Filed under: Money | Tags: capitalism, lottery, neurotic, rilke, status, transcend and include
The truth is that when it comes to my relationship to the material world I think I’m completely neurotic.
But then I think most people have a neurotic relationship to money whether it’s always wanting more or like me not wanting to think about it or being terrified about what to do when the money runs out. But the irony with me is that I’m very pragmatic and I probably know more about finance than most people. I even know what a hedge fund is and for over a decade I’ve known that derivatives would one day kick the s__t out of the world economy. People who know me can’t understand why I live such a financially destitute existence or that I sometimes live what to them seems such a reckless existence like the many years I lived off my credit cards until I had to declare bankruptcy. I don’t understand it myself.
I have the education and skills to live a very different lifestyle if I wanted, you know, a house, a car, a pension plan and a vacation in the islands once a year where I have tea with the manager of the bank where my off-shore funds are being securely held. But instead I live on the bottom rung of financial status where an expenditure of a dollar is a big deal and where I never know from one day to the next if I will still have a roof over my head. And meanwhile all my friends who looked as if they hadn’t a clue of how to manage their financial affairs live in their own homes, have nice safe careers and know where they will be when they are old and crumbling.
When I look at how people survive in the physical world I swear I’m astonished. I really don’t know how they do it. I mean I know technically but I don’t know where they get the confidence and motivation to do what they do. Most of all I don’t know how they came to believe in it. That’s not a judgement. I am simply one of the non-elect looking at the elect and feeling astonished. It feels like everyone knows a secret that I don’t or that they belong to a religion from which I am excluded When you’re an existephobe the whole world looks upsidedown.
But like I said earlier, being existephobic doesn’t mean that I am afraid of money. Not at all. For example I know people who say they wouldn’t want to win millions of dollars because they think it would destroy them. Not me. If I won 10, 20 even 50 million dollars tomorrow I would be fine. I would still take my 30 year old 3-speed bike for a ride to the top of the mountain and sit on my bench reading a book and no one would know the difference. It would mean that I no longer need to worry about surviving in a physical world so my existephobia would be under wraps. And since I agree with Needleman that money can be used creatively than all I would need to do is get out of my own way. As Rilke said: “True art can issue only from a purely anonymous centre.”
So I can’t see that winning a ton of money would drastically change the way I live. The simpler my life the better. My dream of the perfect life is one where there is unlimited time to do nothing. I have a particular gift for staring out of windows for hours on end. At most I might use the money to find a slightly less squalorish place to live and then I’d buy myself a new computer. A laptop so I can be more mobile. After that my first priority would be to help all those I know who are struggling to get by, like all the artists I know who can’t do what they really want to do because they need to work to pay the rent but who find it hard to look for work because they too suffer from existephobia. And then I would set up a foundation whose mission it would be to relieve as many fellow existephobics I can find together with all those who have dreams of what they would do if only they had the means. Imagine how much fun it would be to help others have the means to realize their own dreams. I think it would be one way I could help make this world a little better place to live in.
Poverty is such a horrible degrading place to be and no one should have to live like that so I hope I win billions and then through grace and humility I would find a way to help others escape poverty. And perhaps one day we will transcend capitalism, or as Ken Wilber says, transcend and include capitalism, move beyond mere consumerism and create a healthier saner more spiritually sound way of surviving physically in the world where success would be defined by something other than your personal net worth and thereby eradicate the cause of existephobia. I am certain there is a better way even if I don’t win the lottery.
Filed under: Money | Tags: arachnophobia, divine intervention, hagiophobia, material world, seymour glass
The reason I’m not very good with positive intentions when it comes to money is that, other than very basic needs like shelter and food, I don’t really know what I want. The material world seems so unreal to me. That doesn’t mean I’m a Buddhist. I’m a existephobe.
My relationship to the material world simply makes no sense. I wish it did but it doesn’t. I’ve never been able to come up with a concrete plan of just how I’m going to survive materially nor any clear notion of where my next paycheck is coming from. Even when I owned a business and had twenty people working for me, every time we were able to make payroll or pay the rent I felt it was nothing short of a miracle, that it had far less to do with anything I did than it did with some kind of divine intervention. That’s why I always have a ticket in the lottery. Even if I don’t know precisely what it is I want, I believe that if you don’t have your hand out your hand will remain empty.
You might ask, how is it that a existephobe can own a business? Isn’t that like an arachnophobic having spiders for pets or an ouranophobic believing in the rapture? In a way you would be right. My owning a business was a kind of convoluted and somewhat shadowy way of dealing with my existephobia. From an early age I developed a very pragmatic relationship to the material world, kind of like negotiating a peace treaty with a colony of spiders. I learned to live on very little, to demand very little of the physical universe, and what I did have I managed with the tenacity of a miser. It was all about being safe.
The longer I could hold onto a $1 bill, the longer I could ward off another attack of existephobia. When it comes to money I can be quite anally retentive! I got myself into business inadvertently, in that I didn’t go into business because I wanted to go into business––like I said an arachnophobic doesn’t cuddle up to spiders––but being a designer I decided very naively to open a studio and then had employees and then it got bigger and then someone had to deal with the business and no one else wanted to do it so I had to do it––it was hell. (Hagiophobia, a fear of hell. I have that too big time!) In fact it always felt like the room was crawling with spiders! But like ancient Chinese wisdom recommends: keep your friends close but keep your enemies even closer! I managed the survival part of the business in such a way that I could keep my eyes off the bottom line as much as possible without jeopardizing the studio. Sort of like how Seymour Glass told Buddy to keep his eye off the marble if he wanted to win. My accountant who has lots of zillionaire clients once told me that I was able to squeeze more out of a $100 than anyone he knew which he thought was ironical because I was forever on the brink of going broke. The irony was that while I could manage the $100 I couldn’t get serious about making more. Being an existephobe, whenever I thought of how we were going survive or if maybe I should go out and get more clients I’d panic after which I’d spend several days picking myself up off the floor. It felt much better to think that somehow everything would magically work out and surprisingly it usually did. When you’re an existephobe you need to constantly devise clever strategies to think as little as possible about how you’re going to survive in the material world and the way that works best for me is a metaphysical trust in divine intervention kind of relationship––at least so far!
Filed under: Fate or destiny? | Tags: attitude, baking bread, destiny, evil, fate, good, holy spirit, sophia
There are so many people I know who like to say that whatever happens to you must have been meant to happen. They especially like to say this when something bad happens.
Try saying that to the five sisters crushed to death by a concrete slab in Gaza as a result of an Israeli bomb! I fail to see any higher purpose in the fact that we all too often choose to not know what we could know, what D refers to as being ‘willfully ignorant.’ When you are tormented and victimized by someone who is being ‘willfully ignorant’ it is hard to believe that this needed to happen to you, that suffering the insufferable is the thing most desired. (see Seeking Nothing to understand what I mean by ‘the thing most desired.’)
The way I see it is that you or I could at any time get caught up in something that is much bigger than us, something which has nothing to do with you or me personally, that at most is a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If I were a woman in eastern Congo or Darfur or living under a fanatical form of Shariah than there would be forces much bigger than ‘the thing most desired’ that could grab me at any moment and utterly devastate my life. Evil exists. It is not simply the opposite of Good. I believe there is an absolute Good and an absolute Evil. So Evil is Evil. That’s all. Bad things happen to people for no good reason. Things happen that can never be justified or fit conveniently into some limited narcissistic view of the cosmos. They are simply bad. And what I am saying also applies to Good. Sometimes, oftentimes, good things happen that aren’t personal but that doesn’t seem to prevent us from wanting to see them as being intended especially for ‘me’. But that said I think that so long as I live in conditions where I am relatively free, where there are not too many evil forces ready to knock me down, where there is more Good than Evil, than who I am is to a large degree in my hands.
It is only in this way and under these conditions that I can grow into the place where I seek nothing for myself but simply live my life fully from moment to moment knowing that whatever happens will be what I most desire. That might seem confusing, (I’m use to people looking at me with a ‘what did you say?’ look on their face,) but for me it’s a way of saying that life is not only linear and nor is it a one size fits all. In the end I think it comes down to attitude. Even if I have no control over what may or may not happen, I can chose how I am going to respond.
I heard an interview with a Thai girl who is perhaps 20 something who described how from the time she was 8 until about 16 she was exploited sexually and forced to serve the appetites of sexual tourists to her country until the day when she was rescued by Father Joe. Now she is studying to be a social worker and she said in the interview something like, ‘I know terrible things happened to me but that is over now and I will never do that again so all that matters to me now is that I make something good of my life.’ That is what I mean by attitude. Bad things happen but if fate gives us the chance we can decide not to be a victim. For me that is where destiny comes in.
I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea of a preordained destiny. I know that when you look at certain people it might appear that way, like the Dalai Lama or Mozart or Christian Bobin. And though I don’t fully understand it I like the idea of reincarnation, in the sense that I like the idea that we as human beings are constantly evolving consciously and so having an infinity of lifetimes to work it out seems a lot more promising to me than what I was brought up believing, that we only ever have one shot. In the spirit of reincarnation destiny too becomes something more active and evolving in that I think every choice I make, every breathe I take, contributes to the creation of my own destiny and when I actively create my own destiny I am contributing to the destiny of humanity and consequently the whole cosmos. I don’t know about you but I find that marvelous and daunting and overwhelming and pretty far out… I mean if I am a co-creator of my own destiny than I’m no longer just a product of evolution, I’m an architect of evolution. I think this is what is meant by the Holy Spirit in the Christian tradition, that God is no longer incarnated in only one person but in every one of us, like the sparks of divinity that Sophia let spill out into humanity. Of course we need to be careful not to let the ego assume credit. Only in the higher more authentic part of you and me are we part of God and it’s because of that that we can co-create our destinies, but to pull it off you need a certain flair and that flair is the right attitude.
Apart from all the forces that are so much bigger than me, who I am today is the result of every choice I ever made, both good and bad. So destiny is like this bread that I am baking where I keep tweaking the ingredients in different recipes all of which take a lifetime to bake. When the bread is done I die and go on to try making a better loaf the next time around until I manage to make a loaf so divinely perfect that there is no need to improve on the recipe (kind of like Birkenstocks) so I no longer need to come back except that I will want to come back to help others bake their own perfect loaf until all of us sit in paradise chewing on a slice of our own divinity. I hope they have real butter in paradise!
Filed under: Seeking nothing | Tags: Seeking nothing, tension of opposites, to love & be loved, wafting
One has to grow into that state where she seeks nothing for herself but takes whatever comes to pass as the thing most desired.
I know this series of seeking nothing posts seem to be all about something I’m seeking but I think that’s good because it’s only when I see my own contradictions that I really learn something about myself. Carl Jung often said (can’t you tell I’m a big fan of CG Jung!?) that it is in maintaining the tension of the opposites that we become more conscious. “The greater the tension, the greater is the potential. Great energy springs from a correspondingly great tension of opposites.” (Carl Jung) You could say that I clearly understand the spiritual value of not seeking but emotionally and intellectually I’m resistant. The tension arises because it’s not enough for me to do what it is I really love doing. It’s also important that others love what I am doing too. I think part of being human is feeling like one belongs and I have never felt that I belonged anywhere. I have always felt like an exile. I have been an exile so long that I no longer know where home is. I think it’s my Solomon complex!
My good friend D who gave me this blog (thanks to Mo!) is similar to me. I suppose that is why he is my best friend. He has been working on a novel for years. It’s called Nobody: An Autobiography ©. I hope he doesn’t mind my telling you but I think it’s great title. It sounds like a book about me but he says that it’s a book about all of us. He doesn’t let anyone but me read the manuscript. In the earlier drafts he showed it to a few friends but stopped doing that because he said that he began to think too much about what others thought. He did say that other than me (who D says doesn’t count in the same way as others because he says we are so close that I may as well be a part of him which was a sweet thing to say don’t you think?) the only person who read a part of it and really understood what he was trying to do was Mo. He said that because of her his favorite word is wafting. He says that Mo helped him to believe in what he was doing during times when he found it very hard to believe, that Mo helps a lot of artists believe in what they are doing. He says she is an angel sent to administer to wafting artistic souls.
(I almost feel jealous in a friendly kind of way because I too would love to have someone who felt that way about my writing. D tells me to be patient, that for now I have him and I can’t tell you how much that means to me! If I told you it would require a string of ‘verys’ from here to the moon.)
[One day I will write an entire book in parenthesis.]
What I wanted to say about D is that even after all these years of working on his book he still isn’t convinced that anyone will want to read it. I can tell you that in my rather humble opinion it is a beautiful book. I am sure others will want to read it. It’s one of those special kinds of books, not meant for everyone so I don’t think it will make him famous (but like me he doesn’t have the time to be famous,) but I just know that those who will love it will really love it. (Maybe one day he will let me share some extracts of his book here? What do you think D?) For now, just like me, he keeps doing what he loves to do and hopes some day others will love it too.
I’ll tell you one more secret about D which he will probably be angry with me for revealing but I think it says a lot about who he is. Every day before he begins writing he gets on his knees and prays to the Great Mother to give him the strength and courage to do what it is he really loves doing. Sometimes it is very hard to do what we really love to do when we’re the only ones telling ourselves to do it. Thinking of D on his knees praying to the Great Mother (D says that though God has no gender it helps him to pray to someone and that so far as he is concerned the world has had enough of male gods.) makes me think of the 20th poem in Stephen Mitchell’s Tao Te Ching:
I am different from ordinary people.
I drink from the Great Mother’s breasts.
And this brings me back to seeking nothing for myself and taking whatever comes to pass as the thing most desired. It is important to share what we do with others and hopefully others will love what we do but if I seek the approval of others while I am doing what it is that I love to do I know I will fail. I need to do what I need to do without any attachment to outcome and that is very hard. Why does it seem so easy for some to strike that balance between loving what they do and having others who love what they do? Is it just a matter of talent, because I have no problem accepting that others have a lot more talent than me, but I wonder if it is also something else. That makes me wonder about fate and whether or not it’s personal and what’s the relationship of fate to destiny? But if I begin to get into fate & destiny this post will go on forever. Maybe next time? For now I will keep doing what I love to do and trying to learn how to not seek anything in return.
Filed under: Seeking nothing | Tags: art of living, artist, compost toilet, fame, seeking, truly human, writing
One has to grow into that state where she seeks nothing for herself but takes whatever comes to pass as the thing most desired.
It’s not easy to seek nothing for myself except whatever comes to pass and yet strangely enough I have always had everything I genuinely needed, (which doesn’t mean everything I wanted,) and I know it isn’t because of anything I did. I’m convinced that all seeking is in vain. I think of seeking as a bad habit that is very hard to break.
Nowhere is this business of seeking more pernicious than in my life as an artist. If an artist creates for any other reason than the need to create they’re done for. I write because I can’t not write. Sometimes I wish I could not write because sometimes writing is very painful. And writing is damn hard work. (A friend who is a much better writer than me once told me that writing is about 10% talent and 90% hard work. I think for me it’s more like 5%!) For a long time I tried to not write. It almost worked until I saw that it was killing me. Now I write all the time. It’s like breathing. If I stop I die. But if I use my writing to seek personal gain in the world, if I think for one moment what the world will give me in return for my writing, I’m finished. Whenever I write to please anyone but myself I feel like a fraud. But it’s tricky. It’s not so red and blue. Like most things it’s fuchsia. It’s perfectly natural that I would want others to like what I write but if I write because I want others to like what I write all I write is crap. I think this is true about anything we do. It’s like what the Zen masters say about the art of living. Think about the bull’s-eye and you’ll never hit it; be the bull’s-eye and you can’t miss. Something like that. So when it comes to my writing, seeking nothing for myself except whatever comes to pass not only works, it’s absolutely essential.
I think that what really matters is that I’m doing what it is I really love to do. That is where everything else begins. What I love to do is write. I don’t know yet if others will love what I write but I won’t know until others see what I’ve written. [I know what you’re thinking. You’re reading this so it’s not true that no one sees what I write but this doesn’t really count because this is only hypothetical.] I think the reason that I’m not ready to show others what I love to do is because I am afraid that others won’t love what I do and I really want others to love what I do. I know that sounds pretty lame but I can’t pretend that what others think doesn’t matter to me, especially those whose opinions mean a lot to me like my family and friends and Christian Bobin. But you see, this is precisely where it gets pernicious. (I love that word! Carl Jung often said the most important question to ask is “From whence comes evil?” but I prefer asking ‘From whence comes perniciousness!?’) I know that when I’m ready I will show others what I’m writing and if they love it than perhaps I can begin meeting all those people I really want to meet. For now I know that those who love me love what I am doing even if they haven’t seen what I am doing because they love that I love what I am doing. That means a lot to me.
The money and fame that would come from others loving what I do isn’t so important to me. In fact, I think fame would be a terrible thing. My solitude means far too much to me to give it up for fame. When I fantasize about others loving what I do I think about how it would give me the freedom to keep doing what I do and how I would be able to meet others like me whose work I love. But if fame means meeting all kinds of people I’d rather not meet, I prefer not being famous. As it is, I don’t have enough time in the day to do all that I want to do. Imagine if I had to fit in being famous!!
One fantasy I have when I imagine others loving what it is I do is that maybe I would be able to afford a home of my own, nothing fancy, just a simple home in a quiet place, perhaps tucked into a birch forest with a stream nearby that I can hear when the windows are open,
where my new and old friends would come and visit. No one visits me where I am now because it embarrasses them to see that I live in such squalor. (I don’t mind the squalor too much. At least I have a cheap place to live so I can afford to do what it is I love to do.) I think of living in my new home and having dinner parties where everyone would sit around a great big wooden table where the conversation would be rich, intense, heartfelt and nourishing and that makes me smile.
And because I really believe that we need to be serious about taking better care of our planet, my home would leave no footprint at all––there would be solar panels on the roof, a windmill in the backyard, a thermal pump in the basement and of course there would be a compost toilet. All the food from those dinner parties needs to go somewhere!
I know I said that having money wasn’t so important but I would like to have enough so that I could afford tickets to see dance, theatre and music and be able travel to other cities to see the work of artists who aren’t able to come here. An artist needs the work of other artists to be inspired, to nourish the soul and not feel so alone. And because I think money can be used as creatively as words and paint, I like to imagine helping all the people I know who can’t do what they would really love to do because they can’t afford it.
I think more than anything if others loved what it is I love to do I would feel for the first time in my life that I belong.
When you think about it, most human beings never get the chance to do what they really love to do. In fact, being able to ask what it is we really want to do is a question that most of us haven’t been able to ask for very long. Until recently anyone saying that they were only going to do what they really love doing would have been considered crazy. For hundreds of generations daughters did what their mothers did and sons did what their fathers did. When I think about it this way it makes sense that it sometimes takes so long, as it did with me, to figure out what it is we really want to do. When I was growing up a lot of people told me what I should do but very few asked me what it was I would really love to do.
Having the chance to do what it is I really want to do is amazing. We act as if it is something we are entitled to but this is not at all true. I can only do what I love to do because of all those who went before me and the lifetimes others suffered doing what they didn’t want to do. It’s because of them that I have this chance and the responsibility to do what it is I love to do. In this way doing what I want to do isn’t just about me. It took thousands and thousands of years for us to see that when human beings do what they really love to do they become more human. (I like to think that our ancient ancestors did what they love doing because that was simply the way life was, the Garden of Eden thing,
but then we got smart but not smart enough and started doing things that no one in their right mind would want to do. In this way doing what we want to do is like coming home only now we know that we know what we really love to do.) Being more human means being more full of love and wisdom and joy which is good for everyone don’t you think? I feel like I am just beginning to learn what it means to be truly human. I think it has to do with seeking nothing for myself except whatever comes to pass and doing what it is I really love to do.
Filed under: Seeking nothing | Tags: be here now, do what you love, eckhart tolle, karma, oprah, Solomon
One has to grow into that state where she seeks nothing for herself but takes whatever comes to pass as the thing most desired.
That’s one of my favorite quotes. I don’t know who wrote it. It sounds like something from the I Ching. It’s stuck up in the place of honor, directly above my computer at eye level. It reminds me to be here now. I need to be reminded to be here now because I’m rarely here now. Where I am seems to be evenly divided between where I was and where I think I will be. My brain does everything it can to avoid being here now and yet when I am here now all my problems disappear and everything feels right and good. You’d think I would want to be nowhere else but here now but obviously a bigger me then me doesn’t agree.
A lot of people think Eckhart Tolle is the one who came up with the idea to be here now but he is just repeating what great sages have been saying ever since great sages started saying anything. I first found out about being here now with Baba Ram Dass‘s Be Here Now. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like Tolle,
even if he does remind me of Alfred E. Newman. I think the way he tells us to be here now is in a way that we need to hear it now and I also think what he and Oprah did together was truly amazing.
If you want to be here now you should listen to their dialogue. It’s free. But back to here and now and seeking nothing.
I rarely seek nothing and almost nothing of what I do seek works out. Most of the time I am seeking to be anywhere else but here and be anyone else than who I am. I’ll give you an example. Today when I woke up I wrote in my journal:
There’s been a mistake. This isn’t what I ordered. My life wasn’t suppose to be this way.
Then right away another voice asked:
And just how do you suppose your life was suppose to be?
[I don't know about you but I have a lot of voices in my head and they rarely agree with one another.]
The first voice answered the second voice:
I don’t really know.
But then another voice jumped in and said that it knew precisely how my life was suppose to be.
I was suppose to be doing something that I love and I was suppose to be good enough at what I do that others would also love what I do; and because others love what I do they would love me; and because they love me I would be invited to meet all the people whom I’ve ever dreamed of meeting–people like Christian Bobin, Nancy Huston, Anne Michaels, Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn whom I adore,
Juliette Binoche, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jami Sieber, Leonard Cohen, the Dalai Lama, Richard Tarnas, Wolfgang Giegerich, Barak Obama just to mention a few. [You can see that how I suppose my life should be is far from modest!] And there was suppose to be many many more whom I don’t know yet but whom I was suppose to know because after they fell in love with what I do they would fall in love with me. I was suppose to eat at their tables and be included in their conversations. We were suppose to go for long walks and talk about how marvelous it is to be doing what it is we love to do.
I think what this voice is saying is that when you do something that you love and others love what you do, your work will wander the globe as your soul’s diplomatic envoy introducing you to fascinating people who you would love to meet and who would love to meet you and whom you would never have met otherwise. That is how I always imagined my life would be but that is not how it turned out. Instead after a long long time I am just beginning to do what it is I love to do but so far there is no one else who loves what I do so consequently I don’t know many people and the people I would love to meet don’t know who I am.
But supposing how my life should have been is hardly seeking nothing for myself. If I did intentionally seek such a life I know that I would never find it. It’s not the kind of thing you can force from life. It either happens or it doesn’t. That’s very clear to me and yet nonetheless ever since I was a kid I thought my life would be like I supposed it would be. I don’t know where it came from but I really felt that that was how my life would be. I was sure that one day I would do something I really love doing and that others would love what I do and that because they loved what I do they would also love me. It wasn’t about fame. It was about love. Lots and lots of love! However, for a lot of reasons I don’t yet understand, my life didn’t turn out that way. You can begin to see why a quote about seeking nothing for myself would mean so much to me!
Sometimes I imagine that in a recent life I was the person I think I was suppose to be in this life and that because I got all caught up egotistically in the fame and the power and abused my privilege, my karma this time around is to learn humility by being a simple ordinary human being. That I can remember how it was to live my life the way I suppose it should have been feels like living my life with my hands tied. I feel like Solomon when he was lost in the desert, alone, anonymous and desolate, with a dim memory of the time when he was a great King. Somewhere deep inside I know that I was a great Queen and all I need to get back to being a Queen is to find my ring but I lost it and I don’t know how to get it back. If I told this to anyone who knows me now, that I’m really a great Queen
who has been forced by Asmodeus to live the life of nobody, they would laugh. And I wouldn’t blame them for laughing because I’m not a Queen; I’m only a simple ordinary girl who dreams of being a Queen. [I can say this to you because when I blog I’m only a hypothetical person so that when you laugh it will only be a hypothetical laugh.] I know that I am who I am because I need to learn how to be nobody. I need to do whatever I do for the simple pleasure of doing it and not because of how famous it will make me, or rich or powerful or how much others will love me for what I love doing. I am learning to live life for the sake of living, to grow as a human being for the sake of growing and not because of anything I seek. Only in this way will whatever comes to pass be what I most desire.