Punch Drunk Enlightenment
"Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light but making the darkness conscious." - Carl Jung
In several uninspired, unenlightened, dull moments of listlessness, I began to realize that many assumptions about things are the opposite of what they appear they are - like a mirror image of themselves. When you look in the mirror at yourself, what you see as left is right and right is left.
When you search for complex answers to complex problems, you begin to realize that there are only simple answers, often cloaked in the clothing of complexity. Whatever you oppose presents itself as a gift to you of learning and enhanced understanding. What you love becomes something you hate and what you hate becomes something you love, which makes you realize love and hate are siblings, and the true opposite of both are apathy.
And realizations like these have made me want to pour a mimosa, sit back in an eclectic outdoor cafe and drink myself into an orange-flavored stupor, and let myself surrender to the hazy rhythm of Punch Drunk Enlightenment!
Struggle ... Duh!
"There is no enlightenment outside of daily life." - Thich Nhat Hanh
"Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water." Zen Proverb
Recently, I watched the movie Bottle Shock , about the early years of the Napa Valley wine-growing region in the 70s. Bill Pullman's character, walking with a young intern, says to her:
"You want to limit the irrigation. It makes the vine struggle. Intensifies the flavor. A comfortable grape, a well-watered, well-fertilized grape, grows into the lazy ingredients of a lousy wine."
"So from hardship comes enlightenment?" she asks.
"For a grape."
Struggle is life. Life is struggle. It's silly to think otherwise.
The convept of surrender is counterintuitive. We're self-made people. What does surrender truly mean? Giving up? Or, allowing whatever happens to happen, in it's own inexplicable way?
To a degree.
I was talking with my 12 year old son yesterday (and I'm so frequently amazed at the insights my kids have), about another boy who he says doesn't know how to do anything. He doesn't ride a bike, he gets any toy he wants before having to even ask for it, he has a whole floor in his house devoted to him - a massive playhouse that would be the envy of any kid (and yes, I want one too, though we call those "man-caves"!), and my son says, "I don't think he even knows how to make a bowl of cereal for himself!"
So this got us into this nice conversation about how struggle looks bad when we're dealing with it, but unfortunately, the way God designed this deal, was struggle is the way we learn, and grow and become self-sustaining people. You can disagree with this til you're blue in the face, but it is fact. I was glad for the opportunity to talk about it with him in some relevant context.
The funny thing is that I've always known this, and yet I find myself revisiting lessons learned long ago and applying them to a modern, mid-life context.
It's like a big duh - and that's why I'm punch drunk ....
Dissecting Life for Dummies...
"Happiness is the greatest hiding place for despair." - Soren Kierkegaard
Kierkegaard was a complex character - and I'm drawn to complex characters, even though like a puzzle, to dig through and resolve conclusions of the complex usually reveals a relatively simple answer.
The other day I picked up a Rubik's Cube. Innocuous little toy. Six sides, nine stickered faces on each side. To some, just looking at it gives fatigue; to others, fun and possibility. Same Cube, different outlooks.
It feels like we live in this world right now where we struggle for both - digging deeper, searching into the furthest reaches of scientific discovery to find not just things, but meaning in those things we didn't have before. To further what we already think, so we can spring a great "aha" on our detractors. Looking external for what's internal.
Kierkegaard relates despair to the gap we create when we try to be something or someone we are not - either by a desire to get rid of the self, or by an unwillingness to be who we are. I presume his reference to happiness above is more to an inauthentic happiness, than to a blissful, self-actualized sense of joy.
The truth is life is both simple and complex, and the difference is contextual. The problem is when we confuse the two. Some people get frustrated by arrogant sophistry - the over-analytical self-help, "picking at scabs" perception of our modern culture. But you really can't broad-brush everything that is contemplative and soul-searching as wrong. At the same time, "the unexamined life is not worth living", as Socrates stated while on trial for encouraging his students to think for themselves.
Sometimes we try too hard to find things that are sitting right in front of us. There it is, and we want to move it out of the way so we can get to the hazy, muddled universe on the other side of it.
I smile, realizing that I'm transitioning in life from the fast-driving, swerving motorist, hustling to get to my very important destination, to the more sage, unhurried soul who realizes he's already there. Same place, but now I'm comfortable here.
I write now, less to march toward publishing my works and famously tour the country soaking in the adoration of others, than just to write, and enjoy the process of doing so - focusing my energy doing something completely frivolous, for no particular reason except I enjoy doing so.
I refill my glass - the golden sparkle of the champagne dancing up it's sides, uniting with the tangy crispness of the orange juice. The gentle coolness of the outside air is sprinkled with the merry staccato of birds, peppered with the animated voices of those around me.
And I wonder whether feeling punch drunk - rather than a hindrance or sign of struggle - is really just the beautiful gift of acceptance.