A Note on Repetition
Good teachers and lecturers often repeat important points in their classes or lectures. I remember reading somewhere that when T.S. Eliot was asked why he repeated certain themes so often he replied to this effect (obviously I'm paraphrasing his words as I don't recall them exactly), "Ah, but I always repeated them in different ways!" Thus it is with any good teacher - he or she will repeat their important points in as many ways as possible to hammer them home. I am conscious that I may be repeating things here for the same reason, but I am also aware that I may be unconsciously repeating things, too, like a broken record, as my mother used to say. I hope that when I repeat things that they are in the former manner not the latter here. Preachers or politicians who speak off the cuff often repeat themselves unawares. Hopefully these thoughts are not in that fashion either.
I'll finish off this current posts with some reflections in the form of questions as well as in the form of statements as there are no general answers when one speaks about personal development, human development, counselling or meditation that will fit every one's situation precisely. Of course, like all human sciences, there are general principles and axioms, but they have to be tailored to the individual's situation. Therefore a mix of both is the best methodology for our purposes here.
|bank of Ireland, College Green, Dublin, June 2013|
What makes life so interesting is its sheer complexity and uncertainty. No matter what plans we make, the sheer randomness and chaotic nature of life insists on interrupting us. We think we are in control of our own little lives. I suppose that is the way we moderns have been brought up - that is with a sense of our own sheer individuality and separateness as an autonomous self. Those who read history, especially the history of ideas, will know that individuality is a concept that has only loomed large in the last 200 years or so. We somehow stupidly believe the world revolves around us. We are stuck in an outmoded concept of selfhood. Let me call this idea of selfhood the Ptolemaic notion of the self. However, if we really reflect upon it, any really worthwhile, practical or commonsense (ironically, this is not all that common at all) notion of the self will be what I call a Copernican or Postmodern one which acknowledges that the self is orbitting with many other selves around each other. Whether we like it or not, reality interrupts our tiny plans, and that's what they are, tiny, though not insignificant for us - indeed very significant for us, but terribly insignificant for others. Hence we need perspective and not a little humour. A sense of humour is important so we do not take our "self" too seriously.
Acknowledging Life's Interruptions
|O'Connell Bridge, Dublin, June, 2013|
- What are my main preoccupations at the moment? (Personal health or that of loved ones; financial worries;professional concerns; personal disagreements; depression etc)
- What are my senses being bombarded with from day to day?
- How stressed am I?
- What do I need to let go of?
- Who do I need to let go of?
- Can I let go of them?
- What do I need to accept in my life?
- Who do I need to accept in my life?
- What does A or B event show me about my self?
- What does Xor Y person and my interaction with them show me about my self?
- How do I deal with a, b, c, d, e, etc interruptions? Can I just let them come or go in an objective fashion?
- Why should I let my "self" be buffetted about by events and by others rather randomly in the sense that I let them consume me?
- Why can't I accept them objectively and let them go without consuming me?
Erich Fromm, the great social psychologist and psychoanalyst used to say that "nothing human is alien to me!" I remember a former lecturer in spirituality saying something on similar lines: "Nothing human is foreign to spirituality!" All is grist to our mill. In this sense, then, in the sense of all my above paragraphs, there is never a denial of life in all its vicissitudes at play in meditation. In other words, there is never a denial of good and evil in meditation or any real spirituality because what meditation and spirituality are about is acceptance, recognition and attitude. We can choose our attitude to life, to all its ups and downs, ins and outs. In a certain sense meditation, spirituality, and counselling and psychotherapeutic practices have much in common with Stoic philosophy, being able to stand back and observe life from a still point or from an objective place which the author I was discussing in my last post, namely Singer calls "the seat of self!"
I wish whoever reads this wee post as well as my own self a hearty welcome and the persistence in practice to reach that objective seat!