Tuesday, June 3, 2008

WHO - Confucius says ...

Confucius' first tenet was "the rectification of names" -- or so I remember from Intro to World Religions in college. He meant don't call a spade a digging instrument and don't call a shovel a spade. This attitude is part of the reason I promised in yesterday's openning post not to use jargon. I have deep respect for names. But I've always had trouble with my own.

So to start with don't call me a Senior Citizen, a Golden Ager, an AARP-er, a Silver Fox, a pre-Boomer, a crone, an elder, a wise old woman, a little old lady and certainly not a bitch or witch. These words I accept because they are biological and ineradicably true: woman, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin. I have a legal name that was given me at birth and I had a name I used for many years when married. I have other designations: I was born in the USA, in Indiana -- so am that weird word, a Hoosier, although no one knows what it stands for though many have guessed. Now I am a New Yorker. I have a batch of descriptives of the things I can do.

These words are all boxes, categories, data. Boxes are often needed. Try to imagine a shoe store without boxes [maybe all you need to do is think of the bottom of your closet]. Useful though it is a box is a container. So, Confucius, who am I? A human like a vast number of other living things on this planet.

Well over half my life ago, I began yoga and reading in Hindu philosophy. I began to think about stripping away those words, those categories -- scary! Strip it away, stop the thought Can't? Yes, I can briefly, a few seconds, or when immersed in something that requires total attention. Everyone can do that and for a bit be "awareneses", possibly, "enjoyment." Sometimes fear, sometimes pain.

When you stop on purpose, a "you" does the stopping, a "you" watches the quiet happen, a"you" is beathing, a you dreams at night, a you is not defined by all those busy thoughts that run all day like static on an imperfectly tuned radio. That you is there without your name, with you any of those categories and labels. It would be there whether you were born a Chinese or an Inuit, a Californian or a Fijian. This is not mysticism, this is a fact of how our minds work. Don't take my word for it, sit still a little while and think about it. Who's thinking about it?

There's a 70-year old me, different than, and containing the baby that was born with a certain set of genes, a certain disposition, certain attributes. As in the Kunitz poem at the start of this blog, a me between the layers, not a part of the litter. Like other humans I am happy when warm, well-fed, free of aches. I like sweet food [too much, really] and sweet smells, harmonic music, flowers, green grass, blue skies, gentle breeze and so, so much more. But these are all extras.

The essential me -- like the essetial you -- is a mystery. The Nepalis and many Indians use a word that recognizes who each person really is, "Namaste," usually said as a greeting or goodbye, with the palms together in what westerners call a prayer position. As I understand it, it means, "the mystery that is my essence greets the mystery that is your essence." Forget names and categories, look for what we all share. Namaste.

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