Well, boys and girls, it?s a new year and? And what?
Are there still people that make New Year?s resolutions on New Years Eve or New Year?s Day? I mean why not make a resolution to get that advanced degree, be nicer to be people and not eat whole chocolate cakes at one sitting (the hardest one of all) on, let?s say, Dec 4th, or March 25th? Or, more to point, on whatever date it finally becomes painfully obvious to even you that pursuing the old ways of _______ (fill in the blank) just don?t make it.
Sometimes the sewage pipe of failed intentions and encrusted declarations becomes so clogged that it is time to call the plumber of higher consciousness. (pretty elegant phrase eh?) Anyway, we are talking about a time when the combination of your personal mythology, neurotic defenses, and addiction-of-choice don?t seem to work anymore.
I remember one day?I think it was last summer?when I was at the computer, typing a response to an e-mail that was a response to my e-mail that was a response someone’s original e-mail. And I was drinking a cup of coffee that was lukewarm but I didn?t want to get up and microwave it. And I had to piss but didn?t want to interrupt my e-mail because it was so urgent and brilliantly written. And I was hungry but didn?t know what to eat since I already finished an entire bag of potato chips (organic of course). And, was wondering if I was going blind or just getting another migraine. And was thinking of taking another 600 mg Ibuprofen for my arthritic knuckles but kept wondering if the pills were boring a hole in my intestines, And, I was also wondering if I should murder the construction workers outside my window with a chainsaw or a 12 guage shotgun? And, I was also thinking: I am ignoring my beautiful wife who loves me, and this very minute is sitting ten feet away from me on the couch. And? I stopped everything, turned to my wife and said: ?I have to stop living like this.?
Well, I did?stop living like that?for a couple of weeks, but then the worries, self-doubt, bad habits, fear, etc. etc. just crept back in and I was back to my fragmented, manic/depressed, anxious, bad-habit, defensive ways again?
Never-the-less, the ?resolution? or, more accurately, semi-resolution came in the midst of July, on no special day?It wasn?t a holiday or ritual time (Like Yom Kippur, for instance) that is classically created for us to CHANGE OUR WAYS.?
Now I?m not saying that such ancient and universally shared ritual holydays don?t have great value. In fact, just this last Yom Kippur?The Day of Atonement?I apologized to a very close friend who I had wronged about 3 years before.
So, when the day of the celebration of the birth of Christ comes, or Passover–the commemoration of the freeing of the Children of Israel from the Saudi Arabians (or the Egyptians, or the United States Justice Department) or whomever–it is a good time?made all the more possible and profound by the communal understanding that prevails at such moments?to attempt to change our ways.
But, I think that such communal ritual baths of peace and understanding?marked in bold on all our calendars?have their obverse side.. as all things do. By which I mean that when we are all being filled with the love of peace because Christ was born, its easy to give a gift and think that is true love.
Its easy to sing a Carol or say a prayer along with the whole congregation and walk out of church suffused with a feeling of goodwill toward men/women. And you may actually be filled with such a feeling.
But I think it?s deceptive sometimes? When we are caught up in these moments of mass goodwill and prayerful thanks to whomever, it can be thin, diluted– not really in sync with those far more profound (and usually serendipitous) times for each of us when a deeper and more pervasive change is called for; times when a feeling, from deep in your stomach; a vision, or an extra-sensory perception (one that can set the very air vibrating with intentionality) sometimes arises and demands attention.
It might be in the middle of the night on work day; or come while you?re walking the dog on a Saturday morning in September. Maybe it grips you one rainy afternoon when you turn the page of a long magazine article, then stop?look out the window?and suddenly know that SOMETHING has to change.
Then, you either stop right then and there; take a deep breath, sit (or walk) in silence for a while, then say to yourself: I AM GOING TO STOP THIS NONSENSE. I HAVE GOT TO CHANGE? Or the more typical result (don?t I know it!) occurs?You ignore this feeling, this message- if you will, from a higher plane, and go right on with your life as usual. Turn the page and keep reading about Delicious Spinach Dishes You Can Make In Just Minutes.
In his book: The Hero With A thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell calls this great ignoring: ?refusing the call?.
Once in a while in the course of our brief little tour on earth one is called by something greater than oneself? To embark on a journey of discovery; one that is inevitably fraught with difficulty, if not outright danger.
And what do some/most of us do at that moment? We keep reading the magazine; keep walking the dog, keep taking the pills, keep resenting our children/parents/husband/wife/boss/twenty-minutes-late-already-Chinese-food-delivery-guy, for ?ruining? our lives.
Well, that?s OK? As they say in the I Ching: “No Blame.” And yet? though there is no blame, if you don’t act at those pivotal moments, you are left right where you were before, basically being pulled along by circumstance and your own passivity rather than jumping out of the cook-pot and seeing if there is some other way of existing rather than being slowly stewed to death in your own juices.
Of course, and I hestitate to say this because I hate hearing it myself? A semi-resolution or an ?attempt? to change one?s ways is not ever going to be successful. As that great enlightened master, Yoda, said to Luke Skywalker” ?Don?t Try. Never try? DO!?
Well, even if it is a mutated celluloid frog invented by George Lucas saying it, its true. ?Trying?, ?Attempting?, ?Giving it a shot? is never going to work. And I know what I?m talking about, having been a master of the half-assed declaration and the maudlin pledge for most of my life.
The real change, as those who have done it know well, is completely in the doing.
I remember a line in Lawrence Durell?s book, Justine? A novelist was sitting with in a café with a friend listening to another writer at the adjoining table regaling a small, rapt audience with some elaborate tale. And the novelist said to his friend, as he looked over at the writer: ?Once a talker, never a writer.? The point being, as Lao Tse said–just before he and his ass (donkey) dissapeared into the mountains–: ?He who talks, does not know. He who knows, does not talk.?
So, having talked so much, I will end by saying that I have once again taken a pledge to change my ways? this one coming in an increasing surge-like manner over the last month or so. It involves, among other things, meditation, slowing down, taking personal responsibility and leaving off the the physical and mental crutches of the past.
Now, I could tell you much more about it right now. Or I could tell you how its working as I go along? But damned if I don?t know that that?s the best way (certainly its my best way) of subverting the entire effort before it really gets anywhere.
So, from me? you wouldn?t get a word. And if I do manage to truly change my ways? I?ll write you a postcard.
** (Meanwhile, I am looking into the possibility of setting up a ?blog? or web log on this website. What that means, for you old farts who are not hip and modern like myself, is that when I write an article, you can instantly respond to it and that response will be posted on the website for all to see. Then others can comment on your comments, etc. etc.) I like the whole idea o
f such instant widespread communication?But I have to do a little more research to see if its feasible? If I do it, you will know if you are signed on to my mailing list? see ?join the mailing list?.
– Mike Feder (New York City – January 9, 2005)