Once again, my email subscription software did not do its thing. It was supposed to notify subscribers I published a blog, several days ago. Since I had updated it a couple weeks ago, I didn’t think another update would be the problem. But it was… seemingly. Because when I checked for updates this morning on account of the subscription failure, the hosting site told me another one was indeed pending. Probably because WordPress just did an update. So I did an email subscriber update this morning. And when I signed in to my account just now, hours later, I was informed that another update was required.
Maybe you don’t do anything on a computer (smart phones count) that requires updates, I don’t know. Maybe you don’t have a smart phone; maybe your computer (if you have one) is an Apple (fewer updates). Maybe you don’t listen to meditations on Insight Timer. And so then maybe your reality is relatively update free. As a person who has kept a website for some years, though, it’s absolutely astounding, unbelievable, how the updates have accelerated. In the last YEAR. Or, apparently, the last couple days.
I realized this morning that, as my mind was blown, I would call it a miracle if it was something I actually wanted. This line of thinking brought up the olden days of the internet, and how, around the turn of the century, there was a big fat feeling that was shared by many; that the internet was, well, miraculous.
Note that the internet is no longer miraculous for the average citizen in my country. It is, in fact, relegated to MANDATORY status, which is about as magical as a fire extinguisher in a public building. Internet is required if you want to find a job, have credit, go to college/university, have a social life, etc. etc.
Nowadays, public libraries have public computers, and if you want a job and you can’t afford the hardware, software, and all the other kinds of monetarily demanding wherewithall to get on the internet and stay there- you go to the library. About the same time as the internet was firing up, there was a big battle to keep the taint of computers out of libraries. Guess who won.
Sometimes I fantasize about being that author who writes at the library. I’ll stride confidently in after walking briskly to town through inclement weather, wriggling out of my backpack full of notebooks and pens, thumb drives and water bottle, as the door swings shut behind me and all eyes turn in my direction. I will be the aging starving scholar who quit spending X number of shekels on the internet project. After all, chucking the computers is all you have to do these days to attain serious dropout status. And where better for a dropout to spend their days than the library?
The internet is therefore no longer miraculous because mandatory stuff is not miraculous, by common definition. Might I go so far as to say, in case you were not adult enough or whatever at the time, there was, in the 90’s, definitely a savior projection onto the internet. The internet would save the world, and that’s big stuff; hundreds of years of Christianity have more or less successfully professed the same… (more or less successfully… get it? the world is not saved yet… ahem) And in some regard, I believe this savior assessment was correct, though not for the reasons that were popularly promoted.
Back in the day, or the last century, I was resistant to the so-called miracle of the internet, to computers in general. I was not paranoid, I was not anti technology strictly speaking. I happen to like stoves and washing machines and cars and hot running water and all that good stuff that hardly passes as technology any more; but it is. Fans are nice on a hot day, too. I lived a marginally pseudo-Luddite existence for years, meaning, the above plus a stereo system. Now I have a power mower, too.
What I most dreaded about the computer was its obvious ability to complicate my life, despite numerous and popular claims that it would do the opposite. And I was correct, sir. Unequivocally so. Artificial intelligence complicates our lives in part because IT geniuses, software and hardware developers, are trying their darnedest to work miracles; to deliver to us wondrous and amazing experiences, to keep expanding, to go where no man has gone before. Updates, networking, syncing, bluetooth, endless apps.
But what I’m really doing here (besides steering people into the crooks and crannies of my personal life), is looking at the human experience of what we call “miracles”. It’s another interesting religious/spiritual/New Age word that deserves some clarification. I’m all about respecting the word. If we don’t look at what we mean by words like ‘miracle’, we may fall behind in our intention to experience the same.
And I’m here to do the research for all y’all. ‘Miracle’s’ origins are long and multifarious, if you look at the OED online; “to regard , esteem”, “wonderful, astonishing, amazing”. Most interestingly to me, earlier roots from proto Indo-European are like unto our reaction to seeing a flower. Or a loved one. Sanskrit smerah; smiling. Greek meidan; to smile. Old Slavonic smejo: to laugh.
So miracles are, basically, things that make us smile and laugh and love; inspire respect, regard, and esteem. Yet most of the populace, I daresay, has delegated “miracle” to the oversight of the intellectual brain, as we were trained to do with pretty much everything. The training began in our childhood educations, before we could resist. Though of course, some do- or did- try. To resist.
“Miracles” placed under intellectual auspice become one position on the mostly unconscious sliding scale of more or less desirable reality. The scale probably starts at “normal”, then moves through descriptors like “anomaly”, “very odd”, “impossible”, and on to the very rarified “amazing”. After that we only have supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Most people would consider “amazing” to have “miraculous” possibilities. “Amazing” is the mindset of the peeps at the party when Cinderella shows up in her dazzling alchemical silver and gold dresses (Grimms’ version). ‘Amazement’ has that word ‘maze’ in it; and mazes are designed to include blind dead ends. Amazement is when the intellectual mind with its limited options stops cold. The intellectual mind cannot parse the situation; its skills are not applicable. The maze helps us enter into a state of no-mind, sort of like an adolescent in love, or a satellite that’s cut loose of its rocket to float beyond gravity’s pull. And a marvelous relief it is, to have done diddling with the sliding scale for a moment.
Though a miracle by this definition is a mind blower, there’s a caveat to “miracle” in most people’s perception. As I said, the miracle must be something I wanted. Which does not, in my definition, include constant updates on my website software; but I’m currently shifting that. Writing a blog about it is indeed an indication that I’m working it; the number of edits will describe the complexity of the issue. This one is driving me nuts with all the edits.
Another example that comes to mind is that when Obama was elected, I styled it a miracle, since I had thought a person of AA ethnicity would never sit on the White House throne in my lifetime. However, when Trump was elected, it seemed like a miracle in the sense that it was, and perhaps more importantly still IS, stranger than fiction; a dead end in the maze. It’s pretty mind-blowing for many, but not what I would call a miracle. For one woman’s miracle is another man’s disaster, and vice versa.
I now offer my general conclusion on “miracles”; not an event, but rather a positive, expanded state of mind. Some pray for miracles; for positive (in their calculation) outcomes. Some expect said miracles to fall unbidden from the sky, a sort of angelic aerial bombing. In which case, they are waiting for that rare moment to appear at the ball for a couple hours in a dress made of fireworks.
However, if miracles are a state of mind, a state of wonder and positive regard that brings a compulsive smile, then we shouldn’t have to wait. As I so define them, miracles are everywhere; so many opportunities to apply the moniker that we will fall into bed at night exhausted from meidan-ing at them all. We might need a weekend off.
Broadening the miracle field requires we let go of that old culturally conditioned idea of categorically positive outcome, for then we may get stuck in the intellectual mind again, playing with our slide rule. The intellect’s calculator oversees negative social emotions like guilt, because if we want to play the guilt game, we must assess (or measure) everybody’s behaviors for good and bad content.
Example: aging folks of the middle class may feel uneasy when they enjoy a rare marvelous meal at a fancy restaurant, drinking champagne and being waited on and whatnot.
For example’s sake let’s say there’s a vague, lurking unease, an apologetic tinge, that might become more obvious by the end of the meal. Especially if, heaven forfend, these imaginary good folks did not clean their plate. The unease bears the subtle “I don’t deserve it” tone, and that phrase is all about keeping us busy with THAT leg-shackling fantasy game: Deservedness. I addressed that one in a recent blog about “I Am Enough”. Somewhere these aging customers I present were taught to feel more or less guilty for having anything FUN, anything ABUNDANT or FREE that others do not. A case of shingles or an adverse mammogram result doesn’t evoke guilt, right? But extra fun time can. And that conditioning becomes a pretty constant undercurrent for many of us.
They took food away from a starving child; they wasted their resources on sheer pleasure. The only way to make up for the mistake is to punish themselves, i.e. feel that imaginary, ingrained, self made experience of guilt. Miracle safely averted!!!! Yay!!!!! Chalk one up for the slide rule-wielding deservability team. If you have never styled an exceptional restaurant experience miraculous, ask me why you might consider it.
There are many ways to block the feeling of the miraculous, and we have been trained to abandon its possible constancy, to eke it out, drop by tiny drop. Some of us pick our heads up from metaphorical drudgery just long enough to keep us from committing suicide, because “good” people believe we must somehow prove we have earned every bit of love, every fancy dinner, and of course every miracle. Good people are discouraged when bad people win the lottery. Add that to the fact that we endeavor to express solidarity with our fellow suffering human beings by suffering, and it’s a miracle we ever experience one.
Those metaphorical starving people we have never seen (or fed) then serve as shills in the socially conditioned head trip of being good- or bad. It’s a roller coaster life for us good folks. When we uncover this game it does not stop us from being good people, by the way. It just minimizes the guilt trip, straightens out the roller coaster track a bit. If guilt ever fed a starving person, it would indeed be a miracle. Those who are feeding the needy in real time are assumedly dealing with something else besides impotent guilt. Guilt is, of course, always impotent, an internal slashing of the gonads.
Or maybe that’s another generational problem. We used to feel guilty about starving children in China, but then the fashion changed, because China is now capable of competing economically and otherwise. Now it’s starving Africa, which currently poses no threat to the national ego. Nobody is required to feel guilt about those higher up on the food chain. Who cares about them? Let them feel guilty about us, so they can feel like good people. If you want to know what to feel guilty about, listen to the news. Or go on social media.
If miracle is a state of mind, and I decide something is a miracle, it is. When a child is born, folks often feel this aura of the miraculous; around the event, Gaia’s miracle. And around the little soul, who comes trailing Wordsworth’s clouds of glory. When did I, and therefore my life, stop being a miracle?
We probably got stuck in life’s land mines, in its disappointments and dashed dreams, in subsequent resistant suffering; life as one big fat jilted love affair. Been there, done that, and still working it. I’m not saying it’s all that easy to get back on the Wordsworthian glorious miracle horse and ride. However, I think that most of our difficulty is not necessarily resentment that things didn’t always go our way from the personality perspective. That’s kind of a post-Freudian focus.
I think many of us don’t get even our toes wet in the epic perspective of our lives because of the conditioned guilt and shame factor. It seems abnormal, crazy, uppity; who am I to have a great time, when nobody else is? From that question quickly follows this one: what did I do to deserve happiness and feel worthy as f**k? Because my society assumes that it’s what you’re doing that decides the next thing that shows up. Partly true, of course. But focus only on doing indicates we’re waiting for someone- perhaps a large group of people on Facebook- to notice our worthiness and give us permission. Count the “Likes”, simple math, no real thought required.
This waiting in and of itself is another conditioned blockage, of course. We are looking around for someone else to dole out gold stars; that was our childhood training. Maybe a couple times in our life we will have a miracle rained upon us, like winning the lottery; don’t want to ask too much. Since someone else is responsible, we don’t want to exhaust them, the miracle-dolers. Whoever they are. I will just be patient… I can wait… I’m a good person.. most of the time…I must deserve something, however minimal (crazy president and updates do not count as gold star)… any minute now… tick tock, tick tock….
Is that good enough for you? I will say, that there is a certain cozy charm to miracle-complacency. It feels safe to stay in the socially defined arena, even if it’s hopelessly infiltrated by creeping tendrils of drudgery and guilt and shame. It feels comfy, this waiting for extreme (so we won’t doubt it) preferred outcomes that we can then label “miracle”. It’s so sweet; we move through our days head down and nose to the grindstone- or perhaps just depressed on the couch. Then POOF! A fairy godmother appears and we get our moment in the sun. OMG! Now my life is worth living!
Then back to earning and waiting. This is one reason why people want to fall in love, even when they are wretched and wrinkled- or perhaps especially so, I don’t know, not my deal. They want that last shot at the miraculous. But the toothpaste-tube-cover-day must inevitably arrive (the older you are, the sooner), when the relationship shifts from miraculous to mandatory. And we’re wondering once again if we deserve the miracle of love, or if they do.
Yes, it’s kind of touching, really, that waiting game. Helpless things are sweet; little puppies and baby bunnies and all that. Lots of intimate adult relationships are founded on one of the participants being puppy-like in this sweet, helpless way; seemingly needing to be saved, though they might disagree with you on that. When we are young, adolescent or young adult, lots of us are developmentally driven to have a family, i.e., to be parents, which means, we damn well better feel like helping cute little creatures. And then we never grow out of it.
And if we’re attracted to “helpless” in others, we’re playing it with ourselves, and we’re going to expect it to be done to us, natch. We will be sweetly pathetic, try too hard (or just being depressed ;)) and hurt ourselves a bit, hoping some… thing… besides ourselves will feel sorry for sweet little helpless us, and wand-wave us a dazzling gown for a few hours. It could happen!!!!!! What’s the use of human suffering if it doesn’t have anybody to witness it? If I don’t need anybody’s wand, will I ever get ANY attention from anybody? Is it possible to rescue myself? hm.
It’s a developmental leap, to make oneself responsible for calling miracles, and sorta sad to leave the old way behind. I would like to report, though, that the fairy-wand, amazement sort of miracles don’t go away when we decide to make some miracle-calls. For that big ticket amazement item on the drop-down miracle menu was often there, though we might have missed it through the haze of conditioned disappointment and expectations. We had our eyes on the bars of the cage, not the open door. And maybe in a few days, or in an hour, or in five minutes, our latest miracle won’t seem like a miracle anymore; time for an update- or a new presidential election. But when we’re not waiting for it, we know there are plenty more where that came from, since it is what I say it is.
Calling miracles helps us to recognize them, because we are focused, not on proving our worth or looking for particular things to appear in particular ways, but on how amazingly the puzzle is constructed. And don’t worry; nobody will know you are calling miracles, and hate on you for en-joying your life. It’s between you and the Cosmos; little star-twinkles, little winks and nudges, linked pinky-fingers because you and the Divine said the same words at the same time. A miracle.
Mary Chapin Carpenter’s song is lovely;