I was about to write about my relationship to doubt, but I couldn’t find a pen.
As I looked for a pen, I decided, well, doubt is never interesting anyway. And even here, even as doubt is itself the subject, it attempts to derail the momentum.
But wait, I’ve banned all doubt, no matter how ostensibly valid. Some shradha, the kind of faith gained in experience, needs to get a foothold.
I’m going to attempt what Teah suggested: cast aside doubt, even just temporarily and in an extreme way. Just proceed without it for a while. So, doubt is about whether this or that is valid. Forget that for a while. Let whatever is under scrutiny just settle itself down in the ecology. If the thing is valid, it will survive or crash on its own, I don’t need to deliberate so much at the gate. It’s worth trying either way. And there’s really no “either” anyway, it’s much grayer than that.
Teah said to me, “I’m trying to decide how strict to be with you,” and I felt such gratitude for that, because I felt that what constituted her “strictness,” was the delta between what she could see and what for me was there to see but was occluded by doubt. I said, as strict as possible.
Yes, some measure of doubt is useful; a measure of doubt is a key item in one’s toolkit. As Mark D said in class once, without it we’d be monsters. But mostly it’s just destructive and misleading. It’s all about proportion. So today I’m issuing a decree. As I detect any variation on all the undercutting strategies, I will intervene. It’s good to see all the different guises of doubt: for example, comparison, “person X’s life is more real than mine,” can be pretty convincing. But if I release it before I get too caught up in it, I’ve granted myself whatever life back I’ve imagined I’ve lost.
Remove time and doubt from my list of concerns, and what is left?
in last night’s dream: Jingo and “the mysterious workings of grace.” She delivered this pronouncement in the sheer fact of her body. it radiated through her golden coat.
What remains after doubt and time are factored out: this heat on my back.
At dinner, I was telling Bernd about the solar panels on the Mars Spirit rover. How they were covered with fine dust and so they couldn’t recharge from the available light. And Squires’ team thought they were going to have to perform an elaborate series of remote maneuvers that involved operating the other rover, Opportunity which was then in a whole other neighborhood on Mars, to come over and clean off the panel and get Spirit mobile again. And then in that earth night, 50mph winds came along on Mars and blasted the arrays clean and the rover could once again move freely.
The necessity over and over to re-up my vow. The trick of course is to notice when it goes from a thought arising to a thought, er, thunk. Thunk.
Just now, in that space, between the period and Just, in no time at all I started spinning this whole snare of thinking of Mark and his brilliant talk at Stanford on Whitman and doubt . And casting some theory that he can manage to do his work with stability because he is able to love in proportion to what he feels, and again, even in considering doubt, I was stepping over the corpses it leaves. All this in the seconds that elapsed while I looked for a pen, the one I have now found and have written this paragraph with. When I reached into my backpack found it, and laid it into the gutter of my journal, without yet looking at it, I registered, in all the calibrations that go into such an act, the intelligence of my hand retrieving a pen from the dark of a bookbag, an intelligence so complicated to replicate robotically, that the pen had taken on a strange ballast. It had aquired a dime in the pocket of my backpack.
In my family, the dime is the symbol of the “mysterious workings of grace.” When my father was dying, as we all stood around him, one of my brothers placed a St. Christopher medal in his hand. St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. Then another brother opened my father’s hand and found in his palm the medal and a dime. Since then, we’ve ascribed to the dimes we find–on shelves in empty new apartments, in a basket of warm towels, under an airplane seat– what amounts to a nod from across the room, or a hand on the shoulder. Ten thin cents that say, proceed, all is well. Proceed, there’s more than you can see.