A Web of Obligations

We tie ourselves within a web of obligations, forgetting that while these so-called acts of responsibility are meant to help us fulfill our lives, they actually keep us from it.

What struck me was the way we handle the mid-term. It’s not just in the short-term that we do everything twice. In the mid-term, in “projects” lasting weeks or months or years, we believe that without concocting an agenda and then serving its demands we are simply drifting without direction.

Sometimes, over the longest term, when we consider our life’s trajectory over decades, we do see the way, as John Lennon so aptly put it, “Life happens while we were busy making other plans.”

We do not consider the implications of this in how we deal with things as they are going on. We revert to believing that, “It’s the plan stupid!

When we consider the incoherence of thought this is one of the ways it affects us most directly. The illusion of an “I,” leads to illusions surrounding its agency. We then adhere to an allegiance to these illusions and then wonder why we are frustrated, why everything we do ends in unintended consequences. If we could dislodge some of our energy and attention from bolstering our own prison we might see that there are other ways to act. We trap our selves in an active allegiance to the drama which we then insist in characterizing as life itself. We insist that we’d rather destroy everything, our selves included, than admit that drama is not life, but a shadow occluding life’s presence and diminishing its fecundity.

What if we bring this other attitude, the one we glimpse as we look at the broader trajectory of our lives, to how we go about what we do every day?

To begin with, this presents us with an awesome responsibility. One we are too “busy” to recognize while we pretend to act “responsibly” meeting all our self-imposed obligations. This reaction is normal, and temporary. It is a confrontation with a direct connection. One outside the usual magical thinking we are accustomed to. As we allow our selves to inhabit this unaccustomed feeling we realize that it is a break from futility. And this energizes us and brings us into a relationship with joy. We are liberated. In the only way that can happen. We liberate ourselves. This occurs internally. There are no conditionalities we need to meet before this can happen. It is a form of recognition of proprioception. We discover where we have unencumbered agency. This is a gift of clarity. A gift of Grace.

An enduring legacy of practicing an Art is the repeated confrontation it affords us with the complete irrelevance of effort and intention when we look at whether we’ve achieved a result. What begins as a practical apprenticeship in humility becomes a lifelong confrontation with the limits of Ego within a dedication to creativity. Many destroy themselves in an effort to deny it. To insist that the self is identical to the Gift. Some are able to generate spectacle as they do this. We are captivated by the flash as they self destruct.

My abiding love for Vincent van Gogh grows from an appreciation of another possibility. He followed compassion and humility – and if recent theorizing on the situation that led to his death are true – his humility led him to accept the blame for his own death rather than be responsible for having hate ripple forward to destroy the lives of the youngsters who unwittingly shot him.

Bruised by Art’s intractability as it destroys our illusions we may reject it and its lessons. We cleave that much more closely to an internalized oppressor, demanding our obedience to its imposing authority. We treat our organism with contempt and as with any slave. We hate it as much as we rely on its chained efforts to maintain our way of life. We fall into the rationalizations of authority fearing all our shadows while insisting they are out there instead of merely projections of our own disintegration. No wonder we despair. There appears to be no way out but into fantasy, delusion, or complete and utter destruction. Seeking fantasy. Finding delusion. We grasp onto destruction as our deserving Fate in a hidden recognition of our guilt.

None of this leads anywhere but around in a circle, a death-spiral. This drama we call life is only a toxic simulacra. Grace, humility, compassion beginning with compassion for the organism we abuse with every breath, does break this cycle. In the death of Ego we are born.

Insight into the ways in which we can act without constructing these terrible webs illuminates a way to be. Not a way “forward.”

Each moment presents itself as a Gift. An opportunity for creation. No plan, no program, no project, will encompass its potential.

Do it once….

Take each moment as it comes and respond, don’t merely react.

Clarity is the  experience of this integration, this embodiment. Illumination and insight occur. They are not summoned. And that they are not subject to our wills is not a deprivation. It is in itself another aspect of Gift.

Paths back into Ego’s thrall are all around us, ready to draw us back into illusion and frustration and futility. Each moment of clarity, however hard won, is an act of experiencing an alternative to our prisons. Each moment we encounter as it happens, instead of hiding it behind the veils of our illusions of intention and expectation, is a moment lived.

6 thoughts on “A Web of Obligations

  1. Tony,

    Yes we do tend to entangle ourselves in that web of obligations. That web is staked down tightly from our own unrealistic expectations. Each connecting strand of that web is affixed to a mirror of sorts. The mirrors, all mirrors, always reflect two things, vanity and guilt.

    Vanity says,”Sure, I can do that” We promise and commit and plan, sometimes beyond what is realistic.

    Guilt says,”Why can’t I finish what I start” then there are excuses,shame,disappointment and drama.

    What we’ve done is set up tripping stones along the way. Our “Projects” , become too numerous, and we don’t allow and plan for things that come up or are out of our control, and the time allotted for each diminishes.We begin to relate to our ever growing list, even comforted by it. Our lists of “incompletes” becomes precious. They confirm our importance. They become a sickness.

    A project IS a projection. It starts with an idea, goes on to be a concept, evolves into a plan. Each step is a rationalization. A project is to put forth with a rationalized plan. Rationalization is an ACT, and one which impugns.

    The greatest error in our rationalization, is usually how long the project will take and the availability of the actual time required. We always think we have more time than is really the case. It is as if we think we can stretch time.We Can’t. Time puts the crunch on us! Our over appropriation and over commitment to it puts us into a state of conflict, or dissatisfaction. once cornered by time we begin to dawdle busily in ineffective tail chasing and denial. Attention becomes so divided more and more. Focus is lost, along with concept and vision. Shortcuts are taken in a wasted effort to force some sort of completion. We are then disappointed with the end results. No joy can come of this.

    In my own personal life, I have been coming to terms with this. I am naturally eclectic It isn’t that I have a short attention span, as much as I am really very interested in everything! Life keeps throwing new interest at me,
    Projects land at my feet and I am overjoyed with opportunity. I am learning to live well with long term and mid term projects, and to break each project down to reachable goals, or better put, a series or obtainable goals.

    You see? What I do all day is life. Not the monetary stuff, not the chase. I just like getting up in the morning. I like and enjoy my work. I am learning to give everything I do my full attention, mostly. And the I move on. I have relinquished myself to enjoying where I am at, what I am doing at the moment, and the space I fill and the space around me.
    I let life’s momentum propel me through time. When I’m done I’m done and I move on. It has taken a lifetime, but I am content. I have learned to take a deep draught from the pool of life. I take it gladly, in real time slowed to a standstill, every second a lifetime.

    John

  2. Good thoughts.

    I had no idea some kids may have shot Vincent. Wiki does not give it much credence; since you are a big fan, what convinced you that this is a valid theory, Tony? (And what the heck happened to the gun?) Self-education, it seems, is encountering one puzzle after another… :-)

    • Vera,

      I read an account maybe six months ago? It just seems that the conventional story is such a fit with the old “mad-man” artist model. He had to end as a suicide. But then, who tries to kill themselves by shooting themselves in the stomach? He lingered for days in agony. Just desserts for the creative madman?

      The new account just seems to fit the way he comes across in his writing. There was some convincing corroboration to do with later confessions from some of the children involved. I don’t have the details at hand…. I don’t know what happened to the gun.

      • Mmm… yes, the old story is fishy indeed. Shot in the stomach, and there is no gun?! Oh I know… he shot himself in the stomach (wounding the spine in the process) then picked up the gun and went to throw it in the river. That’s what I would do if I was committing suicide… ;-)

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