He’s been looking now for a long time
It seems the more he looks The less he wants to see
He turned to the West for a long time
He turned to the East Then he turned to the West again
If there’s a heaven above, in the meantime
If there’s a heaven above, let it be near
If there’s a heaven above, in the meantime
Then let it be near Let it be near to me
We’ve been talking now for a long time
It seems the more we speak
The less we seem to say
If there’s a hell below In the meantime Then let us shut up Unless we want to pray
He saw everything real too clearly
So close that the bones would show
And to see everything so clearly
Isn’t always the best thing you know
What is truly spiritual, like light, both attracts us and repels us at the same time. – Flannery O’Conner
I used to have a pen-pal friend named Jimmy, from Muskogee, Oklahoma. I think I might have mentioned him in a previous blog post but Jim and I became friends in the early days of the internet. He had some rare bone disease which basically made him a quadriplegic and confined to a wheelchair. It was never romantic or anything like that, but we became fast friends because both of us had an interest in mysticism.
Jimmy was easily one of the most insightful persons I knew and very, very quick and perceptive to figure out and gauge people from the inside out. Practically every assessment he ever made, turned out to be true. It was strange because you couldn’t find two more different people, Jim a disabled, white, male Southern Baptist from Oklahoma and a some-time Republican who was anti-abortion and deeply into his Bible and then you had me, a Bengali-Canadian Muslim female with anti-imperialist, anti-sexist anarchist inclinations. Still, despite our huge differences in opinion and background, we understood each other, and both of us saw that the more readily you leave behind labels and dogma and veer closer and closer to the spirit of things, the closer you get to the truth and essence of it, irrespective of what angle you’re coming from.
We often would talk about spiritual things, how much we hated the people and phoniness around us . He schooled me on Southern writers like Flannery O’Conner and Reynolds Price and I schooled him on…well, lots of the stuff I write about here actually. While I was living in Turkey, I found out six months after the fact, that he had been hit by a truck in Tulsa while turning a corner in his wheelchair and died instantly. I was saddened but not surprised because he had told me several times over the phone that he had a presentiment, he knew he was going to die soon and it wasn’t the disease that would do it either. He also added that despite that knowledge, it was going to be OK and he was at peace with it. I miss him a lot.
Jim was the one who pointed out that Flannery O’Conner quote to me, that things (and people and relationships) which are truly real and spiritual will attract us, like that cliché, like moths to the light. At the same time, they also repel us because on some level, perhaps an intuitive one, to really embrace the light also means complete and utter annihilation of the old self, old identity, old ideals etc. And it’s that suicidal aspect which terrifies us. Therein lies the paradox, we want to come closer to the light yet we’re also terrified of embracing the light and what it might mean in real terms, how much we have to give up in letting go of the old and killing ourselves and what we might have built up.At the heart of it, it’s the old faith vs fear argument. Do you have faith and let go, not really knowing if the gigantic rewards are there waiting for you or do you hold on because better the devil you know than the one you don’t?
I’m seeing this faith vs. fear idea being played out in the US elections as well. New York State holds its primaries tomorrow and I think it will determine if Senator Bernie Sanders can finally win the Democratic nomination. If he does get the nomination, he’ll basically walk into the White House. If he doesn’t pull off a hat trick tomorrow, that nomination will swim further away from him unless of course California plays the king-maker.
Hillary Clinton might have money, power, connections and a lock on older voters but it doesn’t change the fact that she (and her husband) are pure crass. The Sanders camp is nothing less than pure class. I can’t help but get the feeling that integrity politics has finally come back after a very long hiatus. Big time. The younger voters have a lot to do with it but I think everyone is just fed up of all those old lies and old stories.
I know I have a lot of readers in the NYC and Brooklyn area. Godspeed to every last one of you for tomorrow’s vote. All I’ve got to say is just remember that the fear of the light is actually much worse than the light itself.