The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sly and Arjuna

I like Shelby Steele's article on "Why Conservatives can't win with minorities." I don't agree with some of his definitions and conclusions, but I'm looking for thoughtful opinions on what I see happening in America.


This might help answer some questions about whether that picture I linked to of Sylvester Stallone was photoshopped. Here he's getting ready for his new movie "The Expendables."

ᅠᅠLord God, Billy Bob. And no, it ain't just chemicals. That, certainly, plus a phenomenal tolerance for pain, real understanding, and a work ethic that would put most pro athletes to shame (according to the boxing coach who worked with him for "Rocky Balboa")


While I've started watching the political scene over the last few years, I've always been very clear on the fact of my vast and gaping ignorance on many, many particulars. Navigating such treacherous waters on the basic of general principles can seem folly...the only reason I suspect it isn't is my continuing positive results in the three major arenas of my life, regardless of what people howl at me from the sides. One of the things that seems to make sense is to look at principles that crop up again and again over hundreds or thousands of years. When they seem to align with both scientific and spiritual speculations, I take special note.

I consider such things to be "wisdom" as opposed to "knowledge," and give 'em a higher priority. One such is the concept of multiple personalities. Whether a psychological or spiritual fact or a good way to look at the human spirit, I care not. Is there an "inner child"? Who cares? What matters is whether or not it is a useful construct (which I consider it to be."

The Ericksonian "Parts Party." Dramatica's theory that a story is an argument in a "story mind," with every character a different aspect of the lead character. The "Internal community" of voices that a hardened criminal hears when he makes decisions.

And a really, really interesting one from one of the earliest spiritual texts, the Bhagavad Gita. In the beginning of the Gita (which is an expansion of a longer work, the stupendous Mahabarata), Lord Krishna (symbolizing God) and Arjuna (representing the aspiring spiritual warrior) drive in a chariot between two opposing armies. Arjuna is appalled that if the war takes place, his friends and cousins and brothers will die. "It would mean destroying my own kinsmen!" he protests. "How can I commit such a sin?" Ultimately, the decision is made to commence the war.

Now, there are as many interpretations of this mighty work as there are readers. A reasonably conservative interpretation is that the armies represent the forces of opposition within unenlightened human beings. All the "nafs" (in the sufic interpretation) that put kinks in our psychic wiring, preventing our "kundalini energy" from rising up the neurological wiring until enlightenment is achieved.

This inner "war" between the aspects of our inner world, the warriors who fight on the inner battlefield, is not the only metaphor, but it is one that has lasted for thousands of years, and from my perspective, is therefore worthy of note. One must also, of course, be careful not to be limited by such a metaphor: otherwise one's entire life can devolve to a series of battles, both within and without. And I suspect that clinging too strongly to such a metaphor can actually increase the chances of war.

But as a life-long martial artist, it is logical for me to accept that the Warrior is a totally valid archtype: as are the healer, the lover, the teacher. One thing I know is that if your people have anything desired by the outside world, unless they are protected by natural barriers you had better have mighty warriors. If you don't , you get wiped out or your people enslaved. I wish I could see a real exception to this, but I don't.

Simultaneously, if all you have is this violent energy, you will have nothing
WORTH protecting left within your culture. How does this relate to the personal daily struggle?

Well...the spiritual path lies ahead of me. Any of you can note how easily I get distracted from the path. Racial shit does it pretty fast, as does some kinds of gender warfare, class warfare, and so on. Why? Because I cannot retreat from the world. I have to be concerned about money-making, markets, customers, and social conditions affecting them. I care about love and sex and family and the things affecting them. I care about my physical body: fitness, health, longevity, functioning of my faculties and more...and the things that affect them. I am a "householder yogi" and have a completely different set of challenges than a person of my energy and focus who retreats to a cave or a monastery and concentrates twelve hours a day on spiritual growth.

Can't do that. From my values, that would feel like a cheat: much was given to me, and to empty myself out, I have to give as much back as possible. Anything else feels dishonest.

One of the things I have to do is make certain that all my sled dogs are pulling in the same direction, or at least pulling with equal strength in balanced, opposite directions. I can move closer to my true self, or sit very quietly and wait for my true self to tip-toe closer. Either works. I choose the more dynamic path.

And hey...if there's nothing to get out there, if it's all delusion, what the hey? I'll still get as much out of life as anyone ever has. What the hell is there other than spending your time doing what you want to do, surrounded by the people you love, contributing to the causes and people you care about? Being healthy and happy and sensual and creative? Bringing more light into the world than existed on the day of your birth? To me, it's a no-lose proposition. Either way, I win.


Dave said...

You've hit upon the "Two Truths Doctrine", pretty much exactly as you've described. There is a relative realm and an absolute realm. In the absolute realm, all is one, what we perceive is illusion, maya, etc. And in the relative realm, we maintain health and jobs and relationships. Both are true.

Steve Perry said...

It ain't just chemicals. But they surely do help. Not a lot of guys Sly's age doing what he does without a little help from the pharmaceutical industry.