Welcome to Philosophy 477, Value Theory.
Normally we hold this seminar in my office: it is a highest level seminar in Philosophy. In it we try to discern where values come from and why. Psychology. Philosophy. Religion. Each has made its claim as to the genesis and justification of human values.
But values come at us in more devious ways than through the fairly honest introspection of the Ivory Tower.
They come at us through Mom and Dad.
"Don't play with that, it's dirty!" is a law that is pumped into our souls before we know how to talk.
What is dirty?
Why shouldn't I play with that? Why shouldn't I play with that?
Are questions that generate true philosophers, sincere seekers of truth.
The questions, "What is dirty?" and "Why shouldn't I play with that?", if held tightly to one's chest, will see you through any and all storms, and, if spoken aloud, will cause considerable turmoil in the realm of the human mind around you.
These questions are the beginning ontological and moral questions that form the heart and soul of Philosophy, or "love of Wisdom." They will lead you, if you pursue them tenaciously and consistently, and refuse to settle for half-baked answers that you know are prefabricated lies, such as those taught by orthodox Christianity, straight into the heartland of reality.
The human mind, by its very nature and structure, wants truth last of all in its list of desires from reality. Truth, by its very nature and structure, will mean the death of the human mind, or the end of the hypnotic dream that we take human life to be. Therefore, as Truth is revealed, the human mind will fight it with every cunning marvel at its disposal, because it knows, or senses, that the battle is one of its own absolute life and death struggle, which it, the human mind, is bound to lose, if so much as a crack of reality is exposed to shed light on its essentially mythical nature.
There. That pretty well wraps it up for an introductory statement of what this course is about.
You always heard that Philosophers went around proving that things didn't exist. Now you know that what didn't exist all along was you, or the you you thought you were anyway.
There is of course a "you" that is there and is real, and is waiting to be discovered, which is the business of Philosophy and of Life generally. But that "you" that is waiting to be discovered patiently waits while all the hypnotic dreams, marble games if you like, that are taught to us in school and at mom and dad's knee, have all been tried on and proven worthless.
The first marble game that I can recall consciously rejecting was the marble game that said Philosophy was impractical, or that thinking (as opposed to doing) was impractical.
It was obvious to me from a very early age that nobody had things figured out in this life, and that the mothers and fathers who were urging their children to get out in the world and do something practical, as a precautionary or conservative tactic in life, were actually doing something very reckless. They were prematurely stepping into boats that had no known destination, and, by all visible appearances, cracked up on the rapids just around the corner.
Business, and making a living for the sake of making a living, were decidedly not the way to go.
Thought is a lonely business.
It is so in its very purpose and design.
You are always on the edge, the periphery, of what you knew before.
Consequently, you are constantly defenseless, without the old comforts you had before to support you--without the people, without the ideas, without the at-hand love and assurance that most people build their lives around.
Thought, genuine thought, is always a matter of being alone, and reaching for something beyond what you knew, which always involves letting go of what you had. Trusting, reaching, searching for the truth that will liberate you from the problem at hand.
The feeling of being alone that true thought inspires is actually the dread that the human has for letting go of its own devices and trusting that the inspiration will be there when the hand is put forth with the silent prayer "save or I perish."
If the trust is great enough to become a radical reliance on the spiritual source of that inspiration, the hand will never slip.
When you have held that hand in the dark, you know that you have found reality.
The reality that Philosophers look for.
The reality that businessmen look for.
The reality that hard-hats look for.
And yes, indeed, even the reality that bureaucrats look for.
No one is ever left out of reality.
I hope that doesn't shock you.
That reality is not the person of Jesus Christ.
That reality is the reality that he used to heal people, to raise the dead, and to overcome every material law or limitation known to man.
It is the reality that he taught about.
And it is the reality that we too can use to heal and overcome every problem, discord, and limitation in our lives, including all financial, personal, and health problems, just as he did. Until the nature of our reality as divine and not as human becomes manifestly clear to us.
Human institutions--all of them--have been set up to prevent this knowledge from surfacing.
Particularly the institution of the Church.
The Church, more than any other human organization, including academia, surprisingly enough, has been specifically designed to prevent people from realizing the truth of Jesus' teachings about the spiritual reality he knew so intimately and well.
The Church, by focusing on the doctrines of the personhood of Jesus, the coming of life after what we call human death, and the belief that we are sinners, has rendered the spiritual teachings of this brave and loving and wonderful man thoroughly repugnant to any right-thinking person.
The academic community, caught up as it is in the hypnotic wave of material pursuits, has as its number one goal the entrenchment of itself as a material force--faculty, students, and buildings, in that order--and therefore has as its specific concern the eradication of intelligence. That's right. The eradication of intelligence.
The reason is that intelligence requires courage, absolute courage in the face of fear, limitation. When you demonstrate courage, in the face of your colleagues, you simultaneously reveal their cowardice, with which they are only too intimately familiar. Consequently, you put a moral demand on them to rise to the awareness of their own potential. Which faces them with the fear of their own limitation. Which threatens their own material preoccupations of the moment.
And one-upmanship games in literal-mindedness.
Which they call "the pursuit of truth."
All it takes is for one courageous man (or woman) to expose them for the turkeys they are.
So, needless to say, it is the specific goal of the turkeys to keep that from ever happening.
That is what the Ph.D. program is set up for.
And the tenure committee system.
To weed out any genuine truth-seeking thought.
Needless to say it fails once in a while.
But, by and large, it is a very thorough system: it seduces any sincere truth-seeker into its very fold, and then crushes every last taste for honest inquiry out of his mangled bones, and then turns him into a 100% promoter of the very system that destroyed him.
It's even better than the Church, because it's subtler.
People who turn away from the atrocities committed upon the spiritual seeker of truth by the Church often turn to the Academy, and are ground up by its time-consuming machinations until it is too late for them to do anything about it.
Except turn to alcohol.
Or a new love life.
Mental Health is now doing a parallel movement: having realized that academic theories are essentially sterile, many people have turned to the warmth and depth of the encounter group theory of human life.
Only here, whether they realize it or not, the theories they implicitly or explicitly subscribe to are controlled by medicine, which is controlled by science, which is the most systematically and fundamentally dedicated system of thought that the human mind has yet come up with for the purpose of destroying spiritual inquiry.
The scientific and the religious are utterly, irrevocably, incompatible with one another; and they are at war.
The reason The reason that the religious guys lost the battle to the scientific guys in the Scopes Trial was because the religious was itself so material (it was itself so compromised to the principles of literal-mindedness and dogmatism) that they were put in a position where they would have had to give up their materialism or lose the court fight.
Needless to say they chose to lose the court fight.
Rather than their devotion to literal-minded dogmatism. Which is a species of materialism in religion.
The story of the Bible is a spiritual story, not a material one.
The story of Genesis is a spiritual story, of the warfare with materialism, or the materialistic way of viewing the world (or heaven on earth, as Jesus called it), and it is therefore not to be taken as some kind of literal account of material creation. It is the story of spiritual creation, which occurs in the here and now as material (human) thought yields its pretentious hold to its pretentious reality.
Well, anyway, the mental health people are firmly in the surgical grip of the people in medicine. And after the shrinks, in whatever form they might appear, go to work on them, they go to work themselves as newfound apostles of the faith looking for converts.
To the psychoanalytic view of life.
With the subconscious mind, whether they know it or not, based squarely, 100%, on the impulses of the body.
Which, according to the medical model of health, is doomed to sickness, decay, and death, beginning somewhere around the ripe old age of eleven.
So much for the medical vision of life.
Vision, in the case of medicine, is something of a contradiction in terms.
When you believe that mind is fundamentally and irrevocably the offshoot of body, and you know what the laws of body are: dust to dust and ashes to ashes, you don't have to go very far to see where that "vision" of Life is going to terminate, no matter how many technological improvements they make to prop things up.
The fact is, of course, that what we call our "body" is the direct offshoot or product of the human mind, 100% the controlled reflection of that. Consequently, any corrective work that seems to need to be done on the "body" must in reality be done on the discord in the human mind that is causing the trouble.
The focus of medicine is all wrong; it is backwards; upside down. Except for psychiatry, which naturally is relegated to the lowest ranks in prestige and status among the medical faculty.
As a human institution, medicine would have us focusing all our attention looking up people's rectal apertures for the cause of cancer.
When in fact the cause of cancer is 100% mental. 100% the work of the human mind. And 100% curable by treating the human mind for the cause of what looks like this terrible dreaded "disease."
Needless to say, if what I am saying to you is true, it is absolutely revolutionary.
I mean absolutely revolutionary.
This is no game for cowards.
This is no game for dilettantes and fun seekers.
This is a deadly, earnest, 100% revolutionary flat-out dedication to Truth.
And I can assure you, the devil will take the hindmost.
I think it might be well if we began our discussion with a clear understanding of what the enemy is.
The enemy, quite simply, is the belief that there is a power apart from God. Everything reduces down to that: everything springs up out of that in the first place to make us think that there is such a thing as evil. Or the devil.
The belief that there exists a power apart from God is the devil.
You live in the world you believe in.
So, if you want to believe in the devil, or evil, or hate, or ugliness, that is what you get until it is all burned up, i.e., until you see the absolute nothingness of the power of these things, and you turn from them just exactly as you would from bad dreams.
Flip Wilson said it best: "What you sees is what you get."
So the place to do the correcting, the healing, is never in the external state of affairs. It is always in your thought about the (seeming) external state of affairs.
If this law is true, and it is, I can assure you with perfect certainty, it is absolutely revolutionary, of course. And, it points up again the ass-backward way of the world's conviction that what you do to correct a situation is to go out there, in the external state of affairs and heal it; and that this will have the beneficial effect on the humans involved.
Cause and effect are exactly mixed up. As usual.
The work to be done is entirely mental: then what looks like the physical situation will take care of itself.
Too much to believe?
The entire program here is spiritual. I mean 100% Spiritual.
If that is so, you never have a relationship with material things. You have only one relationship. One. And that One is with Spirit. That's it. All. Period.
Consequently, anything and everything you do has a bearing on your spiritual growth. On your understanding.
As this growth evolves, your situation changes. Your understanding deepens.
You want your situation changed?
You want a situation in your experience changed?
Deepen your understanding.
And, bingo. You will watch your situation (or the situation) change right before your eyes. Usually in (noncoincidental) ways you couldn't possibly have imagined.
But you have to turn completely away from the material situation.
You have to turn your thought completely to your Relationship.
A bad or an ugly situation (or a seemingly sick or nightmarish predicament) in a good Universe can mean only one thing--you are called to deepen your understanding of God and your relationship to Him. That's it. That's all.
And you can count on that situation getting uglier and uglier until you let go of whatever human preoccupation or attachment you are ready to leave behind. Because you are ready to replace it with something far better, that you cannot yet see.
If indeed the game is spiritual, then you cannot "see" reality with the five material senses--sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Nor, indeed, can you take the world that these senses present to you as the real one.
What this world is about is a long story, that fades into nothingness, that endless writers have tried to describe, and failed.
So, let's spend our time focusing on the chance that the spiritual world may be the right one after all, and take a look at this world in retrospect to see what is left.
What is the composition of the world of Spirit (a synonym for God)?
It's that simple.
God is Love.
Now what kind (manner) of Love that is is something yet to be revealed to most of us, or so it would seem in our presently seemingly immature state.
But I can say this about it: human love at its best only hints at the reality, the depth, the dimension of the kind of spiritual (divine) love we are on our way to getting at here.
What would you sacrifice for the human love that you have known at its best?
Most of us would anyway.
What are you willing to sacrifice on the gamble that what I am saying might be even a little bit true?
It takes trust.
All four of these qualities will lead you straight to the Kingdom.
And everything, I mean everything that is happening in your life right now, while it has a thousand different interpretations by material standards and by material theories, I say is really happening to strengthen just these four qualities. To prepare you for taking those four steps into the Kingdom.
Love is just another name for God.
But as long as you remain hypnotically "locked in" to the third dimension of matter you can't see it.
You aren't "locked in" to the third dimension at all, in fact. What occurs is that you are afraid to let go of your third dimensional beliefs, and, consequently, you live in what looks like a third-dimensional world, with all its pains and woes, until and unless you do let go of them.
The pains and woes, in fact, looked at from the point of view of our identity, are just our growing pains, or birth pains, if you like, as we reluctantly release our grip on our old three dimensional conception of life.
Looked at from the point of view of Spirit, or Truth, the pains and woes are given to us to urge us on: reinterpreted and rightly identified, they are really the emergence of Spirit into our lives right where we least expect it or least want it, according to material sense. That is the way with our material sense of things: it contradicts our spiritual sense so perfectly that right where the best spiritual thing is happening it looks like the worst material thing is happening. And you can be sure that your material sense of things is going to groan and scream about how evil and awful things are when it sees (senses) what is happening.
Because what is really happening is the death of the material (sense), and it knows it.
And the birth of the spiritual, fourth-dimensional (sense).
Which means that the material simply ceases to be, as a bad dream ceases to be, when you recognize it for what it is.
When you realize that this is what is going on with every single cause and instance of evil in the world, it makes you also realize that it would make it a hell of a lot easier if people knew that this was what was going on in their lives.
If a person didn't know that they were giving birth to a spiritual idea, or a renewed or "reborn" spiritual sense of things, and all they had to witness was the breakup of the old material conception in their lives, they would very naturally and hastily conclude that the seeming (material) evil was what was real.
But, if they knew the nature of the water that is given to us in this life, they would know how to flow with it, control it, and above all to enjoy it.
Since Spirit is in control of every single event in our careers, and maintains every identity, from a blade of grass to a star, you know that the things that are happening have to be good.
That was the promise in the first chapter of Genesis: that God made all; and everything was good.
This was what it was about.
The spiritual creation!
But what is important for us, at this point, is to know that this knowing, this understanding, is Power.
Since what happens in our "external" experience is the direct manifestation of our thought, our knowing, our understanding of that experience, our knowing the truth about that experience (literally) makes the experience happen smoothly, gracefully, joyfully, happily, easily.
And we can look forward to every experience, once we have recognized that this is indeed what is going on, with the eagerness, expectancy, and happiness of little children.
Like the ones Jesus was talking about.
There is just one Mind in this Universe; or, rather, the Universe that is the expression of the one Mind.
There is one Life.
There is one Love.
There is one Truth.
There is, in fact, just One Thing Going On.
And we are that thing.
Or, rather, the reflection of that thing.
The things that are happening in our lives are leading us to an appreciation of this truth.
The way they happen, more often than not, is in a (seemingly) negative way--one that gets us to let go of our frightened attachments to things in this world, the so-called world of sense, by suffering.
I claim it is much easier to follow the path that is laid before you if you know what is going on, rather than to arrange things so that you are dragged by a tractor by your heels to a new plateau of understanding, from which you are ready to view reality.
Things like sickness, disease, and sin, failure, personal problems, loneliness, are all forms of resistance, resistance to the new vistas of Truth that one is prepared to appreciate. Resistance based on fear.
Fear of letting go.
Of the old.
Or what seems like the old.
For the new.
Actually, it is the closer.
The closer we get to reality the more frightening it seems--the more discipline, control, and obedience seem to be required in our thinking, to keep from falling into the perilous depths of thinking we are a person on our own, responsible for the things around us.
With a mind that is separate, creative, and responsible, to God, or if we are yet at a heathen stage, responsible to ourselves.
These are all fictions.
Designed to keep us from seeing reality.
By keeping our thought on ourselves. Specifically on the belief that we are responsible creative little agents running around the Universe doing good and bad things, to one another.
All of which has the very precise effect of keeping our attention away from the realization that there is just One thing going on, that God is that One, and that it is wholly, 100%, good. Harmonious, perfect; and it is spiritual.
I sound like a Pall Mall advertisement.
"And they are mild."
The dream that Life is in matter is as unreal as what happens when you take a drag on a smoke.
People think that you should quit smoking because it is a "dirty" habit, or because it is bad for your health.
You should quit smoking because it is addictive: any good smoker knows this.
Smoking is intoxicating.
You take a drag, or you light up a weed (as we used to call them back in the sixth grade), or you pull out a pack, because of the tension.
A drag off the smoke breaks the spell of that tension.
And, as its price, catapults you into another state of mind, one that is buoyantly intoxicating, if it does what it is supposed to.
Instead of filling your stomach with acid, or making you nauseous, or giving you a headache, or a sore throat, or a cough. Or, just changing your train of thought.
I have watched many a smoker, myself in particular (Pall Malls are for "where particular people congregate") lose their train of thought, or damage it, right in the middle of its tracks, simply by taking a drag off a weed.
Smoking is that powerful.
You can imagine what it does to writing.
You are whistling along, hot on an idea, eagerly anticipating getting your fingers tight around its little throat, when, because of the tension, wham, you decide to smash your brain with a cigarette, and your little idea escapes into the brush; and your train of thought turns into a roller coaster.
And you feel nauseous for the experience.
Now, to the objective observer, your writing may seem to go in a straight line; but, what might have been had you not taken that drag off that smoke, just as you were about to close in on that idea and capture it for yourself and your reader, is something neither of you will ever know because you have nothing to compare your finished product with.
Well, the dream of third-dimensional sense, that there is life in matter, that matter is real, that space and time are real, is just like smoking, in this respect.
Just as you are about to make a spiritual discovery, as the result of your reflections, concentration, and searchings for truth in this life, third-dimensional sense comes along and tells you that it can't be real, that it, third-dimensional sense is infinitely more real, more powerful, more attractive, more substantial, more frightening, more enduring than all those mythical old claims of the spiritual intuition.
You can't taste, feel, touch, hear, smell Spirit, can you?
What that kind of argument fails to comprehend, or at least makes sure that the listener fails to comprehend, is that the fact that you can't see, feel, hear, taste, touch (materially) the things of Spirit is the most powerful argument there is that Spirit is what is real.
Because all the things of matter, by their very own admission, are doomed, to corrosion, loss, death, destruction, decomposition.
I smile when I hear people say things about "dust to dust, ashes to ashes." That was talk for the relatively ignorant folks back in the Bible days.
We know that this all is going to turn, not just to dust, when the earth fries up, as its orbit decays enough that it falls into the sun.
It is going to turn to gas.
And where will all those theories, from astronomy, and physics, and chemistry, and microbiology....that matter is real...where will they be then?
They will have done their work.
They will have lured our thought away from the spiritual and right up the anal receptacle of material sense.
Like an intoxicating dream.
Here, are you getting too close to some spiritual understanding? Too close to some point of spiritual perception or breakthrough about the nature of love?
Well, all we need is a little fear, and I'm sure we can come up with an intoxicating dream of material sense to reassure you and seduce you back into the belief that the third dimension is what is real.
How about a little disease, some illness in your family?
Perhaps an accident?
Maybe a nervous breakdown.
That's always a good one for sidetracking sincere seekers of truth--make them believe that they're nuts, and that it has a biochemical origin.
Perhaps a touch of old age, just to remind us that we all, if things work out well, have to go through that humiliation of watching our bodies decompose and die.
Anytime you get close to a spiritual discovery, spiritual Truth, as it were, we have an infinite supply of distractions and hidden persuaders that will keep you from catching and keeping, or even glimpsing the truth that you so eagerly seek with your life.
Hypnotic dreams galore.
Here, want a toke?
Stick around. You don't want to go off chasing rabbits in the bush like a lunatic.
Stay with reality.
Be a banker.
The trouble with the argument of prudence, that almost everyone buys, is that you can see, perfectly clearly, what it gets you. If it works out well.
If all goes according to your exact and perfect game plan.
You can see what it gets you.
A few highs.
A lot of very depressing lows.
Boredom. Routine. Tension. Guilt. Deadly dead-end security. Retirement. Death. The end.
You will have helped a few people along the way.
You will have screwed some others.
And you will have spent your life energy promoting the dream that money is what is real and powerful: in spite of the fact that this belief is the very hypnotic dream that succeeded in victimizing your entire life efforts.
Professional life efforts.
Inside the banker there is a man. A profoundly good man. A man who is doing his best with the ideas that he has been given (able to receive) in this life. A man who has overcome great fear, at considerable self-sacrifice, for the highest good that his subservience to fear will let him see.
All that has to be done is appeal to that banker in a way that will free him from his fear--that money is a power in the Universe apart from the power of God--and you will free him from the hypnotic, intoxicating dream, a few tokes of which every day securely imprison his life (thought).
All you have to do to free the victim of disease from the (seemingly) physical bonds that grip him is to free his thought from the hypnotic, intoxicating dream that life in matter is real, that those little bugs, or those little cells, or those little chemical imbalances are a real force in the universe.
Once you have freed a patient's mind (or thought) from the belief that the intoxication is real, or good, or frightening, you have broken the hypnotic power of the dream. Such as it was.
The physical results are immediate, and dramatic.
Because the only place the "disease" had power was in the thought that seemed to grip the body.
Break the thought.
And you break the "externalized" effects on the body.
You break the thought by getting somebody to realize that it was only fear that was gripping them.
That it was consequently fear that was causing the "disease."
Disease is just externalized fear upon the body.
No matter what.
Find, locate, and destroy the fear, and you have dispelled the only thing that ever needed crushing in the first place--a lie about the existence of a power (a material law) apart from God.
Laws which lay claim to a power apart from God break the first commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods besides Me." The beliefs that there are other powers around that cause evil are beliefs that there are other powers besides God.
These beliefs are punished for as long as they are held.
By catapulting one right into the middle of a hypnotic dream, which is composed of the consequences of believing a lie, (just as believing a false rule in mathematics would catapult you into a series of disquieting mistakes for as long as the false belief was held), until the externalized results of believing the dream are fully appreciated and it is happily let go when the truth is seen.
That is the way a Good God runs His Universe.
Perhaps I should keep you up to date on your Instructor's whereabouts and activities since our last meeting.
When I returned from the Middle East, the Holy Land if you will, last Spring, I was greeted by my dearly beloved wife who informed me she was leaving me. She had had it with the religious crap. She had grown up with Christianity, and had seen the effects of it on the human mind; and the prospect of my getting involved with that kind of idiocy was too much.
She had stuck it out with me through the experiences leading up to and including the laughing academy.
She had stood right with me through the three long ugly years of trying to persuade Whitman College that I was just one of the boys.
She had cheerfully packed up all our household and agreed to move back to Montana, where I had been raised and she had not, so that she could teach on the Indian Reservation while I wrote my book.
But when it became clear that I was seriously going to plunge headlong, straight into Christianity, as it did become clear when I took our money and went to the Middle East to check our some spiritual facts, she decided that her little "space cadet" had gone too far this time, and it was time for her to bail out.
So, I packed up all her junk, (as opposed to mine, which we had the great pleasure of sorting out this summer), and moved her back to Seattle, in a U-Haul.
I have always been impressed with the ominous quality of that little sign on the side of U-Haul trucks. Not the "adventure in moving" part. The "one-way" part.
She is now teaching at a junior high in a suburb of Seattle.
I am back in Frazer. Alone.
Frazer, Montana, for those of you who have just joined this course, is a little dinky town in the Northeast corner of the state of Montana.
You can see it on a map because it is close to a big body of water, called the Fort Peck Reservoir, which is the only thing noticeable on a map in this part of the world.
The Fort Peck Reservoir is 1600 miles in circumference; and there are, maybe, twenty to twenty-five houses around it.
The terrain around it looks like the surface of the moon: the temperature extremes are so great that the rocks just pulverize. And since there is nothing around to disturb it, it just gets more so.
Frazer is about twenty-five miles from that, downstream, more or less on the Missouri River.
There are good things about living here, and there are other things, that challenge your spiritual reserves.
Last week I lay on my back by the River and counted thirty hawks circling above me.
You could have shot a fifty caliber machine gun, and nobody would have heard it.
That's a good thing.
This is prairie country, a lot of it undeveloped by farmers.
Sage grouse. Antelope. Mule deer. An occasional eagle.
And country that is so wide open that it just causes an uplifting and opening of your thought.
There is so much space and distance here that the power poles converge in the distance.
The air comes sweeping down from the enormous expanse of Saskatchewan. Fresh. Utterly clean and clear.
Also right off the North Pole.
I take walks here all the time.
There is nothing else to do.
I mean nothing.
I have no friends here.
I am completely alone.
No one even to talk to, except some very casual acquaintances, who are caught up in local politics.
It is very nice to have them around.
There is one old guy and his wife, Cliff Quam and Katherin, who stuck it out here in town as the Indians gradually took it over from the Whites.
The Indians have a slightly different idea of blockbusting in this country. The town is located inside their reservation. If an Indian does do something bad to you, you can't prosecute him except through the tribal law. Which is certainly unprejudiced, given what the sweet, kind, considerate Whites did for the Indians.
Anyway Cliff and Katherin are lovely, gentle Midwestern Norwegian types who struggle to keep their little Lutheran Church afloat.
I have been accepted by the Indians, I am happy to report.
This was in part the work of my beloved wife, whose expert work at the school here last year helped protect me and my work, which I specifically asked her to do, and she lovingly and protectingly did.
I love her.
I always will.
She is still the purest woman I have ever known.
And we still talk frequently on the phone.
I know what would happen if I didn't have that protection.
Each time I walk by the railroad crossing sign that is almost bowed in half from all the shotgun blasts that have been leveled at it from moving cars I have a new appreciation of just how much her protective work meant for me.
I am now able to sit down in my basement, having constructed a model room, my new office, full of school memorabilia and books, with the perfect calm and equanimity of one who knows he is talking directly to his students, with no hint of a worry or threat from the outside.
Thank you Kathee.
I walk up to the cemetery more often than I used to.
I go by the main street of town, which is mostly closed down. False front buildings.
Hank's Bar and the Post Office are the main functional units.
I expect to see Matt Dillon step out and walk over to Doc's office at any moment.
The cemetery is on a little hill, or a rise. You can plainly see the curvature of the earth if you stand on your tiptoes.
The wind is constant. Always, always talking to you.
You get so you stop talking back and listen.
Until your attention is caught up by a meadowlark, or some other major event.
Like a flower.
The cemetery is my favorite that I have ever seen.
The wind is always blowing over it, just like you'd expect from the movies.
You look down at the town, slightly.
And the railroad.
The train is so far away, and yet so clearly visible, it looks like a little toy Lionel.
A thousand miles straight shot to Chicago one way; eight hundred miles to Seattle another.
With few stops.
No stops for the likes of Frazer.
Highway 2, a major U.S. Highway, forming the major two-lane northern route across the Central and Western United States, called the Hi-Line, goes right next to it.
I remember when Kathee left me at the beginning of the summer to go home to Seattle I ran down to the railroad tracks in my moccasins and watched her turn left on Highway 2, and then I walked down the tracks and watched the Volvo disappear down the road at what seemed like an infinitely slow pace.
The cemetery is a very good place to think.
I helped Cliff mow it last year.
The biggest problem is the ground squirrel holes.
The ground squirrels get in there and find they have a ready-made home.
If they get hungry.
The way they bury people around here they leave a big mound of dirt on top of the fresh grave. That's supposed to sink down.
Last year, on Memorial Day, one of the couples out fixing up somebody's resting place commented that they were going to have to bring in some more dirt. There was too much of a cavity.
There is lots more space in the graveyard, if anybody's interested. It is surrounded by sagebrush and prairie grass; and there are lots and lots of little sites that have been marked out, staked and measured, but nobody to claim them.
Indeed, that is the way with the town in general.
You know, most towns grow so fast they sort of bulge out and they have to sort of zone and plan as they go.
But here you find streets, alleys, even telephone and power poles, all set up, ready to be used, surrounded by vacant lots.
The town keeps shrinking and shrinking; I can't understand it.
Maybe it is the absolute loneliness and desolation of the area.
Which, of course, is hauntingly, strikingly beautiful, when you are into spiritual things.
I find that I am on the edge of tears much of the time.
Yet I know, with that same absolute degree of certainty, with that same "still, small voice" of spiritual intuition that I have learned so carefully to follow all my life, that I am exactly in the right place, exactly at the right time, doing exactly what I should be doing at the moment.
As long as I know that, it doesn't matter what the (third dimensional) material appearances may argue.
To try to get me to break down.
It doesn't matter what happens, what voices are screaming; as long as I listen, and remain in tune with that intuitive, silent voice of calm spirituality that I have learned to trust absolutely, no matter what else is, or seems to be going on: I know that all these things are going to work together for good.
No matter what.
That is what I am here to teach you about.
And, as the man who set the example for the rest of us to follow a couple of thousand years ago knew, you can only teach it by example.
I think that if the Principle of the Universe is something that tries your faith, periodically, and makes it stronger, deeper, and more understanding, it also proves that eventually it is leading you to a new point of realization and appreciation of what is really going on in your life (Life), and it must do this by getting you to let go of your old dependencies.
You will do this, whether you think you are ready or not.
When the time has come for your horizons to expand, and your thought to rise to a more rarefied view of the subtlety and Beauty of Life.
Step right over here, ladies and gentlemen; form a group right over by that sign that says "Scenic Vista."
I have a road that is a metaphor for me, that travels between Lewiston, Idaho and Missoula, Montana, the place I grew up. It's called the Lolo Highway. And travels over 200 miles of the most beautiful scenic grandeur you will ever lay eyes on. It is my "river of no return," and forms the visual basis for my metaphor when I teach about "going down the river on a raft trip."
The river is the Lochsa, which in Indian means "rough water." It starts out, way up in the mountains, on the top of Lolo Pass, amid the granite, bear grass, and huckleberries, and trickles down to form the Clearwater, which joins the Snake at Lewiston, which goes on to become part of the Columbia.
This is where Lewis and Clark complained most bitterly about the ruggedness of the trail and not having enough to eat. They ended up eating some of their horses.
It was here that they crossed the mountains, not having been able to make it down the Middle Fork of the Salmon.
The river is so clear and pure you can obviously drink out of it at any point along the highway.
In fact it is so pure (clean) it won't support all that many fish. Fish like bugs. And dirt. And the Lochsa has relatively few compared to other trout streams in the region.
Except for steelhead.
Steelhead are ocean trout; they come up from the ocean and spawn, just like salmon.
They taste like a cross between a trout and salmon.
Excellent. Not quite as fishy as trout; not quite as salmony as salmon.
And of course they fight like hell.
You get a ten to fifteen pound cross between a trout and a salmon on, in a small-to-medium size river that's moving right along, and you don't forget it.
I love this river because it is quiet, undiscovered. And because it is wild. I mean that in the most real sense of the word. It is too powerful to have been tamed. It is flanked on one side by the Selway Primitive Area, the largest Primitive Area in the forty-eight states (utterly inaccessible in its interior, except by horse or air).
I have driven up the river over a hundred times I'm sure, because it forms the link between Walla Walla, Washington, where I both went to college and taught for seven years, and Missoula, where I grew up, and my folks and friends still reside. I have been known to see an otter, moose, elk--and even a pair of wolves, in the middle of a blizzard that I wasn't sure I was going to pull through.
As one goes over the top of the pass, which forms the border between Idaho and Montana (which they originally thought was the Continental Divide, and wasn't) you can really sense a change.
Idaho is calm and relaxed compared to Montana.
There is an intensity in Montana, that I find nowhere else. An intensity in everything. From booze to driving to women to working and playing to everything.
The bars for a long time had a law that you couldn't sit at the bar. That's right. You couldn't sit.
Because if you're sitting you can't tell for sure how much you're drinking. But if you're standing, and start to fall down, or reel, you have a sort of ingrown thermometer.
For a long time they didn't have a speed limit in Montana.
That's right. No speed limit.
The idea was that the roads were so bad, and the distances so great, that one's sheer instinct for survival would keep it reasonable. (They still give you only a five dollar fine, which you pay the cop on the place of arrest, if you are caught speeding.)
The women in Montana are so bad looking (forgive me ladies, but I have to do it in the name of Truth), they keep themselves up so poorly, that any physical encounter is one of pure unrestrained knee-walking lust that has broken through, or it is a relatively pure love, where physical appearance has nothing to do with it. Most of these girls would be good for trolling for dragons. And they have temperaments to match.
My dear old aunt, Jeanette Rankin, was the first lady in the country to be elected to Congress. She was working for women's suffrage. And by God she had every woman's man in that state eating her scraps.
Those winters are long and cold in that state.
Taming the Wilderness was pretty much the focus of work and play. Chet Huntley came from there, and when he retired from NBC he returned to Montana to develop a particularly beautiful little segment of it just north of Yellowstone Park he called "Big Sky."
The intensity derives from the Beauty.
People who live there, as well as people who come there and get hooked on it, don't usually realize that. But it's true. The intense beauty.
You don't know what to do with it.
You feel so...well...intensely, all around you; but you don't quite know how to respond to it.
A beautiful Fall day.
I know, let's go kill something.
Then you possess it.
Or a little teeny chunk of it.
Blood staining the snow.
Steaming entrails from an elk, that call all the little predators and scavengers in a circle around your kill.
A pickup full of elk and deer as you drive home sitting on top of the carcasses, singing Christmas Carols. Or "Over the River and Through the Woods."
Passing around the jug.
Or cutting up the kill in a buddy's garage; and sending in Elk Tenderloin to the women for steak sandwiches for lunch.
Knowing that no matter what else happens you've got a freezer full of elk hamburger.
Or, the beauty can pull you to one of the great mountain lakes that occupy Western Montana.
(Eastern Montana, where I am now, is prairie; Western Montana, where my heart will always be, is mountains.)
Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the fifty states, outside of the Great Lakes.
It is deep, clear, perfectly good water to drink, which many of the little homes around it do.
Landlocked salmon. Trout. Mackinaw. Great fishing.
But mostly it's the water.
And the mountains.
The lake is only sixty miles north of Missoula, and just a few miles south of Glacier Park. Mountain City.
It's twenty-six miles long, and fifteen across.
You can see the Mission Range all along the lake, which tower over you like the Swiss Alps.
They run parallel to another huge mountain range, called the Swan Range, which borders another Primitive Area, called the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
All very breathtaking.
Let's go have a drink.
Which is exactly the response.
Booze enables you to calm down and take in what is facing you. Sort of.
Actually it doesn't calm you down, and keeps you from appreciating what is facing you.
But, at least it does catapult you into something different from what you are facing, something you can deal with in some unknown fashion.
(Which reminds me of Paul's remark to the Athenians about the Great Unknown God that they were worshipping. And they were the Philosophers. The smartest men of their time.)
There is so much booze on Flathead Lake that they even have one of the Bays, Whiskey Bay, named for the inhabitants.
When the folks there aren't 100% into drinking, maybe only 95% or 92%, they get out on the lake with their power boats. And water ski.
And veritably drown out the beauty with noise and sensory stimulation.
A similar thing happens with skiers. (And joggers, and health nuts, and jocks generally.)
The original point of going skiing is to listen to the awesome beauty close at hand.
Like when you first get off the tow.
And that silence completely, nonoptionally, swallows up your every thought.
The alpine fir just about ready to bust under the weight of perfectly formed billions and billions of crystals, each reflecting the purity of the light from the sun, above the clouds, above the haze, above everything that is tainted of earth.
And then the silent rush of your skis through the powdery snow, as you are given this indescribable privilege of making and fashioning your own path, your very own trail, through this heartland, winterland, of frozen, perfect beauty.
Let's get our ass down to the Lodge as quick as we can and stock up on some booze.
Eventually, the whole day shifts; and instead of taking in the awesomeness of the beauty that is sitting on your face, which to material sense, seems to take a great deal of discipline, the day shifts around to being one of exercise, conditioning, preparing for the real part of the day that we are really getting up for: plopping into a comfortable chair, propping up our feet, and popping open--you guessed it--The King of Beers.
And thinking, and reminiscing, and laughing about all the fun we just got done having during the day on the hill.
I am telling you all these stories in response to what I told you last time, about how sometimes it seems as though you have to let go of the things you love the most, and it seems very cruel.
It is cruel.
To personal sense.
To the sense of yourself as a person, with a mind and a body, running around the earth doing good and bad things.
For the sake of your own personal ego.
Or for your own personal soul.
It is cruel to this sense.
Because it is this sense that is the cause of every single problem you have in your life.
And the sooner you get rid of it, or allow yourself to go with the adventures that will free you from it, the sooner you will find the peace, the calm, the freedom from limitation that will enable you to fully enjoy whatever you are facing.
No matter how beautiful.
That is what I have already acquired as a result of my willingness to put my plans and my will aside, and let that wonderful, pure, free-flowing water carry me wherever it knows I should be, doing whatever it knows I should do, so that I can discover what and who I really am as the child of that Beauty.
When I let go of everything human; when I let go of all the plans, schemes, outlines, and above all the beliefs that I have been taught at mother's knee in this culture; when I form in my little heart a willingness to let go of everything human, because everything that is human is an abomination in the sight of that Beauty, then and only then will the light from that spiritual sense begin to break through and dispel the darkness and limitation that material sense and what I call "human life" are really composed of.
Then I will be able, as I now am in part, to fully appreciate, indeed to be the Beauty, not just of the mountains and lakes of Montana, but of every single experience of My Life.