Divergent Narratives

My companion and I have recently completed a three week trip through southern Europe. One might call what we did a vacation, I suppose, but traveling the way we do it involves coordinating train schedules, locating pre-arranged housing, meeting voucher deadlines, acquiring foodstuffs that are compatible with cooking facilities, all requiring miles traveled on foot, all of which is hard work resulting in thorough and complete exhaustion at the end of most days. The rewards, though, are rich in personal encounters and experiences, and, in our opinion, well worth the effort.

Upon completion of such an adventure we are ultimately required by friends, relatives and acquaintances to offer a narrative. The shared experiences, however, don’t translate to a common story, which, I suppose, one could attribute to differing focuses of attention and/or memory lapse, but, it seems to me, the remembered experiences are so varied that one can only assume the unique worlds in which we each exist defy a common reality. We must, I guess, all get along day to day unaware, most of the time that the person next to us is a truly alien presence.

Zen and Japanese Tourists

I’ve been working hard lately to subdue my natural inclination to make blanket judgments, but intersecting ,regularly, heavily touristed areas has brought me into contact with, among others, large contingents of camera and selfie-stick wielding Japanese who seem much more interested in capturing their likeness in front of the canons of western art than in viewing and contemplating said art. In addition they’re loud and seemingly oblivious to those around them. I find them quite annoying. To be honest it all just reinforces my cynical nature of mankind in general.

Deep breaths; deep breaths; let it pass; focus on Here and Now.

I’m wondering what they’re thinking, you know, the Japanese. Are they recording their travels in order to bore they’re friends, relatives and neighbors once they arrive home: ‘Here we are in front of a painting by Monet, what a wonderful time we had.’

Let it go; let it pass; I see blossoming trees; beautiful in the sunlight; breeze lightly moving; petals raining; sweet delicate aroma; deep breaths.

I hate those annoying Japanese tourists.

I really need to work on my meditative practices.

 

Maybe Sometimes a Good Scare isn’t such a Bad Thing

I have this friend who, fairly out of the blue, received a shocking medical diagnosis that put to question the likelihood he would be unable to carry on his chosen life-style not to mention the possibility of an all-too-sudden permanent demise. Well, upon re-evaluation the dire prognosis was over-turned and things suddenly reverted to how things had been, you know, business as usual, except, the scare of imminent demise led my friend to a re-evaluation of priorities, what, essentially does matter after all and a sudden acute awareness of Here and Now.

I guess what the shock of a good scare can do is bring Here and Now into sharper focus. And, of course, Here and Now is where we live and should be where we always want to be but often aren’t, completely, distracted as we tend to be by thoughts of what occurred last week or what will happen after dinner tonight, perceived occupational successes and failures, personal relationships, the rising cost of satisfying our material desires, our minds constantly flitting from one thing to another. We live so much of the time, it seems, in a fog through which Here and Now is only occasionally glimpsed.

The whole episode has me thinking I need to spend more time focusing on Here and Now.

What I know about Soren Kierkegaard

Kierkegaard’s dilemma was that despite his love for Regine he believed himself to be incapable of becoming a good husband, so to spare her he breaks off the engagement, telling her he was never truly serious about their relationship in the first place.

He wrote a lot about anxiety. He stated that, when we become anxious, we are overtaken with fear and trembling, as if we were on the edge of a precipice and afraid of falling. Then he said we should jump; take the leap into faith, embrace God for whom all things are possible.

He also tells us that either we shelter ourselves in the illusory belief that the individuals, doctrines and institutions we rely on for self-fulfillment are sufficient (bad) or we dismiss our worldly distractions, realize our declining physical body and face the existential horrors of life (good).

Whew!

I think he thought about things too much. He should have just gone out and had a good time once in a while.

soren kierkegaard3

And they all lived happily ever-after

I’ve been thinking, lately, about what it might mean to realize an extended period of calm, peacefulness and tranquility; halcyon days of pleasant meanderings through a benevolent natural world and happy encounters with grounded, enlightened people. It seems a bit of a fantasy requiring, in this day and age of political unrest and perpetual world-wide tragedy, a sort of head-in-the-sand dismissal of reality.

Maybe I’m just allowing myself to be distracted, not seeing the whole forest, lost among the trees. I suppose I could strive to remain awake in the moment, not get overly obsessed with situations beyond my control, you know, realize the world around us is ever-changing. I, perhaps, need to reacquaint myself with a Nature in constant flux and modify my sense of propriety so as not to assume it should be for everyone, everywhere.

Can right mind, I wonder, see a reality in which all live happily ever after; if not, how about a centered life free of the sufferings of expectation?

The Impossibility of Becoming Self-less

The thinking seems to be these days among neuro-scientists and phenomenologists that the concept of Self is an artificial construct evolution has foisted upon us in the interest of fending off extinction. By providing a focus upon which to differentiate options for action, evolution has provided, over considerable time, the means to improve our potential for personal survival. I’m guessing things like:” is that Sabretooth Tiger looking at me thinking about a meal in which case “‘I’better think about reacting” and so forth, has developed and perpetuated the myth of the Self.

So, I guess there really is no ‘Self’ other than a concept our consciousness has found useful to limit possible choices in order to provide some bit of stability within our limited sensible abilities; which also means the ‘World’ our artificial ‘Self’ recognizes is but a tiny fraction of what is actual out there existing around us.

But our sense of Self, researchers assure us, is pretty much impossible to eradicate as enlightening as it might be to do so. We can, though, I suppose, think seriously about growing our world awareness through meditation which is, after all, a ‘Self’ subordinating enterprise.

And Then Nature Took Its Course

I’m being led to understand, through some quite credible readings, that it’s likely physiological variations, like elevated heart rate or shortness of breath or even a stubbed toe precede emotional states; which means, I guess, one might be more likely to develop romantic feelings for a jogging partner or feel an excessive animosity for an athletic opponent after spraining an ankle.

So, I was thinking about this after my bi-weekly exercise regimen the other day when it occurred to me that I did indeed feel a sense of bonding with and good will toward my companions, nothing romantic you understand, but a familial closeness with the good people in our group. Whether I would have developed those same feelings had our relationships developed as, say, library board members I don’t know but I do kind of doubt it. I suppose one could over-intellectualize the issue, debating which came first the heart palpitations or the feelings but better, I think, to just keep exercising and let nature take its course.

Things were going along pretty well and then disaster struck

I don’t know why it is but for me there always seems to be an ominous presence just beyond daily occurrence that, no matter how nicely everything seems to be proceeding, in my mind disaster is just a tick away from happening.

I live, I guess, with a close companion who harbors a certain pessimistic perspective or, maybe, just maybe is offering fair warning of impending disaster I better take note of. The thing is, as disasters go I really can’t say I’ve experienced anything, you know, particularly devastating in terms of life and death occurrences. But, nevertheless, whenever things are moving along smoothly there is, in the back of my mind, a sense of impending doom.

I really can’t explain it but I suspect I will be compelled to live with my pessimistic companion and the angst he causes me as long as I draw breath. After that I suppose I’ll have to admit I was fairly warned.

Reality

I’ve been reading that the sensory input we experience during our waking hours is a bombardment of information most of which never registers within our consciousness, but, nevertheless may find itself lodged within our unconscious mind, which may explain how we come up with those Trivial Pursuit answers seemingly out of nowhere.

And, since conscious memory is selective by necessity, the inability to grasp all data the senses provide and our need to offer feasible explanations to ourselves and others, our verbal presentations of what has happened is almost always a pretty far cry from factual evidence.

So, I guess we may be somewhat excused if the personal narratives we conjure don’t exactly jibe with reality. And, since we’re doing everything within our limited sensual powers to spell out what’s going on around us maybe we need to reassess what exactly reality is.

Ideals and Ideology

I’ve been reading, lately, about the disconnect between ideological beliefs and hard facts; that firmly held beliefs sometimes get in the way of accepting objective knowledge when the two don’t exactly mesh. I guess we all have our ideological beliefs, what we see as appropriate, preferable directions and outcomes that our culture as we understand it, would best observe; perspectives that have come to us through our intuitions or religious beliefs or communion with like-minded folks. Pluralism being what it is, though, belief systems will never coalesce into a single dominant ideology.

Objective knowledge on the other hand, that knowledge that we obtain from careful observation and thoughtful painstaking data collection doesn’t require belief: it comes to us as a dynamic fact that shouldn’t be thought of as divisive in terms of ideologies. But, I guess were having a hard time these days separating beliefs from hard facts.

Anyway, I was thinking that it would be really good, ideal really, if we could all come together around the realization that what we desire is a shared common ground, a cooperative and peaceful humankind progressing through shared knowledge. We must not let ideologies get in the way of our idealism.