A knower of Brahman becomes Brahman.
Mundaka Upanishad, c.400 BCE
flying. Somehow seeing all the works of man, so small below, helped him get
perspective on life. He was anxious today. Flying to
Years ago, Lovejoy had thought much about his choices regarding careers. He was very aware that the role one chose in life tended to shape the person. Every job had its own characteristics, some required and some by happenstance. When you chose a specific career, you could only remain an individual for so long. Gradually one tended to move and talk and think like the others in that line of work.
Lovejoy wanted to retain the ability to think clearly and radically about all questions. He didn't want to be molded by the circumstance of which group he'd thrown his lot in with. It was so ironic that this was exactly what happened to him when he joined the "Ring". He'd been molded and he didn't like it. What was it that Jehovah had said about muscles and thinking. It seemed like the way one walked and talked, the affectations of speech and facial movements could be faked for awhile, but eventually they shaped one's thoughts. And conversely, if one's thoughts never came into alignment with the other people, then the body language, the inflections of tone and the slight variations of facial movement, all revealed one's refusal to join in.
Lovejoy had chosen to be a physician. At times he felt like he was becoming Marcus Welby. With an eternal mildly benevolent smile implanted in his face, he rarely allowed himself a whole range of appearances that didn't fit the image. From silliness to recklessness to the darker sides of callousness, mischief and deceit, being limited in what he could do at work gradually became a part of who he was.
In college Lovejoy evaluated careers from their potential to do "good" in the world. The first principle he became aware of was that success wasn't dependent upon one's skill or intelligence. It had to do with one's ability to persuade others. It seemed that the artistic fields were dominated, not necessarily by those who did the most beautiful work, but by those who, by connections or boisterousness, could persuade others that their masterpiece was the "the coming thing".
The humanities suffered from the same flaw. One succeeded by persuading one's colleagues that their unique point of view on an issue was the most worthy. Thus the person best equipped to persuade, instead of the one with the most comprehensively rational outlook, succeeded. This led Lovejoy to science where he thought nature would be an impartial judge of the merit of one's scholasticism. Yet Lovejoy was amazed to find the same good old boy cliques in the hallowed halls of science. One's ideas just didn't go anywhere unless they were very similar to the current body of thought. Scientists, like everyone else, relied more on tradition than on rationality.
Physics, the most mathematical of the natural sciences, should suffer the least from this abhorrent tendency. So Lovejoy started his studies in physics. This led to another concern. The point of study in any field was to excel and discover. Yet it seemed like all great scientific discoveries were tested first for any possible military applications. He'd seen too much pain and torture to allow this to happen. But what was the point of entering a field of study determined not to succeed very much. Lovejoy thought perhaps a different approach was in order.
This begged the question of how one could best contribute to the world. If one was a great leader in some sense, did one really change the world for the better? He knew that historical theories differed on whether a single person caused massive societal changes, or if changes developed organically, and once becoming strong, inevitably some leader for this tide would emerge. The exact person was irrelevant according to this theory.
Even if the first theory was right, did the crucial person really accomplish more "good", then some obscure but helpful person in a small town who was known and loved in their own very personal way. Lovejoy thought of the leaders of great social change. Until the last few centuries all the grand movements intending towards "good" were religious movements. For Lovejoy, Jesus was a prototypical leader of such a movement. But did he really accomplish any good beyond his circle of friends and family. Was Christianity as an institution so much better than the hundreds of religions which it supplanted that Jesus really could claim credit for making the world a much better place. Then there were the wars in Jesus' name. Not that Jesus himself wanted this done, but once started, a grand movement is out the hands of its originator, and subject to all the forces of persuasion of the loudest mouths and the most aggressive personalities. It was a consequence of evolutionary processes among ideas.
So if great discoveries and grandiose leadership were not the best way to effect a positive change, what was a poor boy to do. Perhaps the best one can do is to work locally, with friends and family. Maybe this was happiness; finding one's meaning through helping others on a personal level. The practice of medicine was well suited to this.
Then as Lovejoy came to believe that the laws of physics didn't contradict spiritual precepts of unseen worlds and ethereal beings, he became intrigued with a new possibility. Maybe he could accomplish beneficial change via the other world. This was a whole new arena for exploration. People in monasteries isolated themselves, yet if spiritual worlds existed, there was no such thing as isolation. One could benefit people in general by praying and harmonizing one's self with the universe.
Lovejoy went on to consider another basic difference between the spiritual and secular approaches, besides the belief in unseen worlds. A major goal of the secular approach was to reproduce and help the species continue. The monastic approach was to overcome physical needs and desires. Monastics instead desired to escape this world to another "better" one, leaving no progeny behind. If all the world were monastic, there would be no human species left behind, excepting the results of a few infractions of the rules.
Actually if other monasteries functioned the way the "Ring" did, there would be more than a few "infractions". Lovejoy reminisced about all the bedroom hopping that went on for years before he realized it, often involving the spiritual mentors. Once he researched this, it seemed like too many other grand spiritual leaders had felt they had the "Lord's privilege" with his or her well meaning but naive followers. When Lovejoy joined, intending to stay for life, he committed his heart and soul to this purpose. It was as important as a marriage to him and he took it seriously. Lovejoy had thought of leaving the group as the spiritual equivalent of suicide. As things got worse, he promised himself that if he ever made up his mind to leave, he would wait another thirty days to see if he was sure. By the last months, the hypocrisy he saw was a parody on monastic living. His departure was just walking out before the show was over.
Lovejoy mused over one of the last confrontations he'd had with Bob. Bob was in the habit of making himself feel good by rushing to the aid of outsiders in their most difficult, and vulnerable, moments. One of these new friends, who was very ill, interrupted a phone call from Bob when an important call came in from his doctor. Bob was outraged. Seeing that Lovejoy was not also angry at this interruption, and aware that recently Lovejoy had not been obsequious in every way, started yelling, "What's wrong with you? Are you part of this group or not? You'd better make up your mind!" at the top of his lungs. The red faced, bloated Bob was really a sight. This was exactly what was going through Lovejoy's mind. With real disattachment, Lovejoy was completely unflustered at this point. Instead he chose to visualize blue light surrounding and soothing Bob. After all, he was obviously a man in distress. Bob, aware of this particular technique, became even more enraged. "Don't you dare visualize blue light on me!" He was the teacher. How dare this student presume to be more loving than him! Without saying a thing Lovejoy had turned the tables on Bob. Bob was never able to look Lovejoy in the eye again with the same authority.
believed in love and rising to the highest option. He hoped this approach would
be helpful in the secular world as he went for job interviews.