Saturday, June 11, 2016

This is Water

An extract from 'This is Water'.  While all this seemed pretty obvious up front, I found myself thinking about it a day or two later. It connects to my last post somewhat!

Because here's something else that's true. In the day-to-day trenches of 
adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing 
as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to 
worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or 
spiritual-type thing to worship — be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the 
Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set 
of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will 
eat you alive. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap 
real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have 
enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure 
and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will 
die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know 
this stuff already — it's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, 
epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping 
the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel 
weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the 
fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up 
feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.
Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're 
evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings. 
They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, 
getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure 
value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing. And the 
world will not discourage you from operating on your default-settings, 
because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on 
the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship 
of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that 
have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The 
freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the 
center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But 
of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most 
precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of 
winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and 
being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over 
and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. 
The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race” — the 
constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.

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