Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Widow's Might: Joan's Koans

I’ve noticed that our culture is saturated with an amalgam of mantras, a plethora of pithy sayings and a buttload of witticisms all designed to recharge our spiritual carburetors, endow us with wisdom and inner peace, and provide reassuring respite.  In theory, they are supposed to cushion our daily stress and provide a rousing affirmative to our existence.  Theoretically.

OK.  I get that.  To arrive at  the temple of tranquility and well-being, we all need guidelines, a spiritual GPS to discover that which is sacred and ride out the storms gracefully.  At varying times, we are all maladjusted.

I personally believe that wisdom is the ultimate narcotic to counter the paralyzing injury and inefficiency that plagues us, usually without prior notice or consent.

We must have instructions, mental engineering, a higher state of reasoning.

Some of the most useful specifics for living well, I have learned from soccer coaches.

Here are just a few: 

1.        Turn and Burn!

2.       Run and Gun!

3.       Drill and Kill!

4.       Swear and Forbear!

(I made up that last one, but I like rhymes.)

However, images of violence notwithstanding, it is possible to extract some practical nuggets of rationale from 3-word rhymes for achieving Hemingway’s elevated vision of “grace under pressure.”  Of course, it requires  strong nerves and an iron will.

Why, just this past week, I had my annual appointment with the dermatologist, who practiced the soccer coach’s counsel with fervor.  He assembled his diabolical arsenal of Q tips that served as cruise missiles, and a gallon of liquid nitrogen, laced with nitroglycerin to give it maximum thrust.  Like a pitiless wombat with fast twitching muscle fiber and power-loaded haunches, he went tribal.  He would turn and burn, run and gun, drill and kill, vaporizing every mole and freckle.  I, in turn, had to swear and forbear. I rasped  obscenities that had lain dormant for years.

When it was over, I sat scorched, wincing, and looking like I’d been encased in festering bubble wrap, sucking in oxygen and blowing out carbon dioxide desperately exchanging gasses like fireplace bellows.  The whole of my entire pelt had been assaulted and singed, and I left his office hairless, witless and shrunken.  He said he hoped I had a good day as I hobbled out the door, no longer homo erectus, more like a pool of mercury on a glass table. 

Ah, but I digress. One of my favorite morsels for meditation came from Luis, Abram’s head soccer coach.  During a particularly intense moment in the match, he shouted with controlled power and authority, “DON’T.  BE.  TIRED!!” 

It resonated with everyone there.  Our team won the game, and I came home with a new coping mechanism.  I have moved a little higher up the evolutionary ladder, energized my batteries, and sworn off fatigue forever.

I have decided it would be in our best interest to re-evaluate the common sense of some of the sayings universally accepted as wisdom, and chip away at  inherent fallacies that are glaringly evident upon closer examination.  Adhering to fallacious reasoning is counter-productive. We’re toast, Dude.

For instance”

“Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.” 

Really?  Think about it.  That tired cliché, if strictly adhered to, produces guilt and frustration.  Even worse, it de-values mediocrity, a most valuable commodity.  Why do we continue to place unrealistic expectations of perfection upon ourselves?  What makes us fixate on what is wrong or missing?  We are casualties of false assumptions.  Mediocrity can be a far healthier phenomenon than stress and regret.  Expectations of flawlessness kindle depression and disgusting acts of depraved vulgarity.  I bear witness from experience.  Besides, it makes you Very. Very. Tired, which runs counter to Coach Luis’ admonition. 

Ergo, I propose we amend that little tension-producer to something more kind, more gentle, more forgiving.  How about:  “Anything worth doing…is worth doing.”

 That permits us to shamble along, taking pride in what we’ve accomplished, without being sucked into a black vortex of hopeless predicaments. Not every undertaking is deserving of majesty.  How vain is that?

So much of the manifestos of mantra druids should be debunked as outright hoaxes.  We need to refute and re-boot.

  “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”

WHAAAAT???  Of course, FDR delivered it to a nation in desperate need of stability and optimism.  Roger that. Now I’m not a proponent of paranoia, but we all have a whole lot to fear.  The newspaper and anchor people incessantly remind us of that hourly.  There’s terrorism, hostile take-overs, disease, insanity, murder, mahem, depravity, natural and unnatural disasters, the 2016 elections, the Royals and the Kardashians.  Don’t tell me we have nothing to fear!

I say, GET OUT THERE AND BE AFRAID…  BE VERY AFRAID!. It  cleanses the system and keeps one regular.  Besides, species evolve according to what they’re good at.  Without alarm and trepidation, we become complacent, unmotivated sloths, incapable of the fight or flight instincts crucial for survival.  The inescapable conclusion is that without fear, mankind, indeed the whole universe, will self-destruct.  Paranoia is our only hope!

Finally, I take serious issue with “No pain, no gain.” 

AS IF!!!  Were pain the only portal to gain, we’d all be members of The Church of Perpetual Masochism!  This little nugget of advice is truly a masterpiece of faulty construction.

Don’t get me wrong.  Pain has its place. I would not advocate for decadent and excessive consumption of luxury. Mark Twain said that humor is the poetry of pain.  I’ve studied Twain and his pain.  I’ve never been into self-flagellation, but I agree.  Some of the funniest stuff springs from the rubble of a broken heart.

Not everything has to hurt to be beneficial.  If pain is the pre-requisite to gain, why did man invent pain meds, hallucinatory drugs and recreational chocolate?

Therefore, I suggest we amend this four-word rhyme to “No pain, feels good.”  Not as catchy, true, but it might just propel us to mood stabilizing, meditative heights of mediocrity. 

Life is full of odd syncopations, grace notes, unexpected detours and infinite variations.  We need all the strategies we can get to negotiate the labyrinth.  Success running the maze is contingent on recognizing authentic wisdom.  So many of the time-honored clichés have all the validity of a hairball convention.  They only put blisters on the brain.

Happiness is a moral obligation, and it cannot be compromised by becoming victims of flawed thinking.

Today I am adopting the walking-meditation mantra:  “Om Sri Maha Ganapataye Namah.”  I don’t have a clue what it means.  I think it’s “And they lived happily ever after.”  Whatever.  I just know that when I repeat it, I don’t feel guilty, and, best of all, I’M.  NOT.  TIRED.

We need to anchor on something strong and assume the wisdom of gracious acceptance. I can do that.