Ego Knock-Knock: More Than a Joke

“Knock-Knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“If only….”

My ego likes this joke, for it is always on me. I hear it most often on days that I am looking to the outside world for what I want. Within, I feel a lack.  The knock-knock joke offers me entrance into the collage of my life experiences, the land of “if only.”

“If only” is a realm where life is always contained. In this world, I create the scenario to prove that what I want is all I will ever need. No matter how complex or basic, each scenario is based upon life already experienced.

Let me give you an example. If only I were able to go for a walk in a flawless autumn of red and gold or stroll on sugar sand beaches lapped clean.

“If only” allows me to travel the length and breadth of my life as it never happened—without a glitch–it sets the world right in a matter of seconds, which is also how long such a scenario lasts.

After all, it is a joke.

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If only “keeps the person facing the wrong way— backward instead of forward. It wastes time. It can become a habit, it can become…an excuse for not trying anymore” (Arthur Gordon).

In longing to return to what we are certain has been our best, we close the door on options that may be our best yet. When we enter “if only,” we exit life as it is, trading the unknown for the known.

The world of “if only” offers a smorgasbord of comfort: food, drink, all kinds of ways to self-medicate. It is the stuff of ennui, this dearth of curiosity, and therein, the ego sows seeds of doubt.

“If only” is not the stuff of dreams. Nightmares, maybe.

Life begins and ends in mystery, as Diane Ackerman says, reminding us “…[that] a savage and beautiful country lies in between.” We miss it if we close the door on mystery, too afraid to try again.

Who is to say that in this savage and beautiful country we will not discover food and drink to satisfy, to nourish, to keep us curious for what comes next. Is there not comfort in curiosity? Maybe not. Certainly, there is vitality.

The ego will always knock. It is not ours to ignore or to suppress but to observe that the ego is knocking. We need not invite the ego in or trot along its well-worn path.

After all, it is not really a path but a rut, worn deep and smooth, leading to life already lived.

In observing rather than answering the knock-knock of “if only,” we face forward, grateful for being alive—part of the great mystery–all of our wants and hopes wrapped within.

Whatever happens to you, don’t fall in despair.

Even if all the doors are closed, a secret path will be there for you that no one knows.

You can’t see it yet but so many paradises are at the end of this path.

Be grateful!

It is easy to thank after obtaining what you want,

thank before having what you want.

Rumi


The View From Waverly: Bottoms Up!

Curiosity is standing on a moment’s edge, sharp with uncertainty, and deciding the leap is worth the risk. Staying curious closes the door on the known and opens us to the thrill of exploring familiar territory as if it were the first time.

When the “world is too much with me,” I escape to Waverly pond and park—in my mind’s eye ever idyllic—once there, I believe I will regain myself, and I do, but never in the way I anticipate. For when I am at Waverly, curiosity shoves aside all of what I am so certain, and no matter what happens, the view is new.

Life goes on at Waverly, impermanent but not imperfect. It is a distinction well worth remembering for nature does not summon the past to understand or to avoid the present, no matter how daunting or mundane the moment might be.

Nature just is, unfolding in every moment, perfect and precise, providing another perspective, different from the moment previous and unlike the one yet to come. Nature is curiosity sustained.

As I look across the waters of Waverly, there is not a single snowy egret or Canadian goose to be seen but the waters of Waverly are not as I have seen them–ever. Sediment, rust in color and seemingly the texture of sawdust, covers most of the pond.

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Its red clay banks are deeply scarred by what was once roaring rivulets of seed pods and dead grass. Day long rains swept and splintered pine needles into fragments of themselves. Needles, pods and grass—a winter’s barge–now float.

Spring blossoms are sporadic, seemingly uncertain. Most trees stand bare, witnesses to a winter that seems in no hurry to leave. So far, spring is days of rain and weeks of gray. I do not know Waverly in this kind of spring. It is not what I want to see.

In response, my mind’s eye returns to Waverly idyllic, as if to wait out the moment that I have. I actually close my eyes on the nature that is for the nature I seek.

Standing on the edge of such a moment is a first for me at Waverly, and I open my eyes with a start, having heard nothing but having sensed something. It is the wonder of the world, whether at Waverly or wherever, that in the instance of knowing one thing, something entirely new reveals itself.

In this moment, it is the bobbing bottom of a duck amid murky waters, oblivious to winter’s floating barge. The duck rights itself, churning through the old as if it were new.

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Once again, the duck is bottom up, now joined by yet another duck, also bottom up. For more than a while they are content within the muck, swimming one way and then the next, sometimes in circles, seemingly content in waters that are new yet the same.  Ultimately, they swim beyond winter’s barge to open water.

So often, the unknown is merely a new perspective on an old situation, one that seemed so ripe for escape. Escape takes us only to where we have been as we have been. Staying curious allows us to meet the moment’s edge, perhaps bottom up, completely unsure of what that may mean but confident that these waters offer life in yet another way.

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