Lenten Writing: Praxis as Application

In a sense, praxis has to do with the exercise – with the application – of ethics and morals. Through study we develop an intuitive sense of what is good and just, what is most likely to defuse conflict and elevate the collective, the all-of-us, rather than only the individual. Through praxis we seek means by which to bring these ideals to real fruition.

“Real fruition” is a problematic phrase, though. What is unreal? For that matter, what is real?

Let’s say that I reach a conclusion that A is better of when B is better off. In general, this does strike me as practically unassailable wisdom. A world in which all people made this their singular ideal when choosing how to act would be happy, peaceful and creative. I would like to live in that world; I believe it is worth my effort and attention to try and bring that world forth.

If I simply go about my living meditating on the satisfaction of a scholarship that arrived soundly at “A is better off when B is better off” and I don’t make a deliberate effort to bring it into application, and to help others bring it into application, is that enough?

If I only say “A is better off when B is better off” but then vote for local policies which ensure B will not be better off, or treat my students differently than I would like to be treated, or treat my wife or children in ways that I would not consent to be treated . . .

I think that is incoherent.

So we could say that “what is real” is what allows for a sense of coherence in our experience. The theory, as such, has an embodied correlative. Whatever the world is, it is that in and through which theory is enacted.

A sage ACIM student – a generation older than me, who had broken bread with Tara Singh and Ken Wapnick and who studied as well with Krishnamurti – years ago ended a sustained dialogue with me because I would not renounce Tara Singh’s use of the word “application.”

That is, Tara Singh often emphasized the importance of bringing our study of ACIM into application. He developed the Joseph Plan of A Course in Miracles for the Lean Years; he literally fed the poor as a staple of his ACIM practice. This meant a lot to me; it resonated deeply and in a sustained way with my longstanding interests in the Catholic Worker and other radical approaches to hospitality, peace-making, dialogue and learning.

My friend believed – and his point was not without merit, not at all – that Singh had been confused and never found a way out of his confusion. Service unto others sounds good but it was actually a distraction from the radical nondualism A Course in Miracles envisioned. One doesn’t apply anything because the world is not real and neither is the self.

But I suggest – carefully, hopefully respectfully – that real and unreal are an unhelpful binary and that the world is merely what appears, and that within that world response also appears, and these appearances and responses are structured and lawful, and so in that experiential matrix, it can be practical and helpful to think in terms of “application.”

Maybe.

I suggest that praxis – integrated with devout study, arising from and informing that study in turn – is not only possible but necessary. That it cannot be separated from the appearing and responding but is part and parcel – warp and woof  – of the welter.

My old friend said, “Sean, you have a lot to learn.” Nothing since suggests that he was wrong.

But of course all of this is simply prattling about praxis, rather than being praxical, and so does not answer the fundamental question: how shall I bring forth love today?

This was written on the second day of Lent, 2019.

4 thoughts on “Lenten Writing: Praxis as Application”

  1. Who am I to say *what* application is?! I got a hit of a connection to what you said in the Marainne for President piece. There you noted the odd “reality” given by those that would exlude politics because they see *it* as taking the world to be real. What do I say *presently* about politics or application – that is the question (not even “think”, as maybe I can let that be handled WHEN it comes up in dialogue – not in my head!). This reminds me of the mention in ACIM of how communication is impossible between the two mind uses. One is able to let words be used and isn’t concerned with their encoded/ing “purpose”, and the other is concerned about getting the graven image “right” (of/for all time). I’ve been imagining lightning a lot, like just now, that words can be bolts of/from love that want to *instantly* transmit (become heaven on earth), and as lovely as the visuals are, there’s no point in trying to bottle the lightning (the electricty extends on into earth systems AS earth)! (or there’s admittance that, of course, that’s what we’ve tried to do and why wouldn’t that been given a good try)

    1. I very much appreciate the notion of words as bolts of lightening off love, little hits of illumination, jolts of power, also beautiful to see.

      And dangerous in certain contexts, even.

      This morning I was reading an old essay of Donald Hoffman’s, when he had not reached the full breadth of his Interface Theory of Perception but was wrestling with the material in helpful ways, and one thing he talked about – anticipating arguments – was the importance of using words carefully, and ensuring that what A means by a word is what B understands, which we take as a given far too often!

      An it made me think of Paul Valery who argued that there is “no true meaning of a text.” Rather:

      Once published, a text is like an implement that everyone can use as he chooses and according to his means: it is not certain that the maker could use it better than someone else.

      Even if that “author” is Jesus . . .

      Which comes up for me a lot as I write and think about A Course in Miracles, ever trying to ensure that I am not asserting some privileged understanding (which would be the opposite of the lightening, as you are using it).

      How shall we communicate? How shall we share? That would make for a good praxis.

  2. Were you being humorous when you said, “And dangerous in certain contexts, even.”? As in lightning can be VERY dangerous?! I liked in ACIM, “You need be neither careful nor carless, you need merely cast your cares upon Him because He careth for you”. To *cast* the cares IS to care, but is just the more expansive/effective way compared to the separate-self-knot doing it. The more available communicating this way is an intriguing and hopeful possibility for me. I have a friend who liked, “I am only here to be truly helfpful”, and from him it’s like I grokked it in a way that hadn’t come up yet “on my own”. I think we were not “asserting some priveledged understanding”. Before there was too much care from me about what “truly” or “helpful” meant. but with him our *mutuality* let it be given it’s meaning. In another word (that also got more juice from that hit), it was presence. Oh! and I just got some tingles too as I’m reminded of your example about not arguing about train or bus to Boston when I’m already in Boston, as a great example of/about how to communicate and share!

    1. Well, miscommunication based on misperception is possible, or appears possible in the context in which it is possible, and causes a lot of grief. That this grief is ultimately translated into love, or can be understood to reflect love, is a metaphysical position that does not provide comfort to folks who aren’t already aligned with a metaphysical approach or belief system.

      I speak from regrettable experience, as one who is still learning what it means to slowly with words.

      A staple of my understanding is that “my” meaning is always reconstructed in the other, and thus may not resemble my intentions. This goes both ways. More than once I have misunderstood another’s communications, not because of their speech but because of how it was reassembled in my own thinking. For the time being, in most but not all instances, this making/remaking concept of communication has to hold. In ACIM terms, it is akin to the idea that the Atonement has to be presented in terms a student can understand, and this actually means that another student might NOT understand it.

      If I am not careful, I might assert that “my” terms – my wordiness and the metaphysics/philosophy/study that underlie it – is right and the other’s wrong. If I do that, then my words are going to bring pain – at a minimum in terms of confusion, but possibly more intensely, in the sense that self-affirmation (I’m right) inevitably implies the other’s negation (you’re wrong).

      I think years of study were removed from my personal curriculum when I read Tara Singh’s insight that “I get it and you don’t” is fundamentally loveless.

      So I do think that words can hurt, in the sense that lightening can hurt, although – to extend the analogy – lightening itself is not malicious or destructive, though its power – when not respected or misapplied – can produce results one could easily characterize as harmful/detrimental/etc. That this need not happen doesn’t seem to address our experience that it already did happen.

      This occurs for me most often in classroom settings. It does not tend to occur when there is already considerable metaphysical/intellectual alignment – as I have when sharing with you – and with some others who function as “soul mates” or “spirit buddies” or “fellow travelers” or what-have-you. In the case of my young students, the onus is really on me to edit and censor wordiness as I go, lest the information and presentation overwhelm them. They’re aren’t in Boston, in most cases don’t even know Boston exists, and in many cases could care less in any event. With you – and others who read here and share with me in this and other settings – the dialogue is freer and any requisite correction tends to take care of itself. I trust that, which is a way of trusting you, which is also a way of trusting you to trust me.

      It is nice when that happens.

      But you and I know we are in Boston! A lot of the care and attention around language changes when the one with whom you share knows we’re all already in Boston; it’s when we forget we’re in Boston, or are talking with somebody who still thinks they’re traveling or that Boston is NYC, or that Boston isn’t code for everywhere-and-all-time, that these issues arise.

      Or appear to arise, which of course simply means that the separate-self-knot (lovely phrase!) is yet untangling/unraveling, the better to lead us out of the maze and into the light (where communication is wordless and error-free and always only love).

      Thank you, as always, for letting me prattle onward.

      Love,
      Sean

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