Saturday, September 28, 2013

Directions, please?

September 29, 2013

Dear friends,

This week held a number of inverse correlations.

Among other truths that I experienced, I found that the more I hurried the less I accomplished. The more I searched for the perfect, the more I discovered the flawed and broken in myself and in the world around me. 

I think Douglas Adams (author of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) was considering the consequences of this paradoxical life process when he wrote, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”

This dilemma accounts for some of my reluctance to write anything of an autobiographical nature. Even if I could describe where in this life I went when I went where I did not intend to go, I would then face the even greater difficulty of explaining how it was that going where I did not intend to go permitted me to end up being where I meant to be. Even more bewildering, how is it that in this muddle-headed traveling I have become more of the person I was intended to become even though I did not know that person until I have come close to the journey’s end? 

Thinking with you that logic often loses in the final balance of life: much that is not good comes to count for good in the end.

Still learning (with exasperation) that good outcomes are frequently negatively correlated with sensible, self-evident solutions. Go figure, then tell me. I don't yet have a logical explanation of that.

See you next week.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Letting go of the good

September 22, 2013

Dear Friends, 

Last week in thinking about entropy I referred to a bit of Tennyson that I planned to share further this week. The book containing the portion of Morte d’Arthur I referred to has yet to surface, however.

This seems to me a bit of a mystery. How could a book approximately eleven by thirteen inches, three inches thick, and weighing a full four pounds go missing in the small space of my house? The cover is red with a black back binding. I share this description so that if it turns up at your house you will recognize it and call me and I will come for it and bring it home at once.

On her part, Annie swears she has not seen the book and expresses no interest in helping me find it. From her point of view this object has little or no value, serving at best as an inferior scratching pad. At times like this, affection for Annie does not blind me to the obvious fact that she has distinctly narcissistic tendencies.

This leaves us dependent on my memory of the relevant passage.

You are likely to remember this scene from the musical Camelot: the battle is lost, the Knights of the Round Table killed or lost and scattered, and Sir Bedevere is alone with the dying King Arthur at the edge of the Lake. Sir Bedevere frantically resists Arthur’s approaching death, insisting that the good flowing from the Round Table is so significant that Arthur must not die, but must live and rebuild the Round Table to serve the common good.

In response, the dying king recalls in a bitter-sweet soliloquy  the splendor of the vision upon which the Round Table had been founded and the great deeds of its Knights. Then Arthur says, as much to himself as to Sir Bedevere, 

“The old order changes, yielding place to new, and God fulfills himself in many ways lest one good custom should corrupt the world.” 

Arthur’s insight expresses powerfully the value and purpose of entropy that I am wanting us to consider together.

Change—cruelty to kindness, want to plenty, ugly to beautiful—this pattern of change we readily embrace. But change—loss of the Round Table, the death of its Knights and the chaos that came with the fall of Camelot—the change of good to apparent disintegration and destruction—this pattern of change is less easy to accept, its meaning much less straightforward for most of us. 

How is it that change of good itself is in some way necessary for good to continue? How can good unchanged "corrupt the world"?

Thinking with you that holding life—the good and the bad—with open hands is not simply necessity—it’s wisdom.

See you next week.



Saturday, September 14, 2013

Loss and Gain

September 14, 2013

Dear Friends,

There is a beautiful new floor in the living-room/dining-room, but the furniture is still in various places (garage, kitchen, office), and dishes and decorative objects still in packing boxes in the garage.  Progress comes but certainly not effortlessly nor without cost.  I dropped and broke the most beautiful of my sun catchers (it was an incredible dusky purple when it caught the afternoon sun). 

While entropy is an insatiable user of energy, it is not an enemy. Decay and change open space for new good things. I am sad about the loss of that lovely shattered glass. I shall not see the rainbow that it cast across the floor again. But I have lived long enough to experience ambivalence: with my sadness there is certain anticipation that some other beautiful thing will come. I do not think that I will find another sun catcher. Certainly nothing of that mysterious cloudy purple is likely to come again. But there are other beautiful forms and color that I may live to see. 

In thinking about this idea I remembered something that King Arthur said to Sir Bedevere as Arthur lay dying, waiting for the Lady of the Lake to come for him.  The passage is too beautiful to risk misquoting, so this next week as chaos recedes I will locate my old copy of Morte de Arthur and share it in next week’s blog.

One of life’s great gifts is the inevitability of change. Many of us would lack the courage to let go if holding good things changeless lay within our power.

What good thing has come into your life that you would have missed without the experience of an old perhaps still regretted loss?

See you next week.