Friday, September 27, 2013

Outside in

     Whenever a new interest grips me, I jump into it fully . . . or at least "fully" as that makes sense to me.  And many of you know that I recently took up fly-fishing as another hobby, so the pattern has repeated itself. Certainly I've taken a class here and there.  And I've gone out on the water with some knowledgable folks, as well as by myself.  What I've done most of, however, is research.  That's pretty normal, I suppose, for someone like me - a scholar.  But . . . books, magazines, videos, internet forums.  Consuming!  But, one of the things to which all of those resources point is something I'm not doing as much of:  Practice!
      Practice, as in "Practice tying knots so you won't fumble around in the cold while fishing."  Practice, as in "Practice your casting so you won't make a fool of yourself, or frustrate a guide."  In other words, the resources are telling me to quit reading/watching, and go DO it!  "But", I ask myself, "doesn't the research mean something?" Well, yes, but maybe not what I expect.
       Several weeks back I was listening to an interview with a filmmaker named Vikram Ghandi.  A few years ago, he made a documentary called "Kumaré" in which he "became" an Indian guru by that name, and gathered around him a devoted group of followers in Arizona.  It was clear to him that these devotees were attracted to him because he looked like, and sounded like, a genuine guru from India.  He was, of course, a fraud.  Yet he became fascinated by how much faith these followers placed in him, how much positive change they had undergone.  And that created a dilemma in him: should he "come clean" and disappoint them or derail their growth?
       Well, he eventually did.  And some of those who followed him became angry and disillusioned.  Others, however, did not.  Some of the latter mentioned that they had been looking for something, and, in Kumaré's teachings and encouragement, they had found it.  What I heard was that they had been looking in from the outside for some answers to their seeking, their yearnings, and Kumaré invited them in to learn for themselves.  What they gained nothing could take away, even learning that the teacher was a fraud.
       This resonated with me in so many ways.  Certainly I can identify with the desire to know something -- like the art of fly-fishing -- and the hope that some guru (instructor/guide/video/author) will magically impart that knowledge, as well as the satisfaction of successfully mastering the art.  But I also look at the "Religion/Spirituality" aisles in Barnes & Noble or Tattered Cover, and see how authors around the world are responding to the needs/desires of millions of people who seem to think that if they finally find the right books/advice on prayer or meditation (for example), they'll have a deeper spiritual life.  The authors aren't necessarily encouraging that almost voyeuristic approach; most give practical advice (that some readers, of course, don't want to actually implement!).
          So, clearly, I'm not alone in my desire to know because it may be simpler than getting out and doing.  Nor do I think that most of us, however, are truly content with being on the outside and looking in.  I suppose it's time to stop looking through the resource at the reality, to put the "book-learnin'" to the test.
          Put the book down. Get out the fly-pole. Find the prayer cushion. And begin the real adventure.

Chaplain Gary

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