Wisdom is an elusive prey. We don’t think much about it. It doesn’t make our to-do list and when we catch a glimpse of it or feel its presence, it is only briefly out of the corner of our eye or a quickening of the heart. Precious though are these deeply felt moments if only we knew what they meant. A thoughtful writer can often be of help almost inadvertently leading the perceptive, open-hearted reader to an experience of Simple Reality. Such a writer is Garrison Keillor.
What are people seeking when they are vacationing in paradise on a holiday? Or perhaps they are not seeking but escaping, not looking for something but fleeing something. “As we know, people are at their best when engaged in the endless heroic quest for whatever—truth, love, literary excellence, supremacy in tennis, a royal flush, the perfect salad.” Whatever the craving is, the seeking itself creates more longing, frustration, disappointment and ultimately some form of suffering. Even if we succeed in obtaining our goal, it only leaves us with greater longings. “We’re hunters. Once we chase down that wildebeest and devour its hindquarters—we get suddenly stupider.”
Chasing dollars, fame, pleasure and power doesn’t make us less intelligent as much as it mesmerizes us. Many of us have fantasized about sailing our yacht on the Mediterranean. “It’s a beautiful dream and God forbid it should come true and you become just one more drunk driving a boat.” And the booze, of course, assists in repressing the realization that you have indeed “gotten suddenly stupider.”
Eventually we must leave our tropical paradise and return north, go back to work in the rain and snow, return to church on Sunday and reflect on our fellow global villagers. The other some of whom were waiting on us hand and foot as we sat on our deck chairs or in our cabanas come to mind. “The fundamentalist religion of most of mankind is the faith that God has revealed Himself to us and not to the barbarians. Our tribe is the one God chose and so if we vanquish the other tribes and rain fire and destruction on them, we’re only carrying out God’s Will.”
There is, of course, another worldview, that of Oneness and Simple Reality. “There is a countervailing faith that says that God is in and of the world and has bestowed vast gifts to be shared with others, and that our understanding of God is faint and incomplete and so we should walk softly and not assume too much.”
Amen to that.
References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry.