Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"The Office" (Workstation series) 59 (academic publishers edition)

Funny how things hang up, and motivation goes down--and then things move, and motivation goes up. The Buddha taught us to follow right actions and "make positive effort toward the good", without becoming attached to results. He taught this not because things never work out--despite the teachings of my childhood--but because attachment to results leads us to want to do those things which we think will work out, and to avoid/ignore those we think won't. This is fallacious, because we don't know what's going to work out, and we don't know what or where positive effects will result from our positive actions. The simile I use with students is that an action (positive or negative) is like a stone cast into a pond: you don't know where, or on what, visible or invisible shores the ripples will be felt--you just know that they will be. So do you want the ripples of your actions through the universe to be positive or negative?

This perspective simultaneously creates humility (you can only cast a pebble into this pond) and at the same time responsibility (you can cast a pebble or not, and its positive or negative impacts will always be felt--so which is it gonna be?). When the 1960s anti-war and social-justice movements both flamed out (in the psychosis of the Weather Underground and the drug culture) and also blossomed (in the magnificent work of Women's and Gay Liberation and of the environmental movement), the difference between flame-out and bloom was caused by the presence or absence of a sense of the spiritual impact and price of activism. You could not change the world for the better if you could not change yourself likewise. And if you changed the world without changing yourself, then your achievement would bloom into the deadly nightshade of egotism and greed. It's the spiritual content of "think globally and act locally"--the western equivalent of the beautiful Buddhist metaphor of Indra's Web, in which every consciousness is an individual jewel, the myriad knotted connections that flow between every consciousness, and that reflect throughout the entire warp and weft a shock, of joy or suffering, at any point in the web.

Two days ago an academic publisher, who had implied they'd be interested to take a musicological project I've worked on for the past two years, basically blew me off--told m that the press's list had changed and that my project would no longer be suitable. Of course that threw me into a fit of the blues, and I spent at least 20 seconds thinking "Fuck it--find another project." Then I shook it off, pulled up the original approach letter, and re-edited to create two versions for two other publishers who'd been recommended as better targets. Sent the emails yesterday morning, and within 90 minutes had very positive and enthusiastic replies from both editors. I'll meet with both next week.

A good lesson in "take positive action without expectation of results." If only so as to avoid ridiculous mental gyrations. Just suck it up, do the right work with the right intention, and trust that the universe will provide the right shores upon which your pebble's ripples will touch.

Now playing: Traffic - John Barleycorn Must Die

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