“My fancies curl around these images and cling: the notion of some infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing.”
“The faith, and the hope, and the love are all in the waiting.” — T.S. Eliot
“I went looking for a cause
Or a strong cat without claws
Or any reason to resume
And I found this empty seat
In this crowded waiting room
Joni Mitchell (“This Train” on “Court and Spark”)
Jung said that our spiritual development is our own personal form of crucifixion. That we are all caught in the crosshairs of our need for homeostasis and the moral imperative to change, to change especially ourselves. That it is in fact a necessary excruciation, or perhaps a long series of them, to transform ourselves in a way that enfolds us harmoniously into a bigger world.
We’re not so big on suffering these days. The Transcendent Awareness Movement is jubilant in advertising that a simple shift of attention or attitude can give us immediate and ongoing “indestructible” joy. Seductive; on one level, perhaps true. It’s all in the getting to that moment, it’s all in the waiting.
And so many of us are waiting. Waiting for that moment to come to us. In the crowded waiting room that this world can so often seem like. And with hopes of the golden ring coming round on our side of the carrousel Waiting itself is a form of excruciation if it is not enveloped by the “faith, and hope, and love” that Eliot speaks to.
So. Waiting, surprise, is a capacity with a double-edged sword. How best do we wait? Back to the beginning. “In my beginning is my end” says Eliot elsewhere. That is perhaps where we best wait. Where we end. Where we can give up our personal ambitions and start with the vast context of the panoply of the human condition: “an infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing.”
Given the amount of violence in this world, and the fact that its history seems to be building upon itself like “tufa,” that is, the crystalized rock formations of a seemingly grotesque nature that form at Mono Lake. Evaporation leaves mineral columns of unsettling rock standing out of the water. Calcified. Fixed, yet brittle.
As the care seems to evaporate from this warming world, heated in part by the distracted efforts of the human world, it sometimes seems as if it is our nature for aggression to become codified. We are left with structures of society that has built in aggressions towards given populations, economic classes, countries of origin, and the list goes on.
We feel trapped. We are waiting for this portion of the Anthropocene to pass. When in fact, these, at least for the foreseen future, constitute the essence of this human centered epoch/realm.
We need to wait in a different way. The Buddha and his predecessors pointed the way: “Ahisma…” “First do no harm.” Here faith, hope and love have a proper context. We live in the faith that flares of emotional fires will extinguish over time. We live in the hope that our example will attract like souls and that our willingness to abide in equanimity will gather and create islands of awareness in the storm of the maddening crowds.
But all this takes heart skill development. Teachings towards this for me are compromised in the religious traditions of the West. Such skill development seems to have been more thought out, with a more sophisticated spiritual psychology in the East.
But reading about it is not enough. We must have safe spaces, dare-say, safe mini-societies to develop and test all this out in. We have to develop a form of “Active Waiting” where the mind is in training: refraining from reaction, understanding the traumas, even historical ones, at center of every harm.
The danger becomes that we form our own bubbles, outside of which we are viewed as cults. And sometimes that has played out. Cults seem to destroy themselves from within. I guess the litmus test is: Does my community give me more emotional intelligence, flexibility, compassion, and understanding of all the world and all the people outside my group? Does it give me greater capacity in helping others, and maintaining all the elements of my personal health in the great marketplace that is this world?
It is sometimes complex. I abandoned a world-wide community when the leader was a grand failure in answering the questions. But the local community where I once lived continues to answer the above questions most positively, brilliantly even. Perhaps I should have waited. For what now shall I wait? I have a few ideas well worth contemplation.