vostoklake: (plath)
When you finally realise that you have no control over outcomes, only your own actions - and that only marginally, over the top of bad habits, avoidance patterns, and the rules of your personal identity game - you understand that you only have what you give away, and that any action must be meaningful in itself. Then the goal of survival as a living creature becomes the question of what goal you survive for - or, in other words, which fire you will walk into, as a sacrifice to What Really Matters.
vostoklake: (emeter)
I have trouble with the concept of grace, and its close cousin, forgiveness. I am, as most of you will know, a control freak. To quote the board of the Very Big Corporation from Monty Python's Meaning of Life, I am continuously disturbed by how much of the universe doesn't recognize me as its overlord yet.

*ahem* Yeah, it sounds hilarious now, but for most of my life I was bedeviled with the idea that a) becoming such an important person in the world that I could change it by my own efforts of will was not only possible, but indeed the only hope for a future; b) that if I didn't do so the world was doomed and I personally would probably end up on a street corner with a sign saying WILL DROP PANTS FOR FOOD, if not dead or behind bars.

Todd Rundgren appears to have hit this stage by the time of his Initiation album - "I can't let the world die / because no-one would try". This of course was the outcome of growing up as something of a "child prodigy" in a very chaotic and emotionally unsafe environment, of being told that just about everything bad that happened was my fault and that it would stop happening if I could just be good. Of course, I could never be good enough. (Todd Rundgren was of course also a prodigy.) For a long time I preferred to believe that I was "bad" inside, because the idea of being a good person who sometimes did things which hurt others was intolerable. I would have to ask for forgiveness, an unforgivable weakness which would never be forthcoming. Far better to have a fantasy of control, where I could always make my life worse whereas making my life better required risk. "You know where you stand in a hellhole", indeed.

Grace and forgiveness are both concepts which are based on a fundamental relinquishing of control. They are based on the idea that you just can't make the world, or even your portion of it, "right" by your own efforts. If you've done something wrong, and you know it (and who hasn't?), and you can't personally put it right, all you can hope is that the person you've wronged, or God, or the credit card company or the District Attorney, will decide that you don't have to pay the debt you ran up. Otherwise, you will have to deal with the consequences forever and there ain't nothing you can do about it.

But believing in things like grace or forgiveness are the only things which make what we would know as revolutionary action possible. Believing that you are not necessarily to blame if things go wrong makes it tolerable for things to go wrong. Being able to handle the fact that you ballsed things up and possibly made things worse is the only thing that makes it possible to handle ballsing things up. And it's the only way that one can handle love. Control issues in relationships kill the heart-opening bliss quicker than anything. If you understand that you can't change your partner, that's one step; the next is understanding that you can't change yourself any more than you can lift yourself up by your bootstraps. Of course you can always change your behaviour, but that's not the same thing.

It's always better to act than not to act, because acting at least allows the possibility that Grace might enter the world, that we might actually be forgiven our debts as we forgive our debtors.

Here's what Robert Fripp has to say on the subject (scroll down to where he starts talking about the Chief Rabbi).
vostoklake: (lolassrape)
"I am a Sufi, but that wasn't a meditative chant, I was singing a Velvet Underground song."
vostoklake: (KATE)
I was recently privileged to read Iain Banks' Walking on Glass. One of the major characters is a paranoid schizophrenic fellow, who believes himself to be a superior being who fell captive in some metagalactic conflict and has been exiled on Earth as a punishment. You find out later that he might actually be right, but that's not the point here - the point is that his beliefs, while they give some structure to his reality, actually totally get in the way of being able to function properly on planet Earth. Basically, since he interprets everyone he comes across as either perpetrators of a giant conspiracy to keep him trapped on Earth, or witless dupes of that conspiracy, he can't have any friends or any honest communication, and his life is in a downward spiral (which of course proves that he's a superior being victimised by a conspiracy).

Which brings me to a criticism of that otherwise impeccable Gnostic-revolutionary film, The Matrix. The one thing that always "got" me about that movie was that the people who'd been awakened from the Matrix were licensed to kill as many normal humans as they saw fit (because they might turn into Hugo Weaving at any moment, and really death would be better than their illusory reality while living as batteries). It is said that the nafs (the self-perpetuating ego which has evolved as a defence mechanism to keep you alive and safe in this world but will try to ensure you don't change or grow) will tell you any lie in order to keep you trapped, and "YOU HAVE BEEN ENLIGHTENED, THEREFORE YOU HAVE MORE RIGHTS THAN THE BLINKERED SHEEPLE, INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO UNLEASH VIOLENCE ON THOSE WHO GET IN YOUR WAY" is a pretty effective trap.

In contrast, the legitimately enlightened are known for their kindness, forbearance and wicked sense of humour, although occasionally their kindness manifests in being extremely rude to people to wake them up - giving them what they need rather than what they want, in other words.

My ego, I blush to admit, likes to tell me that people who don't agree with me are the cause of all the problems in the world, that unhappiness and oppression in this world are all the fault of some dude in Auckland who disapproves of labor unions on principle or thinks the crew of the Mavi Marmara had it coming. I have tendencies to be extremely intellectually arrogant (the flipside of my Big Sexy Brain being the only thing that kept me alive and functioning over my horrible childhood). I can find myself, sometimes, in that paranoid mindset that everyone around me is either an active agent of evil or their witless dupes. In Oliver Cromwell's words, I think perhaps I should be prepared to more happily admit that I might be wrong about some things, or perhaps everything; but even if I am wrong, there is virtue in acting according to principle, even a mistaken principle, one of those principles being loving-kindness.
vostoklake: (plath)
Good eatings at the khaniqah today, as is traditional for the time of year (after the sun goes down, anyway). Mmm, date scones.

Anyway, the sheikh reckons I should be attempting to pimp the meetings a bit more, although of course he didn't say it in those words. So... I encourage you to check it out, if the whole "cleansing the doors of perception / getting in touch with the True Centre of Consciousness" thing appeals to you.
vostoklake: (emeter)
At Sufi meeting:

SHEIKH: "The Master of the order's name was Nurbaksh, which means 'bringer of light'".
ME: "Oh yeah, 'nur' means light..."
SHEIKH: "And 'baksh' means giver..."
ME: "Ah, the same root as 'baksheesh'."
SHEIKH: (cracks up laughing, says something in Persian to a darvish): "I was just saying that you seem to know Persian better than we do now!"
vostoklake: (penguin)
Mr Karim Zayyani, teacher of the Nimatullahi sufi order, will be present in Auckland from February 10-15 this year. For an appointment please contact Houshang (021 111 3527, or leave a message at 09 360 2842, or email sufihouse@gmail.com).

No, I don't know what to expect either, but "Persian equivalent of a Zen monk" might be relatively close.


On my way out of the khaniqah tonight, a couple of random kids stopped me and asked what a "Sufism" was. I hope I gave them a half-comprehensible and quarter-accurate answer.

June 2018



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