As a front piece to her new book Small Victories, Anne Lamott cites a Billy Collins poem, In the Evening, the last line of which is And the past and the future?/Nothing but an only child with two different masks.
That’s this week. The yin and yang of us. The cunning and the simple one. The compassionate one; the selfish one. The wise and the innocent, calculating and trusting aspects of self. Dualities we’ve had imaged for us since Cain and Abel. You and that other you. Me and that other me. Nothing but us playing with different masks. Putting on the play of our lives.
Who’s running your show in any given moment is a matter of circumstance, habit, and sometimes intention. Some is trainable, amenable to growth. Other ingredients will stick in place for another lifetime or three. If you’re a witness to your own development, you’re probably aware what energies you’re running on and working on, and at least some of the what you stub your toe on regularly.
Eons ago I worked on a project to live “with greater awareness and intention.” On the clumsy, foolish days, I wanna ask How’s that going for ya, honey? But on the good ones, the ones filled with gratitude and wonder, I feel so very lucky to be doing that particular part of the puzzle.
My holiday wishes for us all, May you have many, many more of the good days. And may you understand clearly what the bad days are trying to teach you.
These readings offer us vivid examples of acting from desire and greed, and from nobility and compassion. We’re all of those things, depending on the day. Torah’s a mirror asking us to look at which one we’re being now, so that we can up the ante on our game.
Our attitude and point of view is almost always situational and relative. Even when we get to the big picture, a ten-thousand foot view of where we are in our evolution, it’s hard to hold onto. Our understanding scatters when we’re faced with crises or difficult outcomes. One more time we find “that other me” acting out or pushing boundaries. The big insight is knowing that it’s to help us better understand the lessons we’re here to work on.
We’re rarely appreciative. But karma’s such a patient process.
Physicists tell us that a huge percent of the universe is “dark matter”– the stuff we cannot see that probably makes everything we can see function as it does. To me it’s soul matter, directing the reality we live in. NPR had a story the other day about mitchondrial DNA. It’s what make our cells run; a mere 27 genes out of 20,000 plus, but they function like a battery or energetic motivation. So it’s especially important to pay very close attention when that other you–your inner Esau–the one you’re not always in such a rush to claim–acts out and does something stupid or short-sighted.
Because that’s how our othernesses get our attention. By starting fires in and under us. It’s our job to look at them and listen to them. And to to choose our next steps carefully and wisely.