I took a course in Philosophy once.
Thirty years or so ago.
I wanted to love it.
Our professor loved it and I thought him a miracle of wisdom and kindliness.
I wanted to know what he knew. To glimpse what he loved.
In that moment, though, I did not love philosophy.
My mind, raised as it had been by mostly modernist world views, wondered alternately how we as humans could have been in a place when we did not know this or that and how we might ever have questioned thus or so.
In my defense, I was also consumed at the time with the seemingly more urgent matters of baby Greek, putting groceries on the table, and a document we Presbyterian types refer to as the Book of Order.
Lately, I have begun to expect that the mere mortal intellects among us cease to be philosophical somewhere around the age of four or five and, if we are lucky, find ourselves ready for another go at it somewhere on the far side of fifty.
Which might suggest that we wonder a bit about the usefulness of conventional American Kindergarten and many of the survival skills we take for granted in our world, though that is, perhaps, an issue for a different day.
Another professor of mine said much the same thing when he called to us to be poets. If you don’t know Walter Brueggemann, there’s an episode of The West Wing that covers this nicely. I think it’s the one about the late night flight to Portland.
In any event, I found myself in a philosophical mode this morning.
I started out pissed.
Actually, I started out tired but, in my experience, tired often leads to pissed.
In this case, the immediate cause appeared to be Luther.
The same Luther who went out, with the four-footed girls, for his last stroll around the back forty about 11:00 last night.
I knew, when he barked at precisely 6:45 this morning, that he had no urgent personal needs. He simply wanted to go lay outside on the cool, damp ground and feel the world come alive.
Now, I’m not opposed to such a wish, in principle. On this particular morning, though, it coincided with a long night full of two paintings clamoring for my attention and nowhere near enough sleep.
Luther, however, has not yet developed a neurological circuit for, “I’ve heard your message and the answer is, ‘No.'”
I caved, reluctantly, justified by the other relevant factor that Bill’s shoulder hurts and he hadn’t slept well either.
About 20 minutes and a brief visit to my paintings later, I sat curled under a favorite quilt in my magic chair with a steaming cup of lemon water in my hands, listening to the birds sing the garden awake.
All the while, I fumed.
“Rotten, no-good dog! When is he going to learn?”
“He’s never going to learn if I keep caving in.”
“How am I supposed to get anything done today if I lost another hour’s worth of sleep?”
Feel free to fill in some more blanks, if you like. You get the drift.
Suddenly, though, I heard two of the more philosophical voices in my current universe warming up in my head.
“Expectations are the root of suffering,” said Qigong master, Chunyi Lin.
And, with a throaty California sort of accent, “In this moment, nothing is wrong,” from actor, author, and teacher, Samantha Bennett.
Frankly, it’s taken me a while to get on board with Chunyi. And, at the risk of plunking a detour in the midst of your own philosophical journey, I’m going to leave you with that one to chew on in your own way.
Sam has been a bit easier for me to wrap my head around.
It has a lot to do with here and now. And with a bit of relief from the shoulda-woulda-coulda routine that calls us to the past or the future, neither of which is actually happening.
Except in the sense that it’s really all kind of the same and Dave was right about time!
That, however, is a bit ambitious for morning, so I decided to notice, at least for a moment, that I was warm and safe. There were crows playing in the garden and roses peeking through the dawn. My world was filled with the happy scent of lemon. And there were three big dogs snoring gently at my feet.
All of whom I love.
When I took my glasses off and squinted just so, I could almost see Ben grinning.