The rich kids I met in college were flailing as though they wanted to find walls around them, leapt as though they wanted there to be gravity and to hit ground, even bottom, but parents and privilege kept throwing out safety nets and buffers, kept padding the walls and picking up the pieces, so that all their acts were meaningless, literally inconsequential. They floated like astronauts in outer space.

– Rebecca Solnit, here

(audio)

“Neither I nor the poets I love found the keys to the kingdom of prayer and we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit. But I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway. So every morning I sit, I kneel, waiting, making friends with the habit of listening, hoping that I’m being listened to. There, I greet God in my own disorder. I say hello to my chaos, my unmade decisions, my unmade bed, my desire and my trouble. I say hello to distraction and privilege, I greet the day and I greet my beloved and bewildering Jesus. I recognise and greet my burdens, my luck, my controlled and uncontrollable story. I greet my untold stories, my unfolding story, my unloved body, my own love, my own body. I greet the things I think will happen and I say hello to everything I do not know about the day. I greet my own small world and I hope that I can meet the bigger world that day. I greet my story and hope that I can forget my story during the day, and hope that I can hear some stories, and greet some surprising stories during the long day ahead. I greet God, and I greet the God who is more God than the God I greet. / Hello to you all, I say, as the sun rises above the chimneys of North Belfast. / Hello.”

– Padraig Ó Tuama

‘Let me take you to ancient Athens, where democracy was first practiced, in a very circumscribed way but nevertheless that is where the idea came from. Let me tell you something about that that weird place: ancient Athens.

There were two adversaries: the aristocrats who were against democracy, and the democrats who were in favour of effectively, as Aristotle defined it, ‘a system in which the poor governed’. Because, by definition the poor are the majority. That was his definition of democracy.

And the interesting thing is, is that the democrats were against elections. Because, they considered elections to be the instrument of the oligarchy. They considered elections to be a system that always privileges those who are the better orators, those who had mastered the art of rhetoric, therefore those who had a better education, who were those? The rich. And what they preferred, as a system, of governance, was lotteries. That’s the history of jury selection. So that, every single office, except that of General and Banker/Treasurer, was selected through sortition; through lotteries.

And it was the aristocrats who wanted elections, because they could win those.’ 

– Yanis Varoufakis

Young people are busy constructing a persona, a self which will deal with the world and its conflicting demands. Through trial and error, that self is built up with accumulated language, with a carefully contrived appearance, with growing practical, intellectual and social skills. Its purpose is to protect the owner from hurt and from shame because shame lurks around every adolescent corner – in sexuality, failure, privacy, friendship – and shame is crippling feeling. 

– Nick Luxmore, Working With Anger and Young People

Just a few sections from ‘The Wisdom of Insecurity” by Alan Watts (1951). I could have copied out the whole book.

Your body does not eliminate poisons by knowing their names. To try to control fear or depression or boredom by calling them names is to resort to superstition of that in curses and invocations […] It is so easy to see why this does not work. Obviously, we try to know, name and define fear in order to make it “objective”, that is separate from “I”. But why are we trying to be separate from fear? Because we are afraid. In other words, fear is trying to separate itself from fear, as if one could fight fire with fire.

Man has to discover he everything which he beholds in nature – the clammy foreign feeling world of the oceans depths, the wastes of ice, the reptiles of the swamp, the spiders and scorpions, the deserts of lifeless planets – has its counterpart within himself. He is not, then at one with himself until he realises that this “underside” of nature and the feelings of horror which it gives him are also “I”. For all the qualities which we admire or loathe in the world around us are reflections from within – though from a within that is also a beyond, unconscious, vast, unknown.

p118. Where there is to be creative action, it is quite beside the point to discsuss what we should or should not do in order to be right, or god. A mind that is single and sincere is not interested in being good, in conducting relations with other people so as to live up to a rule. Nor, on the other hand, is it interested in being free, in acting perversely just to prove its independence. Its interest is not in itself, but in the people and problems of which it is aware; these are “itself”. It acts, not according to the rules, but according to the circumstances of the moment, and the “well” it wishest to others is not security, but liberty. 

p127. Metaphysical language is negative because it is trying to say that words and ideas do not explain reality. It is not trying to persuade us that reality is something like a boundless mass of transparent jelly. It does not speak of some impalpable abstraction, but of this very world in which we live. This experience which we call things, colours, sounds, smells, tastes, forms, and weights is, in itself, no thing, no form, no number, no nothing – but at this moment we behold it. We are, then, beholding the God which traditional doctrines call the boundless, formless, infinite, eternal, undivided, unmoved and unchanging Reality – the Absolute behind the relative, the Meaning behind thoughts and words. Naturally the Meaning is meaning-less because, unlike words, it does not have meaning but it is meaning. By itself, a tree is meaningless, but it is the meaning of the word “tree”. 

Eternal life is realised when the last trace of difference between “I” and “now” has vanished – when there is just this “now” and nothing else. 

If there is any problem at all, it is to see that in this instant you have no “I” to surrender. You are completely free to do this at any moment, and nothing whatever is stopping you. This is our freedom. We are not, however, free to improve ourselves, to surrender ourselves, to lay ourselves open to grace, for all such split-mindedness is the denial and postponement of our freedom. It is trying to eat your mouth instead of bread. 

It is obvious that the only interesting people are interested people, and to be completely interested is to have forgotten about “I”. 

The “God” to which (religion) could have brought us was not the unknown Reality which the name signifies, but only a projection of ourselves – a cosmic, discarnate “I” lording it over the universe. 

Steadily he approaches the point where what is unknown is not a mere blank space in a web of words but a window in the mind, a window whose name is not ignorance but wonder. 

In such feeling, seeing, and thinking life requires no future to complete itself nor explanation to justify itself.