Stories We Tell Ourselves

“For example, viewed as a ‘border phenomena’, ‘shadow’ at once brings into play the dynamic interaction of ‘light’ and ‘opaque substance’. Again, psychology can look at ‘border phenomena’ in stories, in a way that links each story more fully with direct experience.” Inside Knowledge, Page 104.

I sometimes ‘ruminate’ on old, traditional stories—even though their heroes may not be the ones who stand in the trenches of daily life. For instance, according to one old story—“Jack and the Beanstalk”—the family cow, with the gift of magically turning grass into milk, is not worth three beans.

And what does ‘psychology’ have to say about that storybook cow? Is old Bessie a stand-in for ordinary life, and Jack’s mother the familiar voice that discourages us from pursuing our dreams? And what of the notion that we could plant a magic seed in the soil of our ordinary lives (given to us by some guy who claims they are magic) and that a stairway to great adventure will sprout overnight? Is that as crazy as it sounds?

I too tell myself stories, from dawn to dusk, and in my dreams. I tell myself about how my life can become more open, balanced, and alive through the vibrant perspectives of the ‘Time, Space, Knowledge’ vision? But am I just another discontent, stuck in Samsara, who imagines that he can plant a magic bean (knowledge), in some corner of the back yard (space), and, as I sleep, while the moon is passing across the night sky (time), a bridge to great mysteries will sprout forth from the dull and ordinary orbiting of my days?

On a related theme, I have a confession to make. Last Saturday–the day of the week when I wind our old pendulum clock—I was leaning across a pile of books and knickknacks, destined for the thrift store, when the brass key slipped from my hand and I heard it hit something hard below.

No problem, right? I knew where it must have fallen and so I started feeling around in the space on the floor immediately beneath the clock. Time passed (hours actually) and my wife joined in the search.

But three days later, our pendulum clock sits silent and draped with a blanket–so that I don’t keep reading the time on its unmoving face.

I have to ask myself: Where was the knowing promised by the TSK vision when I needed it?

I felt like Nasruddin, the Sufi master of paradox, searching under the street lamp for a house key that he had actually dropped in the darkness 50 feet away–because “the light is better here”—except, in my case, I was convinced that I had in fact dropped my key under a street lamp.

Had the brass key fallen into a different kind of space than I imagined existed in the clutter on our living room floor? Perhaps it slipped into a space that is not defined or limited by objects stuffed into it by the ten commandments of clutter?

Did I fail to call upon a more confiding and revelatory spirit of time–one that only opens to genuine curiosity–and as soon as I started pulling books from boxes and searching chaotically through file folders I was back in the narrow confines of sequential time, where everything has already happened?

Did I fall into a panicky kind of knowing that effectively closed my mind to the kind of space whose openness is a treasure chest of keys that can wind any clock and relax the hold of any lock?

Did I turn my back on a kind of time that is capable of waiting for the right moment to surface, so that eyes can open to their surroundings, ears can locate the sound of a key striking something hard, and in which the soft phrases of natural dialogue would have allowed the key to say, “Here I am”?

Perhaps. But since I didn’t do any of that in the flying moment, I wonder if a more generous kind of time, space and knowledge may still be swinging the pendulum of my life on Earth, and that in spite of mistaken reactions in time, open space is always available to be freely known?

Perhaps the hope that some spiritual vision will automatically transform confusion and limitation into clarity and free sailing misses the point. I notice that the floor and bookcases under the silenced clock are now clean and free of clutter. And my wife is searching on Google for a key that will allow our clock, with a date of 1916 penciled on its back, to sail forth once more, careening across the waves of time.

I plan to be dock side, ready to jump on board.

One comment to “Stories We Tell Ourselves”
  1. Oh that eternal search for THE key… The very basis for inquiry, the motivation for ‘the Blues’, the urge to know…Love of Knowledge… There’s a story here somewhere, I know it! ?

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