The log in the river is not aimless, the dolphin in the sea is not aimless, the cloud, though drifting in the otherwise blue sky, is not aimless. Each goes where it goes and does not go where it cannot go. But I am not a log in the river, or a dolphin in the ocean, or a cloud in the sky. I am a man who often feels aimless. It is important sometimes to observe myself when I look at the cloud, observing both myself and the cloud, perceiving how the cloud goes nowhere in particular and perceiving how I am going nowhere at all. I am just standing there, or sitting there, watching the cloud.
I am aimless when I forget what my aim in life is. Is it to glorify God in the highest and bring peace to his people on earth? No. I cannot hope to bring peace to anyone but myself. Is my aim to be on the road, to travel in a home-going way, going always away and always coming home? Is my aim to find my aim, or to pursue the Self in me that needs no aim? Is my aim to engross myself in our material civilization and become one of the many? No. I have a purpose beyond that. Entering society may be the beginning, and is helpful for some things I cannot do alone, but further than that society assists me only as it helps me to realize myself. If I am not doing that, I am not living life, and in that case whether I am engrossed in society or not makes little difference. If I am not living, what am I doing? I am aimlessly drifting toward death, or I am already dead. When death comes, I want to meet it as an equal, I do not want to be taken by it. I want to die many times before Death comes so that when Death comes it takes only what is not me; it does not take the whole man. To be so I am not taken by death I must be a whole man.
My ambitions are turned towards myself, not in a self-absorbed, egotistical way, but only because I am determined to overcome the self that sits down here today, to explore much deeper than the ego-self, to dig down far below what is visible, to find the truth hidden in the invisible. This is my ultimate aim: to bring forth the invisible, to express it in such a way that the reader can see the invisible within herself, and remembers who she is. To be fully myself, I must remember who I am. Only such a man can help another to remember. But it is difficult, and my aimlessness drifts back anytime I forget, if only for a moment. There are many moments when I forget, when I question whether I ever knew, whether I ever can know. Am I not simply a man? And wouldn’t it be better to be a simple man, concerning myself with the essentials of life, physical needs and family? No. Though I practice simplicity and feel it is essential and part of the aim, I am not a simple man who can concern himself only with physical needs and family. I am a man who aims to point people to what is not-man through my own experience of who I am. This is my aim, my purpose.
What is essential for me is something deeper than the physical and visible. Many people remain on the surface of the water. They float along like the log in the river and do not feel the need to go faster or slower or deeper. Where they are at all times is the only place they can consider being. What they see at all times is all they can imagine seeing. It does not even occur to these people that they could be anywhere else or be seeing anything else. Nothing exists but what is directly in front of them. In times of weakness, I envy these people’s easy contentment. But in reality I know I am not one of them. There are a few who do not float in this way. As these few become conscious of where they are and who they are, they say to themselves, ‘I cannot float here. I was not made for these waters.’
So they sink for a time, though only half by choice, and so become only half-aware of what lies beneath the surface. When they have risen to the surface, by their own tortured choice, they look back and see in a hazy way the confusing contents of what he has already traversed. They resent the part of the river they have already gone through. It was not the way they wished it had been. When going through rapids they wished for serene waters. When all was calm, they were restless for the rougher water. Now they struggle to look ahead. They are tense and troubled thinking about what could trouble them around the next curve, yet they cannot help thinking about it. They want to know what will come beforehand so they can know how to approach and confront it. How can they know what to do when they do not know what is to come? Their lack of knowledge and understanding force them to go under again. Maybe going below the surface now they will find the answer to what will come above it later. The aim of those who sink is ultimately to come to the surface, to be on the surface, but their purpose on the surface demands that they have sunk far beneath it. They must find the tide without resisting the riptide. They cannot float without having sunk, and they will sink until they learn to float.
The drifter becomes so when he says, ‘I am not fit for these waters,’ fully believing and knowing the truth of what he says. Though born fit, in life he like everyone else becomes unfit. Not everyone sees that they are unfit for the waters. Many people feel they are fit and are deluded. But the drifter sees clearly how unfit for the waters he is; he feels it like he feels the tug of the rip current pulling him downwards. His aim in life is to again become fit for the waters he was born fit for. In fitful spurts, by relentless struggle, he continually sinks and comes back to the surface. He wants to say, ‘I can float here. I know how to float without drifting and sink without drowning. I know now what I need to do. I know now what I need to say. I know I cannot do otherwise.’ But he cannot say or do any of it until he truly believes and knows it, and this might take a long time, a lifetime, or it might never take, and so in the end he will be taken in Death’s hands, his own hands empty and his mind unclear, having never reached the clear and pure water of his own true nature that would fill and fulfill him. If he reaches that pure water, he will love it all, and will make no distinction between the pure and impure.
But back to the primary aim. I follow the Self that leads me and can follow no one else. I can lead no one but whoever follows their own lead. If I cannot follow my own lead, I will certainly fail to lead anyone else. I must go from painful loneliness and isolation to a solitude that cannot be compared, an aloneness that slowly deepens into ultimate connection. My natural state, and the natural state of all humans, is loneliness, isolation, and aimlessness. Knowing my aim and living it takes away loneliness. The aim brings with it the aloneness; the two cannot be separated. Anything that distracts from that aloneness distracts me from the aim. If I pursue only the companionship needed to alleviate my loneliness without the connection needed to deepen my aloneness, I am forgetting my purpose, I am forgetting what has worth. Anything that distracts me or leads to forgetfulness is worthwhile only if it brings me back to remembering.
I am worthwhile when I remember, when I follow my lead but am not led blindly, when I seek my aim, when in myself I feel at home, when in everything I see beauty, when in every sound I hear God.
This morning there are few sounds. I hear the coffee pot, the wall heater. My hands hammering on the keyboard is the most obtrusive sound, and it is the sound of my greater self disciplining my lesser self, like the hammer pounding in the nail to build the foundation of the house. It is hours before the dawn. Without these hours, on days when I wake up late, I start the day already alienated from who I am, already distant from my deeper nature. I feel a sense of irretrievable loss on those days that for most people would be out of all proportion to the cause. Those are lost days, and with too many of those I become lost myself. The aimlessness is born out of the distance between surface and depth; it is the head-banging, out of control teenage offspring that drifts between the deep and shallow.
To avoid that sense of aimlessness, that feeling of being lost and without purpose, I will do anything to recklessly seek purpose, perhaps with the purpose wrecking poison itself that leads only to greater lostness. My aim is to live in those the depths, but it is a daily struggle. Instead of mourning the alienation that begins the day, I work to understand it, to overcome it, and to get beneath it. And sometimes simply to sit in it, to sit in the distance like the traveler sits on the southbound train, a fierce light in his eyes, beholding the horizon he is held by, the horizon that calls him onwards. My discipline must be stronger than my self-pity, my desire to wake up stronger than my desire to stay asleep. If my body is awake but I stay unaware of my deeper nature, I might as well stay sleeping. It comes to the same thing. Either way, I am dreaming, not fully awake, and not even half-alive.
I am alive to the extent that I am awake; to the extent that I am connected with what I consider to be my deepest, most essential Self. Without a connection to that power, without feeling myself to be that power, or without feeling that power to be within me, nothing I do can make any difference at all. I can do nothing alone, without that power, but I can also do nothing without admitting and welcoming authentic aloneness. All true doing comes from being truly alone. Though I might be in the midst of an aimless material civilization, surrounded by crowds of people; though I might be a stranger, far away from any friend or relative; though I might be utterly alone, if I welcome the aloneness, I am welcomed home.