Sunday, 7 September 2014

A Day in the Life Of

         It was Sunday morning and I didn't have any plans for the day, except a want to sink into my books and relax. It was suggested that we might go into the local town and visit the donkeys. So off we went. Now I have to say that I love donkeys, and particularly their streak of obstinacy and self-will. It is so little compared with the scorn and bad treatment dealt out to these lovely creatures by humans. However, it wasn't the donkeys themselves that were to prove the major attraction of the morning but the couple with their terrier and three, black cocker spaniels. We chatted at some length, obviously, and by the time we left them my emotions were bordering on the uncontrolled. They were healthy spaniels, everything our Mol should have been. I realised at that moment of recognition that I loved Mol even more because of her problems. She never bore any grudges, I'm sure.
         Later, at home, I delved into "A Course in Miracles" downloaded from the internet. There is much wisdom in that course, but I found myself at a loss to relate some of the teachings to my own experience. Maybe it's simply a matter of difference; maybe it's that I am losing my intuitive edge with the passing years. If so, then there is something that I may well learn to regret. It was when I broke off my studies, with not a little frustration, that a question came to mind:-

"If I were stranded on a desert island, what books would I want with me?" The first was, "The Perennial Philosophy" (by Aldous Huxley), because there is so much there that is of direct spiritual experience of people committed to the spiritual life. The second was, "The Reality of Being" (by Jeanne de Salzmann), a description of the Fourth Way of Gurdjieff. And finally I would take all my personal notes from my studies of the Mystical Qabalah.

Of course it would be nice to supplement them with the writings of, for example, Prof. Jacob Needleman, and others. Much as I enjoy reading theology, books on that subject would be far down the list, as would other forms of intellectual philosophy.
         Whilst thinking about all this, I felt a great wish to play some music; not any music but a particular piece. Thankfully, I have a recording of this piece. It's not a great recording, and my hearing aids do not allow perfect reception, but it sufficed. For those interested, it was Telemann's "Viola Concerto in G." The opening movement is a delightfully slow and melancholic experience. I recall that it is always the slow movements of concerti and symphonies that attract me, as well as other pieces of the same ilk. I remember the first time I heard the Telemann. It was played by a young woman from music college who had played in two of the youth orchestras with whom I had worked many years ago. Now I am not basically an unhappy person; very far from it. But I do find that the sense of melancholy has an attraction in that it seems to open me up to a depth of feeling that I might otherwise shun. And she played with such feeling.
          So where am I going with this. 'day in the life of' post? I feel that I continually run the risk of intellectualisation, rather than reliance on my feelings, when I write. I am not an anti-intellectual by any means, but I do recognise the risks of that approach to life. I am not so much an analytical thinker as a geometrical thinker, that is to say I do not think my way logically to what may be an unreasonable or unacceptable endpoint, but intuitively to a desired endpoint by whichever path appears to me. But I want more: I want a balancing factor. Somewhere, mixed up in all this, is a question of where I am supposed to be going. And all around is the growing awareness that 'I do not know'. What it is that I do not know, I don't know!
         In its way it has been a full day of inner activity. There have been musings and questionings. Maybe life is about the questions we ask, and whether we are asking the right ones. If I could only know the question, I would be halfway to the answer. Is that an outcome of an intellectual pursuit, or will it be experiential? I don't know.


  1. But how are we to know when a question is the right one? To follow up, how will we know if the answer we find is in fact the correct one? When should we stop questioning? (I guess these are rather simplistic queries, with obvious answers - but not to me.)

    I think it's cool that you had the encounter with the cocker spaniels - seems they served a good purpose for you, and they probably thought they were just going for walkies!

  2. Thank you for this, dear Tom. I had an interesting experience in the gym this morning. My first week of exercise renewed is behind me, and this morning, I went to the gym alone. As I was sweating on the elliptical training machine, I closed my eyes and my mind began to work, asking questions, pondering, mulling about all sorts of things. Nothing focussed. But it was an interesting experience, for when I opened my eyes, I noticed that the timer had moved forward 15 minutes! Anybody watching me must have thought I was sleep walking. Well, now I'm intrigued by the connection between exercise and inner workings.
    Oh, and I agree with you wholeheartedly about the attraction of melancholy being the road into deep feelings.

  3. @tom, i understand the draw of melancholy - the majority of music that i have in my collection, and particularly songs that are amongst my favourites, are in a minor key.

    @rouchswalwe - one of the sorrows of the modern life is that people walk less, and walking less (or walking unencumbered by electronic devices) think less. i found the treadmill was essential during my time at school - so many ideas that lay dormant in the dusty corners of my mind were only nudged awake through exercise!

  4. RE:"...risk of intellectualisation, rather than reliance on my feelings..." If this was not a valid concern, all basketball players would also have to be physicists to score points.

  5. I am not surprised you found "A Course in Miracles", as inconsistent at times to your own experience, because I think that illustrates the author’s psychological perspective rather than as you posit due to you losing any intuitive edge. Philosophically I do think it is an important to aim to ask the right questions, as a necessary prerequisite to facilitate discussion or to invite mindful enquiry. But I have also discovered that asking the question “can I accept where one is without regret?” in the sense of what has passed is accepted, then that acceptance invites a feeling of grace, from which we can then move forward intuitively in the path as is intended. Hard to do but rewarding. Best wishes

  6. Lovely post. For once I’ll comment in someone else’s words:

    “. . . Because transcendence is built in to the way we experience the world, as we experience life. Whether we call it God or Brahman or not, we are constantly coming up against the limits of what we can say and know. And we seek such moments out, so that when—if we don’t find them in a church like this any more, we’ll look for it in dance, or music; or sex, or art, or poetry, something that makes—we seek out moments of what’s called ekstasis, which means “stepping outside”, where we feel transported beyond ourselves, when we are living our humanity more intensely and more fully than usual. And yet it’s very difficult to put those moments into words.”

    Transcribed from:

  7. When will I ever be the first one to get to your post?
    Now that I have been able to read many comments as well, I feel very inhibited.
    The only thing I want to take to the desert island is my memory. I would want to be able to relive all that I remember again and again, the good and the not so good.
    As for music, again, it would be enough for me to just remember the wonderful feeling of a hot summer evening, an open air concert by Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, lying in the grass and listening to Ravel's Bolero while fireworks exploded overhead and drops of stars were falling.
    My first sentence should have been to say that your post gives me a lot to think about. Than you, Tom.

  8. I related to this post. I love the music of Liszt, though my wife thinks I am depressed when I listen to it.

    As to the philosophy, on a much simpler level, I was reminded of a video I recently watched about Donald Rumsfeld. Something like "The Unknown Known". He was a maddening man playing with words. I think, while you reminded me of him, that you are much deeper and more knowledgeable than he.

  9. Some thoughts on your comments:

    I don't think one ever stops questioning. Sometimes we question because we doubt, and I believe honest doubt is a healthy thing, and not to be confused with a lack of faith. Sometimes we question in order to discover.

    As to whether we are asking the right questions and receiving the right answers, I suppose that is down to our instincts and intuitions. Perhaps the right question will be the last one in a chain, and that final question may simply be the one to which all our inner experience tells us we know the answer, beyond any shadow of doubt. I do not think these are simplistic questions, but questions that naturally arise from a longing soul.

    And spaniels? Seems as if they did indeed serve a good purpose. If you haven't done so already, might I suggest you visit Lucy's most recent post on Box elder - A post of two halves: etc.

    I have something approaching a mild horror of the kind of exercise in which requires visits to gymnasiums. However, I am not without some experience of the way in which one can travel into the depths of the mind during exercise such as walking, or long distance running which I did as a young person. Maybe it's the repetitive nature of the exercise that releases the mind from the mundane and allows it to fly.

    The melancholy in us is worth exploring, I think. It is a part of us and we deny or ignore it at our loss. Non-stop happiness eventually deteriorates into pseudo-happiness and a general experience of shallowness, lack of depth. And in all aspects of life we need to be what we are. Being is important; it is here now. All else may only exist in the past or the future. Acceptance of what we are, warts and all, is the way to truth and release, and yes, the experience of grace.

    In common with a lot of men, feelings have been a messy and unwelcome adjunct to my experience of life. At least, that was how it was in the distant past. However, even though it is still an area of uncertainty for me, the experience of feelings is still not something I can access readily. I would like to think it is natural detachment, but I'm not sure. Music is the most powerful way I have into that area of uncertainty, usually when it is very loud and swamping of the thinking process. I have found that experience rewarding, overpowering but energising. Unfortunately, loss of hearing may be the price I pay for that.

    Memories are useful, particularly if they act as guides, and help us recognise the people we are. And I am not one who believes it necessary to banish the past into oblivion. In one sense, all our past is part and parcel of what we are.

    I do trust that no-one who reads my posts and comments ever finds me (too) maddening. I would admit that there are times when playing with words can be a distraction from something worthwhile. I see that as an ego-game and thus needing to be avoided.

    Finally, a comment about the link on Vincent's comment. I wish to spend more time re-listening to her before commenting. My thanks for that, and for all your comments.