Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Decisions, decisions

I sent out an email to the UNC SKS listserv last night, which borrowed heavily from my posts about "living up" to our beliefs and experiencing the urgency of true spiritual work. It was essentially a call to arms for people who want to live their lives with genuine urgency and passion. And Lauren, who can be immanently practical about such things, replied, "So . . . how are we going to deliver on that?" Which is to say: what the hell can we do in a meeting which can convey that seriousness?

Very good question. I had already told Lauren that the essential spiritual urgency was something people "picked up" on from others, not something that can be canned inside a safe meeting topic. So the only way that you can communicate what is most true about the spiritual life it to manifest it yourself. And if you can't manifest it yourself . . . well, your SOL.

So I asked myself: "What about the times when you did feel that urgency and that drive? When did you feel that intensity?" And the answer I arrived at was: when I made a decision that had real consequences for my life, in favor of the spiritual life. The only way you ever know you're serious is when you are paying the price. Until then it's all talk, all smoke and mirrors.

I think the first time I felt it was when I had to tell my family and my scientific advisor that I was going to spend the summer on a farm in West Virginia, instead of doing lab research to forward my career. I had been a good little boy in the academic world my entire life, so at the time it felt like the end of the world. In retrospect it seems so small . . . but I remember the strain of sitting there, listening to the lab manager tell me that I was wasting the chance of a lifetime, and not really being able to argue with him. And also the tremendous relief when my parents were completely cool with it.

I felt it again when I threw away my grad school applications and decided to stay in the area to work the Self Knowledge Symposium.

I felt it most of all when I broke up with my girlfriend because I wasn't willing to get married, because I thought she deserved a committment from me, and I wasn't willing to make it because I thought it would jeopardize my spiritual life.

Ironically, I felt it again when, a year later, I married that same girl . . . because I knew that I needed someone else to support me in my spiritual life.

So the question for the meeting, if there ever could be a single question that would manifest urgency, would be: when did you make a decision, a committment, to living a more real life, that had real consequences? And, what commitment could you make now that would lead to a more real life?



Post a Comment

<< Home