Saturday, December 30, 2006

Year End Close Out

Like so many who live an examined life (even if not a well-examined one), the closing of a year is a time for self-reflection. This, however, is not something of which I am particularly proud.

First of all, since the self is a construct, a story created for the sole purpose of maintaining the illusion of self in the first place, self-reflection is simply a meta-story, a story about a story that simply reifies the illusion.

Second, since the self is a work in progress, it is impossible to reflect it as it is but only as it was. What I am actually doing is recreating the self to fit whatever craving haunts me at the moment. So it is more self-refraction than self-reflection.

And third, there is the problem of who is doing the refracting. If there is no self to begin with, who is creating it? If I say “me” the answer begs the question. If I say “God,” the answer not only begs the question but adds a dimension of abstraction that does nothing but further distract. Better not to ask the question: the real point of my comments is not to explore who is doing the commenting, but to take note of what I notice when I do the commenting. So on with comments:

This has been a good year in so far as my university teaching goes. Solid classes, great students; I love teaching religion and planting seditious seeds of spiritual anarchism. It has also been a good year for workshops: to my surprise I continue to be invited to speak in communities around the world. But neither teaching nor lecturing sets me on fire. On my tombstone I would not feel moved to carve either Teacher or Lecturer.

What does set me ablaze me is writing, and it has been a good year for that as well. Two books came out this year (The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness and The Ethics of the Sages); I have a contract for a book on angels in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; I now write a regular spiritual advice column for Spirituality and Health Magazine; Toto seems to be well received; and the First Annual Path and Pen Writers’ Conference that my son, Aaron, and I hosted in Nashville this past fall was a great success.

More than anything else I do, it is writing that excites and fulfills me. What I write about matters, but not as much as the process of writing itself. I love the magic of words, the alchemy of meaning (hmm, nice title for a book). I love watching as a blank screen fills with black letters that become words, sentences, and paragraphs reflecting back to me the thoughts that skitter across my mind.

So as I examine my life this year I am grateful for the gift of writing, and want to thank all of you for reading my books, column, and blog. And if I die this year, please have “Author” carved on my tombstone along with all the titles of my books and a functional “Click Here to Order” button that is linked to

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