not really awake, and won't until the dream has let you go. Hard to own things in that space, this unowned space, where the universe is in pure creation, psychological shaping, and control is lost, reasoning lost, to the whimsy of wired together memories. Like those braces connectors so many of my friends had to wear - wired heads worked mouths closed over the sleeping hours so their inherited teeth could straighten their speech upon waking. I feel like I am still straightening my speech sometimes, frozen in a postmortem scream at 19. That sounds so dramatic, and I apologize to the invisible "you's" for doing such imagery in a period when I don't feel that way most of the time. But the fact is that it has been the long slow orphan thaw since then, and only just now does it feel like I can begin to own what happened and when, distant enough, my own voice full and rich, used to lull others into contemplative states. 


The other facet of the assignment is this: "Who benefits from this class?". It's a bit of a trick question - the trick question we've been playing this whole session - if you say you, it can't not benefit others; someone else means secretly you as well. The bodhisattva question, the tonglen question, the question of deep interrelatedness that doesn't go beyond reason - no, reason is perfectly capable of handling it, as reason itself was created and can handle any creative adaptations. No, the question is this: is there anything we take away that is just for us or just for others? As Chogyam Trungpa puts it - "No privacy". This idea terrified me when I first heard it, new to - and quite enjoying, thank you! - boundaries at the time. This is not what *I* think he means, though. Rather, that what you think is yours is just as much the universe's as it is yours and vice versa. John calls it "anorexia by choice" - that the world is rich, just outside our door and we refuse to go out and glory in the gore and beauty of it. Refuse. Outright. 

So "I Don't Mine", as the Psychedelic Furs put it. Not because I don't want to benefit, but because when I privately close class each night or morning myself, turning off the lights, whispering the Dedication of Merit to myself, I also think of how so many teachers have put it to me over the years, and I slowly, slowly seem to see this understanding, bigger than reason and even creativity: "if you want to be happy, think of others; if you want to be miserable, think of only yourself." Why? Because there is no "mine". This isn't about self-deprivation. It's about reality.

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