Wednesday, August 23, 2006

GROWING UP

Before a newborn gasps that first wakening shock of air in the world it never made, it’s as equipped to navigate its way toward its last sigh as it ever will be. While the physical body experiences further ripening and the ravages of aging as a matter of life’s course, it always carries with it what I call the “natural self,” the inborn genetic intelligence barely hinted at by having instinctually suckled its mother’s breast. Infancy is the final stage of a period begun at conception during which the child’s body is assembled, energized and introduced to the world and completed when it learns to feed itself. How guided by its own genetic intelligence parents allow this development to be for the child is the most important factor in its maintaining contact with its natural happiness, its “good nature” throughout its journey through all the external influences it will encounter on the path of the rest of its life.
This inborn genetic intelligence is an underlying ability to find metaphors in nature for any situation encountered and is limited only by lack of previous experience with the idiosyncrasies of operating a new body in such new local temporal and spatial conditions as it may find. The senses supply this intelligence with information that is digested as metaphors for other remembered natural processes or, failing that, routed to the modern brain to be pigeon holed in a warehouse of unfamiliar, curious anomalies whose accumulation requires constant rearranging in an attempt to find metaphors for artificial phenomena that are either irrelevant or opposed to nature. This conscious, purposeful system of intelligence, whose circuits of logic and reason are forever undergoing urban renewal just to maintain the illusion of understanding in public and the mirror, is like the impermeable cover of a mall parking lot over once absorbent earth in the way it diverts ones attention from beholding the big picture of universal nature underlying the arbitrary, tautological concerns of the local morality.

Q: “What’s wrong with pot?”
A: “It’s against the law”

I witnessed a good, law abiding, American couple, who were old enough to be on that trip they’d promised themselves after the kids were off to school, while they timidly scored, ineptly rolled and luxuriously smoked their first joint in a coffee house in Amsterdam. Individual curiosity obediently awaited the permission no one had any right to deny.


Considering the natural life span of a species compared to its period of infant dependency, primates tend their children for a much longer portion of their lives than other animals, although anthropologists like to insert childhood as a separate parent-dependent stage on top of infancy in the case of humans to give them time to “process society.” They explain this evolved childhood period as a reason for human survival since mothers could reproduce two to three times more rapidly when infancy didn’t include nursing throughout. One of the more interesting theories holds that not only is society especially, genetically enabled for humans but made inescapable by the genetic evolution of love due to “our immediate predecessor, Childman Australopithecus” who’s examples of motherly love during this extended infancy were teaching genes that now make us selfless despite ourselves.
For myself, I see this extended childhood dotage to be a result of parents, themselves mired in the perplexing artificialities of society, being more concerned with protectively passing their confusion on than with giving their child’s inner sense any validity whatsoever: "Son, I'm gonna give you all the things I never had: I never had the good sense to think responsibly for myself and have believed every thing I was told as if it were gospel. And when I'm done raisin' you, you won't have it either."
The period during which modern man might remain in infancy can encompass his entire life, never having actually ever fed himself. Institutions like churches, governments, schools and armies are packed to the gills with these extended infancy children, whose activities are as guided by a search for continued funding as any desire for universal understanding, dedicated to having their opinion be regarded as the latest word by the poor dumb cluck that just cooked and fed them a cheeseburger or fixed and flushed their plumbing. The short order cook and the plumber, although able to feed themselves and know where their shit goes are no less isolated from their natural selves by their addiction to their prosthetics for locomotion, imagination, emotional manipulation and personality enhancement. Modern society in the United States and increasing areas of the rest of the world appears to be a cultural day care center for codependent vacuums making and selling products out of and to each other in craft class teaching pride in pleasing others for profit as depicted in a movie by Walt Disney starring Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.
Rare people who have miraculously maintained or diligently reestablished touch with their natural selves don’t worry about the refrigerator. Curiosity about the reliability of the light inside doesn’t hold a candle to the brilliant spontaneity within the unpremeditated, unasked answer of now, morphing in the chaotic confluences of nature’s serendipity — so invisible to the focused search, so obvious to the fully opened eye.
The incident which gave me the phrase “genetic memory” occurred when a friend handed me a rock he’d just found while walking along the bank of the Pedernales River. After a slight adjustment in my initial grip I experienced an epiphany that, ever so sublimely, shook me to my core. I’d long relied on my gut feeling or instincts to inform me rather than taking anyone’s word for anything, but until that ancient tool nestled into my palm as comfortably, as righteously as it did, I might never have made the instinct-memory connection. Not only did it make me realize what it was, it made me look around for a hide to scrape to check its efficiency.
When all is said and done, the difference between humans and other animals comes down to self-reliance. I recognized this when I first encountered the religion of school mates, never having had any religious exposure until then. I have never forgotten the two statements my parents advised me to heed for happiness in my life: “Treat others as you would be treated,” and “This above all: to thine ownself be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” It seemed extremely frustrating to need to consult scripture to know what to do at every turn and just as ridiculous to feel guilty for thoughts and acts that effected no one else. This realization has been building poignance over a lifetime of encounters with the arbitrary, artificial regulations being handed down in greater volume than anyone can keep abreast of by a culture that cannot grasp the golden rule, from religious commandments to government regulations perpetuating themselves with ever more invasiveness into the privacy of “flawed sinners” deemed to be incapable of personal morality. I’m not speaking of just the “felons, idiots and paupers of the state” to which voting rights are denied, — every person on the planet is the target for a preemptive strike on our potential unruliness, no benefit of the doubt. If this statement seems to be an exaggeration, consider that the most common source of human misery, more than poverty, illness and death, concerns our inability to have things go as intended in our own behavior and in the behavior of those on whom we depend. We attempt to remedy this grief by getting better at planning our future by tightening the control on our behavior and choice of more reliable friends rather than loosening up, listening to the grass grow and smelling how the wind blows for answers in an eternal present inadmissible to people trying to predict or manipulate a future that never comes or analyze or atone for a past that never leaves.
The human condition is such that, as much as we may feel put upon by the expectations of bureaucracies and friends, we don’t hesitate to do the same thing to them as if the golden rule were a chain we can push, excusing ourselves by sugarcoating it with an investment our faith, trust, belief, and hope as if making a friend capable of disappointing us is a blessing we've bestowed upon them and a sacrificial burden we've taken on in their behalf. Shit happens. And until we learn to harmonize with the happenstance of the moment through our instinctual genetic memory, all our life is geared to making nature either behave or leave the room and she’s just not gonna do it. The most direct expression for this conflict I’ve ever come across I learned in Thermodynamics class; entropy. If there’s ever been a physical metaphor for the religious and secular intent it’s the scientist and engineer attempting to codify and thereby capture nature’s chaotic processes for use as our improved prostheses and security blanket, while our connection to our true source of a naturally healthy, happy life languishes beneath our atrophy and apathy.
From the simple standpoint of energy investment and conservation it makes sense that, in a natural world capable of manifesting the entire spectrum of the human imagination and beyond, those actions born of love and benevolent good will are positively beneficial and those motivated by hate and jealous covetousness drain the energy of all those affected by them, most profoundly the actor. The choice is not any more an ambiguous morality crisis than recognizing a stomach ache from bad food, but, like the man who never learned to feed himself, preferring to blame the cook. Man has developed a system of externalizing the source of negative events in the body of a devil pulling puppet strings of we poor souls having to bear the inescapable helplessness of original sin rather than own up to the reality of karma as he mindlessly reaps what he sews and blames the weather and the human condition for the discomfort he feels over his own meanness. Modern civilization is the natural form of the coagulation of such shucking of personal responsibility, tacitly admitting anyone who knows not to speak the silent password of the lie and harshly banishing to prisons, asylums and ghettos the heretics who can’t help but see the nudity of the emperor.
Believing ourselves so innocent, flawed, helpless and in such need of guidance by external dictates we completely deplore and ostracize individuals who have managed to awaken from the dream of nap-time to glimpse society from the outside, in the context of its relationship to its only source of true nurturing: its habitat and realize the possibilities of man to leave the day care center and become true adults responding to the symbiosis enjoyed by all the creatures of the planet.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

To give up so much of oneself in order to conform, to learn to do so before knowing any better, to lose touch with our creative spirit, the very core of our beings that connects us to everything, to have to struggle as an adult just to see the choice that is there (for open eyes), to endure being the outcast, and then to have to fumble in the darkness that is unlearning to reclaim what was taken. It is heartbreaking. Your blog reaches my heart's deepest sorrow as it embarks on a journey that begins on an endless ocean of tears, an adult with infant's hands, fumbling in the darkness and traveling alone.

Lisa

gregrandgar said...

Dear Lisa,
If I were an advocate of the intelligent design hogwash going around these days I would say that the purpose of the dumbing down of the collective mind by the devolution represented by western and most other civilizations is as a necessary trial of fire from which emerge individuals newly capable of the next stage in the evolution of mankind and within which molder men in lives of quiet desperation. But that is somewhat like saying dinosaur fossils are god’s test of our faith in his creation story. Because the fossils and civilizations obviously exist they both are a natural. Human intelligence is such that we can make mistakes far more devastating to our environment than any other creature witnessed on earth and is capable of asking, because I can, should I?, realizing our mistake and correcting it within our individual lives (the little boat, minahana, in hindi) which example in turn contributes to changing the collective paradigm (an oar in the big boat, mahayana). Asenath is smack dab in the middle of a people who have been dealing with this idea of emergence since before recorded time. Rather than being a sorrow for me to realize the ovine qualities of mankind, it is a joy to realize it is not a terminal condition and I have a cure that works for me.
See you soon,
Todd

Zatikia said...

People want to be children, something to take care of them. People want to not be awakened. People don´t care.

I enjoyed your blog, your an intesting man to read.

Anonymous said...

Todd,

If I had by now made real that same cure for myself rather than simply understood it, then I too could be content in the knowledge that I am doing all that I can... I can imagine the peace to be found there. But I know that I am just at the beginning of that journey, and putting the pieces together (or taking them apart) to get there from here, I do not find easy. I hope to talk with you about this. More often than not, I am an optimist, but tears are sometimes precursors to greater awakenings, and they are necessary now, the full extent of the undoing, the reality of what the earth endures and my daily contributions to its plight that I still ignore as I drive an automobile, or believe I can possess something, or buy or eat something that was the product of abuse, hidden from our view by order-makers who want to maintain normalcy while seeking a sense of powerfulness, wretchedness... my own... surely you have traveled here. I do not regret the tears, I welcome them, because in them is forgiveness, and from them that ocean is created, and on it I can travel with the minihana. Before they fell, there could be no such journey. So your words serve from this little boat, as a beacon of possibility that lights the water along the way... your consent unnecessary... your kindness observed. I must act. Oh but how I do fear myself.

Lisa

furtherleft said...

I responded there to the comment you left on zatikia's blog.

furtherleft said...

Thank you for the Further Left Forum comment. It has been converted to a normal post. Your continued participation there is welcomed. You might also be interested in visiting, reading, and taking what you wish from its Library. The Chat Room is a good place to come to know one another. Both are linked from the Forum.

Anonymous said...

Hi Todd,

I read on Zatikia's blog that you could not access the chat room. You may just need to download and install Java on your Mac. Go to this website and scroll down to the bottom where it says "Mac Users," identify your operating system and follow the instructions there.

http://www.java.com/en/download/manual.jsp

Lisa

furtherleft said...

gregrandgar,

I sent you an email to the address on your profile regarding access to the Further Left Chat room. I think we have a way.

furtherleft

ichisan said...

Not that I relish playing the strident academic, but I respectfully submit that the term you are referring to as minihana, is Hinayana, a Sanskrit term meaning "the deficient raft," used pejoratively to speak of the early Buddhist schools (as opposed to the "great raft" of the later Mahayana tradition). In the words of famed Indologist Albrecht Wezler, "We must combat the social ills of our times with the tools of responsible philology."

Shine on, Todd! Your point is well taken and your blog makes my day! Been missin' time spent in your lidyl idyl. Too soon for those feelings! Until such time!

gregrandgar said...

Good to hear from you, strident academic, you. So does this mean your academic preoccupation has abated and you are ready to subject your thoughts to the ravages of the hell that other people are? It's the theme for my next blog being composed.
To address the grade my paper was given. You are the language expert, so perhaps Hinayana is the word I wanted, hell I can't even spell inglish rite sumtymes, but I am sure I didn't misremember Raja Rau telling me that the little boat was not deficient, but a requirement of mastery of ones own life before the contribution of an oar in the big boat of society can be effective for good. So maybe Minayana or some other spelling actually sheds the deficient aspect. Thanks anyway buddy. Or maybe you are right in spelling and definition and I just don't like the implications of the definition when compared to mine. I am going to your blog now to see if you have ventured forth yourself.

gregrandgar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I will settle this as a not-so-strident-but-nonetheless-astute academic-of-sorts among us. I propose that minahana exists, as Todd so carefully expressed it (and because he did), but it implores to be accepted as it was intended: as a dynamic becoming. This as opposed to Hinayana, which is a static and necessarily inferior state of enlightenment-seeking, because it is defined, fixed, as for oneself instead of for the sake of all others. So, if we can accept Hinayana as a non-derogatory but somehow "lesser" state of enlightenment-seeking, the "inferior vehicle," and see that a path from there to Mahayana (via bodhicitta) exists, then this would describe the little boat I travel on precisely. What is bodhicitta? Bodhicitta contains two major states, the mind resolved on awakening (intent), and the mind proceeding to awakening (action). I have expressed my transition of leaving one state and entering the next, as well as the struggle in doing so (a struggle because in so doing there is a necessary acceptance of one's prior affinity to Hinayana, but the vestiges of that guilt are quickly left in the sand by the very nature of the transition). So make no mistake, I am to be found aimfully adrift in the center of this dynamic sea, in a sturdy little minahana, whose essence if not its name can assuredly be discovered in the ancient wisdom of which we all so respectfully speak.

gregrandgar said...

thank you, your humble anonymnity, you perceived my intent beyond the spelling. But part of me is curious, was minahana always a word or did you say it came into existence because I used it? Oh never mind - I try and stay away from academia, but just like the mafia, the language keeps draggin' me back in.

Anonymous said...

Of course, minahana was always a word... since the very beginning!

Lisa

gregrandgar said...

zounds!

ichisan said...

AAARGH! I lost my beautiful post. Oh well. Let me summarize it by saying that I didn't mean to distract the discussion. Todd is a good friend of mine and we both (I think) enjoy conversing on a variety of topics to which we bring our own backgrounds and experiences. My post was made after the manner of our conversations, to which I have grown fondly accustomed. Todd, your point is well taken. What is interesting to me is whether the individual must address their own salvation before being able to benefit the greater good. As I understand it, the position of the early Mahayana monks was actually to avoid beginning the irreversible process of enlightement (i.e. becoming "stream enterers") in this life in order to be able to be born as a Buddha in a future (or parallel) world without Buddhism. The fascinating implication seems to be that they were supposed stop just shy of actually inducing enlightenment, coyly playing at the boundary of nirvana, a flirtation with the ultimate. This would seem to suggest that the individual should put off their own perfection for the purpose of helping more people than their own enlightenment would. These Mahayanists practiced this new-school path right next to the old-school (so-called) Hinayana monks in the same monasteries, but they soon became disdainful of the latter (whose ambitions weren't hardcore or grand enough for their liking). Of those practicing the older path, I think only the Theravada ("the teaching of the elders") sect still exists (Sri Lanka and Thailand). They might claim that theirs is the path that Gautama himself established: they certainly are the ones who have kept alive the oldest canonical texts of Buddhism. It seems that according one or the other greater reverence is a sectarian matter, and Rau is admirably attempting to reconcile the two branches of Buddhism with a bit of deft hermeneutics (a fine South Asian tradition). I don't really feel it is our place to act as proxy critics of the earlier tradition based on one side of a conflict millenia past. There are two (and more) paths. For my part, I tend toward the teachings of the later consciousness-only school of Buddhist thought and feel that changing the self is changing the world. When we are coming from a position of unimpeachable truth then all dogma and systematizations slip away, just as the raft is discarded upon reaching the other shore, and the right decisions becomes perfectly clear. That the Buddha had to be persuaded by the gods to return to earth to spread the dhamma in the first place is telling. The vehicle, great, small, or otherwise, matters not a whit in the end. As the Buddha said: "I would teach the doctrine that people do have a soul, if the soul weren't an object for grasping." Stout stuff: it doesn't matter how we think about it as long is it gets the job done. To me the relationship between nirvana and the collective is in the influence that those possessed of the former can exert on conflict, violence, hatred, dogma, and all kinds of suffering in the world. Let us not forget that the Buddha offers a path of personal salvation and escape from suffering. Its ultimate social value lies in getting people to take Gautama's good medicine. Buddhism has a life span, it is told, and Gautama's dhamma will someday die. Whether someone chooses to further it here and now or in a future life is matter of personal choice. In that respect, how can either path be absolutely wrong or better? This world (along with others) needs the dhamma now as much as it ever has or ever will. I applaud anyone trying to integrate these teachings or their spirit into their lives.

As for the dynamic state between the resolution to follow the path and actually taking up the path, I offer the Sanskrit term Mumuksha: "the desire for freedom." It seems to embody the paradox and tension between the desire for enlightenment and the desireless path one must follow. Many different answers have been adduced by countless interpreters to address this problem. I prefer to think of freedom as our natural state. Enlightenment is something we literally "back into." Or am I slipping into Taoism? Slip away, I say. Of course, generations of hard-working ascetics and monks would disagree with me. Krishnamurti has said, however, that there is nothing to prevent an enlightened person from holding the post of President of the United Stetsons (were that we had evidence of that). To each their own, of course, but the term Minahana is a good Sanskrit word: it means literally, "killing fish," which is something I know that Todd is fervently trying to avoid in his own life right now. As someone who translates Sanskrit texts for a living, I meant only to correct a terminological error, not a conceptual one. I am quite taken with Todd's rants and perspective. He's one of the only people I know for whom these issues never leave the forefront of his mind (or whatever part is currently available), and I benefit from knowing him daily. So, Todd, I do apologize if you felt undermined by my post. Just trying to have a little fun from the other side of the world. Much love to everyone on their prasthanabhedas (different paths)!

Anonymous said...

I think we are all just trying to have a little fun with these posts... the nature of the blog. My post was also intended as a response in good humor, as I hope it was taken by all. Mark and Todd, I also hope I did not undermine your conversations; please let me know if I have made any such breach. I've been enjoying getting to know Todd after being drawn to the posts on his blog. And I realize I have no "real" expertise in the area on which I was commenting, just barely enough knowledge (as it were) to have the ability to intellectualize about it in good fun. My best to all!

Lisa

gregrandgar said...

Whoa, whoa, whats goin' on here. If were all gonna enjoy this life there is no appology for excuses to appologize about for into up with which to puff or against out down from which to fall. Let's all agree that agreement teaches us nothing but reliance on the mob whereas good old healthy philosophical head butts between loving friends rivals sex for seeing the oneness beyond the body and mind.
Asenath - You've heard Peter or I tell you about the expert at violating the rule about no prepositions at the end of the sentence; little girl of a friend of his at bed time telling her father, "Daddy, why did you choose that story I didn't want to be read to out of up for."
Om

Spooks said...

I dig it!

ichiban said...

rock on! lisa, you're the best, and we love you for taking such great care of hound dog (and us!) and being a general badass of a person. i have really enjoyed reading your posts and your blog and getting to know you better through them. i didn't realize at first who put up the post, and i guess i felt a little defensive. thanks to both of you for putting up with my excesses! please don't let my sometimes academic perspective on this issue stultify your conversations. i sure would miss y'all's perspectives on these things!

todd that grammatical pedantry is exactly the kind of shit up with which i will not put.
touche!

much love to you both!
mark

gregrandgar said...

Don't fret oh ichi one, having both been mired in academia at some time in our life, Lisa and I had a good natured chuckle at your lengthy academic attempt to pull your foot out of your mouth over white wine and brie last night. No shame, no blame.
I say potatoes
And you say potatoes
I say minahana
And you say hinayana
I quote a little girl
And you quote Churchill
Rock On!