Yesterday I asked (professor) Bill “so why is goodness the thing?” I know this sounds like a stupid question. I had to ask because it is one of the questions remaining after I’ve boiled down a stew of thought, a meal of contemplating just how I would cope with the unavoidable weirdness of existence. This question of “why goodness” is greasy rime at the bottom of this pot. Why goodness? Why are we designed to seek this state of goodness and not to be in some other state? Evil, for example (I can hear the arguments from here). Or some other state that I cannot even imagine? Bill’s response was: “It beats the alternatives”. Fair ’nuff. That’s where I stopped too.
Some thoughts are simple thoughts that float on the surface. It seems at times like they might even be in our way. Eager to clear our vision and search for the hidden stuff (which mush be important) we dismiss the obvious. Though obvious does not dictate lesser value and simplicity does not dictate ease. We are creatures who expend vast quantities of energy to return to the simple truths that we are told as children. Share, love, laugh. The scope of our consciousness may nuzzle against infinity but it is maybe not so deep as we would wager? Maybe it is wide and flat like a great cake pan. Or a glass bottom pool giving the illusion of height when sitting at the bottom, hungover the unimaginable. I wonder if we’re born this way. Doomed to a heuristical burning up, eagerly constructing another pair of wax flappers while the stumps on the first pair smolder. Or, maybe we don’t have to dive so deep or flap so high to find some really useful lessons. Like Love. And yes, I’m using the great wide (great wide cake pan?) expanse of Love including the romantic (of course) and every imaginable form of Love from mother to child and the Agape of the Greeks and Love that the Buddha and Christ are.
Nothing that I say is remotely original. I am writing this to show off my belly flops in the shallow pool. Watch me grasp at floating rings. I am only trying to write the sentences that fit my feeling so I can unfurl a bit more and show my colors. I am not writing for myself. I am writing for you and you are reading for me. And once again we’re back to collaboration, back to the dirt simple truth that people stand a better chance of stumbling on goodness when truly together with open hearts. Check your nearest Yogi tea bag for truth. Talk to a preschool teacher. Or a preschooler. A curious child will quickly and intuitively asks the most fundamental and unanswerable questions ever mustered; theology, science, philosophy – all things considered (although that is a different story). Go listen to a love song. Go watch a love film of which there are legions. Read a poem. Love drenches our culture and society but I feel like I have just taken my first sip, just begun deciphering. For example, I have just now realized that Love doesn’t exist in a clenched fist. Love conquers all as “they” say, so it’s surrender or not at all. That took nearly 30 years. Do I learn my next lesson at 60? No – I am convinced that this is a process of building and healing. The treadmill is escapable, but only with the love and kindness of others.
I think we crave convincing. We want to make sure that we’re not special. Ideally we would all have a chance to burst through the briars and lay claim to some undiscovered great truth. Our legacy secured, the vain hope of reward is filled by finding that the road to truth is indeed paved in gold, a yellow brick road. But this ain’t the case. The path is muddy, or maybe bricked in on a good day and on a bad day it’s at best a trail of breadcrumbs left by someone else. It is understandably difficult to accept that a trail of soggy crumbs can lead the way to a bit of goodness. All this assuming the birds don’t get to the crumbs first, bird brained as we can be.
Watch the clip below to understand my experience of revelation while walking. Bill Murray being kicked in the testicles will save me paragraphs of heavy handed writing. I’ll let you work out which character embodies el Camino and which the pilgrim. This clip is from the film Scrooged, described by IMDB as a “dark and surreal” re-telling of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Also, In the 1951 rendition of A Christmas Carol Alistair Sim does a wonderful job of portraying this sudden, shovel to the face realization of the obvious and profound lessons of wide angle Love.
Watch me –> Scrooged
As Bill Murray resists being changed towards greater Love he can’t help but get angry and gripe and turn combative. He still thinks he has some right to be a miserable curmudgeon. He can’t accept how stupid he has been to miss the lessons that flit at the tip of noise. I’ve had many face-palm moments of understanding on the Camino. The good ones have left me feeling like a complete idiot. A grinning dolt cackling at having found the truth and murmuring in amazement – “Today the sky is blue!!” I can only be self deprecating in this. It’s truly funny to me, and the recognition of my buffoonery is both amusing and distancing from cruel and stupid lines of thought. Much of it is Me talking to myself. Something I do on a regular basis. There was a day that I was surprised to find myself (and myself is what exactly? Also, different story) moderting a debate between two other voices, also both me. So please, humor me and read the following with a light heart and a smirk. Gracias.
Observe the complex majesty of my grand revelations.
Amazing observation #1
Me, to me: Reflection is not just aimless thought. The point of reflection is to learn something and then use the lesson learned you nincompoop.
Me: Love is important.
Me: No, no – LOVE is reeaaalllly important!
me: “yeah dude, I know.”
Me: NO YOU BLITHERING NINNY LOVE IS WHAT BINDS HUMAN EXISTENCE TO ANY SHRED OF MEANING.
me: “Oh! OHHHHHH SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!!!!”
Me: Being nice to people is important and good. In fact, you should be nice to people all the time, even if they don’t seem very nice, because they need the niceness more. And niceness isn’t about an expected reward so don’t even think about being nice to earn future favor. Be nice even if it seems a bit detrimental to you, niceness is not about self interest remember, or else it wouldn’t be nice to do. It would be selfish. And, alongside thinking nice things you should do nice things too. Perhaps even each day you could do nice things. OoooooKaaaaay?
me: “oh. right. Ok yeah I knew that.”
A real gem
Me: Oh you have an ethic brought about by experience with the world and relations with others? You should maybe live it instead of engaging in activities opposite to that ethic? Hmmm?
me: “Dang…yeah…I didn’t think of that before. That sounds like a good move. I’ll do that.”
On the day I was to arrive in the myth-bound city of Santiago I considered neither eating nor drinking to really dig deep and grind out some hardcore, inscrutably genuine pilgrim kilometers. In this twitch of foolery I nearly missed my chance to celebrate all I had learned by eating an ice cream at the summit of Monte de Goza (Mount Joy). This jut of topography allows the first peek into the city of Santiago de Compostela. So I bought an ice cream bar. I ate it. I collected myself and breathed full, two-lunged breaths. I strolled along with my double chocolate hazelnut bar, tears rolling down my face and bursts of laughter escaping between snatches of ice cream. Hunks of the chocolate carapace calve off the bar and stick to my pants. I looked, I am sure, like a complete lunatic for at least the second time this trip. At this thought I laughed even harder, and began drawing truly curious looks.
“It is the best joke there is, that we are here, and fools—that we are sown into time like so much corn, that we are souls sprinkled at random like salt into time and dissolved here, spread into matter, connected by cells right down to our feet, and those feet likely to fell us over a tree root or jam us on a stone. The joke part is that we forget it. Give the mind two seconds alone and it thinks it’s Pythagoras. We wake up a hundred times a day and laugh.”