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Aesthetically it annoys the tar out of me. And you know how difficult it is to clean up tar.)
Finish LineWhat we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from…
We shall not cease from exploration
T. S. Eliot
When I set out jogging on a loop course I expressly plan to return to where I started, cross a clearly defined finish line, and stop. (If I don't do all this, something went badly wrong.) We don't expect that obvious and simplistic a dynamic in any moral, spiritual, emotional, or otherwise personal and subjective quest. But using this analogy of a marathon loop, in my personal journey and introspection I do repeatedly see such cycles. Usually over several years I gradually dissect, poke into, and scrutinize certain core premises, beliefs, assumptions, and values. Typically I come back to some point of origin, or at least something very near to it.
This happens never by design or intention; it just turns out that way.
One difference: the finish line becomes merely a metaphorical point of reference, not a signal to stop. I may slow down, walk awhile, even take a break here and there, but the course never ends. Oh yeah, life goes on. When I reach something that looks or feels like some sort of "finish" and I pause long enough to watch the dust settle, I often find that in fact I do freshly reaffirm some value I held before running this loop. I gain some sort of broader, deeper, or more nuanced perspective. That corroboration gives a little sense of "Aha! Now I do understand," as if finally I truly and exhaustively comprehend the topic du jour—religion, ethics, relationships, faith, morality, any specific issue.
Huhhuhhhuhuhuh. Silly wabbit.
So I catch my breath, stretch out, shower, relax a bit. Time to enjoy the luxurious warm-glow fatigue following a vigorous workout. Fair enough. Optimal growth and fitness, whether physical, intellectual, or spiritual, requires rest and recuperation to balance effort and exertion.
And inevitably something challenges the reassurance of my newfound confidence. New questions require scrutiny. New circumstances don't fit even this recently-enhanced perspective that seemed so vast. Didn't I have it all worked out this time? What happened? Looks like I need to put on clean socks, lace up the shoes, and hit the trail again.
Good. See you soon.
Here I go, on the road again….
Having run a few big laps several times, today I do affirm most of the fundamental moral and spiritual principles of my childhood; they've grown, expanded, bloomed. I've watched them morph in bits and pieces as if viewed through a kaleidoscope, so that now some of them look little or nothing like they used to.
Below I try to sum up a few of these personal views that have evolved. I realize that some of them can stir up controversy, so please understand that here I aim to emphasize the affirmative. Centrally, I'm learning to run with a different outlook. Any line we draw—finish line, start line, mile marker, whatever— can at best provide only a temporary frame of reference. Perspective keeps changing as you keep moving.
Trying to convey these things can quickly become one of those places in a Fun House with two mirrors directly facing each other: an apparently infinite set of reflections shows up all the way down the line. It evokes the cliché: you say you know it all, you know nothing; you say you know nothing, you know it all. Probably better just to shut up altogether but then you'd be looking at a blank page here.
If you have problems with anything stated here, if something sounds trite or pretentious, I apologize for my clumsiness in expressing it. Just check back in a few years; I’ll probably understand it differently. Maybe I’ll even have learned how to say it better.
1. Do what you can about what you can. No need to obsess over getting it all right. Sometimes we achieve magnificence, sometimes we screw up horribly, most of the time we do at least fairly well. I, for one, make a very good tuna salad.
2. Faith? You bet. I have strong faith in reality and reason, time and chance, space and matter, here and now. (Regarding all this, see #1).
7. Much and probably most of life pivots on coincidences, chances, flukes that we seize or let slip. Most outcomes lie somewhere in between.
8. Swami Satchidananda: "No appointment, no disappointment."
9. Rev. Edwin A. Abbott's brilliant little book, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, elucidates an exhilarating perspective on, well, perspective. First published in 1884, this unique tale based on conscious geometric entities challenges limited worldviews as strongly today as it did then. Perhaps more so, given how much more we know today, or can know.
10. Jon Anderson, "Soon" (© 1974 Topographic Music Ltd.):
Soon Oh soon the light
Pass within and soothe this endless night
And wait here for you
Our reason to be here
Soon Oh soon the time
Long ago, set into rhyme
Soon Oh soon the light
12. Gospel according to John: Imagine…
13. Tao te Ching: Going on means going far. Going far means returning.
Isn't this where—