Hold to God’s unchanging hand.
When not at sea, a boat is normally tied, or moored, to a dock. The waves rise and fall, the winds blow this way and that, but the boat is stable and secured because it is moored.
The storms of life buffet us this way and that, and one can lose oneself in the chaos and confusion. Managing, coping, requires that one have some mooring somewhere. Some folk moor themselves in a concept, a dogma, such as Biblical inerrancy or the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church. Others moor themselves in the dogmas of an ideology, such as Progressivism or identity politics; or a cause, such as environmentalism; or even a romance (a particularly bad choice). I propose instead mooring oneself merely in What Is.
Everything else is subject to change or question or dispute. There is no disputing What Is. And the underlying principles, the principles that underlie existence itself, never change.
Contemplation and “Deep Silence”
I have previously discussed silence: “About silence.” Another term for this state is “contemplation,” which I have avoided using for reason that (1) I don’t care for a multiplicity of terms, and (2) there’s a lot written about it that, frankly, I myself don’t understand.
As taught by Ambrose Worrall, the discipline of silence has as its goal the attainment of a state he calls “Deep Silence,” the contemplation of a level of existence where there are no ideas, no thoughts, no opinions, no theories, no images, no value judgments (“shoulds,” “oughts,” approval or disapproval); but merely What Is. After 35 years of practice, I myself rarely attain this state. It seems to depend on how much Presence or mindfulness I’ve practiced during the preceding day.
As to the absence of value judgements, Rumi said:
of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
This was the Edenic state.
There is a state beyond Deep Silence. In “Silentium Altum,” Worrall speaks of
… the realm of Absolute Silence, which we could call “Silence Unlimited,” or perfect and complete silence.
This is the condition in which God dwells.
In Absolute Silence there is neither time nor space; motion does not exist; there is no observer and nothing to be observed; there is nothing to learn, for all things are known. It is eternity; it is infinity; it has neither position nor size; its center is everywhere and its circumference is nowhere. This is perfection and only the perfect can understand it.
Man can approach the Absolute Silence but cannot enter it.
God created existence, being, based in a set of coherent, well-ordered, harmonious principles. It must be so; otherwise What Is would quickly disintegrate into chaos and non-existence. Mooring oneself in those principles can’t help but tend to establish coherence, good order and harmony in one’s soul, one’s mind, one’s life.
The inevitability of turmoil
Despite the order and harmony of the microscopic world — electrons move placidly in and among their orbitals; charged particles willingly follow paths of electromagnetic fields — at other levels of the physical universe, we see sometimes great turmoil: hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and so on. All ultimately derive, however, from simple fundamental principles.
Three factors determine our weather: humidity, barometric pressure, and sunlight. They are completely independent, and so never conflict with each other; but their interactions make weather fair or foul.
Sunlight always causes water to evaporate; the more sunlight, the more evaporates. And warm air can hold more water vapor than cold. But air at high barometric pressure can also absorb more water vapor than air at low pressure; it’s like a larger or smaller sponge, that can only take in so much before it becomes full, and then begins to empty itself as rain.
High pressure systems are associated with clear weather, high clouds, sunny days and low relative humidity. Low pressure systems are associated with low clouds, high relative humidity, and the likelihood of storms.
When a low pressure system passes over the ocean and sunlight falls on it, increasing amounts of water will evaporate into that air. In addition, the absorbed sunlight makes the air more energetic, so that the system rotates with increasing strength, making high winds. This may develop into a hurricane.
So from time to time I may find myself unhappily outdoors in the middle of a downpour, with heavy rain pelting my skin and drenching my clothes and belongings; and having to lean into the wind to keep from being blown over. This may ruin my plans for the day; as a homeless man, the steps I’ll need to take that night for the sake of my clothes and belongings are less convenient than if I had my own place. I have my choices.
I can resent the whole situation, be angry, wish it would all go away. I can do that with all my might. Or I can accept it and say, “This is what’s happening now.”
I have only recently come into these understandings.
Social turmoil is, in some ways, analogous to turmoil in the weather.
Feelings, affects, or emotions aren’t just within us individually. We broadcast them. We send them out as, as it were, spirits — not living things, but spiritual materials analogous to gases — oxygen, water vapor, the smell of alcohol, the smell of roses, and so forth.
So, for example, if you walk into a room full of people who are in a foul mood, you may pick up on that, like a foul smell. If they’re in a happy mood, you may pick up on that also.
All these masses of gases are out there, and they develop their own high- and low-pressure systems, and under the radiance of God’s sun can become energized — and sometimes give rise to social storms.
In the past few years, I have seen any number of intense controversies come and go. The media stir up hysteria, and folk get heavily invested in feelings, and there’s a ton of sturm und drang, and a lot of people’s feelings get hurt — not to mention the possibilities of bodily harm and property damage. I myself have got caught up in more than one, and became passionate about it, and felt like this issue was my calling from God, and the most important thing in the world — until the media lose interest, and the thing dies off like a burnt match, and nothing’s changed.
In short, shit happens.
I don’t necessarily have to involve myself in it. I don’t need to defend my beliefs; I do need instead to live them. I don’t need to refute others’ beliefs; I do need instead to love them.
That is What Is.
Many examples are available; I need only focus on one.
Different people are in different places, and thus of necessity have different points of view. The easy resolution would be for each person to understand the other’s point of view, in which case they might all agree on What Is. But different people also vary in their degree of empathy — the ability to see another point of view.
The most incompetent supervisor I ever had was seriously empathy-challenged. Discussing this or that approach to some need or project on the job, she was utterly unable to grasp any point of view other than her own. I tried and tried, every way I could think of.
Now, we sometimes think or speak of empathy in moral terms, or as a feature of emotional maturity. In her case, I came to the conclusion that it’s neurological. She lacks the equipment that makes empathy possible.
So it is also with psychopaths: they are physiologically incapable of empathy. They lack the equipment.
That’s the way God made them.
It is What Is.
We could start with the turmoil I myself have just gone through in composing this very portion of this post.
The short conclusion:
Don’t get torn up about being torn up.
On the one hand, in a composition about attaining inner peace, it would seem unseemly to propose the inevitability of inner turmoil. So, I haven’t wanted to say this. On the other hand, as I have pondered the different causes of inner turmoil in my own history, it becomes clear that I have made tremendous progress in recent decades, by applying the principles I am seeking to teach here.
about being torn up.
Even last night as I wrestled with the memories of the decades I often lived in agony — that I was able to maintain my composure, in the company of sixty disorderly men (at the homeless shelter), would have been beyond me years ago.
Related: A short route to agony
I’ve been through a lot worse than homelessness.
For the moment, I suppose there are three causes of inner turmoil: indecision; karma; and dis-acceptance of What Is.
Indecision pertains to conflicting desires. It can be eased if one is willing to do the work to become pure of heart or balanced. It can be exacerbated by a defective worldview, such as if one is zealous to discern and act according to “God’s plan.” Kierkegaard referred to the latter as “existential angst.”
Karma for me is reflected mainly in my lifelong karmic obsession with racism. The related posts in my blog evidence the progress I have made in recent years toward accepting racism as a feature of What Is, and accepting also the What Is-ness of my own skin color.
Dis-acceptance of What Is. For decades, I suffered from an invisible disability, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS). I may go into the details elsewhere. But the past few days, anticipating this writing, it has seemed to me that this condition marginalized me, made me as “differently abled,” as if I’d been born without arms. Now, had I been born without arms, that could be karmic, or instead merely the way God made me. As far as I understand things just now, it seems to me to be the way God made me.
Difficulties rose in my interactions with other people, with the job market, with institutions, and I became distraught over my inability to fit in. This led to the situation described in the post, “A short route to agony,” linked to above.
Had I only known then what I know now; had I only had then the religion I have now; had I not lived in a world of “oughts” and “shoulds,” but instead merely accepted What Is; my life might have been far more joyful.
For all the turmoil we observe in nature, in society, in relationships and within ourselves; at bottom, God created the universe as an orderly, harmonious place; and one can focus one’s attention on that harmony and order.
This is God’s unchanging hand.