Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Blessing of Paralysis

[Originally written Sunday, 24 December 2006 at 12:27 PM]

Dear Reader,

When I force myself to do the wrong thing, eventually I lose my ability to continue. Although my coworkers see this as a great curse and inconvenience to them, it is a great gift. I do not know how I came by this gift, but I appreciate it. I used to curse it as well, used to revile it as an inconvenience, but gradually my counselor and I managed to sort out the patterns in it and figured out that I am only paralyzed when I am doing the wrong thing or avoiding doing the right thing.

Often, the incorrect direction in my life results from my willingness to sacrifice my own needs or goals to further someone else's. More often, I am postponing what I understand to be the higher priorities in favor of what someone else pursuasively argues to be the top priorities. Most often, I am giving up top priorities not even for that but for expediency, for "practical" considerations, postponing the important for the urgent. In my gut, in my bones, in my soul, I believe in how vital it is to align yourself with the deep principles of the cosmos, not to let yourself be distracted by apparent self-interest or even apparent expediency, and history is an open textbook on the reasons for sticking with deeper priorities regardless of the tides of fashion or pragmatism.

Unfortunately, this is an easy way to disappoint people. Lack of follow-through, not finishing what you start, indecisiveness, changing directions—all these things are easy distractions for other people, easy targets, easy excuses for complex problems. When there is a goat among the sheep and something goes wrong, sheep will look to the goat every time, not to what the sheep might all have in common, might be generating themselves from the imperatives of their sheepish character. It is harder still for the sheep or the goat to look to what they might have created together as the source of their problems, to look to the complex culture they have created in their off-kilter interactions.

Though we wear the masks of adulthood, we are still children, especially those who most wrap themselves in the cloak of adulthood, those who care the most about believing and seeming to be distant from childish things. This inherent childishness in all of us is stamped on everything we do and say and think. To anyone with a nose for it we reek of childishness and everything associated with us gives it off as a miasma. It is painfully obvious, except to us, that our oh-so-adult rationality is merely a way of formalizing our childish impulses and prejudices. So it is that faced with problems, we seek easy explanations that excuse us from any blame.

My periodic paralyses makes me a goat; I stand out and am available for scaping to anyone associated with me who does not care to look within themselves for their own contribution to our mutual problems. Often, those very mutual problems will trigger my retreat, as we lead ourselves into doing the wrong things, but it is my retreat that is visible and hence as the only apparent choice my retreat becomes the explanation of our ills.

In my latest bout of paralysis I have finally taken into my heart that earnestness, good intentions, hard work, followthrough, and communication are no guarantee of doing the right thing. I have come to understand that you have to know what the right thing is and do that, or all else is irrelevant; you can't just think you know what the right thing is—it has to actually be the right thing. It turns out that one of the roads to Hell really is paved with good intentions, and travelled by intelligent, well-meaning, conscientious people who fell prey to the delusion that they contained an innate ability to sense the truth. Such an ability would be a characteristic of the divine, not of the human. Thus, hybris. Again.

Yours truly,

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