Monday, March 25, 2013

There's Self-love and then there's sssSelf-love

by Georgia O'Keefe
With my morning coffee the other day, I listened to an NPR bit on Alzheimer's disease.  I found myself thinking about how "personality" or what we call in Zen "the self" and I call sssself when I'm mad at mine, seems to reside mostly in the brain.  There is also temperament, of course, creating ethereal air people, focused fire people, comforting earth people.  That's kind of general.

But the ssself is particular.  It's all yours.  The one thing you own.  But a lot of it goes when memory goes.  Even before dementia, personality can be changed with a stroke or tumor.  My mother lost something like her work ethic with her first stroke at age 63, and became someone who mostly just wanted to sleep, smoke, and watch TV.   (Don't take retiring to do the things you love for granted.)  I know of other elders who got rude, mean, or downright violent with age-related dementia.

I was thinking about this when I noticed a blue sticky note I'd put on the newspaper the other day, so I looked at that page and, behold, here was the sssself again, this time in an article titled Good News Beats Bad on Social Networks.  I knew that - I've been unfriended for my realism, which translates to some people now and then as pessimism or cynicism.  But enough about me.  This is the paragraph I'd circled:
...Social consciousness comes into play when people are sharing information about their favorite subject of all: themselves.  This [sharing] is intrinsically pleasurable and activates the brain regions associated with rewards like food, as demonstrated in a study...[that] showed it's so pleasurable that people will pass up monetary rewards for the chance to talk about themselves.
Monetary rewards - that's money.  People will give up money to talk about themselves.  But you knew that.  We pay therapists of many descriptions to listen to us.

another Georgia O'Keefe, because I like it.
In the Zen tradition, Teachers are supported by gifts, though that is having to change - it's expensive to live in America.  You also sort of pay by sitting hour after hour meditating and following specific rituals in order to have the privilege of a moment with the Teacher that will be all about you and you alone.  It can happen that in this interview you say a few words and they may say a few words or say nothing, and ring the bell, meaning the interview is over.  That seems to mean whatever you said wasn't right, or worth responding to.  Something.  You have many hours until the next such interview to wonder about it.

Abrupt dismissal can hurt if you've been thinking deeply about your ssself and your desperate desire to have someone tell you you're enlightened; or asking for a kind of help no one can give you; or studying a koan and positive you're right this time.  These things can really disturb ssself, and maybe that's not bad; the project in Zen is to get less attached to that constructed batch of delusions, preferences and, oh yes, standing resentments - in brief, to your stories.

I'm not a scholar, but that's how I see Zen practice.  You sit quietly on a little raft and hope to drift far enough from the elaborate castle of self to see it. and therefore not be constantly traveling its hot and windy maze and playing with its treasures when you should be paying attention to the cat.  It sounds good, but does seem to take a lot of work.  No matter how bad Wun's self-esteem, we can be very attached to our delusions. 

And here I am, talking about myself again.  That's blogging for you.

4 comments:

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  2. Being silly, forget that one…anyway my que to lose the whiny sssSelf, is when I get angry when I get hassled by people who barrage me with constant questions in fast pace( a difficult and nearly impossible thing to separate with brain damage) and immediately then look beyond myself, and help someone in real need. Like buying food, for a mother on the street instead of spinning on my misery yesterday, which throws water on my fire.

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    1. Hi - nice to hear from you. It amused me to delete my comment, too. I am feeling poor about 3 different ways tonight - badly swollen feet, one painful to walk on, short of breath (seeing doctor tomorrow), depressed part of cycle, and full moon. And then there's the neurosis of building stories about the physical thing. Your courage makes me feel good, somehow. We both deal with these brain things. It's a special subgroup of us.

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