Everything in this world has a hidden meaning, I thought. Men, animals, trees, stars, they are all hieroglyphics; woe to anyone who begins to decipher them and guess what they mean . . . When you see them, you do not understand them. You think they really are men, animals, trees, stars. It is only years later, too late, that you understand . . .
- Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba The Greek
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Too much philosophy makes one dizzy, smug, yearning, nervous, haunted by the distance between what can be imagined and what is. That is not to say one should never dream in this way, only that such dreamings are themselves signs pointing to other signs. The reality behind such things a bead of mercury forever outside one's grasp.
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There is something along the order of 4200 different religions practiced on the face of the earth and out of that milieu you'd have to guess tens of thousands of gods. Each is a reality to its adherents. Each is an expression of the ultimate desire in man to know his place in the cosmos. Each is a sign and symbol that is read by the ones who see it as a step along the path to a perfected state. Each is true. Each is false to non-believers. Each helps create its culture. Each feeds a spring of regeneration. Each changes by degrees across generations and within its community–sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Each is certain of itself. The question before you is this: knowing this, how can you reconcile your bedrock faith (and this includes the faith of atheism) with the 4199 other faiths? The answer is usually to dismiss them as wrong, infidels, non-believers worth of scorn, opprobrium, destruction, or just as horrifically with ridicule and paternal head patting.
For us fucked fuckers, questions like this drive us batty. Part of our disconnect is the disconnect between what we are told is true and what we experience as true. Religion, God, faith, non-belief can be the locus of our wandering, our drift, our sorrow at not being able to believe as others believe, but to feel the certainty of men and animals and trees and stars is just outside our reach. There must be a deficiency in us, a prideful doubt that keeps us outside the gates, or a pride in rejecting the idea of gates at all.
We try to riddle out proofs of our faith or lack of faith as if it might save the world from itself. These errors, we think, these errors are crippling us and if there was some way to show. . .
As a species, we've been at this task a long time and it remains it ever was: un-provable except by faith.
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Certainty concretizes metaphor, freezes it up and in the freezing strips it of its possibility.
The lives we lead are the acting out of possibility. We are possibility's venue. When we freeze up because of fear or shame or doubt, we concretize that fear, that shame, that doubt and our possibility narrows to the width of our fears. Everything here is knowable, certain, prospects strictly proscribed and we wonder that others dance, or know love, have God in their pockets, raise kind children, sleep well at night. It is like the engine of a car seizing: you move no more.
Perhaps you recognize this, if you are lucky you recognize this and you want to break out of the narrow lane. You watch others who appear happy to you. You read books that promise answers. You kneel. You pray. Maybe it helps. Maybe not as much as you'd hoped, but still, its something, right? Maybe you grow tired. Maybe you stop wondering. Maybe you content yourself with what's been gained, earned, rewarded. Right on. I'd never, not ever, belittle such things. It is hard to know what to do. Losses stagger us. Failures put a hitch in our stride. Joy is evanescent and so we don't trust it much. Like I said, it is hard to know what to do.
I don't really know either. I write to put some perspective on it and I know I think too much.
What does seems useful in all this is the idea of movement, motion, dance, fluidity, border crossings, flight, sailing, winds aloft, riding waves. What seems useful is the protection of metaphor, of uncertainty, of signs pointing to other signs, a religious adherence to letting go of what you thought you knew for the possibility, the possibility only of seeing something new, experiencing another way of being in the world that is more concerned with empathy than certainty and above all a forgiveness that begins with yourself for hanging onto your fear and shame for so long.
No one knows, love. No one. The privilege and purpose of a lifetime is to experience it. Believing men are only men and trees only trees and stars only stars is to delude yourself that time can be stopped, arrested, death held at arm's length, the metaphor crushed by fear, made to heel and serve our fears. Religion, no-religion, faith, disbelief saves us to the extent we keep the metaphors alive and flourishing. The best way to do that is to treat them lightly, to secretly smile, to watch children play in the twilight, to hear a sea make its way to the shore, to drink strong coffee, to make love as long as the plumbing works, to eat with friends, to not worry about icons, to notice the smell of grass, the smell of rain, to commit to your gifts, to bless, to laugh until there is no sound just the heaving of your shoulders, to know the type of birds near your home, to grow food, to master a new language, to tread softly, to collect found art, to notice the color of the sky throughout the day, to donate blood, to give a buck to the panhandler and not worry if you are being hustled, and to dance when there is nothing else to say or do.
Movement will save you.
You put one foot in front of the other and if you add a bit of rhythm, you are dancing and then, after all these years, you understand . . .
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I wish you well.