Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hamsters spinning on a wheel

This is a counterpoint to the last post, the one that was on The Supreme Importance of Being Me.

I look around sometimes and see each of us, trapped inside our own cages and our little stories of ourselves, each spinning on a wheel like hamsters and totally oblivious to just how small we are. To us, the problems in the cage are huge and alarming. The problems that we sense all around us, inside our cages, are mountains from our hamster-like point of view. Nevertheless, we seek to own them, make them uniquely ours to worry about and try to fix. No one else has had quite this problem, or of this magnitude, we say, and try to glare it down with the force of our personality. Fixing any problems this way is impossible.

It's much easier to see when someone else has become pinned by their story, obsessed with the details of their life that seem impossible to overcome. They have magnified a problem by focusing on it completely, this mote of dust, and are paralyzed by it. It could be anything, family problems to kid problems to things we think of as major -- the end of life, illness, addiction, cancer. It's all dust in the wind, the song says (and so says the Bible). For all the control I have over problems, big or small -- it's as though I am dust in the face of these problems. I can't change them. The most and biggest thing I can try to do is change my own insight.

We seek to have control of this overwhelming thing called life, and to feel the momentum of forward progress, so we climb into the spinning wheel and away we go! And go, and go. It seems like it could be freedom, but our ego-oriented points of view are intact and nothing in our world view has been truly challenged.

This is how life is, inside a human body ... surprisingly similar to the experience of any other life form here in our world. We are constrained by the environment and our physical captivity inside this sentient being. But people want something bigger and better, so we delude ourselves. We make our lives the supremely important thing. People do this in different ways, but we all do it. We are all ego-based and need affirmation to thrive.

The Enneagram, I have been learning, shows some particular ways that people are driven; the character of their particular hamster wheel, if you will, and what motivates them to spin it. I am learning what makes me spin mine.

So how do we detect that we are nothing more than hamsters, spinning on a wheel, going nowhere? It's difficult when we are so accomplished at fooling ourselves, and helping others keep the deception intact, both of their lives and in ours.

I think this is where contemplation/meditation comes in. It is quite difficult for a person to break out of the egocentric point of view. It takes time ... silence ... reflection ... and emptiness.

Something in me runs away from these things, still. I'd rather be busy! Stillness ... something in me is terrified of it. What might I discover? That I am really nothing, nobody, unimportant, an empty shell? Maybe.

I'd rather do something, anything, else. Even if it's just spinning on the wheel. You and I can commiserate, or each of us share the amazing insights our personal wheel has provided us. That's what I have been doing here, after all. Are there any glimmers of true revelation? It must be up to the reader to decide that. The author cannot know with certainty. At least, that's how I see it from here.

How does the story go? (This was going to be an epithet on a tomb, but once I finished writing I realized the sucker would have to stand about 20 feet tall to fit all this verbiage, so never mind!) How about something printed on a funeral bulletin instead?

 I started my life off trying to change the world. This world is full of misery and sorrow, a vale of tears, and I could improve it. I set out to do just that.

Then life wore at me over a span of years. I looked around; things were as miserable as they ever had been. Nothing had changed. I came to realize, to my sorrow, that my goal was too lofty. So I turned my efforts to something more modest: Changing my country. Equally too hard. My community? My family? My husband? My child?

All proved immovable objects, impervious to my control. So I took up the task of changing myself.

And here's where it got me! Something changed, all right. Just not in the way I had planned.

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