September 2008

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In certain times, there is a sense of progress and riches. In such times many of us can ply our trades and offer our wares with youthful panache and virtuosity. There appears to be much work to be done, and we offer to do whatever there is and more, because we want to be in on the doing. There is room for all: the more, the merrier. We expand to the edges, to fill the space of these times, as if they are all of time.

Then, times change. Space contracts, and we have grown older. Now it is difficult to know which is what; where causes lie. Some of us, hurt, strike out in the directions we can still find, and strike inward at the past’s duped selves. We were bought and sold out of our own exuberant innocence. Digging in, we strove to get beyond the times, and beyond our former selves, to do whatever the work we had promised our selves.

Others have made fewer self-promises. No one at home, they sought causes and found them in all directions outside of themselves. The truly skilled found support in continuity: others, flushed and flashed, disappeared from view. The causes, the support, the on-goings and the going on, all exacted certain costs, and demanded certain prices. And the less self-promised paid them, lest they, too, disappear. Stronger, now, in the weaknesses of belonging.

Here we are still, together. Strong…appearing. All of us less innocent. Which of us survive until tomorrow?

Free from, free to…so free that I often fall into the self-caused tar pits of my imaginings. I seem to vacillate between whatever is total freedom to think, to read, to be – and the fervent wish to know exactly what is going on, and what will be.

This freedom business is not so simple as once I thought. I can do just about what I want; as long as I can figure out what I want. I can plan, I can not-do, I can assent or refuse or dissent or argue. And it is often wonderful, following my nose which is hard upon the scent of knowledge.

But there are others; and freedom often gets in the way. My freedom impinges on yours, my dissent treads upon your assent, our noses cross paths as foreheads bump and teeth clash. It is difficult, even, to remain on similar trajectories for those of us who think we have chosen to be all together in freedom; and out of freedom.

And we all have different histories, different senses of how free is free, and how to think out this moment’s freedom in each next moment. Instead, we get into dead ends whose sign was not obvious until we had entered too deeply, and in some frantic thrashings try to extricate ourselves without considering costs. Still invoking the word, we first mutter, eventually scream for the freedom whose definition always needed the next moment’s guarding…

The best of times; the worst of times. Right now?

The human condition, almost freed from the necessity to work interminably for the few crumbs to maintain itself, cannot harness that freedom. Our theories of what is leisure, what is work, what is life and death, developed out of time when the human cry was for relief. And now we have relief; (and) know not what to do with it.

So afraid of death that we look for a messianic moment, we diminish life to a sorry story. So afraid of the dynamics of dealing with imbalance and bad possibilities, that we choose the worst we can imagine, not being able to sustain the imagination of what is good or best.

How do we imagine what is good or best? Attacks upon our ability to think, attacks upon knowledge, upon meaning when there is so much knowing available that it expands beyond itself before it barely touches the air.

Where are the so-good-story tellers that our good stories may occur in life? Or have we agreed that it is the anti-virtues, the greed, the hunger for power and money that dominates in some senses inexorably? Have we agreed that we are weak, that we cannot strive? The best of times, the best of minds were, but not are; not right now!

Time to grow ourselves. Time to seek the character within ourselves which will expand to envision a meaningful life. Time to live our expanding visions!

Why discuss the old issues, the perennial questions? If we have no great new insights, no strongly critical views, why ask the why’s and wherefores?

Why? Because our memories are short. We lose – and have lost -questions and how they were handled; and this is important to know if only to see our own seeing, in the present.

Why? Because earlier minds included some of the best and wisest, the ones with whom we would like to walk together in the world and have them, their thinking, share the ideas of today.

Why? Because the places we are now, how we got here was often determined shaped or formed by some of these persons. Knowing what they said and asked and why, will help to inform today’s discussions: noting what is similar, what different; what old, what new.

Why? Because we lose sight, occasionally, of what fundamental issues are, as the current marketplaces of our own lives and experiences may elevate particular issues and obscure others. They may offer hope or drive us to varieties of pessimism, skepticism, cynicism, or nihilism. These we must deal with, fight, combat, and envision other futures.

Why? We much attempt to understand and gain insight into who we are in any moment. In any age, as we mature individually we must strive to attain the wisdom whose primary issue and mission is the quest for what is wisdom.

Why discuss the old issues…? Because each new generation must be taught to see that we are part of the continuity, progresses, hopes, problems, tendencies both to love and to destroy, that have enabled our own lives and wonderment.

Why discuss? – to give us the opportunity to express our voices in the domains of life, now upon an earth whose size makes it urgent that we join together in becoming students of life and of the world.

Why? So we are not sucked-in to destroy out of ignorance or thoughtlessness…or in the name of any apparent purpose.

Why discuss? To explore others…and ourselves.