Reflection 262: Clear as Mud

May 14, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

I have mud on my boots. On my pants. On my jacket. On my hands. Today, I know about mud because yesterday I put in a new mooring for my rowboat in Muddy Cove. The chain on the old mooring was worn, so I had to replace it, along with all the shackles that hold it together, and the buoy I attach my outhaul system to. Now that the job is done, I can stand on the shore and pull on a rope and have my boat out on the water dutifully respond to my will.

Here’s a photo of my boat at high tide.

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And here’s Muddy Cove at low tide yesterday, with my bootprints in the mud.

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The white buoy is the new one; the muddy one farther out is the old one I couldn’t undo the shackle on.

Trying to undo rusty shackles left in the mud for five years is hard because I couldn’t see what I was trying to do. The pins had been wired so they wouldn’t loosen up on their own. Using the braille method, I tried to cut the wire, and finally twisted it off, but then couldn’t turn the pin which was rusted fast. So I left the old buoy for another day when I have a hacksaw in hand.

It’s not only that I couldn’t see what I was working on, but moving around in the mud was so hard that I really had to exert myself to do the simplest thing. Shifting one foot took both concentration and strength because in lifting my boot, I was really lifting a huge clot of mud stuck to it by the vacuum hermetically binding me to the medium I was walking in. At each step I had to twist my heel sideways to unscrew myself from the gunk underfoot.

Being both functionally blind and barely able to move, I found it a tough job. But it had to be done, so I applied my full awareness to the task and eventually got it done to the best of my abilities under the circumstances. Such is consciousness. When the going gets tough, the tough grow determined and deliberate in paying particular attention to their engagements.

The point I want to make is metaphorical, so I won’t labor over the image any more than I already have. Consciousness is achieved through great personal effort. We have to put ourselves out in order to perform meaningful actions in the world—which often prove muddier than we imagined they could be. Expressing ourselves through appropriate engagements with our surroundings takes our best effort.

Yes, there are two kinds of people, those with open minds willing to do the work, and those with closed minds who know the right answer beforehand and go through the motions of applying rote solutions to complex situations.

We achieve alignment (or syzygy) between our sensory impressions, our understanding of a situation, and the actions through which we apply ourselves in solving life’s problems—we reach that desirable state only through sustained application of our mental capacities to work toward creative solutions using every skill we possess.

The alternative is to lay rote or ideological “solutions” onto novel situations so we can take credit for trying, at least, if not succeeding in settling one issue or another. The various peoples of the book do this all the time like so many missionaries citing chapter and verse as if every problem had been solved once and for all in days long before any of us were born, or the situations we face came to the fore. But memorized answers are often wide of the mark when applied to the modern circumstances of our lives.

“Go forth and multiply” is no solution to problems raised by there being too many of us living too high on the hog for too long a time at too great a rate of consumption. Mouthing the old words leaves us where we were in the old days, when what we need is solutions to the problems of today.

Old ways of doing things tend to muddy the waters when we are faced with novel situations. Only through application of creative consciousness taking modern circumstances into account can we see clearly toward a viable future. Habitual or outdated solutions to problems in business, finance, politics, religion, education, and other fields of endeavor are often no match for problems we fail to anticipate because our attention has been diverted in the meantime.

The Arab Spring and Occupy movement of 2011 were conducted by citizens rising to full consciousness and seeing the world in a new light. Seeing problems where others saw only business as usual, things as they should be.

Supple exercise of full consciousness is the only way to keep abreast of the times as they evolve into a slew of altogether new situations. If unable to walk on water, we must develop skills, attitudes, and strengths for braving the mud when we need to.

Ironically, schools teach only solutions to old problems, those that teachers can understand because they have lived through them. Formal education teaches to the past. It is in the experiential grasp of the students themselves that new learning should be sought.

I advocate for introspection and self-reflection as guides to the future. That’s why I am writing this blog. Which is much like walking through mud, but I see no other way because firmer ground lies on the far side of our current understanding of ourselves. If we don’t face into our own minds and experience, who indeed has the credentials for leading us into the future? Who else will place the buoys we need to moor ourselves to?

Striving, always striving ahead—that’s what it takes. Nothing less than our full, conscious attention. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. I say, let’s do it. As ever, y’r friend, –Steve

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