Tuesday, May 22, 2007

pride, possession, and something about karma

bigbro and i were speaking long ago about his bearing of the burdens of a rather wealthy other, and the stress connected with being instrumental in attending to this person's freedom from the darkness that had dogged his every step...

I've learned that a man can shed his demons and there is a really good feeling of freedom that comes with that shedding, but there is also a loneliness, because those demons were all the guy had for company for a long time......bigbro aka fred call

taking on the demons of another? some heavy sledding there.
two things:

1) the demons don't want to leave, and

2) their hosts are usually terrified of the hole that will be left. a friend of mine was telling me about how he quit music altogether after going through rehab because he was terrified of what would happen if he stepped onstage straight and tried to do what he does better than anything in the world without the usual buffers. it's been four years now...

anyway, it's true; prosperity and loneliness seem to be together a lot.
the story of king midas comes to mind...

and so bigbro continued:
As for Z: He had money. He had demons. Then he realized he couldn't buy his demons off with money. He really didn't want to live. I think he wanted to beat his bad karma before he died, so he didn't have to take it with him. My instincts say he had a better chance of taking his money with him than he had of taking better karma with him. In the final analysis, it was his decision how to go. That he's gone, I think he's happier. I just hope he managed to shed the bad assed karma that gave him cancer in the first place. Otherwise, he's got to go through chemo again in the next go round.

could the whole deathwish thing be inherent in our preoccupation with ourselves? navel-gazing spiritual beings finding themselves relegated by their behaviour and the attitudes or perspectives that give life to that behaviour into something less than was originally intended? even though we fear death and the uncertainty that it holds for anyone in search of hard facts, we still feel more comfortable with despair than with hope because this allows us to essentially remain the same, being ever victimized by things beyond our apparent control in the process..

as i read about bigbro's wealthy friend, i was reminded of something i had read just the day before... i love those nexus moments where things just appear to randomly connect and to inform each other... what we do with those connections is another affair, but i think if we can at least recognize them when they come together there has to be some benefit.

"God, in his power, drags away the rich. They may rise high, but they have no assurance in life. They may be allowed to live in security, but God is always watching them. And though they are great now, in a moment they will be gone like all others, withered like heads of grain. "Can anyone claim otherwise? Who can prove me wrong?" (job 24.22-24, NLT)

i remember being told once -probably back in bible school- that job is arguably the oldest book (or at least the oldest story) in the bible apart from the creation narratives themselves and the stuff about the adams family ('adam' meaning 'son of dirt' or 'first man') ... all this to say that, in my view, apparently the whole notion of wealth and the basic disparity of the human race has been with us for awhile.

and so in what ring of dante's hell was the rich man standing when he begged michael to send lazarus down with a drop of water for his tongue? and why in the hell did he think that it was the poor man's job to serve him beverages?

in sri lanka, august of 2005, clues as to an answer for this second query came in through the back door.

traditionally the sri lankans are a hospitality culture, offering preferential treatment to anyone who arrives at their door having journeyed long- they are still that way, even while in the throes of a twenty-five year old civil war. one day we arrived at this guy's place, having traveled for about 6 hours or so in a van with no air-conditioning. he greeted us warmly (although he was surprisingly more aware of the fact that, due to spot checks and road conditions, we were arriving two hours late than we had expected him to be) and proceeded to draw a bucket of water from the family well (only about 3 feet of water in it at the time) for us to wash our hands before he then washed our feet with the remainder of the water. he would not allow us to share a bucket- a new one had to be drawn for each guest.

now in my western oh-no-not-me-i'm-so-unimportant vanity, this would have been awkward and there would have been this graceless non-receiving of a kindness offered that probably would have led to pain, as this man would be left pondering a cultural question:
'what have i or my family done, that you would not accept this humble kindness from us?'

however, having been there nearly two weeks already and therefore used to hospitality by then, i just said thank you.

see, whether it's having this sick entitlement thing that presumes some form of dominion over another, or having this nauseating false humility thing that refuses to allow another the freedom to give selflessly, it seems to me that the main problem- the swelling that makes the camel far too large for the needle's eye- is humankind's inability to get over itself.

i think that that's probably the bad-assed karma of which bigbro spoke. like edgar alan poe's imp of the perverse, it drives us to to self destruction through the destruction of others. as a species, we're really good at putting ourselves first and attributing our selfishness to natural selection or something. it's how we got here and it's how we'll ultimately leave.

the apostle paul said that 'the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.'

okay, now i'm not being one of job's buddies here, providing some pretty hollow words of explanation as to why bad things happen to good people. (in truth, i think that the problem is that there aren't actually any good people... now there's an encouraging topic for a whole nother blog) i'm simply suggesting that if we want some answers as to the pain that assails us all- not the physically or emotionally detailed, circumstancial, case-sensitive pain of an individual, but that pain which systematically dismantles us while defining us as one people, one race, one species- we probably don't have to look very far.

unfortunately, as long as we continue to preoccupy ourselves with ourselves, i think that we're stuck with it for awhile longer.

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torchie and i were talking about ideas and actions when he made an interesting statement:

knowing something philosophically and experientially are distinct from each other but not mutually exclusive for both are necessary to knowing something fully. (torchie)

hmm... the fullness of knowledge.

does this soundbyte speak of a difference between intellectual ascent and actually living the dream? i love that they cannot be separated from each other and still be true- excluding one while embracing the other is simply hypocrisy is it not?

okay, here's the kick: is all hypocrisy bad, or is hypocrisy sometimes simply indicative of one's faithlessness? i mean, until someone points it out in me, is the log in my eye a bad thing for which i must take responsibility, or is it just blindness... the presence of which being possibly the responsibility of others to identify in me? this is how people discover that they are colour blind, right? the awareness of this 'blindness' is impossible within a relational vacuum because basically perspective gone unchallenged is personal truth. we have no reason to question something from our own point of view because it's our own point of view and we hold to its accuracy... perhaps this is yet another reason establishing the importance of graciously receiving the investments that others make in us as we labour together.

example? the other day i was meeting for breakfast with this 'bob the builder' guy that i haven't hooked up with in a long time. as we spoke of about many things, i started to notice that he had a particular verbal habit. no workaday vocalized pauses like 'um' or 'er' or 'd'Oh!' in fact, he kept inserting the word ideally into the beginning of sentences. after two or three of these i called him on it...

can an ideal ever be attainable?
or is its unattainability that which makes it an ideal?

in other words, is 'ideally' a verbal shock absorber that allows you to say how you wish things could be, but have no faith in the possibility of the realization of this dream?

see, in bob's case, i think that his use of 'ideally' connoted the 'settling for' something less than the best. it was philosophically there, but experiencially non-existant even in his imagination... he had already signed off on the dream, settling instead for something commonplace and ultimately unsatisfying.

so when we speak of spiritual walks and healing journeys and possible differences between what we are envisioning and what we are experiencing, i say hold on and receive these things as they are offered... remembering that the vision of healing is fuel enough to see the realization of this vision. circumstancial and relational realities cannot withstand the restorative vision that God places in one's heart as hope for the future.

it's not ideal- it is simply yet to come.

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