“Anger is not really your emotion. Anger is your last armor right before you show your actual emotion.” — Stephen Colbert on WTF
With the year near ending, I’ve been thinking about a goal for 2019. A quote (“forget safety // live where you fear to live”) prompted me to re-read the full Rumi poem.
There are many guises for intelligence.
One part of you is gliding in a high windstream,
while your more ordinary notions
take little steps and peck at the ground.
Conventional knowledge is death to our souls,
and it is not really ours. It is laid on.
Yet we keep saying we find “rest” in these “beliefs.”
We must become ignorant of what we have been taught
and be instead bewildered.
Run from what is profitable and comfortable.
Distrust anyone who praises you.
Give your investment money, and the interest
on the capital, to those who are actually destitute.
Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.
I have tried prudent planning long enough.
Although the near-last stanza is what is quoted most frequently, I am drawn today to “We must become ignorant of what we have been taught // and be instead bewildered”. I’m noticing the word “bewildered” and how it has the word “wild” inside of it. Is it about the wild being brought out from inside? Is it from the outside in?
Time for the OED! I have a hard copy condensed (itty bitty, need a magnifying glass print) OED. Once I’ve toted it from the shelves to the kitchen island where the light is best today, I find the definition:
- to lose in pathless places; to confound for want of a plain road
What a lovely and apt definition. Thank you, Samuel Johnson. I know this is the definition Rumi meant with his original word — not the more common, second definition: To confuse in mental perception, to perplex… Since I can’t read Persian, I have to thank translator Coleman Barks, too. I am awed by how one word can turn a poem.
I’m feeling bewildered this week while thinking about what (if anything) to set out to accomplish next year. Thankfully, I live in the desert so it will be pretty easy to find that “pathless place” physically as well as metaphorically.
I just noticed the word right before “bewilder” is “bewig”. How accurate is that?!
I read my friend, Paula’s, post yesterday morning A Sad Day. I sat out in the backyard and cried for a while. I am staying in my “very sad ” this weekend, too. Not because the memories of my own assaults came back. Not because I remembered others’ stories. I am sad because it feels like those senators just don’t care. They may believe Ford, et al. But their actions tell me that they don’t care compared to what they want.
The stories of girls and women, boys and men who were bullied and assaulted may or may not be believed, but the powerful just don’t care about our feelings if it gets in their way.
(I can’t find the link right now…) I read a very good self-effacing man’s confessional this week, wondering if his memories of how he had treated women were the same as theirs. He asked and found out he had hurt at least one, so he publicly apologized. Had K. been emotionally mature enough to respond this way, I believe we’d all have responded much differently.
Senators, you should take away another lesson from this week: humans are designed to remember when they’ve been hurt. And you just did it to us again. WE WILL hold it against you. Guaranteed.
A couple of days ago I found a tiny jade elephant charm mixed into the rocks in my Arizona backyard.
I’ve walked by that spot hundreds of times, but never saw the elephant. Or maybe it wasn’t there until that morning. Maybe. More likely rain, wind, under-surface critters, and my own steps and weight shifted material to move the elephant into view. The charm has likely been in the rocks from when they were brought into the yard for landscaping. How did it get into the load of rock, then? Where did the rocks originate? How many times have people been near the rocks on their route to my backyard?
What I find fascinating about a found object like this charm is it focuses my attention completely on something unexpected for quite a while. For several minutes I examine it, clean it, turn it around with my fingers. I wonder how it got to this particular place and time. I wonder what it will bring to me, and what I will bring to it.
Does the object have significance? Some cultures use jade elephant charms to bring good fortune to the wearer. A quick web search says that a jade elephant is used in Feng Sui to strengthen the influence of that room’s section. A symbol of an animal can bring with it all the power of that live animal. We have (somewhat) changed our treatment of elephants in recent years. We know elephants have strong family ties, lifelong memories, and feel emotions as we do. You need only read the biographies of the elephants at the The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee to feel connected.
I believe the charm has whatever significance I give it. I believe at some point someone wore this charm, and they believed it had significance, too. I believe that person was not from a Western culture, so I am now connected to her or him through this charm. I believe they valued the jade stone it was carved from. I believe this charm has connected me to the original wearer and reminds me again how we are all connected to everything.
Saturday I received a text from a friend showing me a picture of his new son. Baby was, of course, adorable with that “Where the heck… What the heck…” look on his face common to newborns.
This friend has a lovely family with a wife, step-daughter, and two sons. This is not at all my idea of him! My idea of him is stuck from over twenty years ago. In my head he is still the person I would call a “rake.” Some admiration, some judgment. Sticky identity. Hmmm.
But enough about him. What does this have to do with me?
This is actually a good question.
What does it say about me, my identity, that keeps him stuck? What is my identity that holds him in his? When I say “his” I mean my idea of him. Probably not his own idea of himself or anyone else’s idea of him.
If you want to drive to Denver, you need to know where you’re starting from to plan your route accurately. If you think you might be lost, you need to stop and find some reference points.
Where am I to still see him that way? That’s what popped into my head last Saturday as we texted back and forth, and I looked at a new human being with half of his DNA.
I knew it would be necessary for me to un-stick my identity of me from back then to allow his to be current. I’ve been running through some attributes to see what felt most solid.
Gadabout: traveled only a little
Went around curves really fast: too scared to do that
Worked hard to change: afraid I haven’t changed at all
…. oh. Only matters how it feels, not whether or not it’s true.
More work to do, if I can be brave enough to do it.
This post from Very Smart Girls made me stop and think and then think some more. Asking that question is a powerful practice tool.
I’m tired. What if the opposite is true?
I’m smarter than her. What if the opposite is true?
He’s only doing that to make money. What if the opposite is true?
I have to get that done today. What if the opposite is true?
Interesting results! Feeling certain of beliefs and, well, anything, limits my growth and experiences.
Give this practice a try.
from my Zen Page-a-Day® calendar this week:
“”I have arrived, I am home”is the shortest Dharma Talk I have ever given. “I have arrived, I am home” means “I don’t want to run anymore.” You need that insight in order to be truly established in the here and now, and to embrace life with all its wonders.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
This is one of go-to poems when I am doing a walking meditation. I loved seeing it come up on the calendar with a little more insight to it.