Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What I'm Saying

What I'm saying isn't exactly news
and to say it bluntly is no big deal:
once you decide to live, you have to lose.

But what if you could simply refuse
by claiming that life itself isn't real?
What I'm saying isn't exactly news----

the Buddhist think this world, hooked on adieus,
is just red dust. If that's true, why feel
that having to live you also have to lose?

Well, because we're bodies, bodies whose
mortal bruise is time's kiss and time's seal.
What I'm saying isn't exactly news.

The luckiest among us live in twos.
Yet love has tied them to a burning wheel
once they decide to live. They have to lose

because time's only tempo is the blues.
It's what we're born to, what our prayers conceal.
What I'm saying isn't exactly news----
once you decide to live, you have to lose.

- Gregory Orr, What I'm Saying

Monday, February 2, 2009

This is the water

I've been meaning to post a link to this every since throckmorton posted about it in the summer of 2007. This is a commence speech that David Foster Wallace gave in 2005.

I think about it a lot, but today, I'm thinking about this part:

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don't worry that I'm getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It's a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being "well-adjusted", which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.