Why Are You Not Your Own

Let us say one says they have enough. People have a right to question this and wish to see manifestations of it: after all, even composition teachers sometimes ask that ideas be supported with illustrations. Yet even with pictures for support, a problem may arise if one's "enough" is not in excess; enough, as in: I have enough to eat, enough of a roof, enough clothes to satisfy the demands of appearance, enough for now, enough of a promise for later (for who holds the future! this is definitely a point of contention: stockpiling). I should take that thought out of brackets. I hear the Athenians in the Melian dialogue criticising me as they did the elders, saying I am the type that prays for miracles. That is always what the powerful say. A crowd also argued with Socrates that his ideal spiritual commonwealth or "republic" existed nowhere on earth - to whom he responded that it matters not if it is found on earth for "a pattern of it" is "laid up in Heaven for him who wishes to contemplate it and, so beholding, to constitute himself its citizen" (Rep. 592b cited by James S. Cutsinger in Paths to the Heart, which I will come to).
There are tactics that may be used in discourse like bringing the discussion to the territory that one knows: one's weaknesses are strengths in this landscape where the suffering of repeated self-questioning opens one up to Kierkegaard's "Eternal cure"; where emptiness leads to fullness; where "these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely". I quote Thomas Merton last, who is quoted by Kallistos Ware in a lovely book in the Perennial Philosophy series, called Paths to the Heart, which emerged from a symposium bringing together Christian and Islamic speakers looking past the limitations of dogma to the dimension of the spiritual heart, "beyond the level of seemingly contradictory forms" (Cutsinger). It was dedicated to Frithjof Schuon, who had written of an "esoteric ecumenism" possible through the "wisdom which can discern the one sole Truth under the veil of different forms".
Merton is cited by Ware especially for a Sufi phrase, le point vierge, he derived from the writings of French Orientalist Louis Massignon. Read alongside Shell's "Economy" this point in the heart could provide an interesting inverse of the walled city that makes invisible the tyrant: here, it is the "latent personality, the deep subconscious, the secret cell walled up [and hidden] to every creature, the 'inviolate virgin'" that is walled (the pure heart, "a point of pure truth").




The heart is described as "open both below and above: below, to the abyss of the subconscious; above, to the abyss of the mystical supraconscious"; ambiguous, in the words of the Macarian Homilies, "The heart is but a small vessel; and yet dragons and lions are there ... uneven the paths ... There also is God ... light ... the treasures of grace". [This is also like Vernant's reading of Hesiod's golden age where the men prospered under righteous kings who could settle qualms and "faire cesser la démesure par la sage douceur de son verbe" vs. those kings who forgot they were "le rejeton de Zeus" and betrayed the function of their σκῆπτρον distancing themselves from δίκη through ὕβρις, under whom men suffered calamities and destruction.] The heart can be a battle ground, or the place for le point vierge - the latter, if one can "transcend the bounds of ... created personhood ... with humble confidence" leading in to the deep heart. If this is achieved, so is the fox's maxim in Le Petit Prince: "On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur". The intellect may dwell there; it is "the dominant element in our total human structure". To enter the heart is to further discover how different we all are and who we are, so we are not left without an answer to the question, "Why did you not become your own true self?" (This paragraph, except the square brackets a recap of certain points made by Ware in his essay.)
Only the individual can answer whether or how much they have reached their true self. It may differ from the commercial or the zeitgeist. (Schlegel's beautiful response to zeitgeist here). One of the challenges of today's zeitgeist, for example, may be the anything goes principle which may be liberating where it involves all roads as possible means by which to reach Rome may be just as restricting where it defies order or discipline. After all, it is said that outgrowths of the heart may be dragons and poisonous creatures. "There is a dust and a desire and a longing that should be slain" writes Kierkegaard in The Price of Willing One Thing. 
One of the battles for the true self may actually pertain directly to whether one is able to find contentment with enough. This beautiful extract from a poem by MacLeish indicates why: "Happiness is difficult. / It takes a kind of courage most men / Never are masters of, a kind of / Innocent ruthlessness that lives / Like leaves in the instant of the air: / The courage just to be - to trust / The wind that blows you."




Book: Amy Butler's Midwest Modern. Brush: ewansim's tape at Deviantart.

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