Thursday, January 19, 2012

Drifting in the Moment and Putting Down Roots in the Eternal

[W]e live in tents, not houses, for spiritually we are always on the move. We are on a journey through the inward space of the heart, a journey not measured by the hours of our watch or the days of the calendar, for it is a journey out of time and into eternity. --Kallistos Ware

Two posts back, our unKnown Friend was speaking of the joy that accompanies movement of any kind.



Which brings back fond memories of the sacred Road Trip. Back in our college daze -- which, to our dismay, lasted only four terms (Ford, Carter, Reagan, and a slice of Nixon) -- we would load up the vehicle with a few cases of beer, get on the road, and take off for parts unknown.

It seems to me that it was more the sheer movement we craved. It didn't matter where we ended up, so long as we ended up in an altered state and not in a holding cell somewhere in the coastal mountains of California.

Unlike earlier phases of childhood, there was no clamorous Are we there yet?! For truly, there was no there there -- at least no abstract there that could compete with the vibrantly present here here now!

Now, just translight that last sentence into a general principle for living, minus the intoxicants (or deployed in a more sober manner).

There is a veiled reference to this on p. 206 of the Coonifesto, where it speaks of the frantic effort to chase after artificially induced episodes of (?!). This pretty much went with the erritory of being an adoltolescent Baby Boomer in the mid '70s, after the draft had safely ended and the pretentious efforts to save the world from American aggression turned inward, toward the ongoing struggle to make the world safe for infantile narcissism (which had been the true motive-force to begin with):

"Such Dionysian characters often attempt to terminate (•) with extreme prejudice. Although it would be misleading and sanctimonious to dismiss this approach as fruitless, it does not present itself as a sustainable lifestyle, nor may it be consistent with the relatively long life required to achieve a stable (¶).

"For other, more sober types, these tantalizing flashes of an alternative reality may become the initial motivation for a more methodical spiritual practice that attempts to follow (?!) back upstream to their source in 〇. Only through spiritual development can these metaphysical freebies evolve into a more conscious relationship to something that is felt as a continuous presence."

Which, when you think about it, is another kind of "movement," from one state of mind to another; or, more to the point, from a transient state of mind to an enduring state of being. From my first taste of satan's balm at the age of 17, I well remember this sensation of psychic movement. Technically speaking, I never really cared for being intoxicated. Rather, I enjoyed the movement in that direction. Once one was there, the movement -- and fun -- was over. Which is also why I shunned wine and hard liquor: too fast.

I remember back when I was in film school, we talked about the idea that there are two archetypal American characters, one of whom put down roots, the other of whom jes' kept on a-movin'.

The latter was one of the great things about America, the mobility. America is all about mobility of various kinds -- not just social and economic, but intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual as well. (When my father first emigrated here from static England, the first thing he did was drive cross country, stopping place to place for temporary employment.)

While most immigrants come to America for the economic movement, there was a time that the majority came for the possibility of spiritual movement. Then there are the whordes of fraudulent slack peddlers, 'deepack of wily liars who combine the two by marketing a worthless version of spirit, or an expensive version of cheap grace.

I'm no big fan -- or even fan -- of Jack Kerouac, but I just googled him for a quote, since his On the Road has become the adolescent archetype (or at least resonates with the original archetype) for the peculiarly American joy of sheer movement, or the exteriorization of inward mobility:

"What is the feeling when you're driving away from people, and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? -- it's the too huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

“We were all delighted, we all realized we were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one and noble function of the time, move.”

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”

I remember Seinfeld touching on this in one of his routines. His hobby is driving. Why? Because one can be both outside and inside, sitting and moving, stationary and hurtling, at the same time.

I agree. Although I am now more of an extreme indoorsman, my favorite exterior hobby might well be driving my jalopy through the canyon roads on the way to and from work, with the CD player blasting. It seems to me that this activity is a sort of miracle, and yet, it's so common that people don't seem to fully appreciate it. Flying through space with Sun Ra in your ears, playing for you from saturn via his cosmic funkmanship? Remarkable.

I think "progressives" must confuse the road trip with politics. That is, at the end of the day, despite all of the frenetic movement, the progressive still hasn't gotten anywhere. Rather, he's just blown the money tree leaves (HT American Digest) from one place to another, minus the government's hefty vig.

Indeed, the whole point of a real road trip is to go from somewhere to nowhere, just for the thrill of getting lost. But in order to do this, one must have maps and boundaries. In other words, to go off the map, one must first have one. For the extreme seeker, the groomed slopes are needed to get to the ungroomed slopes. Which is why the drifters need the settlers, and vice versa. They are a function of one another.

But look at the Obama cultists, a disproportionate number of whom are the young and stupid. Why? Because they want change, AKA movement. They didn't vote for a president, but for a driver for their childish political road trip. What's wrong with these kids today? Haven't they ever heard of drugs? Or is mass leftism their only hopiate?

Don't do as the hypocritical Obama says, but do as he did, and spend your college days sucking on a bong. At least you'll only harm yourself instead of taking the country down with you. Don't be like the boomers, and try to get high off politics! You'll only end up addicted.

Now, there are two kinds of spirituality that mirror the drifter and settler, which you might say reflect the "static" and "dynamic" aspects of God. The further east you go -- psychospiritually speaking -- the more you see the divine stasis, the eternal rest, the unmoved mover, the idea of entering nirvana, which literally means to "extinguish the light."

But the same holds for Christianity, in that Eastern Orthodoxy prides itself on the fact that it hasn't changed since the time of the apostles. For them, the Catholics are the Protestants.

On the other extreme, you have all of the Christian movements that have arisen here in the United States. Why? I imagine a big part of it has to do with the idea of movement as it pertains to the American psyche. We will never be a majority Catholic or Orthodox nation for the same reason we reject public transportation. We want to travel about in our own vehicles. Is it possible to do this without being hopelessly heretical and narcissistic, like the new agers and integralists? Is it possible to be an "orthodox drifter," a straight hobosexual?

As a matter of fact, I think UF does a pretty good job of describing this person in Letter IX, The Hermit. For isn't that what the Hermit is, a spiritual drifter making his way from day-to-day to this or that temporary shelter?

Come to think of it, what's the subtitle of MOTT? A Journey into Christian Hermeticism. And will you be, like, happy, when the journey's over? Or eager to take off again on the next same one?

One of the best known of the Desert Fathers of fourth-century Egypt, St. Sarapion the Sindonite, traveled once on a pilgrimage to Rome. Here he was told of a celebrated recluse, a woman who lived always in one small room, never going out. Skeptical about her way of life -- for he was himself a great wanderer -- Sarapion called on her and asked: "Why are you sitting here?" To this she replied: "I am not sitting, I am on a journey." --Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way


Verdiales said...

Bingo. Kerouac was just another consumer, just of "experiences" instead of goods.

There's now in American culture a new (?) male icon/arcanum -- I don't know what name to give it -- the "older worldly guy who has Done It All." He sits back at his corner table in the bar, expensive hooch before him, buxom sexpot beside, and stares at you with some supposedly enviable expression. He travels light, but he's going to die with the most "experiences" and therefore win. You're supposed to want to be this guy, but he's just another bloated consumer.

There's a line in song somewhere by a kid who grew up in canyons that goes "it's not where you been, son/ it's what you understand/Do you know the right from wrong/tell me boy are you an honest man?/Have you ever felt the fire/stumbled upon with a precious desire?"

The song is called "Traveling Jones."

Gagdad Bob said...

I once knew a guy who was exactly like that. He said something to the effect that he was living his life so as to assure that when he was an old man he would have the most enviable memories -- as if one can be nurtured in this retrospective manner.

mushroom said...

A brilliant post.

As I was reading I realized that almost everything I have ever enjoyed is tied to that static/dynamic movement. We loved riding horses and going on trail rides to, essentially, nowhere. Cars, bicycles, motorcycles, boats -- especially "float trips" where you let the river carry you along.

I have especially fond memories of riding around in the old orange Nova with ZZ Top in the eight-track. We didn't care if we ever got to Acuna. The joy was knowing that the Mexican Blackbird was there waiting. "Hand me another one of them brews from back there."

Verdiales said...

mushroom, I agree, and believe me, I've been there. That moment of hopping into the car when the last t has been crossed, finally liberating you, is like opening a can of joie de vivre and letting it spray up into your head. But in my experience, what is even better is *landing* somewhere that is different, but feels strangely like home. I've sensed this several times in my life, and it is truly bizarre. It feels a bit like this:

Then first my spirit seemed to scent the air
Of Paradise; then first the tardy sand
Of time ran golden; and I felt my hair
Put on a glory, and my soul expand.

That's from a poem by Christina Rossetti, but it captures any man's sense of getting out into a river in the first light, just as the hatch starts to rise, and feeling like "it doesn't get any better than this." It's a different place, but it's right where you want to be, and feel right there harmoniously with it. A marvelous feeling.

Gagdad Bob said...

In disparate moments the soul recognizes its home.

Gagdad Bob said...

Probably a recollection of paradise, a memoir of the future....

Verdiales said...

I like to think of it as just being in the zoene (sic).

horatio said...

gotta love the republicans. Who to chose? The man that wanted an open marriage--serial monogamist or the man whose religion teaches (sorry, taught--weirdly, at one time it was required, but then not-still...) "plural" marriage.
Newt should have become a fundamentalist Mormon!

mushroom said...

You know there was a Saturday Night Live skit they did during the Clinton impeachment when Newt was still Speaker. It has Clinton sitting at the desk in the Oval Office going through the succession list, the first being, of course, the VP. Clinton dismisses Al Gore by saying, "If I go down, that stiff SOB is going down with me." Next is the Speaker, and Clinton says something like, "If you want a chubby Southerner with ethics problems, you might as well stick with me."

Newt: He's like Clinton without the sax.

Gagdad Bob said...

Without the sax appeal.

But when he smacks down the moderator, I have to admit that I get a tingle in my thigh.

jwm said...

Back in the early '90's when I had the Harley, I spent every summer for five years wandering around the country with no place in particular to go, and, for the best part, no particular time to be there. All in all I crossed the continent ten times over on the bike, and another four or five times in the car. The first such trip was magic, but by the third time out on the road I realized that this sort of travel sounds like a lot more fun than it actually is. When there is no destination all places begin to look the same. Magnificent scenery loses its magnificence when it becomes just another stop in an endless succession of stops.
I suppose the same thing can be said for engaging in some endless, and aimless search for enlightenment. After a while each new guru becomes the equivalent of another meal at a roadside chain restaurant, another night in a cheap motel. Far better to travel with a specific place to go, a specific reason for going there, and a specific time to leave for home.


Peyton said...

Little Gidding:

If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid.