20 April, 2006

Rascal's Pensieve †

Q: How many bloggers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: No one's sure, since it's so hard to get them to step away from the computer.
A: They usually just have their mothers do it for them.
A: They don't care as long as there's enough light to contemplate their navel.

I'm sure I could come up with some more, but it's late and I'm distracted by Elton John. (Face it. He's an inherently distracting individual.)

Yesterday was one of those odd days where seemingly disparate things caught my eye. After I thought about it for awhile I realised that it was because even though they seemed completely different they were saying the same thing. Namely, how do we go about mattering in the world?

First, there's the staff at the local alt-weekly covering their coverage of what was largely a nonstory until they turned it into a story, then complaining about the people who covered their coverage before they covered their coverage today. Then there was a long, thoughtful piece over at Tiny Cat Pants that talked about rape lessons, only to be dismissed.

Dismissal of someone else's idea is a perfectly valid form of self-expression. There are a lot of times--a LOT of times--that I'd just as soon write someone else off as a loser, a nutjob, a crazed couch-bouncing crackpot. Because people act dumb as dirt more often than not.

That's where my motto comes in. I try to live by it, but you'll please have to forgive me on any one of the ten dozen times I fail. (Tom "That Freak" Cruise, I'm talking to YOU.) When I started the blog in 2004 I put it at the top. Prior to that it had followed me from high-school to college to the Travel Agency on a progressively ratty sticky note. I have such a bad temper that I kind of need to have it sitting around to remind me how to behave. Amy asked me yesterday what it meant, and given the events that followed I figure now is as good a time as any--because I need reminding.

Datta Dayadhvam Damyata Shantih Shantih Shantih

I could talk about T.S. Eliot for days on end, but I'm trying to keep this already-long explanation short. The most abridged version is to tell you that I ended up with a copy of The Wasteland in High School and found the whole thing incredibly moving. People talk about loving poetry and I think they're always mistaken. Poetry is like food. No one likes ALL food, but everyone enjoys a dish or two. I was lucky enough to find my favourite meal early.

Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mudcracked houses

You know when you're seventeen and everything is high drama? Just picture being in that place and reading those words and thinking "Man! This guy gets it. "

The whole poem is like that. It's a rush of words that fit together seamlessly and each make different sense at different points in your life. Bits of French, German, Middle English and Sanskrit float through. The fifth and final portion of the poem is What The Thunder Said, and the final lines of the poem are a summary of the Hindu parable of the Thunder.

The parable is set up something like a naughty joke---gods and men and demons walk into a bar--and ask their father teacher, Prajapati, to give them instruction. He tells each group the same thing. Simply "Da". The men interpreted this to mean "Datta" which means to give. The demons interpreted it as "Dayadhvam" or to sympathise and have mercy. The gods interpreted it as "Damyata" which means to have self-control. Prajapati gave everyone an "A" even though they all took away a different meaning.

Ultimately, the "answer" is that the part of us that is Man, driven by selfish desires, needs to learn to give. The part of us that is made in the image of God needs to not be prideful and arrogant but exhibit self-control. The part of us that is evil and meanspirited needs to learn to have mercy and be sympathetic to others. Since these are all lessons I really need to learn, I try to remind myself daily. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.

And Shantih? Loosely translated, it means "the peace which passeth understanding."


At 6:48 AM, April 20, 2006, Blogger Heather said...

Thank you for explaining the "Datta" line. I've been trying to figure it out since I first read your blog.

At 9:16 AM, April 20, 2006, Blogger Amy said...

fascinating. I think I am going to have to go through all that again, though, to digest.

thanks for explaining :)

At 9:18 AM, April 20, 2006, Blogger Amy said...

so I just clicked on that link for The Parable of the Thunder. And at the end of it I read, all together, "Da Da Da."

immediately I think of that commercial. the song. "da, da, da."

not quite the deep meaning you intended for me to take away :)

At 1:14 PM, April 20, 2006, Blogger jag said...

A very appropriate and needed phrase to remember. Thanks for filling us in!

At 3:14 PM, April 20, 2006, Blogger Ivy, the Great and Powerful said...

I always wondered what that meant, too, but didn't want to ask, in case it was something smart people were supposed to know. ;)

Thanks for explaining!

At 4:05 PM, April 20, 2006, Blogger Malia said...

That was beautiful. Thank you for taking the time to explain it to us. I've often wondered what it meant.


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