Nathaniel on covetousness, anger, and ennui

Saturday February 3, 2018

6:30 p.m. How about a second session? We’ve covered pride, lust, envy, gluttony. That leaves covetousness, anger, ennui. You up for finishing the list?

Well, let’s see how it goes. About covetousness, perhaps you can easily see its close kinship to envy. Where envy tempts you to think you don’t have the right place in the world, covetousness tempts you to think you don’t have the right goods, or the right amount of certain goods, or the right amount of goods in general. The one is about place, which easily shades into the things that are the perquisites of place, and the other is about owning things, which equally easily shades into the position or situation that would make owning such things natural.

Without entering into questions of social justice or injustice, we remind you that sins are not really about actions, but about their effect on your choices. Again, the 3D world by itself is not quite real. Its experiences are transitory, first-tier experiences, important primarily for the second-tier effects they suggest, which, as Viktor Frankl reminds you, depend upon your reactions. So, in the context of you as compound beings responding in the 3D crucible to the interaction of vast impersonal forces with pre-existing structures, what is important is not what “happens to you” but what you decide to be, or remain being, or become, in the face of ongoing stimuli, which will often seem to be “external.”

And it we choose to covet something, we not only convince ourselves that the world is disconnected, but we fixate on an external as if it were internal. Loosely expressed, but close enough.

That’s correct. Is that culpable? No. It may be very understandable, in fact. But the point is, it is never helpful. How could an error be helpful?

Okay. How about anger?

Anger similarly tempts you to see the world as disconnected and out of balance. In this case, its close connection to pride is not necessarily apparent, but a moment’s thought will bring you there.

Pride says, I deserve better than this.

That’s one reaction. Another is frustration at one’s inability to find a way to whatever is desired. At the root of anger is going to be fear of consequences of continuing to exist in whatever stream of events is unfolding.

Could you clarify that, a bit?

The Dalai Lama, as you know, struggled with anger throughout a long life of watching and hearing about what the Chinese were doing to his people. He was of course kept fully informed about first-tier events. He was aware of the suffering – the unnecessary suffering, had other minds been differently formed – and this bore upon him.

He knew what we are telling you. He knew it, believed it, lived it – and still it was only natural that he would have to struggle not to give in to anger. It is not sufficient to know, abstractly, intellectually, that anger is a snare. One must overcome it by an act of will, while remaining aware of the causes of legitimate anger (which is not the same thing as the sin of anger).

Explain that parenthetical comment?

Again, it is the admixture of the wrong kind of pride that turns a legitimate reaction against you. Legitimate anger is, for instance, anger on another’s behalf. Mix that reaction with self-righteousness, though, or one’s own imperious will, and it tempts you to the kind of judgment that is condemnation rather than – or even in addition to – discernment. It leads you to assume that you know better than the universe does.

But when we see unmerited suffering being caused, is that knowing better than the universe?

Think of the Japanese expression Sayonara, which, yes, means goodbye colloquially, but literally means, “If it must be.” It is a greater part of wisdom to know when something must be. As an example, tell of the monk who reported to the Dalai Lama after years of confinement and torture.

Yes, I was thinking of that. When he was asked if he was ever afraid, he said, yes once he was, because he was afraid he was on the verse of hating his torturers.

That is a way to deal with “what must be.” He wasn’t condoning what they were doing to him. He wasn’t forcing himself to see it as somehow right. He wasn’t even allowing himself anger as a weapon of resistance. In his extremity he clung to the knowledge that the real enemy is the force that can compel you to renounce your greater understanding, can compel you to decide (second-tier reaction) to be otherwise than you would have been. He was wise and stalwart, and thereby turned the situation to ultimate advantage. He did not allow himself to turn to anger.

What about ennui, then? This one seems to be less under our control than the others.

No, it seems to you to be less under your control than the others, because when you fall into the other errors you remain somewhat aware that you are doing so, while your struggles with ennui seem to you to be struggles against who you are. You see no element of personal choice.

I don’t think that’s quite true, at least not in recent years. I’ve learned better.

True enough, in your latter years you have recognized that it is possible to imitate your models in this – Lincoln, Churchill – in actively refusing to concede that life is hopeless. It is in turning life into an act of faith that one remembers that there are reasons for that faith, that it isn’t just hoping against hope, or whistling in the dark. But if one does not struggle against these feelings, one may by – what shall we call it? Moral inertia, perhaps – strengthen the very forces sapping your will to live.

Ennui is yet another example of the dangerous effects produced when the wrong kind of pride mixes with qualities that might otherwise be innocuous or positive. Resignation, non-attachment, willingness to accept whatever comes – these are all non-problems. They are often enough valuable methods of riding the rapids of life. But add the wrong kind of pride and they become a sort of defiance of the universe, a sort of saying, “I’ll take my ball and go home.”

“If I can’t have life my own way, I’ll sulk”?

More or less. But who gets life their own way, while defining “their own way” from a 3D perspective? If you want everything to be peachy-keen every moment – well, you’re going to be disappointed. Life is not like that, and it’s a damn good thing for you that it isn’t, or how would you ever contend against yourselves? How would you ever address the things you were created in 3D to address?

Charlie Brown told Lucy that in life we have our ups and downs, and she said she didn’t want downs, just ups and ups and ups.

Yes, and she’s portrayed as so happy.

Good sarcasm.

So now we’ve taken a look at the seven broad roadways leading downward, not from a pietistic or moralistic perspective, but strictly to show you why they are errors of perception and conduct that can never leave you happier or more fulfilled. So this is a good time to end this session and resume perhaps after you give yourself a day off.

Good timing in another way, too, as we are finishing the last page of this 110th journal book since September 6, 1966.

Perhaps you can see that your non-3D self had a better idea of your life than you.

Yes. Thanks as always.

6 thoughts on “Nathaniel on covetousness, anger, and ennui

  1. Frank, this is REALLY excellent session indeed.

    I have countless “examples”, including my own, in how ennui, grief, and the thoughts:”What`s the use of it all,” working upon our thoughts.

    One example telling you about today(all of a sudden to recall), and it is OBVIOUS: MY late dads Canadian born cousins` daughter( she was ten years older than myself) became married with a Scottish American(second generation). They got two sons(at the same age as my own twins, born 1967).
    They had a VERY HAPPY marriage, closely knitted together, and a very happy family life. BUT THEN, the two boys Dad got cancer and died within a year after a long period of hospitalization…..and their mom telling me how she FELT “drained” by grief and sorrow after her husbands death. She worked as a teacher in the Mathemathics at the High School, but it gave no meaning at all, she told me.
    I know how she felt because we corresponded with the mails in many years, and we had met each others once in our lives.
    ONLY A YEAR after her husband died SHE developed cancer herself(from always being a healthy person), and during her hospitalization, she and I continued to correspond by the emails(the Internet had become introduced to the world)
    — BUT, there, at the Hospital, she told me beginning to understand she WANTED to live again — but too late, shortly afterwards I got the message from her one son that she had died at the hospital.
    I am convinced she realized in the end her own grief had “blinded” her “sight” upon how she CREATED her own illness/cancer.
    HOW MANY STORIES to know about where peoples are doing the very same.
    Okay, I know, my “american” family NOT to be religious in any way(maybe a norwegian inheritance from the same family-blood of old?).
    Their two boys did the cremation of both their parents and told me they did a very nice “ceremony” with their paents “funeral”. They hired a boat out at the San Franscisco Bay to throw their parents ashes at sea…..a very SYMBOLIC way, as their forefathers crossing the ocean(from Scotland and Norway)to both Canada and the U.S….becoming Canadians and Americans.

    1. Thank you for telling us this. You, of course, added a level of understanding to theirs. Given how connected we all are, I wonder whether your cousin’s daughter profited from your understanding more directly than through written words.

  2. I agree with Inger Lise that this is a really excellent session. So many things occurred to me, in line with Inger Lise’s story. Also, I remembered that the Dalai Lama has had his gall bladder removed, a place that some spiritual traditions say is the place in the body that holds anger. And, I remembered a great saying from a therapist I once had–“you can’t get bread at the hardware store.” Much of my time was spent trying to do just that, wanting other people to become my bread store, wanting the world to be other than it was. Also, I realized I do have faith that if we’re still here, we have work to do. I, for one, selfishly, am glad you’re still here, so I can more easily get mine done.

  3. Thank you, Frank! This has been an eventful time, but I will save those individual stories for another day.

    Congrats on the 110 notebooks! I have a count of about 55,000 words (so far) in this 2nd effort with Nathaniel. And, I admit that I am setting this all up to write that I agree with Nathaniel’s final encouragement to you today …

    Enjoy your time away.

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