Saturday, February 05, 2011

Everyone's Heart Is an Inner Cupboard

If you came to our house hungry we would look in the cupboard and refrigerator to see what we have, and feed you. Feed people with what you've got. That seems obvious.

Don't feed people with what you don't have. That seems obvious. How can you give people something you don't have to give? Yet it happens, I think, all the time.

Our local newspaper has a philosophy & religion internet chat room. I've entered it a few times. Most of the people dispense philosophical and religious wisdom they don't actually have. My suspicion is this: I face a thought-dilemma, therefore I Google. Then: cut, and paste. Philosophize out of an empty cupboard of wisdom and knowledge and appear wise. Having little within yet dispensing much, philosophical paupers serve up gourmet meals to the hungry, quoting Plato without having actually read him, and without understanding him.

When I was ten years old my hero was Elvis. One day I took an album cover with Elvis on it into our bathroom, leaned it against the mirror, and began to work on my appearance. I combed my hair like Elvis's and practiced his famous lip-curl. "I am Elvis," I thought. I emerged from that bathroom a new man and walked through my backyard to my friend John's house. When he saw me he said, "So you're trying to look like Elvis again?" The appearance of a full cupboard; the reality of it being empty.

I am not Elvis. Therefore I can't serve up to others what Elvis had. But I can give to others out of what I have. It's taken me a long time to realize this. Like Lionel says to Bertie the king in "The King's Speech," "You have a voice."

I think it takes years to "get a voice." The quasi-philosophers in the chat room lip-synch the voices of others. If they engage the original thinkers for years they may come to understand them and gain a philosophical voice of their own in relation to them. The shackles of Google-dependency can be broken and one can sit in the Agora and dialogue out of the shallows and depths of what one authentically has. Everyone's heart is an inner cupboard. Whether it is bare or stocked with food depends on how we spend our lives, on what we invest in.

To give to others the best of what I am and have been given feels like freedom to me. It's freedom from acting, freedom from comparison, and release from pressure. I do not need to pretend to give something I don't have. I am to freely dispense whatever spiritual food my heart's cupboard contains.