Thursday, June 01, 2006

Forgotten But Not Gone

So, as everyone knows, I didn’t write a blame thing for the past two months. Why? The truth is, there were a lot of factors. The Final Four, incidentally, sucked. Three total blowouts. Then I was dog-sitting. Then Desert Trip 2006. Consequently, I was too happy. Then I was too sad. I was too busy. Then my schedule opened up completely and I lost all sense of urgency and time management. Ultimately, the blog became one of those old friends you’ve forgotten to call for so long you’re afraid to try again, because it will never be the same and he’ll never forgive you for your failure to care. But who does?

Apparently, at least two of you. One of whom is Guru Khalsa, who frequently bombards me with whispered exhortations to quit my job, grow my hair out, and above all, write more. Thanks, pal. The other remains anonymous and left only this comment:

gabe, it's been almost a month. please write.

Simple, poignant, direct. I wish I could do half so well. And, having felt quite the same way of late, I decided to embrace that crack I saw on someone’s Nalgene sticker about being the change you wish to see in the world. I’m back. Let’s get down with this jazz music.

Last night, I attended satsang with Adyashanti, the spiritual teacher and funnyman known in my circle as the Bliss Bunny. I dragged a few friends along, always a dicey proposition. To keep things interesting, one was raised a devout atheist, the other a devout Catholic. The air was thick and stifling in the normally comfortable Unity Church of Palo Alto, the epicenter of I’m OK/you’re OK spirituality in the South Bay, prompting Adyashanti himself to remark, “I know it’s only a concept, but could someone try to adjust the air conditioning?”

After we got over that zinger, we were treated to a fairly enlightening discourse on the ultimate dimension of being, followed by Q&A, during which, as always, people with no discernible questions to ask droned on interminably, lulling us into a stupor worthy of spontaneous awakening. Afterwards, I was asked why I’m attracted to Adyashanti’s teachings, which emphasize freedom from struggle over freedom through struggle, and urge making peace with the unknown. My first reaction was, “Well, it runs counter to everything I tend to believe and do…”, which, on its own is probably not a great rationale.

We’ve all heard some brand of nonsense about the struggle within, but I’m starting to believe it. I’ve always been at odds with my own nature, and have found my greatest rewards in doing things I don’t like to do initially. My friend Bill Stewart, who is at least six decades older than me, says that you should get up every morning and do something you don’t want to do – and, I’m guessing, merely getting up doesn’t count. I never would have thought, for instance, that a former recluse and sociopath like myself would end up in headhunting, one of the most networking-heavy of all professions. I used to be afraid to call my close friends, let alone cold-call an executive I’d never met. But a funny thing happened along the way – the connecting process stopped being painful and is now something I truly enjoy.

So, I think, the internal struggle is not a journey in itself, but one stage. Doing something you hate as a discrete task can be rewarding. Making a career of it, maybe not so much. Ask someone who knows. They’re everywhere, and there are far too many of them. For more on this unfortunate phenomenon, check out the writings of my good friend Ian. I justify my ocean swimming by claiming that the water is so cold, you feel warm as a result. It’s taken some getting used to, but the truth is, it’s also almost ten degrees warmer than it was in January when I first donned the red cap favored by the mighty South End Rowing Club, where I often enjoy a post-nautical sauna. In other words, if it sucks the entire time with no noticeable improvement, something’s wrong.

It kind of reminds me of the time my friend Suzanne took me to a Buddhist meditation service. I was poked, prodded, and admonished by the presiding monk to sit correctly, face correctly, and fold my hands correctly. At first, I was highly annoyed; later, I began to think that there might be considerable rewards in embracing rigid discipline until it no longer seems difficult. The next morning, I woke up with the worst lower backache of my life, and concluded, “Fuck that guy”, which I generally believe these days as well.

Setting aside the spiritual realm for a moment, though, I think there’s something more fundamental about the internal struggle: personal contradictions are enjoyable, and inherently humorous. Joseph Heller , for instance, constructed almost an entire book out of sentences such as “Dunbar loved shooting skeet because he hated every minute of it and the time passed so slowly.” Or consider the Facebook profile of a good friend of mine, a talented mechanical engineer and a sensitive, empathetic, and loving person, who shall remain anonymous.

nra, shooting guns, kickin it at the lake, drinking miller high life, pornography, smoking meth at the pismo dunes and kickin it there, underwater basket weaving, kickin it with the michigan militia

On second thought, as the cliché goes, it’s funny because it’s true. We’re from Carmel Valley, after all.


Anonymous evan said...

I would like to register that I also prodded you to blog more, and am neither of the two alluded two. But I'm glad you have, regardless. I've been doing warrior yoga, in which every position is designed to make your body move in two opposite directions at once. Sit low, but reach high. Think you've got it? Sit lower, reach higher. It's sweet. Then once our minds have been pried open by physical contradiction, the teacher starts dropping science about how we always find ourselves pulled in many opposite directions at once and the point of this yoga is to find peace and joy in that struggle during everyday life. So far I've yet to brush enlightenment while grappling with "buy groceries or masturbate?", but maybe I just need to deepen my practice.

8:04 PM  
Anonymous Nicole said...

My prodding might've been too little, too late, but I, too, am glad you updated. Nicely placed shout-outs in this one.

11:12 AM  

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