Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Narcissism

Not everyone looks in the mirror to see the world.  Some look within themselves and find the same thing.  Where else can one look?  One begins to see his problem as the world problem, the common misery and the common happiness.  One sees with his own sense, with a gaze that discerns the universe in the microcosm of a hope that stretches life like a canvas over every transparent surface.
Once I gave some money to a leprosy charity.  I say this to remind myself.  But it makes more sense to give to a leprosy charity than to a world hunger charity because world hunger charities often put small local farmers out of business and create dependency.  But curing a disease does neither of these things, and if enough people contributed, leprosy could be eradicated like smallpox.

Granted, there is such a thing as the gulag of concern.  As much as I write and talk about constant movement, occasionally I have to find a way to settle down and go still.  Going still is something that has to happen every now and then at least.  If there is such a thing as the ego it is simply an overmastering desire to stay busy and accomplish nothing.  That, at least, would be the basis of its existence, its bread and butter.  

As a nation we accomplish plenty, but as individuals we languish in our thirst for more, as if wanting more is the most exhausting of all activities.  Because we are an individualistic culture we see to it that greatness matters.  By Christopher Hitchens’ logic God is not great because he isn’t good.  For the same reason Genghis Khan isn’t great because he wasn’t good.  All other virtues are subsumed by greatness.

If you live in America you get a roof over your head, food, and clean drinking water (usually).  Imagine what this looks like from the outside.  Think of the choices the good people of the world saw with watching eyes: Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump.  Enough infighting between us.  Its time to look beyond our borders. 

As Americans we are fond of saying the hour is late, but for most of the world the hour has already passed.  Buried within each of us is a way home, in the sound of a jet passing overhead, in the sound of a distant train at night, in the constant rocking of the sea, which in the mind never moves.  We’re spoiled here.  Because we have things our way we can never have our way.  Or we’re distracted and busy with the way our body moves.  But if we want to we can see past reflection—beyond ourselves and into our previous selves simultaneously.  No matter how much you change you can only become yourself.  

One man sears his conscience.  Another man, perhaps, wonders what it’s like to have one.  To the one who has a soft spot as a child, that nagging to be good is like the talent which the wicked servant buried in the earth instead of investing.  For the man who rows the boat of his shame, the vessel of his rigging—the gift, the talent of feeling pain on demand—that training is more like the ring which Frodo threw into the volcano.  Jesus' parable doesn't cover the destruction of the talent.  He saw no need to go that far. 

Conscience is nothing like pride.  Conscience can be mapped.  No matter how divided a person is conscience is one thing.  A man’s pride wounds his pride.  The glory of the conscience is goodness.  The glory of pride is exaltation.  One faculty has no need of the other.  In fact they don’t even seem to inform each other.  They are indeed at odds, sometimes even at war. 

Once, in the Upanishads, Brahma came before the God of Fire and he said, “Who are you?”  The God of Fire said, “I am the God of Fire.  I can burn all things on earth.”  Then Brahma placed a straw before the God of Fire and said, “Burn this.”  The God of Fire could not burn the straw.  Then immediately the God of Fire went back to all the other gods and said, “Who is this being that fills us with wonder?”  If you show a god his limitations he falls in love with you.

I have time for my own limitations because I make time, but do I have time for the limitations of others?  Can I write with tears in my eyes and still see?  Who is the being that fills us with wonder?  Where did he come from and why is he taking so long to return?  


Joel Fry

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