Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tearing Down the Temple

"It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.” Tyler Durden

We adapt to survive. Or we die. Or should die, at least. Modern society has a way of supporting the broken, weak and gibbering in their continued consumption of oxygen. But the spirit, it can suffer, be done violence, for not adapting - It is this that drives some to their gibbering worst.
Change brings about the violence of acclimatization, awakening, realization that the terrain is not the map but is in-fact much more featured and vast, and we have arrived grossly under-equipped. In the face of this some crumble, come apart at the seams while trying to hold onto the fragments of the illusion they built. Others adapt.
Adaptation is not a spontaneous response, occurring in a vacuum when presented with rapid change. Rapid adaptation is built on a framework of observation and experience from years of living. If something changes and you adapt now, it is because your past experience built a foundation of knowledge and ideas from which you can quickly draw solutions to the problem at hand. The hand musnt always be burned by the same fire for us to know flame is hot.
Our own philosophy, our studied acquisition of knowledge and belief about life and the world via experience and learning, plays a very direct part in our ability to respond deftly, with agility and sustainability of mind and spirit. If you build yourself (your belief of reality) up with a fixed, fantastical, sense of how things work, and your own choices and abilities, when something changes, when the plan fails, and knocks you down, your ability to pick yourself back up again will be severely hampered by unrealistic thinking, by a guiding philosophy/set of principles ill-equipped to handle the reality suddenly beating at the door. This baggage of self-delusion, the weighty burdens of arrogance, greed, idealized performance appraisals, and false idols (shiny, pretty, distractions and feel goods) is crippling when rapid adaptation is required.

The crashing reality is that, while I enjoy my academic major and take a lot of pleasure in the study and theoretical implications of it, it is not what I want to do with my life. I have built temples to my goals, ideals to which I pay lip service and speak of loftily, then turn around and ignore in favor of other pursuits. I made the idea of my life about going to school, about those things which I spoke so much about, and the reality of my life anything but. I should have realized sooner what that meant. I did not, and put myself in an academic position which became, realistically, unsupportable.
Working to pay tuition, pay rent and eat, while going to school, has proven nearly untenable. The recent diagnosis of my father with cancer has made the situation even more so. I need my time and my life available for my family right now. The result? I have withdrawn from this semester of school. I remain unsure of my academic future, and where I wish to go, and how I want to get there. The supposed "big thing" in my life, the prime focus, the distinguishing feature is gone - Has been for awhile, in reality, but even the pretense has been dispensed with. I feel better about it than I have anything in quite some time.

I also recently suffered a hard-drive crash. Contained on that drive was the last five+ years of my writing. (I say five because academically/professionally and creatively I only consider the last five years worthwhile, and had actually deleted most of my unpublished work from prior to that point). I'm not a prolifically published writer by any means, but writing is, truly and personally, one of the most important things in my life. My primary outlet and creative focus, and one of the truest and strongest passions of my life is writing. Almost all of that is now gone, or at least is gone without some serious effort and possibly expenditure of finances I do not have (and will not for some time).
On one hand, I feel a great deal of regret. The things I had ready to publish, and never submitted. The things I had nearly finished, and never did. The things I felt so good about how I had said them, the language I had used, the feel and sense of the writing that will never be recaptured trying to redo it from memory. The pleasure of giving the reader an enjoyable, thoughtful, stimulating and communal experience that will neve rbe had, as there will now be no readers.
On the other hand, I feel a sense of freedom. I can do it all again. It might be better the second time. I have no pressure to finish, or edit, or publish, what no longer exists. The pleasure of writing and creating the story has been had already, and without the stress of taking it further, I am free to regain that pleasure anew with new stories and articles.

My adaptation has been the acceptance, even welcoming, of the destruction of falsehoods. The tearing down of the temple. The burned hand is sometimes the only way to learn - But without what I knew from before, I would be lost. When my own definitions failed, when I found my temple to be idolatrous, I had knowledge to fall back on. I had truth, I was just ignoring it because it was scary.
I have been forced to shed many things in my life, things I used both rightly and wrongly to define myself at the moment, or over the longer span. I am without those definitions, those burdens, those temples to false gods.
Buddha stood smiling in my path. I drew my sword and killed him.
It is only with the attitude of the knife that we may prevail. Cut off what is incomplete, trim the falsehoods like fat - Only then will they be done, and true.

"If you meet Buddha on the road, Kill him." Lin Chi

"Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife--chopping off what's incomplete and saying: 'Now, it's compete because it's ended here." Dune, Frank Herbert

Kipling, My Boy Jack

'Have you news of my boy Jack?'
Not this tide.
'
When d'you think that he'll come back?'
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

'Has any one else had word of him?'
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

'Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?'
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind -
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!



Kipling' (the verb) is the act of reading, orating or sharing the work of Rudyard Kipling. He isnt regarded as the greatest poet of his generation, and his stylings have largely fallen out of favor among poets and scholars of poetics, which I think is quite the shame. I am an unabashed, and rather fervent, Kipling fan.
I recently watched a British television production called "My Boy Jack", about Kipling and his son, Jack, who died in 1915 while fighting in World War I. The title of the film is taken from the above poem, which was published a few years after Jack's death. Kipling and his wife waited, without relief, for final, official, word or proof of their sons death, and the circumstances there-of. His body was only identified and returned after both of their deaths.

If I am to die as a soldier, a fighter, a man, and particularly if I am to die before my parents, I want someone to read this for me.