October 4, 2012

Hanging Out on the Precipice. ~ Louis Cortese


 I find myself released from the toil of seeking answers.

As I reflect upon the considerable aggregation of my years on this earth during which time I’ve busied myself with various spiritual pursuits, I find that most lay deserted by the wayside while others, for no discernible reason, have stuck with me. I find myself having to recast my expectations. 

I have always had a heightened interest in ontology, philosophy and spirituality; all as means to obtain (a glimpse at least) to the meaning of life.

I have read books, followed gurus, meditated, contemplated, discoursed, retreated, engaged, prayed, communed, sat in silence, chanted unrestrainedly and practiced the art and science of yoga, among other things. These activities have now been banished from my seeker’s repertoire, if not totally from my quotidian routine, because the avid pursuit of answers to the mystery of life has taken one crucial alteration:  

I find myself released from the toil of seeking answers.

Those answers never really existed. Moreover, the quest itself has always obscured the search; the desire to know has continually overwhelmed the knowing. All of the frenzied activities disguised as peaceful contemplative practices have disturbed the waters all these years, contributing to the turgidity rather than the clarity of seeing.

 I no longer seek, nor do I practice anything in the pursuit of fulfillment.

I have no goals.

I’ve had them for so many years; they’ve misled me. I now instead bask in the peace that has always been there, albeit buried under a dust storm of turmoil created by my tenacity of purpose. It was my drive that gave birth to the chaos.

It is however, a precarious point to which all this has led me. It is the very edge of a precipice overlooking a fathomless abyss of nothingness; a seemingly frightening state indeed. There are no solutions here to appease my fears, my insecurities. There is no greater power to which I can rely upon that will guide me, or the universe for that matter, to higher ground.

But oddly enough, I have not been able to jump into that abyss of nothingness. I am frozen, from fear I suspect, at the edge of the precipice. Behind me is security, a wide expanse of the solid ground of beliefs. If I step back onto it, I can have my choice of innumerable varieties of articles of faith in which I can take comfort, all providing a sensible structure; a delivered path to the putative final beatitude that is beyond the chaos of this world.

Alternatively, if I take the jump, there is absolute nothing, only death to everything that I’ve ever conceived of. I, as I imagine myself, will cease to be—all psychologically, of course.

But, I take neither step because the one step that leads to faith rings false and I am uncontrollably restrained psychologically to take the other step into the abyss by the intractable, deep conditioning of my mind. So I remain the in between person, in limbo, so to speak.

When I was in Catholic grade school, diligently learning my catechism, limbo was described in that Catholic religious doctrine book as the place to where the souls of infants who died prior to being baptized were reluctantly condemned. The poor things couldn’t be sent to hell or purgatory to suffer because they were totally innocent, other than having the bad luck of dying without the chance of being cleared of the stain of original sin. They certainly couldn’t be sent to heaven, not being in a state of pure grace as they were, so God came up with limbo. It’s a place where there is no pain and suffering but it’s also not paradise and eternal bliss.

I am in the proverbial limbo. I don’t have the spiritual blessedness, consolation and security of one who is dead certain of a particular set of religious or even philosophical beliefs. I am also, certainly not one who is above all that, an enlightened being or awakened or self-realized or whatever term you wish to use.

No, I am in none of those states of evanescence and as I have stated, I am no longer aspiring to be. I kind of like it here in limbo. It’s quiet and it has one advantage the other places don’t: it is open to many and all possibilities.


Lou, in his life, has been a precocious young boy in an anachronistic town in the mountains of Sicily, an immigrant at the age of eight arriving by way of ocean liner to the shores of the west side of Manhattan, a Guido from the Bronx, a hippy, a Zen Buddhist, a businessman, a yogi and a conventional family man with three sons and two grandchildren, among other things, none of which describes his true self and all of which in the aggregate do not give a full account of him. If his story is not he, then what is? He’s still looking. Lou’s musings can be followed on his blog http://louiebop.tumblr.com/


Editor: Jennifer Townsend

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