Thanks for the sharing your essays. I skimmed through your intro and visually inspected a couple of the middle writings for possible deeper dives (none made the cut), and skimmed then re-read this Epilogue. Given that in the past decade I’ve read very few non-fiction books (a Johnny Carson bio, Wild, and a Wright Brothers bio, …not much in the way of evidencing my interest in society or my fellow human beings), and that my non-fiction non-book reading is generally limited to short, already-chewed-for-easy-digestion articles (Atlantic, Washington Post), I have little practice in essay-reading and no practical familiarity with the sort of things you’ve written, outside of a few long-ago conversations with a good friend of mine. So it’s no small personal feat that I’ve read your Epilogue and am commenting here.
I can’t make overall sense of the quote from Maharaj, and I’ve chosen to not go outside of your Epilogue for answers or refinement or clarification. But this snippet resonates: “The silence before the words were spoken, is it different from the silence that comes after?”. I find it exceedingly simple but at the same time incredibly cool. The silence before and after any experience (hearing words, eating a carrot, reading a sentence, taking a few steps, etc)…and contemplating the difference between the two moments. And while simple/cool, and probably fairly easy for a career monk or yogi to do regularly, I feel like I may only get one or two opportunities a week to meaningfully have such comparative reflections. But maybe not. There are some folks at work that I don’t like to receive e-mails from because their notes are inevitably going to frustrate me, so maybe the next one goes something like this: spot note in list; create a moment of silence; reflect on what I’m feeling, sensing, etc.; read note; if my mind hasn’t exploded, create back-end moment of silence; compare. I think I can do that.
Do people feel things in their breast? I’ve heard that before and I’ve never understood it. Maybe as a guy who’s very appreciative of the fairer sex and the breasts of the fairer sex, I’m doomed to objectify the breasts of others and therefore I may never appreciate my own. And so I’m probably missing out on those mammary feelings, but I do hear the whisper and I do believe that all but a few (a VERY small few…0.00000000000001%) of us wake up each morning with little more than those three thoughts (live, live well, intrinsic good); it’s by the end of the day that we’ve achieved our familiar caricatures. If that’s true, then there’s hope! Because it means we’re not all inherently bigots or left-wing conspiracy nuts or right-wing conspiracy nuts or die-hard liberals or die-hard conservatives. And I think that’s one of the the points you’re trying to make in your writings here, though having not really read them I can only speculate.
This one really rang true for me: “those who can weather the stretch (and endure the pain of stretching), are able to permit other people’s truths to infiltrate their own consciousness.” I have a tough time convincing folks that it’s OK to understand people you disagree with, but I’ve struggled with the vocabulary and you’ve given me a framing and phrasing gift, so thanks! While I may not find time to compare the before/after silence, I have tried to focus on understanding where folks are coming from. It takes little effort to dismiss an anti-abortionist as simple-minded or anti-woman or anti-choice and then move on, but if you’re willing to invest some time to actually talk with (not argue to) someone with that point of view, you may get a more nuanced view of their truth. And it may make you a better person for those you love and work with.
I appreciate what you guys are trying to do here and I hope to engage more.