Thursday, September 5, 2013

The up side of dull

Whenever I meet a dull, plodding person in a story, I realize this person may be a victim but will not be a main character.  The main characters are beautiful, passionate, evil, heroic but not dull.  Not dutiful, not stoic (unless it is a he, like Longmire or some verbally restricted pack of muscles like Rambo).  That is one reason that the character Droopy gives me such a tickle: Droopy has lots of the traits of dull: modesty, slow and considered speech, small and unimpressive body.

I have often wondered as I read American Zen writers about their emphasis on calmly observing BOTH the good times and the heights and victories and times when we luck out as well as the down times of pain, loss, and nasty surprises.  But reading the moment by moment experiences of Jill Bolte Taylor's stroke in her book "My Stroke of Insight" make it clear that joy, ecstasy, and appreciation of the world and its treasures, large and small, are indeed the icing on the cake of life.  However, like buttercream icing, too much and too steady a diet of more joy and more awe can make you sick.

So, like everything else, the old Greek idea of everything in moderation applies here, too.  A balance, a regular practice of savoring the dish of life mixed with sweat and skill in the kitchen is likely to result in better mileage in life than either too much grim plodding along or too much merry skipping and hopping. Thoreau said that maybe someone who is not in step is marching to a different drummer.  I see that maybe someone who seems to have her head down over her knitting or his head down over his ship models can be more in tune with the universe that I am.  

The old watchmaker who shows up each morning at his shop, the older woman who regularly dusts the altar, the mechanic who makes all those lawnmowers and snow throwers work so beautifully are into a rhythm of life, too.  It is a deeper, lower note and it continues behind much of what I tend to be aware of.  Just because I can't or don't concentrate on it, doesn't mean it isn't a beautiful guide.

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