Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

An Ethical Will (Part 1)

Originally posted on July 23, 2010

I brought up the idea of the ethical will with my son and we were wondering together what kind of words, what heritage, did we wish to impart to his kids, my grandkids, others.  (Whoa! as of today, over 100,000 hits!) The ethical will is an old Jewish tradition in which we write a letter to posterity—but it doesn’t need to be Jewish—that’s just for appreciating its ethnic roots. It’s also good for websites! So what do I want to say? Ah, so much. Let’s see:

1. Spirituality: I believe it’s possible to cultivate a personal way of thinking about what it’s all about, what the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget called a “schema,” an inner map, a meaning system. I’ve discovered one that I write about elsewhere on my website—sort of a personal mixture of Whitehead’s and Hartshorne’s “process philosophy,” mixed with a dash of Eastern philosophy, Jewish mysticism, contemporary science and psychology, and other elements. I don’t expect anyone to buy it completely, because it has too many roots in all sorts of personal experiences. But there are ideas there, metaphors, that work for me, and I offer them as mental tools. You may need to re-shape them for your own tastes, but at least they’re something to work with.

1a. I’ve explored and thought about spirituality since my teen years and am now persuaded that it’s a worthy journey. I feel a sense of peace in my general place in the world. I’ve gotten to know others who have been on their own journeys and who do find what works for them. The point is that it can be done, though it’s not easy. There are all sorts of paths that you might try that don’t fit for who you are, for how you put it together in your mind. But I want to affirm with passion that for me—witnessing, here—there’s a bigger “us-ness” that we’re a part of that we can rest into, celebrate being part, and it’s glorious, good, and worthy of our love, faith, and responsibility.

1b. Note that I’m not suggesting that you buy any particular images or beliefs, least of all any doctrine. Check around and see what feels right to you.

2. As an associated theme, again, just for me, I’ve enjoyed the world of the mind. I’ve enjoyed trying to celebrate and develop two seemingly opposite functions—critical thinking and imagination. Both have a place, applied to different kinds of things in life. I enjoy balancing a number of such dualities. Another one is the whole theme of not-enough, too-much, and just about right—and that applies to a whole slew of themes.

2a. I mentioned love, faith, responsibility—and what I want to note is that it’s better to appreciate these as verbs: love-ing; faith-ing; responsible-ing; wisdom-ing, courage-ing, discipline-ing. The point is that you can’t get these, have these, keep these—you do them, or not, more or less, and if you stop doing them, well, then you’re not doing them. But what if you did them a lot, you whine, don’t you get credit for that? Sigh, it doesn’t work that way.

3. Related to this last, I’ve realized that we never get fully rid of the tug, the temptations, of lower consciousness. The vulnerable inner child, the innocent and exuberant parts, remain, at least in potentia, and so do the qualities of the inner brat, all the temptations to think and act from lower consciousness. I remember a lecture given by Ram Dass, the spiritual teacher popular in the 1970s and ‘80s. He confessed, “After decades of meditation, levels of enlightenment, other kinds of spiritual practice and introspection and counseling, too, . . I haven’t gotten rid of a single neurosis. The best I can say is that they are smaller.” (Laughter in the audience). Another way to think of “smaller” is that we can learn to become less identified with these “shadow” complexes, to recognize them more quickly when they surface, to let go and remember to begin to use the counter-programs that we build up. But what doesn’t work is to pretend they’re all gone. So that’s the self-discipline-ing and alert-internal “virus” scanning that we have to do, keep our programs up and running.

That’s enough for this blog. I’ll think of more in other blog postings. Blessings to You All.

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