Futher on difficult meditation.
Note: The post isn’t really about what its opening sentence might suggest, to the sane and normal reader, that it’s about; I didn’t make even the most halfassed attempt to maintain such smallmind-hobgoblin-consistency. It’s all — really all of it; this is how much of a degenerate wordcel I am — it’s all about getting to write and so hear the phrase ‘misery-fuckery’ in the trip-o-let rhythm of ‘jiggery-pokery.’
Thinking this morning about the notion of the ’emotional journey’: spatiotemporal metaphor for a shift in your inner landscape.
A couple of years ago I wrote a book ostensibly or pretextually about the major arcana of the tarot, working through the cards in order — starting and ending with the zeroth trump, the Fool — as if they recorded or allegorized a trip or transformation. I decided over the course of the project that the traditional image of the ‘Fool’s Journey’ was the wrong organizing metaphor, and it was more fertile for me to think of the Fool/querent/seeker/human undertaking errands with the intention of returning each time, if not to where she started, then to the next starting point. The ‘Fool’s Errand’ makes fractal sense to me: coming home changed — and so to a changed home — in order to set out on the next errand in a series, which together make up a deeper project of…y’know, whatever.
This shift — from thinking of the Journey as delivery mechanism for transformative psychic reward, to seeing the Errand as a recurring/ongoing project of engagement with change and uncertainty within and without — played out textually in that book as, if I’m being frank, a maddening fucking inconsistency of tone and viewpoint. Well, it is what it is. But the book was about midlife transition, really, and I’m pleased with the way tone and topic shifted together. Or so I console myself.
A friend who shared a little of what she knows about contemplative pathwork once told me her goal in meditative practice was to ‘realize nonseparateness,’ a phrase and concept which echoes throughout the present work. She was admirably clearheaded about a concept I found intellectually intuitive but at times emotionally forbidding: it was the realization itself, opening and maintaining connection itself, that was of value — not the specific emotional colour/content of the connection or of the thing connected to. ‘Nonseparateness’ was, in the terms of yesterday’s post, a peaceful dynamic of which (inner) conflict is always a part. ‘Peace isn’t quiet’; peace is ongoing resolution and restoration. Conflict can get you there (‘winning the peace’) and in any case conflict is coming.
This seems to me a vital distinction with both obvious and subtle political implications. You ‘realize nonseparateness’ even when what you’re connected to is difficult or painful; there’s a surface analogy to, say, democratic pluralism — which we might call a (possibly doomed) politics of willful nonseparateness, i.e. endless negotiation and compromise — but we should be careful not to stop at the superficial ‘stay connected to people who suck in order to improve/surpass them.’ It seems to me, a disintegrated and basically fucked person, that ‘nonseparateness’ isn’t tolerance. You tolerate someone because it won’t last forever, but I think real connection is undertaken without selfish hope of reprieve: it’s your responsibility to maintain a sense of the Other as fully itself, exactly as real as ‘you,’ even when the Other is a painful imagining or a difficult experience or (say) a dipshit ideologue. Relationship built on outlasting the unwanted will encode a dangerous destructive tension — cold war, so to speak. ‘Uneasy coexistence,’ and incidentally ‘unease’ translates as dukkha…
Authentic engagement is both means and end, because — I guess this is one of my foundational assumptions — no one is an island; human minds and bodies being what they are, we realize our full humanity only in ongoing relation with others, and find peace only in peaceful relation (to circumstance, interactor, self, etc.). ‘Not all those who wander are lost’: an invitation not to tolerance but to an affirmative relation to inbetweenness, transit, search, the Errand as its own reason and reward. I have such a hard stupid time recognizing a process or transformation as a reward in itself, and I can hear echoes of this failure in so much misery-fuckery in my own life—
When I can remember that I’m not out to purify my own state or activity, but rather to be more authentic in my participation in ongoing processes at a scale I can’t easily/always perceive, I know I’m happier and closer to peace and ease — irrespective of the difficulty of my work.
It’s certainly possible this is an optical illusion, or One Neat Trick to pull on my easily manipulable consciousness. Any Fool knows that.