One conclusive advantage in securing one’s copies of Harpers from the stash at the library is that, on certain resplendent occasions, one may discover issues such as December ’96 and March ’97, and squander an entire week considering  the essays in the first and the animated letters of response in the second, without the inevitable desert of forgetfulness that would inevitably arise from approved purchases in a more linear and consecutive world.

Thus it was that I was enabled to view vivid portrayals of the daily danger and carnage in Juarez, Mexico, where life is significantly cheaper than even critics of NAFTA would have you believe, and a weekend conference in Washington called The National Summit On Ethics And Meaning, organized by Tikkun, a  ‘Jewish Magazine with strong leftist leanings and the self-defined task of combining politics with spirituality’, which seemed to be dedicated to redeeming the contemporary scene of its many scourges.

After a scintillating and caustic description of the many puffed-up ideologues on display, and  sharp analysis of why such self-obsessed and giddy efforts appeal to the American Way (willful domination and its concomitant guilt) author Peter Marin resolves that “The most important task ahead of us may not be somehow to impose an order on this chaos but to learn how to live with it, to live in the absence of order – and also in the endless presence of differing others who use freedom in ways that frighten, enrage or disgust us.”

In this he is undoubtedly correct, at least as far as I’m concerned.  There are, as we all know, no quick fixes.  And,as many of us are coming to realize, there are no reliable slow ones either.  Shit, as they say, continues to happen, despite the well meaning efforts of idealists of every denomination.  Mopping up rather than preventative maintenance seems to be the order of the day.

On this plane we experience constant change and test ourselves by our willingness to be constantly adaptable.  Whether those changes are for good or ill hardly matters; it is our ability to go with the flow that counts.  And let’s face it, we’re usually too enmeshed in the process to effectively distinguish.   That comes later, much later, and by then, laughably, we don’t care anymore.

The stirring escaped Marin derides, “bewildered children who are just trying to do some good in the world”, people who undoubtedly feel compelled to do what they can to alleviate suffering wherever it rears its seductive visage, are caught in what I would call the endless anguish of crusading souls.  Their predicament on the arc of a spirit’s evolution is not uncommon.  It is in fact, eternal, and will be experienced by many other human souls as they expand throughout their series of lives on this planet of endless possibilities.

If one can be allowed for a moment, and I agree it is a task fraught with the pitfalls of self-delusion, one can divide soul growth into three main stages: young, mature and old.  There are, of course, many intermediary stages to be experienced along the way, but for now it will serve to stick with these three.

The anguish of crusading souls is reserved for the mature stage.  For whereas young souls are too busy with the dictates of the first three chakras: fight or flight (1), food, sex and shelter(2), and power and ambition(3), mature souls have usually opened up part, at least, if not all, of the fourth chakra, that of the heart, and are beginning to be flooded with the energies of sympathy and empathy, which allows them to feel the experiences of others, but without the enlightenment bestowed by the opening of the sixth and seventh chakras, and this partial but intense connection encourages them to believe that altruistic efforts will not only alleviate suffering, but change things for good.

But when things, in the course of earnest selfless effort, are not changed for the good, and the rolling decades reveal further tumors wantonly sprouting up else and everywhere, to devastate another in the roll call of self/class/species/society, then mature souls sag and give way to despair.  It’s no use, they grumble, real estate’s real after all, let’s buy what we can and party till we puke.  Others look for gurus to give them a light, perhaps redoubling some earlier yogic or contemplative efforts; some dither in despondency, turning to designer intoxicants and elevated sexual intrigues, and some seek refuge in returning to third chakra activities: accumulation of wealth and status, ambitions for children and the family name.

Old souls, having connected up the dots of the sixth and seventh chakra circuits, know, without the doubts that are attendant upon the intellect, that everyone on this plane is getting the experiences they need for their evolution at exactly the right time and place.  They understand, without the vacillation that is implicit in thinking, that the world is perfect at every step of its crazy process, that it is perfectly in balance from second to second, that it always has been and always will be, whether a volcano has just destroyed an island, a plague a city, or a war a religion, for amongst the many insights which have arisen into their consciousness is one which illustrates the eternal traveling between the planes that is the lot of the evolving human soul.

For them it is evident, a motion made manifest, that a death here is a birth there, and a disappearance there an appearance here, and thus they can detach from all the attendant cheers and boos.  They know that between lives we amass an agenda of unfinished business, which we set out before us with the help of advisers and colleagues, our partners in divine crime if you like, the major points of which we arrange like clues on a mystery tour, to remind us at intervals that the treadmill is, in fact,a path.  A path which comes complete with its own destination, whose mirage-like qualities only cease their incessant quivering when you stop breathing ideas into forms.

To mature souls, this view is, at best, abhorrent, and at worst, poisonous.  They believe it allows us to behave in a selfish and uncaring fashion, as if the travails of our brother were not our own.  They lump us in with the young souls, who, busy with the usual empire building, really don’t give a shit.  The apparent serenity of old souls is almost an insult to their industries of altruism.  To sit still and smile amidst their ardent strivings is to court admonishment bordering on ridicule and damnation.

What they don’t know, or refuse to recognize, is that old souls have already passed through this stage, perhaps many times, on some other journey in some other land, which came complete with its own plagues, tragedies, wars and inequalities.  It is the memory of these earlier strivings, perhaps only semi-conscious in its surfacings, which allows the old soul its serenity.  The constant murmur of these promptings allow it to know, in that direct, debate-free link up that is the hallmark of intuition, that on this plane we study the functions known as will and desire, the actions they produce, the consequences they entail, and without doubt the fact that we are all just passing through.

That a number of old souls choose to take what the Buddhists call the Bodhisattva vow, postponing one’s nirvana until the rest of the hoi-polloi manage to harvest their enlightenment, though a fascinating fly in the ointment, need not detain us overlong, if you excuse the implied pun.  The choice, such as it is, can be seen both ways: that the old soul allows itself to relapse into maturity by thinking its selfless efforts can, in fact, aid in the advancement of others; or, if the soul is truly old, you know, dessicated beyond any hope of repair, it understands that such a  choice, if executed consciously, can assist in the discovery and denuding of delusion’s seductive drama.  Maya, as we all know, can be most entertaining.