Thursday Lent week Five


We crave drama, anything to animate the monotony of the mundane. But this craving contradicts the need for security and the advantages of routine that usually win the day. We are attracted to risk but we do everything we can to manage it. We want growth and progress but haggle over the price. Cliff-edges are dramatic places that sharpen our senses and give us a buzz: but there are always persuasive reasons for not jumping.

How to handle this contradiction and get to the paradox? Entertainment offers a quick solution though not a very satisfying one. Hollywood and Bollywood feed us a buffet of crime drama, war movies, passionate romances and cliff-edge series. In a well-run buffet the serving dishes are constantly replenished and our appetite re-kindled by fresh food. In a similar way, our consumption of vicarious thrills through sensational news, disaster weather warnings, TV and movies is fed so continuously that we don’t know we are becoming addicted. (‘I don’t have time to meditate but it’s been a hard day and I have earned a couple of episodes of…’).

Life is dramatic because we are unique and so no modelling of the future can really prepare us for what is going to happen next. Prediction works well for weather, less well for economics and hardly at all for when we fall in love or when love seems to die. We cannot predict when the contemplative dimension of the soul awakens and eventually disturbs the entire pattern of our priorities and habits.

This is the real cliff-edge of the human journey but it is usually a slower dramatic transformation than we have come to expect in the course of an action movie or even a gripping novel.

The other day I was watching a child acting out the intense dramas of his imagination in a world of his own. He was oblivious to everyone around him. I wondered what programs or cartoons were animating his rich and turbulent inner world. Such fantasies are part of our development. In the middle ages he would have fancied himself as a knight in a jousting match or as a hero slaying dragons. When you see a young adult walking down Islington High Street dressed like the long-coated character in The Matrix, and walking like him, you wonder where fantasy feeds the imagination and when it cannibalizes the creative forces of the mind.

Without knowing it we dramatise ourselves, occupying self-generated roles of succeeders, heroes, victims, unrecognized geniuses or neglected sages. We typecast ourselves and thereby cease to be surprised by the wonder of our own being and our liberty of spirit.

Meditation smashes the shells of fantasy that entrap us. Then we feel at risk; and we are. We risk the cliff-edge of reality, the passing through the portal. The very non-dramatic nature of meditation is what opens us to real wonder and amazement at the way things truly are.

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