I am conscious of my own limitations. That consciousness is my only strength. Whatever I might have been able to do in my life has proceeded more than anything else out of the realization of my own limitations.
This is the second day in a month I can’t talk. This time it’s laryngitis. The first time it was intentional: a day of silence something I’d read about but never tried, undertaken with the woman I live with. She looked forward to it, I was a little nervous — a comment, I suppose, on our relationship.
The lesson was the same for both of us, though: outer silence isn’t the same as inner calm. Only when I stopped doing things and consciously quieted my mind was my mind quiet. The rest of the time there was the usual traffic — the stuck horn of desire, sirens from nowhere — all the louder because it was inside my head.
It used to bother me that my father never turned off the television when I came to visit. But it was the noise inside that kept us from one another. Real communion is rare. We imagine we’re being heard when we’re just being listened to, but the heart knows. Can I hear you unless I’ve braved my own dark waters, touched the bottom and come up again, not enlightened, necessarily, but human?
The half hour I sit quietly in the morning shows me just how clamorous my mind usually is. Like the auto companies, I turn out new models of myself, each slightly different, guaranteed to deliver me. There’s no advertising as subtle and persuasive as the ego’s husky whisper; each day I tell myself better lies than Reagan could dream up in a thousand years. But he does all right, the boastful ego of a nation lost in a dream of separateness, imagining itself free yet threatened at every turn. I don’t bow to the president, but what does it matter if I’m already on my knees, a slave to fear? In an insecure moment — and they’re hardly rare — I can feel as threatened by another man as Reagan is by Russia. Are our fears so different? The rain beats with its fists on everyone’s roof; only those with desert hearts deny it.
Perhaps, in my meditation, there is a moment of illumination; the next moment it’s meat for the ego, which imagines it can own the truth the way it owns a car, or tries to own another person. I may try to use the truth to improve myself, or have other people like me more. This doesn’t diminish the truth, only me. If I keep trying to be better, I miss who I am. This isn’t love of self, but infatuation with the “best” in me, while the “worst” is kept chained in the cellar, its howls splitting the night. By denying all of who I am, I deny myself the peace that could be mine; nothing is as noisy as a lie.