Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Letting Go

What do I need to let go of? Many things, it seems.

Envy, for one. Then there’s vanity. Regret. Also a neurotic obsession with what people feel about me. All that kind of stuff.

Actually, it all boils down to greed. Wanting to be held in affectionate regard, wanting what others have whether it be money, possessions or a ‘nicer’ personality.

I heard a lecture by a Buddhist gentleman recently and he said something like the way to know if you are unhappy is to sit still and see how long before you are carrying on imaginary dialogues in your head.

We all know that one is true: what we’re going to say, what we should have said and what we wished we had not said. I've at least 30 years of this crap stockpiled in my head.

Self-obsession and dishonesty. I know for a fact that I have wronged people in the past. I know I have even done this in the past week. Maybe not big things ... maybe just a thoughtless word or thinking of my own needs before others who are more deserving. And, to a certain extent, this is the way we work, we humans: we're always doing stupid stuff to each other.

Two things here: I wish I wish I wish I could be a better person and God knows I try. For instance, here on Tiree, I can think of one person at least who used to be a very close friend of mine but who has become distant and reserved because he feels I let him down. And the thing is, I did. But I've apologised and I don't know what else to do. Maybe it's not what I did but the way I did it. Whatever.

When I was a very young teenager the novelist Ross Story told me "Self recrimination is a worthless preoccupation". So, for instance, I have to let this one go. There's nothing more I can do about it. I want to stop feeling bad every time I see my old buddy because I'm just on the verge of feeling sorry for myself.

It is wrong - most of the time at least - to be dishonest to an acquaintance or otherwise. But do you want to know something? I think it's almost worse to be dishonest with yourself.

We've all been places we don't like, situations we'd rather be far removed from, relationships we'd rather be out of. For whatever reason we feel uncomfortable. Sometimes we may even be in mental distress. But for some reason we just can't come out and say what's bugging us. (Incidentally, this is why I find straight talking people both frightening and refreshing.) And you know what we do sometimes, don't you? We turn the thing around in our heads so we end up blaming it all on the 'significant other'. A mental defence mechanism if there ever was one.

As you can probably guess I've been doing a bit of thinking about all this over the past few days. I've been trying to face up to all the things that bug me about my relationships with others and myself.

The first thing that challenged me is the idea of being in a relationship with myself. Are there two of me? There's the 'me' that people in the physical world talk to, listen to, and so on. There's the 'me' inside my head, the mental 'me' who observes and reviews what the physical 'me' does and who controls the physical 'me' somewhat like a puppet. I would hazard a guess that most people in this society operate a two tier personality like me. Perhaps it is a common but poorly perceived state of affairs. I simply do not know.

I suspect this delusion - if it is indeed a delusion - is the result of social conditioning. The Buddhists say there is no self. What does this mean? When I think about Gordon Scott I imagine a jumble of emotions and events, a history which makes a 'person' who is 'me'. If the Buddhists are right, then I am deluded.

The idea that I am the consequence or culmination of my past behaviour is and must be a lie if for no other reason than the past does not exist. This appears to fly in the face of psychiatry and common sense. After all, is not the child the father of the man? Of course we learn as we go through life and we modify our responses accordingly. We tend to define people by the way they act but this is not really who they are. Likewise, we are not our actions. A moment's self-reflection will confirm this. It cannot possibly be so.

How liberating to be part of everything, to experience everything at first hand rather than locked away in the dungeon of the ago seeing everything - as it were - through another person's eyes. At first this struck me as a complex philosophical matter but I rather suspect the resolution is quite simple. The key is honesty. And I must honestly say that I have to do a little more thinking about this.

However, the second thing that challenged me was the promise of confession. After all, if I really have been fooling myself has the time not come to drag these half-truths and downright lies from the dark recesses of my mind, to name, accuse, try and condemn them? Ah the mind - and what is the mind? - is a tricky thing. Who was the fool and who the joker?

This is therapy, this is release. And what better venue than a blog to conduct this little experiment?

I am sorry if this is rambling and nonsensical. I am grasping at spectres.


J. Scott Cameron said...

Excellent post gordon. No doubt all can relate. Well said. Cheers. Scott

Robertson's said...

Ah, Gordon...I am doing some catching up on your blog and this is very "in-depth" thinking. Wallace & I thought we were the only ones who do some "soul" searching, but it seems we are not alone. It must be something that we do as we get older....or should I say at least some of us. Relate, I believe most of us can. A great piece of writing. Thanks. The Robertson's of Manitoba.