Thursday, November 15, 2018

Outer Fire and Inner Light

Well, I'm back in the saddle. Meaning the house. It's still here, although I'm not sure I am, at least not totally. Hard to believe it's been a full week since the drama began to unfold. I saw smoke on the horizon at about 3:00 PM last Thursday, and knew a brushfire was heading our way.

Which is no big deal. Indeed, it's rather exciting -- like a thunderstorm or <6.5 earthquake. It happens every few years, and in the past has always blown around and past us on its way to the coast. When I left the house for work Friday morning, it looked as if we were out of harm’s way, although I was a little worried about flaming embers coming from the north. But that’s what the fire department is for, right?

Picture a horseshoe with the round edge facing north. Our little neighborhood is inside the horseshoe, and is totally surrounded by open space. The Santa Ana winds blow in a northeast-to-southwest direction. So long as the firefighters make a stand to the north, then the fire comes down either side of the horseshoe, on its way to Malibu. No problem.

And again, rather exciting, especially at night. While they say it's dangerous, I've never felt unsafe in the past. Or maybe a little -- just enough to make it exhilarating. Makes you feel alive, is what it does.

But this time the fire decided to do something a little different. That is, when it was about halfway down the eastern flank of our horseshoe, the winds shifted and it suddenly blew in a westward direction -- or in other words, directly toward us. So the fire leveled seven houses that abut the open space. For reference, we're a few houses in from the open space; I'm not good at distances, but it's maybe the distance of a football field in a straight line.

I'm envious of my neighbors who stuck it out and didn't evacuate. Must have been an awesome spectacle. It reminds me of Churchill, who, when the bombs were falling during the Battle of Britain, would scramble onto the roof to watch the show. Again, it's simultaneously horrible and exciting, and you just have to accept the ambivalence. It doesn't mean you're a sadist, or that you enjoy the prospect of suffering.

Being an evacuee is pretty much a full-time job. Even if you're temporarily settled in someplace, you're worried about what's going to happen next. I didn't pack much, since I never imagined we'd be exiled for longer than a week, but I did toss a book into my briefcase on the way out: Schuon's Logic and Transcendence, which I've read many times, and is one of his best -- one of his few that is a unified work as opposed to a collection of disparate essays.

So I had time for a Very Close reading of this coonologically foundational text. I always get something new out of it. Either that or I'm getting old, so it seems new. Or maybe Principial Truth is by its nature "new." Yes, that's it. Compare it to, say, communion. I think to myself, "surely the priest must be bored after having done this thousands of times over the past 40 years." But he never looks like he's going through the motions.

Come to think of it, I do believe that "novelty" is a kind of essential reality; as is "renewal." How is it that I wake up in the morning and the world feels renewed and therefore novel? It's always the same-old same-old, and yet, new and different.

Part of it has to do with the nature of life, for what is Life itself but sameness-within-difference, or difference-within-sameness? I remember Rudolf Steiner writing about this. Let me see if I can dig it out.

Here it is: How to Know Higher Worlds (and who wouldn't want to know them?):

the moment will approach when we begin to realize that what is revealed to us in the silence of inner thinking activity is more real then the physical objects around us. We experience that life speaks in this world of thoughts....

Out of the silence something begins to speak to us. Previously we could hear speech only with our ears, but now words resound in our souls. An inner speech, an inner word, is disclosed to us.... Our outer world is suffused with an inner light. A second life begins for us. A divine, bliss-bestowing world streams through us.

Something like that. As the process continues,

We begin to form new ideas about reality. Things take on a different value for us. Yet such transformation does not make us unworldly. In no way does it estrange us from our daily responsibilities.

Speaking of which, I've got to get on with mine.


julie said...

Again, it's simultaneously horrible and exciting, and you just have to accept the ambivalence. It doesn't mean you're a sadist, or that you enjoy the prospect of suffering.

The house I grew up in was surrounded by woods. We never had a fire, but occasionally would get heavy winds (much like the Santa Anas, but blowing in off the ocean) that always threatened to take down trees and limbs around us, possibly smashing the roof. Or maybe just set off a mudslide, if there had been enough rain. My mom and I used to stand out on the porch, watching the trees and listening to the squeal of trunks rubbing against each other. Alarming, but also exhilarating.

Van Harvey said...

"And again, rather exciting, especially at night. While they say it's dangerous, I've never felt unsafe in the past. Or maybe a little -- just enough to make it exhilarating. Makes you feel alive, is what it does."

That's how I used to view thunderstorms - grab a drink, turn out the lights, watch the show, calm down the dogs - exhilarating. And besides, the really bad weather always went around us. Until it didn't, and the tornado forgot to turn. Once you realize that they're not like stuntmen that you can be sure will pull their punches, you just can't enjoy them anymore. Bummer.

And yep on refugee status, the week in a hotel was just exhausting.

So glad the books are all safe! Um... and all of the rest of you, too, of course.


ted said...

Glad you're all safe and the routine can ensue. Nothing like being taken out of the comfort zone. For some of us, that zone is a smaller circle. To live on the edge of the unknown is always a thrill. But we can't sustain for too long. Eventually, I need my slack.

David R. Graham said...

Glad you are well and safe.

What does Schuon say regarding Sathya Sai Baba? Probably been asked that many times.

An abbreviated answer, perhaps?

Gagdad Bob said...

Schuon rarely mentioned competitors by name. I myself don't know anything about Sai Baba, but Schuon approved of orthodox holy men and rejected heterodox ones, with occasional exceptions, for example, Ramakrishna. He made room for a kind of "genuine heterodox" category. Indeed, as far as I can see, Schuon himself would have fit that description. Come to think of it, he might even characterize Protestantism as a kind of orthodox heresy, i.e, a Christian deviancy with more of an Islamic form. But for the most part he was opposed to the blending or confusion of God-given revelations.

David R. Graham said...

Thanks for answering. I myself don't know anything about Schuon past a Wikipedia scan of him and others in his constellation. No primary literature, which of course is essential for grasp.

What I saw makes me startled at the thought that he could feel he had competitors. You would know far better than I and so I accept your use of the word in regard to his posture facing others, to include Sathya Sai Baba, a contemporary of Schuan's.

Your final sentence, regarding God-given revelations, really intrigues me. For what that's worth. :-) It begs a question hanging recently between me and an Anglican (ACNA) rector: does God-given revelation expose contradictory or at least incompatible aspects of the Divine Oneness?

Incidentally, and straightforwardly, without intent of patronizing, your writing's clarity is markedly improved from last time I checked in, many years ago. I flatter myself that mine is as well. So, you will understand. Learning intuitional shooting helped me -- developed single-pointedness -- plus just the constant commitment of pixel to screen.