Sometimes things don’t go at all,
from bad to worse. Some years muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.
Painting by Paul Klee. Ad Parnassum 1932.
“The most important insight needed for a student to move from the deficient lack of support to the actual state of support is the recognition that the feeling of helplessness, of not knowing what to do to be oneself, is not an actual deficiency, nor a personal failing. It is rather, the recognition of a fundamental truth about the self, which is that we cannot do anything in order to be, for to be is not an activity.
We can come to this understanding only through the cessation of intentional inner activity. At this point, not to know what to do is a matter of recognizing the natural state of affairs, for since there is nothing that we can do to be, then it is natural that we cannot know what to do. There is nothing to know because such knowledge is impossible. Nobody knows what to do to be, and the sooner we recognize this, the easier is our work on self-realization. In fact, feeling that we don’t know what to do to be ourselves is the beginning of the insight that we don’t need to do anything.
As we begin to understand this perspective, we may learn that one’s helplessness is based on a delusion: the belief that there is something we need to do in order to be ourselves and the resulting conviction that we can know what it is. This is one of the basic delusions of the ego life of the self. It is inherent in narcissism that we will attempt to do things to support our sense of identity.
So the self is always engaged in inner activities of remembering, imaging, indentifying, repressing, projecting, idealizing, and various self-manipulations to shore up our insecure sense of identity…The real issue of support emerges clearly only after we have penetrated the various external manifestations of this ego activity, and have experienced essential presence directly and immediately.”
Contact sheet of artist Jackson Pollock in 1949 by Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures/Getty
Today while I was shopping in West Seattle I decided to take a break and grab a coffee before heading back to the ferry. I was frazzled. Not irritated exactly, just eager to ditch the compression of Seattle’s traffic, get home and throw some salts into a hot tub and soak and drink some wine.
After I decided on where to stop for the Americano, I moved into a cross walk to cross the street and then instantly, as if materializing out of the ethers behind me, a twenty-something hipster — dressed in black and wearing a black cap and sporting multiple spider-themed tattoos and pulling a black suitcase on wheels behind him — was behind me.
As we moved in tandem across the street, with the suitcase’s wheels clattering and grinding on the asphalt behind him, the guy kept inching closer into my personal space. It was like his presence was crawling up my back as I moved towards the coffee place and I felt flummoxed and startled by how quickly someone could get in your face without ever inviting or eliciting such a meeting. Something was afoot.
Speeding my pace, I aimed for the establishment, lost him and entered with the door of the biz closing behind me just as he popped/kicked the door back open — dragging the suitcase behind him like a ball and chain.
I got in line to order. And then he was in line to order, next to me, but, again, with his presence pushing into the field around me so he might have been sitting on my shoulder fidgeting with his phone, lost in its screen, while I was making a conscious effort to ignore him and focus on the cupcakes in the display case (one of which was flavor-named “Kate” — god knows why. I decided to take a picture of it and send the shot to my friend Kate). But even my cake distraction couldn’t dislodge the guy’s omnipresent vibe. It was something akin to a rash.
I ordered, got my coffee and no cupcake and moved as far away as I could into the jungle of chairs and tables, to find a bench and table out of sight of the dark guy.
Two minutes later, with a coffee and the fucking suitcase behind him, he was sliding in beside me on the bench that served the row of tables in front of us; where he proceeded to methodically, like a scientist unpacking a warhead, free the contents of the mystery suitcase on wheels.
As the gear was excavated, each item, to my irritation, was placed on the same bench we were sharing until so many items were piled atop one another they were edging into my thigh.
At this point I could no longer focus on the newspaper I was reading. Something in me had finally surrendered at the event horizon of his black hole and I was pulled into the guy’s buzzing mandala of Look At Me. And so I was all eyes. Read more
It’s rigged — everything, in your favor.
So there is nothing to worry about.
Is there some position you want,
some office, some acclaim, some award, some con, some lover,
maybe two, maybe three, maybe four — all at once,
maybe a relationship
I know there is a gold mine in you, when you find it
the wonderment of the earth’s gifts
you will lay aside
as naturally as does
a child a
But, dear, how sweet you look to me kissing the unreal:
comfort, fulfill yourself,
in any way possible — do that until
you ache, until you ache,
then come to me
“Moreover, it happens fairly often that essence dies in a man while his personality and his body are still alive. A considerable percentage of the people we meet on the street are people who are empty inside, that is, they are actually already dead. It is fortunate for us that we do not see and do not know it. If we knew what a number of people are actually dead and what a number of these dead people govern our lives, we should go mad with horror.”
“And indeed often people do go mad because they find out something of this nature without the proper preparation, that is, they see something they are not supposed to see. In order to see without danger one must be on the way. If a man who can do nothing sees the truth he will certainly go mad. Only this rarely happens. Usually everything is so arranged that a man can see nothing prematurely”
“Personality sees only what it likes to see and what does not interfere with its life. It never sees what it does not like. This is both good and bad at the same time. It is good if a man wants to sleep, bad if he wants to awaken.”
Photograph by Masahisa Fukase from The Solitude of Ravens