Friday, August 13, 2010

Q and A: (or a key to giving freely, or better yet, insightful and happy)

In a comment to my last post, Anonymous asked "your interpretation begs the question, how is it possible to "give" freely, and if it is not possible, how to get as close to it as you can"? Also a Comment from "Catspajamas" that sort of kiddingly referred to the challenge of being insightful and happy. I know of quite a few happy insightful people, I also know a few miserable idiots.

This is a question that I don't have an easy answer to, simple yes, easy no, It's been asked of far far more learned people for millenea and there are some very different answers. The one thing in most of those answers that seems to work for most people is of the same essence.

By "work for" I dont mean you get a smug little credo that takes care of that, but rather an answer that helps us go on working on the question more constructively and comfortably.

It's one of those things that seems terribly simple (because it is) but it's not altogether easy (because it's not).
The answer is to drop the self opinion, the egoic drive and to begin to see development of what most would call humility.The word comes from the Latin "Humus" and it's not what you get from the deli,. humus means "of the earth". It is in the word humor. I think all three mean to be of the earth,  be a work of creation and remember that the creating aint done yet and have a sense of humor about ourselves.

Some of us are quite proud of our (percieved) humility, I'm sure that there are designer hair shirts out there. I've heard people say that humility is thinking less of self and more of others, but the very character trait of the last post is the sort of martyrdom that can creep in with that. "Living for others" can be a kind of tyranny. So how do we get "good" at it?

I'll point out that the question contains an insight. Getting good at something, having it down pat, "no flies on me" is as much an egoic desire, however altruistically it is intended. Is it impossible then? I'd say yes. So do we just give up? Yes (well we surrender) and of course not we keep on.The Dalai Lama says the key to enlightenment is to have an undefended heart, He has great insight, has known great loss and is also a happy person.

You'll find this answer in everything from the Upanishads to Brer Rabbit (remember the tar baby?). It's no secret (but people love to think it's very mysterious and therefore elusive and exclusive and worthy of Oprah's couch). I also need to learn things many ways, over and over and then realize it was there all along.

From a Christian perspective (ooh I can hear the shrieks, here's this card reader talking about a Christian perspective, oh well) but I Don't mean MY perspective, but rather a man whose writings have helped me a lot; C.S. Lewis. I have mentioned him before and any friend of J. R. R. Tolkien's is a friend of mine. Lewis was a person of great intelligence and insight and yes, he knew grief, but he also was "Surprised By Joy".
The following is from "The Screwtape Letters":

(God) wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the, fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. (God) wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour's talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognise all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things". -There's more, which I went back and trimmed, there is an e-text of the book online but it really is one that deserves to be read in a comfy armchair, there is also an audio book version read by John Cleese (who is perfect for the narration).

This is also what Eckhart Tolle is reffering to in "A New Earth" and "The Power Of Now", recognizing the voice of the ego. Much as Tolle claims to have vanquished his ego completely (I'm not sure I'd like that entirely), he went through some grief to get there. Much as what he says is certainly not new (he says so himself) there is a lot of value in how he writes about simply recognizing that self opinion is there. That in itself is important. Sometimes I have to just see that what I'm usually struggling with is my big fat idea of me and drop it, then carry on anyway (the alternative is pouting and that isn't fun). So we keep on keeping on. Integrity is how we play, win or lose.

It also means being present, (Yes Tolle says this too, in a regurgitation of what's been said a zillion times over, but maybe we need a Tolle right now to tell it, there have I appeased the Tolle fans?). It means in our doing with others we don't presume to know whats best for others so much, maybe we have to ask, to check. To be kind and gentle, not ham fisted. There is a great value in being a little unsure. A very good rule is sharing more than giving and letting others share back. "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats forever" but you cant teach a starving person much, so maybe do both.

I really should go back and read Tolle again. Lewis is a lot more fun though. Either that or "The Myth Of Freedom" by Chogyam Trungpa (which is so good every time I start to read it I have to go back to the beginning, so I have never finished it, I'll shut up about it till I have). 
Another good book I REALLY love (and have mentioned before) is by Pema Chodrun and it's called, quite appropriately; "Start where You Are".