Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Way of Grief (and the end to all this Buddhism pontification)

Zeno was the founder of Stoicism, yet another philosophy mining for precious virtue in earthy environs. The secret to contentment is your state of mind. Accept life for what it is, don't expect too much, and be satisfied with only the bare necessities. The problem with this philosophical tenet that runs through the ideas of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Zeno, Antisthenes, Diogenes, and of course, Buddha, aside from the viral pride that conceives, nurtures and slaughters, is one of definition. It is all relative. While gazing at a lotus blossom may be considered a simple pleasure, it may also be considered a luxury. If it engenders positive emotion, it could be construed as downright hedonistic. If vitamins and water can sustain, wouldn't a dry crust of bread or a cup of tea be extravagant. Somebody can always out-do you. I know it is simply the idea but the doctrine must have some real world discipline.
Screwtape portrays gluttony in this unusual light: An elderly woman subsists on very small portions and in so doing, views herself as anything but a glutton. But, Screwtape reveals, she is only falling prey to a new strain of gluttony, referred to as gluttony of delicacy, in place of the old standby, gluttony of excess. "She is a positive terror to hostesses and servants. She is always turning from what has been offered her to say with a demure little sigh and a smile 'Oh, please, please . . . all I want is a cup of tea, weak but not too weak, and the teeniest weeniest bit of really crisp toast.' In a crowded restaurant, she gives a little scream at the plate which some overworked waitress has set before her and says, 'Oh, that's far, far too much! Take it away and bring me about a quarter of it.' "
In so doing, she exercises the pride that enslaves her. She is being temperate, she tells herself, wonderfully, virtuously so. Oh Lord, I thank thee that I am not as that glutton at adjacent table, fisting in handfuls of french fries and sucking up refills of carbonation.
All this focus on modified asceticism, beginning with Buddhism, has been to reiterate to myself the humiliation and the contrition of Christianity.
Nobody likes feeling guilty, not really. I know guilt is at a premium right now. Whether you're a parent, a consumer, a motorist, an American, above the poverty level, or a meat-eater, guilt is dumped on us by the truckload. Yes, and ohhh, how good it feels! Feeling guilty has become its own salvation. Which of course isn't really guilt at all.
Because being really guilty is a horrible feeling. Which is why we are so quick to expedite it. Have you ever known anyone who was perpetually apologetic? Beware that individual. They have a fanatical aversion to guilt, and think that by forever acknowledging their faults they build up a positive balance in the ledger, (bringing some of the more extremely sociopathic ones to the point where they could conscientiously apologize for killing you in cold blood.)
It is not because they are forever suffering under feelings of guilt. Guilt is a horrific reality, and human nature will be violently repulsed by it, and the person who portrays constant "humility" of this sort is effectively lying, whether they are aware of it or not. It is its own form of created virtue, which is nothing but a vice of the most abhorrent order.
If you have been saved, you will remember at some point preceding the cleansing blood a dirty bile rising in your soul. No one can exist under this trauma for any extended period of time. You will either disavow it and swallow it down again or, you will vomit it out.
Buddhism, Epicureanism, Stoicism, Cynicism, and the composite of these and many more, humanism, disavows it. They treat the symptoms, the feeling of guilt, and leave the fetid gall bubbling and effervescing in your mind.
The death blow to our pride is the realization that to ever be rid of our guilt, we must surrender it to God rather than deal with it ourselves. It is the ultimate act of contrition. I have the most horrible disease, I contracted it deliberately, and I must have it out, but I cannot. You must.
This is why God's gift is so vehemently spurned. There is a reason why it is called a death.
I believe we fear this slaughter of our pride more than we fear physical death.
Which is why man will search for any other avenue than the Via Dolorosa.
Such as the path to enlightenment.


Anonymous said...

Good blog.I have vainly tried to think of something to add to this but you have expressed yourself so well. I am at a loss. Makes me feel kind of guilty.

Nathan Carpenter said...

thanks dad
just don't let it give you a complex.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is this self-indulgent, solipsistic guilt that is the main ingredient for Marx's Opiate. I loathe it. It poisoned me for too long. Thought provoking, as usual.


Dee said...

Hallelujah! No more Buddha-talk...Yeah!!!

Nathan Carpenter said...

peanut gallery . . .