growing down

We want to grow. When we are young, we want to be grown up. When we are older, we want to grow, as well, but, since the psychobiological depression_ii_by_ash_3xpired-d4x0edarealization of growth has finished, at least in the sense of growing as a word for “becoming larger, faster, stronger” and “gaining cognitive functions”, we  quietly transfer “growth” into some metaphorical application.

She said she had grown spiritually in the past few months. He grew his business by wise investments. We decided that we were not helping each other to grow.

And again, we are confused by our own language. Indeed, there is no growth – just change. And even that change is not real change, but rather a change in our perspective of reality. Dogen uses the example of a person in the boat: when he looks at the shore, the shore appears to move; when he shifts his perspective to the boat, he perceives the boat to be moving. But he then follows this illustration with something that always struck me as not the logical follow-on:

Similarly, if you examine myriad things with a confused body and mind you might suppose that your mind and nature are permanent. When you practice intimately and return to where you are, it will be clear that nothing at all has unchanging self.

To me this means that both the boat and the shore are moving. Also, that, most importantly, YOU are moving.  That is, everything changes, and there is no single vantage point which is stable.

This kind of talk does not help many people. It is a deeper digression into metaphorical language, used to explain an ineffable “reality.” However, the problem is, ordinary people unconsciously apply those metaphors in their lives constantly, almost exclusively, and this confuses them.

In a marriage, people “grow apart.” The woman thinks – without really thinking – that the man prevents her from “growing.” The man feels restrained by the woman, feels that his growth is stilted by her constant desire to control him. And then, they reach the brilliant conclusion that divorce will free each from the other.  After the divorce, for many years, they may feel that they are free!  The man can drink and screw as much as his heart desires.  The woman can enroll in all kinds of self-empowerment courses, and participate in groups where people really do listen, and try to nurture one another. Ah, the things that were missing from the marriage, can be readily found, in the phonebook! Online!

But then, inevitably, the booze sours in his stomach, the Reiki masseuse seems to be a poseur, and the massages become simply painful; the groups sour, the people turn out to be self-centered, only desiring to hear their own voices, but willing to pay the price of enduring other people’s mundane whining bullshit.

You see, you can’t get free by “escaping” from someone.  No one can make you grow; no one can prevent you from growing. All the growth that was ever completed in your body, was done by your body.  Your parents did not teach you how to walk – your body knew how to walk, and through increased awareness and listening to your own body, at age 8 months, you walked!  Yes, your parents held your hand, but it was not instructional in any way, and, probably detrimental to the speed of your development. Learning is a process that takes place entirely inside you. Teachers hold your hand, for reassurance – but it is false in some ways, because ultimately, the teacher will not be there for you to rely on.  The more dominant the teacher’s presence in your s=psyche, the more difficult it will be for you to make the unavoidable transfer of trust from the teacher, to yourself (or yourself plus God, depending on your spiritual awareness).

When you are a grownup, the growing is over.  “grown” has what in grammar is called the “perfect aspect”, which means an action has finished, as opposed to the “imperfect aspect”, as in “growing.”  You really are done growing “up.” However, metaphorically, can can grow “in”, or grow “out”, or, in the worst case, grow “down.”

If we accept that this metaphorical growth is simply “change that makes you feel better about yourself”, instead of thinking of it as “improvement”, then we see that feeling better about yourself comes only from a greater love of yourself, or, a greater confidence in yourself.  And you may gain this through achieving something in your breakdancing class, that you thought you could not achieve.  But, if you open your eyes, you got nothing from the breakdancing class – instead, you simply reminded yourself that you must now trust yourself, now that you are the grown up.



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