I don’t know any greater obstacle to one’s progress on the path than that of one’s environment and the peer pressure that attends it. This includes the residue of old habits and patterns which the environment repeats through those who haven’t changed them yet and those who are just picking them up. It’s a little like being Frodo after being wounded at Roundtop and it’s a little like these lines from “Cynara”, “But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,” There is this murk, this cosmic slime of our past that reaches out like hands to pull us back. Few they are that trudge on to the end.
Those who trudge on to the end arrive. Those who plateau remain there until circumstances ‘force’ them onward. Better to be about it all the time than to have circumstance force you.
I can be as serene as the clear blue skies when I am in my cloistered environment. There is nothing to stir the reactive mind. Let me go down into the marketplace and I must be wary and watchful because conflict seeks my company. Strange dancers want me to do the ‘get out of line dance’. People push and prod and poke. On the internet, unknown nameless beings troll and tease, trespass and slander. They don’t know who they are. They don’t know who I am. We have never met. It doesn’t matter. They are at war with imaginary beings and everyone they encounter wears their face.
It is their right to be as they are. It is not my job to change them or convince them of anything. Once again, one must be wary and cautious. In a moment all good intentions can go out the door because an ill wind blew innuendo. Lao Tzu said, “Compassion is a weapon from the sky ‘against’ being dead”. Whatever someone might steal from you do not let them steal your compassion.
It is definitively true that you shouldn’t get into a pissing match with skunks and that if you lay down with dogs you wake up with fleas. As confident as we are of our poise and balance, we can lose it in an instant. It’s a difficult art. Seldom has a day passed when I am not confronted by it. It is an argument that cannot be won and should never be engaged in. I try to remember that it takes two to tangle. I try to remember the essential tai chi. Invariably it slips. The reactive mind reacts.
I am coming to believe that stilling the reactive mind is the sine qua non of metaphysical work. Progress is not possible until it occurs and every time the wagon wheel falls back into the rut it must be lifted out again; ten thousand times ten thousand times, until you CAN compel the very demons of the deep.
Zealotry is not an asset unless it’s a private affair. Most people do not want to hear about “the Path”, they just don’t. It’s an annoyance and a reminder of something they are trying to forget. One might say their lives are composed of efforts to forget it. More than at any other time we live in an ‘eat drink and be merry’ age. It’s not wise to get between a man and his appetites.
Everyone except the psychopaths has a conscience and it wounds them daily. To have you step in as an accessory is not advisable. Still, there are those who do want to hear about the path. They like to talk about it and think about it because they delight in it. Their treasures are there.
So, regardless of those who do not want to hear, one can still present it on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis. On occasion, in other places, people will tell me they are sick of hearing about it. However, by this time, they know what I’m going to be talking about, so it begs the question of why they bother to come into my store if they aren’t interested in the wares. It’s not going to keep me up at night if they don’t hear about it. And so we come round to the hands reaching from the grave; the dogs barking at the caravan, the catcalls and the memory in the murk that wants nothing more than to pull us down into the hole that it is in. Misery loves company. By this time one has probably gotten the idea that there are more homilies in this essay than there are ticks in a West Virginia meadow.
Homilies are the hardpan of the path. Like anything else that one has heard all their life long, the meaning no longer attaches itself to the words. We don’t notice the ground on which we walk. We don’t thank our feet. We think everything belongs to us; our body and its components, our minds and our emotions, our thought and our feelings. We think these things are our property so it makes you wonder why they don’t obey us. Jesus had something to say about how little power we have in these matters.
None of these things belong to us and none of them are us. Our thoughts and feelings are drawn from a common pool and articulated according to our dispositions. Identifying with them takes us right back to the hands reaching from the grave and the pulling of the murk and the agitations pinging on the reactive mind.
For myself, and possibly for you as well, I have to walk a fine line between being obliging and confronting. I don’t like being pushed around, especially when I am already giving way. Once I understood that the enemy was within, I have not encountered another bully since. They don’t see me. Become invisible and let your twelve foot high Tibetan Devil Dogs accompany where you go. People can’t see them but they know something is there.
This takes us to the Valley of the Shadow of Death and “if God is for me then who can be against me” and “greater is that which is within you than that which is in the world.” Sometimes a person goes off and the assumption is that they are not spiritual. I note in the lives of all the great teachers of humanity that nearly all of them went off on people at times and the ones who didn’t were exponents of that. You may not be a Buddhist. You may not be a Hindu. You may not be anything and you might be everything but whatever you are, you should have confidence in it. They all work. They all come from the same source and are accommodations of different perspectives on the same path. Once you get to the mountain top you can see all the ways down.
Whenever anyone argues that their way, or the way of some teacher whose way they are misinterpreting, is the only way; they are wrong. Whenever someone insists that they are right, they are wrong. Whenever someone argues about something, which requires no argument because its existence is its perfect defense, they are wrong.
“Perseverance furthers.” If you don’t give up you cannot fail. Of course it’s not easy. That’s how the sincere are separated from the dilettantes because the dilettantes can’t hack the trials. You want your heart to blossom with hope and have a remarkable certitude and conviction? Ask yourself, “Do I really want this?” If the answer is “yes.” you are home free. You cannot fail. It is not I who guarantee this, even though I do. That which you seek is seeking you. Prevail.
Don’t listen to the wind that whistles through dead trees. Don’t mind the hands from the grave and the burbling murk. Soldier on. Sing the Chumbawumpa song. Don’t let nobody bring you down. The world is full of people listening to everyone else and watching everyone else and behaving like everyone else and thinking they are different. You can’t adapt your behavior to the crowd and stay on the path very long. The crowd is an exit ramp. If the crowd agrees with you, you are wrong.
Yes, it is very hard but I will tell you a secret. All the other ways, all the easy ways are all harder. What everyone else is doing is harder than this. It only seems harder because you are doing it alone and it only feels harder because you think you are doing it alone. You are not alone. You could never pull this off by yourself.
'Jews From Outer Space' is track no. 5 of 9 on Visible and The Critical List's 1993 album
'Jews from Outer Space'
About this song (pops up)