Saturday, December 17, 2011

have a little faith in me

the countenance of hope calls not just for belief in a better world, but also for belief in better people.  belief that we as a species can rise to the better parts of our nature and approach the potential that lies within us to find the purpose to which we are promised as components within the architecture of the cosmos, and thereby make of our lives the testament of this earth before creation.

the challenge, however, is that so often our belief is unrequited. despite our aspirations for the world, the people within it seem to invariably prove themselves to be less than better.  even those within our lives, whom we are so frequently allowed to choose, so often show themselves to be something short of expectations.  at times, it seems too much for them to even make minimum requirements.  sometimes, they even reveal themselves to darkness, and so make themselves dangerous.

it seems to happen more than we'd like. whether by design, by accident, by stupidity, or fate, it seems our lives are full of people who fail us, disappoint us, deceive us, wrong us, injure us, hurt us. and regardless if they seek to do so or if they just can't help themselves, it makes us think that the number of better people--good people--in our lives can be counted on the fingers of one hand...and then it makes us wonder if they'll be the ones to hurt us next. because as much as we may choose the people around us, it seems we keep choosing wrong.

such a state means a betrayal of belief and an attack upon hope. for everyone in general, for ourselves in particular.

the truth, however, is that the people we choose are ultimately reflections of our state of mind.

because we tend to gravitate towards those who share the same spirit as us. which means that for all their foibles, frailties, fickleness, pettiness, spite, vices, and outright flakiness, the people in our lives are really just indicators of those same qualities in ourselves.  and so their actions are merely responses to a loss of belief and an absence of hope--perhaps disruptive, possibly harmful, definitely dysfunctional, but responses all the same.  for everyone in general, for themselves in particular.

which means that as much as we wish to improve the people who populate our lives, we really need to improve ourselves.  we have to be the basis of belief and the embodiment of hope they, and we, desire to see.  we have to be, in short, one of the better people.

even though we are to be counted on the fingers of one hand.

and despite what others, indeed the world, may seek to do and as much as they, or anyone, cannot help themselves, we can control our actions and we can control who we are.  enough that we can make of ourselves a full testament of our creation, which is that purpose which the universe was meant to see: the better parts of our nature, and thus the countenance of life's hope.

that enables the true import of the words:

have a little faith in me.

when the road gets dark
and you can no longer see
just let my love throw a spark
and have a little faith in me
and when the tears you cry
are all you can believe
just give these loving arms a try, baby
and have a little faith in me

and when your secret heart
cannot speak so easily
come here darling, from a whisper start
to have a little faith in me
and when your backs against the wall
just turn around and you, and you, you will see
i will catch you, i will catch your fall, baby
just have a little faith in me

well, i've been loving you for such a long time, girl
expecting nothing in return
just for you to have a little faith in me
you see time, time is our friend
cause for us, there is no end
and all you gotta do, is have a little faith in me
i said, i will hold you up, i will hold you up
and your love gives me strength enough, so
have a little faith in me
i said hey, all you gotta do for me, girl
is have a little bit of faith in me

Monday, December 12, 2011

the bodhisattvas

i've always found it hard to explain the experience of endurance sports, particularly ultra-endurance sports. but people always ask, and so i feel compelled to try.

i've described it before as a spiritual exercise. an activity that through the physical transcends the corporeal to greater communion with the ineffable. there are certain moments that happen in the course of the distance that just cannot be described in mere words. especially around mile 130, especially when you're alone, out in the elements exposed in the darkness bare before the universe. when you lose all pretensions (and delusions) of your own grandeur and come face to face with the stark precipice of the endless abyss.

it's there that you have a reckoning. with yourself, your life, your world, your god(s). with nothing between you and the reality of the mystery of mysteries.

although this doesn't really do it justice. it's not an easy thing to talk about, even as much as i offer explanations regarding how and when and where and what and why.

i have, however, come across another way of describing things that might help.

Buddhism (again, i'm not Buddhist, but i, like so many others in endurance sports, find its concepts useful in describing the experience of dealing with suffering, especially when--given the nature of our sport--it's of our own making, whether by choice or by accident or by ignorance or fate) involves the concept of the bodhisattvas. it's a word found in Sanskrit and Pali that's an agglomeration of 2 different concepts: "bodhi" being enlightenment or wisdom, and "sattva" (or "satva") being a noble being.

beyond the literal translation, there are 2 major interpretations given for the word arising from the 2 major schools of Buddhism. Mahayana ("great path," associated largely with East Asia, primarily China, the Koreas, and Japan) uses the word to refer to figures who have reached enlightenment, but out of compassion forestall their detachment from the cycle of suffering to help others move on their own paths towards enlightenment. Hinayana ("small path"), particularly in its only surviving line of Theravada (seen largely in Southeast Asia), uses the word in association with the stage of Siddartha Gautama's life before he became the Buddha, and applies it as a metaphor to describe individuals who are on the path to enlightenment.

on a figurative level, i find both interpretations apt. we describe life as a journey to unknown destinations from we which we acquire more understanding about the mysteries of existence in the vast expanse of a limitless universe. as grand as they are, every race is a life in microcosm, with each one replete with its own story, complete with its own lessons, and hence its own path towards its own truths adding to our understanding of our lives. seen this way, the analogy extends farther, and we can see each training session, and each mile and each step and each repetition, and indeed each act and each word and each breath and each thought, as its own path with its own revelations, and so an individual existence in miniature. as small and insignificant but as great and profound as the place of our lives in the majesty that lies within the eternity of creation.

and within this space, within each moment, within each mile within each race within each life, we realize how much is shared with others around us. and we realize they are on paths very much different but yet very much the same as our own. and that we are all traveling to the same places to find the same truths.

and it's then that we find compassion, and it's then we help each other the best way we can. even as much as we only control what we control: ourselves. we still try to show each other the way forward.

i haven't seen a race without an act of compassion, and i hope i never do.

i haven't seen a race without a realization of truths, and i hope i never do.

i haven't seen a race that is not a journey.

and i hope i never do.

because in the end we are all just pilgrims seeking wisdom on paths approaching the mystery shared by creatures given life by the supreme glory of the cosmos that becomes the divine.

and that makes the experience sacred.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

there are really just 2 types of people

we are taught that there are really just 2 types of people: those who say they can, and those who say they can't.

there are reasons why this is so. some think they can (or can't). some know they can (or can't). the basis for both can be seen as being either ex ante, in that some exercise reason a priori to determine their capabilities (or lack thereof), or ex post, in that some acquire experience a posteriori to discover their capabilities (or lack thereof). either way, the result is the same: 2 categories starkly defined by what is perceived as possible.

there is, however, a deeper truth.  thinking and knowing.  reason or experience.  these are functions of the body and mind, and hence a product of the physical more than a construct of the abstract.  but we live. and living is a state beyond the grasp of the discernible that runs to a sense of the incomprehensible, and so extends beyond the corporeal to the realm of the spiritual.  and as such leads us to the crux of conundrum of the enigma of the mystery of the unknown of the infinite that underlies all of creation: faith. as in those who believe and those who don't.

because faith sets for us our perception of what is possible.  it sets the reference for what we believe and what we don't, and thereby marks for us what is real and what is not.  and hence through belief we define what we can think and what we can know and what we can reason and what we can experience and so define what we can live, even to the extent that we can discern the incomprehensible.

so that the incredible becomes manifest, the ineffable becomes understood, and the improbable becomes every day.

and that's the difference between finishing and quitting, staying or leaving, going versus never starting at all.

it's the difference that changes lives; it's the difference that changes the world.

the difference between those who believe and those who don't:

the difference that decides what is possible.