“As soon as you look at the world through an ideology you are finished. No reality fits an ideology. Life is beyond that. That is why people are always searching for a meaning to life. But life has no meaning; it cannot have meaning because meaning is a formula; meaning is something that makes sense to the mind. Every time you make sense out of reality, you bump into something that destroys the sense you made. Meaning is only found when you go beyond meaning.”
(~ Anthony de Mello)
BECKETT ON THE EPHEMERAL “And if I failed to mention this detail in its proper place, it is because you cannot mention everything in its proper place, you must choose between the things not worth mentioning and those even less so. . . . And if all muck is the same muck that doesn’t matter, it’s good to have a change of muck, to move from one heap to another a little further on, from time to time, fluttering you might say, like a butterfly, as if you were ephemeral.”
(~ Beckett, Molloy)
Sometimes negative phrasing makes the wisdom more emphatic. Indeed we are forced to choose between “the things not worth mentioning and those even less so. . . .”A friend’s remark, “It’s only a poem,” which first made me want to strangle her, eventually became a life-saver.
And the moment when I understood, truly understood, that we ARE ephemeral was life-changing. I was finally able to cease living for the future. It even became possible to feel happy
For me the 20th century was most profoundly witnessed by Simone Weil in the heart of France, during the Nazi occupation. And in the tradition of the women mystics — whether it's Hildegard of Bingen, or Theresa, right through our own period with Weil, women are the ones asking the question of — What are we really doing? Who is starving? What are the conditions of the workers all over the world? These are the proper questions for theology. These are the proper questions about how we are doing, as humanity.
And it took a woman like Weil to say — I'm not just going to correspond with my colleagues in the philosophy department. I'm going out to this Renault factory, and I'm going to work on the assembly line. — Simone Weil trying to teach Plato in the Renault factories, in 1930s France. And it took a woman intellectual to say in 1943 — Yes, I'm living here in London. It's comfortable. There's enough food. But I will not eat one more bit of food than my fellow citizens are eating in the camps at this moment. — Recognizing that our fates are that intertwined. Recognizing there's no backstage and forestage. We're all one picture.
That penetration, that courage, and that willingness to put the suffering of others into your own body, and experience it in your own body — that is a particularly feminine spirituality. And a spirituality that comes from cooking for people, caring for people. Being with the helpless, and helping. So the 21st century is about that — community building at the grassroots, setting aside our institutional thinking, and just starting to take care of each other much more attentively.
You're very much an optimist. In the 21st century, what is going to cause a shift away from self-absorption?
SELLARS: Despair. When people search and search, and feel empty and betrayed and hopeless, through their own vulnerability and desperation, they finally are broken.God is fond of a contrite spirit. And sometimes the only way to get past the ego is when it's finally, horribly, violently crushed. And you feel like nothing. And you can take your first honest steps. So, "optimism" is not the word I would use. I would say "hope."It's no accident that societies that have the most material advantage have the least hope. If you spend your life in parts of the world like Bangladesh, or central Africa, where people should not still be alive, how can they be alive one more day? It can't be possible. And yet, they're alive, again, today. That's about hope.
(--from, Peter Sellers, The Question of God, Other Voices, PBS, 2004)I related a dream I'd had the prior night in which a man helped me look for something mislaid. He wes kind. It wasn't until hours after awaking it occurred to me who it was -- a man, Rob, who'd attended practice with us for a month or two. We received news of his death. We were saddened. It sounded like a despairing death. Few or no details. In the dream he looked good. Perhaps some added weight. When recognition came I was pleased. At table it was pointed out that it was around the anniversary of Rob's death. We were pleased with his visits then, and his visit now. Sorrow and joy.
So, with all that you believe, how do you deal with the loss of someone that you love? Or the pain, the grief, and the suffering of seeing friends ill. How do you deal with that pain?
SELLARS: The great Muslim philosopher, al-Ghazzali, has a beautiful sentence in his book, The Alchemy of Happiness, where he describes pain and sickness as a chord of love by which God draws those closer to himself that he wants to be with.
Sickness takes you out of the affairs of the world, out of all these petty things that you think are so important every day. And the pain itself sharpens your focus. I mean, it's very moving, because I think a lot of physicians in terminal wards are recognizing the limits of science. And that actually science, technology can't help you with a good death. What does it mean to die well? It's the science of the heart. And in the long view, the absence is as important as the presence. Who's still with us, really, and how we live for them still.
You know, in most cultures, theater, dance, and music were never intended for the living. They were always for the dead. In Korea, in Africa, in aboriginal Australia, you danced for the spirits of the dead. To let them know you're still thinking of them, you still care about them, you still cherish them. And if they died in pain, if they died in unhappiness, if they died with something incomplete, or in the midst of injustice, you spend those years making it up to them. And letting them know that your life won't be in balance either, until it's made up for them.
Most of the history of art, over and over again, is about death. We're a society that can't really deal with it, but most of Bach's music is about dying and how to die, and the meaning of death. The culture in Tibet is all around dying well. The science of the heart, in Central Asia, is totally understanding every day of your life in terms of death, because it's your meditation on death that empowers your life. As soon as you acknowledge that you may not be here five minutes from now, or five days from now, you ask yourself, "What is important to do?" Death is the best guarantee against wasting time.
(--Ibid)Our lives are intertwined. We dance for one another. We dream each other into awareness of presence.