Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
I've been listening to the audio version of Tom Robbins' Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and as usual have been enjoying his writing style. One of the characters is a Japanese guru type, called "The Chink." (Read the book…!) He's got some interesting things to say, three quotes of which will lead us into today's discussions. (By the bye, I'm "quoting" out of my memory, having heard the lines, not read them. I expect I'm pretty close but not perfect.)
Chink: "Good! You seem much more in balance!"
Sissy: "But one (thumb - again, read the book) is huge and the other is little!"
Chink: "You're making a common mistake. You're confusing symmetry with balance."
The Chink, in discussing religious figures like Jesus and the Buddha, and the perils of organized religion, says something to the effect of:
"The problem with organized religion is that they take the personal and try to make it universal. I'm different. I take the universal and make it personal."
Third quote: (A "Dr. Robbins" motto)
"I believe everything, and nothing is sacred.
I believe nothing, and everything is sacred."
That last one ought to be a tee shirt.
I think I'll start from the middle and work outward…
The flaw of organized anything is captured in the second quote. People work toward understanding the meaning of something - life or work or relationships or communication. The more "clever" develop understandings or systems of explanation (like we present, week by week, in Into the Centre), which, as far as I can tell, are based upon a quite practical criterion: "does what I believe to be so actually work in my life?"
Here's where the flaw comes in. A person might come up with a quite workable way of being, and rather than being content with living out their life making elegant use of what they have discovered, they instead invest inordinate energy in trying to get others to "see it their way." They, as Robbins indicates, above, attempt to universalize a personal understanding. To this day, most political wars and all religious conflict are based precisely upon this flaw. "If you do not believe what I believe, you are wrong, and therefore deserve death." As opposed to, "This is how I see it. Isn't it interesting that you see it differently. Let's talk."
It becomes a struggle for supremacy of ideas and interpretations, as opposed to a discussion about whether and how the different approaches accomplish the task at hand. The "Chink," in the book, comes at life from the other perspective. He has realized that, as far as living life goes, pretty much everything we need to know is already known. To tilt at the windmill of getting everyone to agree that I am so very, very clever, and therefore to adopt my particular slant on how this universal information is packaged seems to me an ego trip of monumental proportions. Rather, taking all of that information and distilling it down into a personal way of being, seems to me the act of a wise soul.
I thus am capable of much more, personally and professionally, by simply "walking the walk I talk." This might also be described as leading by example as opposed to simply providing colour commentary.
Similarly, the first quote about symmetry and balance. One of the confusions about balance is the idea that everything and everyone is equal. The point here is "balance" and "equal" are not the same thing. I hinted at this last week, in the part about communication and intimate relationships. A symmetrical and equal approach is to run around attempting to have clear, present and intimate communication with everyone - friends, co-workers, the grocery clerk, and even expecting this form of communication with people that either don't know about it or aren't interested. Balance, on the other hand, might be recognizing that I can be clear without being intimate, and that it's only possible to have a truly intimate relationship with one or 2 people. To attempt to do more would pull me out of balance.
Often, to continue this example, we decide, for example, that everyone in our family should want to communicate well. (This would be "personal to universal.") We then exhaust ourselves trying to force what isn't into being what is. Balance, in this case, might require a much more flexible, forgiving and radically different approach. It might even include giving others the courtesy and respect to be however they are.
"But…but… I want my relationships to be… well... perfect!!!" Good luck. That would be symmetry. Running from one school of thought to another, for fear of missing something, is symmetry (trying to have everything, just "perfect."). Learning one thing at a time leads to balance, and eventually, mastery.
The essence of all of this - of both balance and making it personal is captured in the last quote: here we see balance and self-reference in harmony.
People will ask me, for example, if I believe in reincarnation. My typical response is, "I believe in everything. And nothing." In other words, I understand about reincarnation and resonate with it as a principle, and at the same time have not raised it to "the" principle, or even one I'm particularly interested in. It's one of many universals that I choose to make personal, not the other way around.
So, we have in this quote a very yin/yang harmony or balance. That which "is" always contains its opposite. To be in balance, I need to believe everything and cling to nothing. I need to see all life and everything as sacred, without making anything into a sacred cow. All that is, simply is.
Living with this approach means I will be willing to try most anything, and see how it goes. I may do something for a while, then stop. I may stop for a while, then restart. I may place my full focus into something, and then shift my focus. What I will not do is stick a toe in, then run scared. I will not say "no" to something just because others disapprove. I will live life whole-heartedly and seriously and deeply, without ever forgetting that it's pretty much a joke, a tragedy and a fair amount of slapstick.
The goal then, for me, is a continual letting go - letting go of my ego, my need to be right, my need to be in charge of the reality of others. It is a grasping tightly of the truth I know, without the need to make you agree with me about that truth. It's about "letting you" (non-interference) walk your path, and about amusing myself when you try to make me join you. It's about the sacredness of life, without forgetting that nothing, no thing is sacred.
In short, it is all about waking up. Me, waking up. Me, waking up me. More on that next week.
And then again, maybe it's about nothing at all…