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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Achievement

The world is full of achievement. Most people spend their lives seeking to attain success, wealth, and fame. These are all great things to be sure but they are not the highest achievement.
Almost everyone lives their life alone though they are surrounded by the mass of humanity. Almost everyone has a secret they never share; they spend their life hoping no one guesses what it is. By living in pretense they deny themselves the truth of their achievement.
The truth is that all their wealth and success are built upon a foundation of folly and futility. It may comfort them to hold these things dear but when death comes a-calling they will be willing to pay any price to have just one more day of life, nay, another hour, even a minute more. All those high and mighty achievements pale beside that one little thing that sneaks in through the back door when no one is looking.
I never tell anyone that I know their secret. They think I don’t see how weak they are and how confused. I let them pretend they are big and strong; I let them imagine I am soft and feeble. If they think I am as mixed up as they are then they will leave me alone. If I smile just right they believe I am as unhappy as they are.
One summer many years ago while crossing from Tennessee into Arkansas over the wide Mississippi in a place which had no bridge I marveled at the expertise of the ferryman. I asked him if such a skill could be learned. It can, he replied. Good swimmers learn quickly but a diver who has never seen a boat manages it at once. I thought perhaps he had misunderstood my question as he hadn’t answered me directly so I asked him what he meant.
He said good swimmers since they forget the water and its dangers acquire the skill of sailing the boat quickly. As to those who are able to dive and having never seen a boat, they manage it at once. They look at the watery gulf as a hillside and the ups and downs of the boat as a ride in the country. Such happenings have occurred to them a multitude of times so they do not affect their minds. Wherever they go they feel at ease.
I’ve been told I was a troublemaker as a child. My parents would send me to church so that I might there find salvation but instead of turning left at the fork in the road and achieving my goal I would somehow end up turning right to spend my Sunday mornings smoking cigarettes I bought with the money I’d been given for the collection plate while playing pool with the other miscreants at the pool hall.
Of course word trickled back to my folks from my uncle the priest who missed my shining face sitting in the familiar pew. The following Sunday I would be driven by my scowling father and my mournful mother in the family automobile to the church steps with stern words of warning from my folks. But again, instead of turning left into the church I somehow got sidetracked into turning right invariably finding my way back to that smoky old pool room.
My uncle came to our house one dire Saturday. He sat me down to talk to me, words of doom and how disaster would follow me the rest of my days lest I repent. He always said I would go to hell for my sins. But I figured when I got there my sins would no longer matter. I wanted to explain that to him but I knew he would never listen. So instead of learning to speak I learned not-speaking.
I talk very little even when spoken to. I learned from my uncle that those who talk much know little. He always spoke of what he knew. Of what I know I cannot speak.
By taking the world of troubles on his shoulders my uncle could never rest easy. The great problems of humanity weighted him down with baggage he couldn’t seem to shed. By masking my knowledge I simplify my problems.
I once observed a contest of skill between several groups of pool players. In the first contest the prize was but a shiny ribbon worth very little. I noticed how the players were able to put forth all their skill. The second contest was for a large trophy with the winner’s name emblazoned upon it for all to see. I witnessed how the players shot timorously. The final contest was for a golden medal. I noted how the players shot as if they were blind.
So I shield my senses from bright objects of desire and temper the need to possess them. I am at one with the choking dust, with the swirling water, with the temptation of fire, with the high hard sky, and with the wind that speaks my name. This is called original union.
I am unconcerned with friends and with enemies. Though I walk alone I am surrounded with virtue. I am unconcerned with good and harm, with honor and disgrace. Though I am full of dishonor and hold my disgrace as a natural part of myself I am as innocent as a newly born baby.
This is called the highest achievement.

6 comments:

  1. I know I'm so sporadic on your blog comments...I am scattered in my life right now. Maybe that will someday change. :)

    "So I shield my senses from bright objects of desire and temper the need to possess them."

    Was my favorite line in this...thank you for sharing and inspiring with the world, Dan. :)

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  2. Hello Mariah,
    It is always a pleasure to hear from you! Thank you so much for visiting and reading the new entry here.

    I run my own business (I am a writer first and foremost but it doesn't keep the lights on) and I intermingle with many other business owners, most of whom are quite wealthy. They live in fine homes, drive expensive cars, and work sixteen hour days to pay for it all. Their children grow up without them around; their wives assuage their loneliness by drinking and taking long vacations on their own to tropical islands where (no doubt) they bed the cabana boys.

    Sometimes these men say to me, Dan, I wish I could be more like you. And I am sure they do. I see it in their eyes, a wistful longing. I rise late, I work a few hours each day doing enough that I can get by, and then I retire early. I spend my nights tapping out these words on this computer. Once in a while something arises that seems worthwhile... this collection of stories is an example.

    Someone once asked me: if you could do anything at all, what would it be? I answered without thinking: Write. But that question and answer doesn't go deep enough. I have to write. Even when I am not writing I am thinking about writing, mapping out these words in my head. I sit silently allowing all thought to fade away. When I rise these stories come rushing back like a torrential tidal wave that I must write down to get out of my head.

    It is an affliction that I have yet to master.

    Thanks again!

    Dan

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  3. HI Dan,
    You are truly a wordsmith! Interesting that you say you aren't a conversationalist, but are so prolific with your writing. I envy your lifestyle, too! Sounds like you have the best of both worlds.
    Keep up the good work,
    Marla

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    Replies
    1. Hi Marla
      Thanks for writing! And thank you for your kind words. They mean a lot to me.

      It's been my experience that people who talk all the time rarely listen to others. Instead, I like to listen to the stories that they tell and in time retell those tales in my own words. I think it is a way of affirming we were here, once.

      In a very real way writing confers a kind of immortality upon us all. Hundreds and even thousands of years after the author passes back to the dust from which they emerged people are still reading their words.

      Thanks again,

      Dan

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