Monday, April 14, 2008

Water Into Wine Back Into Water

This kind of an essay is hard to write. It’s hard because I don’t want to sound preachy. Other than my late grandfather I’m really not fond of preachers or preaching. Despite this I do think that for the most part their hearts are in the right place; at least 50% of the time anyway. (What the hell…I’m an optimist.) It’s really not important or necessary to wander off into a tirade about religion but I would like quote Mark Twain on the matter just to give a small overview and I’m probably not going to get this verbatim but I can get close enough to make the point.

“When it comes to matters of religion and politics, people’s opinions and beliefs are mostly gotten second hand from another person whose opinions were gotten second hand from another person who’s opinions on the matter aren’t worth a brass-farthing”

--Mark Twain

Whatever the hell a “brass-farthing” is you got me but it’s probably not that valuable of a thing. In any case I’ll let that quote be the extent of my opinion for the time being. Twain wasn’t perfect by any means but he had a very keen and penetrating mind and wasn’t scared to tell it like it was/is. I have tremendous respect for him for that. Unfortunately he never took his own advice on the pitfalls of human greed and his life can really be an example for us all, taking into account the good and the bad.

Alright I’m slapping myself on the wrist now. It’s really hard to stay on point sometimes especially when you don’t know what the point is until it comes down through the air into the grand central station of the mind and then somehow takes form as words that appear on the screen through all the hundreds of thousands of neurons simultaneously firing and sending messages to the dozens (maybe hundreds?) of muscles and nerve endings in the hands and fingers. Shit, that’s a long sentence but we really are fascinating creatures. It boggles the mind to think about it and that’s probably why most of the time we don’t. The fact that we are here at all defies all logic and reason and the fact that we can manage to do what we can do goes way beyond that. Clearly logic and reason have their limitations.

We are miraculous creatures and that fact probably shouldn’t be taken for granted as much as it is. Just my dog amazes the hell out of me and she can’t even spell her own name. But she sure can love in a way that any of us could aspire to and she can forgive and forget and not hold a grudge and face each and every moment of each and every day with an enthusiasm that puts Tony Robbins to shame and a sense of gratitude that is equally mind blowing. So in some ways I try to learn from her. Then again she does dine on a pile of her own shit occasionally. Hey none of us are perfect. Maybe that’s like McDonald’s in dog world. (ie: it won’t kill you immediately but you probably shouldn’t eat it too often)

What I’d like to allude to here – without telling anyone how sinful or depraved they are or how they are going to hell and how they need their soul ‘saved’, even without asking for a collection plate to be passed around – is that there is one aspect of our existence here that really takes precedence over everything else.

There is one thing that matters more than anything else because if that one area isn’t right nothing else will matter. If we neglect this one thing we won’t be able to enjoy anything else for more than about fifteen or twenty minutes or so. Nothing else will ever be enough. Nothing else is enough. If you get this one thing right you can afford to get a lot of other things wrong. And if you manage to handle this one area to the best of your ability the other things will tend to fall into place on their own. Even when they don’t you’ll still be okay and well equipped to handle the ever changing circumstances in which we all live.

To be clear on one thing, when I say “you”, I mean “me” also. It’s just a manner of speaking and I’m just expressing and reiterating some things that are near and dear to me and have been and continue to be of tremendous benefit to me.

So what am I talking about anyway? Ironically, there is no particular word for it. You may find it in religion and you may call it spirituality but to me those two words/concepts have certain connotations that really don’t do justice to what I’d hope to express here.

Let’s just assume that we are all souls on this great journey and that as souls we are ever evolving and perfecting and moving closer to something greater than our present state, though our present state is not to be looked down on or shunned in any way. In fact it’s a blessing and this evolution that we are a part of is ongoing and touches every facet of our lives and every tiny detail of our experience is a part of the grand whole. All of the religions touch on this in some way but there is a tendency to take things literally that weren’t meant to be taken literally and to misunderstand and misinterpret what is presented and for this institution that should be helpful to become possibly the biggest hindrance. It can be a great thing if we don’t let it overpower our reason and common sense and more importantly our own intuition. Really at best it can be the match that lights the fire and at worst it can have you strapping a bomb around yourself in the name of al-Lah.

I’m talking all around what I’m actually talking about but I’m hoping the point isn’t missed. If it is missed maybe I’ll try to do better next time. One thing is of greater importance than anything else. Eat, drink, and be merry but always keep this in mind. Inquire within, inquire without, but always inquire. Inquire more within than without. Have an internal sniff test for all of the inquiring without. Does it ring true deep within? If you have to make excuses for it or compromise something internally, don’t accept it outright.

“Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?”
--Steven Hawking

What a question! But it does exist and so do we. Accident? Hmmm…

And we can even ponder that question which is certainly no accident and it may be the most important question even though an exact answer probably isn’t possible. What are you? What is this all? Why are we all here and where is this all leading? Important questions. Let’s not let Brittney Spears rehab or American Idol or ‘freedom fries’ drown out these questions for us. In my case right here right now, I’ll make sure not to let this watered down Shiraz that I’m getting into drown it out. One thing really is more important than anything else. The other stuff is just icing on the cake.


Anonymous said...

Commitment; engagement; involvement; not quite obligation.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps agreement but never obligation. In the presence of which all resistance arises.
Ben you write beautifully. What a pleasure to have happened upon you.

Ben There said...


Assuming I am understanding your comment correctly (which I think I am), I'd say 'obligation' is maybe a moot point. I mean, we are obligated to live our life because we are here and to quote Paramahansa Yogananda "Life must be lived, why not live it in the highest way?" (or something like that). We are here and it's happening anyway so why not cooperate with it. That's my take on it anyway.

Ben There said...


Thank you so much for the compliment. Gotta warn you though, sometimes the writing isn't quite as dignified as these last couple of essays.

kikz said...

my most convoluted mystery.. of why i'm here....
generationally - against great odds.. world wars, starvation..disease... accidents..
and yet.. here i am.. flawed weak ,halfblind thing... feeling my way out of the dark... now creating and pulling others along w/me......

my kids... the realization of my charge as temporary custodian/teacher of them is mind boggling. but it's reciprocal too. i'm to teach them things, as they are to teach me things. so many backtracks and missteps on my own journey... such impatience and shortsightedness.......

sometimes i've told them, look.... i've reacted to a situation this way.. and here was the outcome... and here's my perspective on what i learned from it, where i triumphed, where i fuk'd up........and here's what i can pass on to you, of it..... so that you can hopefully take the smart way avoiding my mistakes... if i've paid in blood(heavy price) so to speak.....for some lesson, hopefully i've sort of paid the toll for you too. take the gift..........learn thru me, move on to another lesson of higher order.... :)

my twins (13) are both sweet generally, young souls...guileless to the point of endangerment from more malevolent beings & forces... gotta toughen em up... juice that prefrontal cortex, so that hopefully they won't have to wait til late teen, early adulthood for its ability to forecast potential actions/consequences and their outcomes past the end their noses to kick in.. .......sigh:)

the baby (10).. OMG she's an old strongwilled one, prone to her more base desires, and very shortempered. a hellion, we joke >:)

my greatest "assignment" w/her is teaching her to use her "dark arts" and advanced mental maturity for good, and having her understand the why of it....what price she could ultimately pay in karma for doing the easiest seeming thing that satisfies her ego, as opposed to the right usually harder to do thing that might not see any potential profit for her.. if ever on this plane.

and also making her understand, that she alone... is responsible for her feelings and her physical reactions to those feelings.
whew! seems like as hard as she fights... some of these lessons should've been learned lifetimes ago....
kind of like raizing a tiger cub..... ya just never know... >:)
then the icing.. is trying to them to think, how they will or might react as mothers when they hopefully have kids of their own.. the probs they may face.... perspective is a hard thing to teach.. standin' in the trees :)

thanks ben for pulling my thoughts here :)

p.s. we came thru the storm fine... neighbor's tree took out the mailbox.. we were very lucky.. i hear today, there is a badass'd front comin w/jet stream off the west coast... same set up w/the southern wind as last wk... i hope we dont' get a replay....

Ben There said...

kikz -

I thoroughly enjoyed reading that comment. It's especially appropriate because I just found out my younger brother has another little one on the way. We don't have any kids and they aren't really in the plans for us but by now I've certainly learned to never say never. Something bigger than me and my plans is running the show so you never know.

But if I did have kids of my own (and I'll even apply this to nieces and nephews), what you've stated here is also my exact philosophy :

sometimes i've told them, look.... i've reacted to a situation this way.. and here was the outcome... and here's my perspective on what i learned from it, where i triumphed, where i fuk'd up........and here's what i can pass on to you, of it..... so that you can hopefully take the smart way avoiding my mistakes... if i've paid in blood(heavy price) so to speak.....for some lesson, hopefully i've sort of paid the toll for you too. take the gift..........learn thru me, move on to another lesson of higher order.... :)

VERY well said. In my mind the next generation should always be a little better prepared than the one before it (that may or may not be realistic).

I'm glad your only weather casualty was the mailbox. Gotta love Texas in the springtime.

Ben There said...

and also making her understand, that she alone... is responsible for her feelings and her physical reactions to those feelings.

Imagine how different the world would look if all kids were taught this. Seriously. This should be in there with the ABC's.

(re-read and wanted to add that)

kikz said...

congratz to your bro :)
long row ta hoe :)

even unc' can be a hard job....and then sometimes no matter.. they, for some reason hafta take the fools way.. the long way round.. come back to ya, bloodied and bruised...
those are the hardest to watch.. it's almost like watching/feeling yourself go thru it again.. it is really...

they're all too trusting.. and one the hardest for all of them.. trust is a matter of degree...and the giving of it..dependent on many variations and factors.. it's situationally complicated....

like.. we trust the crossing guard, mr white (hiney-bo from cow/chicken) to make sure we get away frm the school w/o getting squashed.. very friendly....he lives somewhere in town... but if mr white should appear on our block, asking you to get in his car to visit w/his doggies.. that would be a big nono....

teachers at school, wanting to take you off into a closed room, alone.. etc.. stuff like that..

another biggie... the fickle nature of preteen girls..
OMG they're bipolar.. your bbf one min, and the next someone points out that you do indeed have a stiletto sticking out of your back, and blood dripping off your heel... boys are easy in that respect.. they just get in your face and whip your ass... girls... its all cloak and dagger... yuk...

sorry i'm ramblin :)

again, thanks.. your essay was great... as was les's..

Visible said...

Ben; I'm sorry I haven't been by. I'm having a condition which requires my attention. All is well but I need to be focused and so I don't have the gadabout capacity switched on right now. Give me 24.


Anonymous said...

One Thing is really more important, and although it can't be described or even named (not even by saying "it"!) humans can speak allusively and with love, in a way that other humans will grok the meaning, and learn to orient toward it, thereby growing lush and bushy and fruitful . . . provided it gives a loving push, or dose of itself, which i believe it always generously will. that it can't be referred to may be one reason why those old alchemical books were written seemingly as puzzles, where the "answer" can only be divined with the heart, and stays undiscoverable to every head. (another reason being that in those times people who told the truth openly could and sometimes did get arrested and burned alive.)

from your remarks about religion i wonder if you might like a book i read recently which i found to be not just inspiring but actually astonishing, called "The Cloud upon the Sanctuary," by Karl von Eckartshausen (available online thorugh B.O.T.A.). in case you or anyone here decides to try it out, i will recommend skipping the introductory parts written by the editorial people (and printed in very small type), becuase i did read them and IMO they are misrepresenting the book . . . EXCEPT for the page or two buried in the Introduction that gives the facts of the writer's very unique personal background. the good part (the actual book, in bigger type) concerns the essential and actual unity of human being(s) in, and of, and as the One Thing that's really more important, that you were apparently alluding to!

thanks to you for that amazingly relaxed and light and warming post, and to you and kikz for sharing deep family experience.

ellis t

Ben There said...

Ellis -

....the "answer" can only be divined with the heart...

Among other things, I especially liked this line of yours. There really is something there beyond words,concepts, and definitions that is alive and powerful beyond anything we could pin down with labels. Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by. I'll probably check out the book you mention when my current reading list gets a little smaller. Sounds interesting; pretty much any BOTA stuff is.

Candycane said...

ben, who knew you had so much to say?
are you getting high before writing? just kidding!
keep em coming