Over the years it seems that your work has become more spiritual or focused on deeper subjects that often leave me in a curious state. I feel fascinated and often relieved to even address mysteries and challenging ideas that I don’t have the chance to look at or talk about elsewhere. But at the same time I’m often at a loss about what to do with these or how they fit into day-to-day existence. I often feel surrounded by people and activities that demand a different set of values to even keep up or fit in with.
Many of your writings and your conversations often return to or end on this theme of “bringing it down to earth.” I see the importance of this and want to find my way to more of it. Could you walk me across that bridge with more detail or specificity? What does that look like in a messy, drab, diminishing, disorienting world?
That’s a nice bridge you’ve already created yourself, from deeper context and meaning through sincere intent to down to earth in the messy, drab, diminishing and disorienting world. You do understand from the outset, though, that you’re articulating a fundamental existential question that better minds and souls than me have been trying to design solutions for over millennia?
Let me try to just move across your bridge in simple, precise steps…
Context: Why am I alive and what is it that I need to do in my life?
If we lose sight of this, or perhaps more importantly, lose sincerely heartfelt interest in the subject, all that’s left is struggling with or trying to avoid messy, drab, diminishing and disorienting and the thoughts and emotions born from those –- fear, anxiety, worry, confusion, meaninglessness and purposelessness.
So, right away in terms of bringing it down to earth: We need specific, frequent rituals that plug us back into recalling, for lack of a better phrase, the meaning of life, the feel and music in that. Such rituals can be anything in which we stop, experience and look clearly at what we love and value most, or even simpler –- emptying out everything in the way of those.
Look for activities that by their nature open and expand heart and mind: quiet breathing, meditation, walking, generous conversation or contemplation; choosing consciously to fall under the pace and rhythm of the daily grind so as to rediscover the size, shape and music of life. By music I mean the “spirit of the game,” which is what all spirituality ultimately points to – “I hear the voice” (of Nature, God, beauty, truth, love…). Hear it and move onto or into. That can take as little as 15 or 20 minutes, although as one gets better at practicing, it’s possible to hear throughout the day when one simply chooses consciously to listen. You can do it over a cup of coffee, one long, slow breath or looking and listening openly, freely at anything that really compels you or someone you love.
Sincere, truthful intent: The practical link between “I hear the voice” and qualitative engagement.
One brings the music and meaning of life into the task at hand. This is where things get tricky, because if one does not “buy” the value in what they’re doing it’s very hard to find music and meaning in it. But we all can find music and meaning at least in engaging what we love and value most in any given day. If you can see and feel clearly what you love and value, this is simple, the inspiration and motivation are already alive and present, and generous, clean, wholehearted intent is easy to find and fairly easy to hold to. “I really want to engage and give something back.”
Qualitative engagement: Progress and accomplishment with anything and everything depend on how much quality one brings to the show.
What makes for quality, if one breaks it down, is spectrum and depth of virtue –- creativity, grace, concentration, integrity, patience, discipline, tenacity, attention to detail, etc. These gathered and injected into any activity will produce superior quality, whether that be sewing an oriental rug, making love, creating art, trimming roses, giving a speech, driving a car or conversing with a stranger one just met. Consequently, they can be practiced and improved anywhere anytime. Those who practice more, simply by conscious choice and attentiveness, have a superior spectrum and depth of qualities to call upon, and consequently produce superior quality in what they do.
You still with me and is this down to earth? Find remembrance of context through investment in authentic ritual, experience music and meaning in what you’re engaging, and then inject your virtues into it.
Messy, drab, diminishing, disorienting world: this is the world we often see and experience; we transform or evolve it into something else by moving across the bridge in simple, conscientious choices. Even the smallest moment in passing has everything innate within it to bring (and warrant) our own cleanliness, brightness, expansiveness and clarity.
I like these little contrasting yet complimentary quotes, which are perhaps useful here to help bring some music down to earth in envisioning how this works:
“I am proud to have been in a business that gives pleasure, creates beauty, and awakens our conscience, arouses compassion, and perhaps most importantly, gives millions a respite from our so violent world.”
“I like it when a flower or little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It’s so fucking heroic”
And your own, “I often feel surrounded by people and activities that demand a different set of values to even keep up or fit in with.”
Yes. It’s like the world is covered with concrete and we’re looking for a little crack somewhere so as to give pleasure, create beauty, awaken conscience, arouse compassion and give respite from the so violent world. Perhaps we need to be a little more heroic in down to earth ways.
© 2015 Darrell Calkins