6 July 2008

Letter 2.29

Our monkey has been removed to the mainland -- just as he was getting used to his surroundings here -- and, I hear, has had to go through the whole business of readjustment once again. Anyway, he won't be back here again, even though he was finally a pleasant fellow to have around. But I expect I'll be seeing quite a few monkeys again, since I am planning on taking a bit of a trip out around Ceylon -- which, after all, I have yet to see -- starting from Kandy.

Well, Werner, a German seeking ordination, came in for a chat. He is very unhappy and makes himself unhappier by worrying about his unhappiness. Perhaps that's what he wants -- strangely enough, people do tend to act in ways that hurt themselves -- in a sense, perhaps we're all secret masochists -- but since I don't let Werner's unhappiness make me unhappy I don't mind him stopping by. Finally, he left just before the bell rang for evening chanting. I expect -- as I began to write you some hours ago -- to be going first up to the Kandy area and then going wherever the wind doth blow fair. But I shall not be leaving until the second half of November, in order to be here for the Kathina ceremony, which is held shortly after the end of Vas, and is the annual giving of robes, and will be on the 17th of November this year -- not because I particularly need a new robe, but because it would simply be politie.

I don't know quite what to say about your 'lecture' that might be of use. Of course, from your point of view you are quite right, but everyone has his own viewpoint, and it would be foolish for any of us to assume that the viewpoint of anyone else must be the same as ours. Naturally, I would like to do what would please you; but if the price be to give up the only way of life I have ever found acceptable and to adopt a way of life which makes me miserable, then I would be doing the same as Werner, wouldn't I? Of course, I am not seeking a utopia -- a perfect society -- which we know is impossible (and I had any dregs of the possibility knocked out of me in Israel). I'm simply trying to get rid of various hang-ups that I've picked up which are a source of dissatisfaction. You speak of the arts of music, painting, literature, etc., which are all fine; I am practicing the art of living. I try to shape my life so that it is ethically and aesthetically pleasing by molding a blend of such factors as graciousness, softness, equanimity, compassion, honesty, and the like. Anyone who wishes to do or create anything will naturally seek conditions which are best suited to his work and to avoid as much as possible any unnecessary distractions. So too with me. I don't reject the world, or curse society, or blame anybody: I am simply not interested. My work, the work I consider worth doing, lies elsewhere. If I gave it up and adopted a way of life that would make me miserable, then, like Werner, I would inevitably communicate my misery to others -- to you -- and that would likely make you miserable as well; so what good has been achieved?

Probably I've said nothing much that would help you, and if I were to go on restating the same thing in still other terms, it would be unlikely to be of further help. But I am not arguing with you: I am willing to accept you whatever you are, or wear, or do, or say, because I love you and above all else you are to me my parents, who did more for my welfare than can be comprehended at a sitting. But to act contrary to my own most basic needs and goals would be nothing more than a betrayal of the care and love you have given, and would not in fact be a good thing and would not, in the end, make anyone happy, better, or wiser. What more can I say?

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