For the last eight years I have attended an Enneagram group monthly here in Tampa. The Enneagram is a psychological and spiritual system of personality types based on nine types: three governed by the heart, three governed by the head, and three by the gut. Type two, the Helper, Type Three, the Achiever, and type Four, the Romantic, are heavily into their hearts.
Type Five, the Observer or Investigator, Type Six, the Loyal Sceptic, and Type Seven, The Epicure, are thinking or “Head” Types. Finally, Type Eight, the Protector, Type Nine, the Mediator or Peacemaker, and last, paradoxically, but not least, Type One, The Perfectionist, are all gut types, governed by their very strong feelings.
We will talk about the 9 types some other time. For now I just needed to give some background for my type, number seven, governed by the thinking brain, the generalist, the epicure, jack of all trades, master of none. We will try anything, learn anything, study anything. We ski, we sail, we jump out of airplanes . We have a bucket list which is more of a barrel. And we do all of this because we are optimists, and hate pain and sadness. We are likened to monkeys and butterflies, because we never sit still, and fly or jump to the next fragrant flower or sensation.
I know I am a seven because I always wanted to live happily ever after, and I have. At 91, my bucket (or barrel) list has now become a fucket list, because I’ve been there and done that, and my body just can’t take it anymore. So, what does a 91 year old Epicure have to say about the perfect storm of 2020?
The perfect storm used to be the simultaneous convergence to two major hurricanes, a once in a century disaster. Now, our planet is collapsing from environmental abuse, not just global warming, but destruction of ecological systems, both plant and animal, and the collapse of human cultures and societies no longer able to govern themselves. Many millions are migrating all over the world because their natural habitats are no longer able to sustain them. Caste systems, class systems, racist systems, religious systems, domination systems, corporation systems, are all creating the most perfect storm ever imaginable. And now behold: the Covid 19 Pandemic is still destroying us physically, psychologically, and spiritually, with no end really in sight.
Now add to all of the above, the extreme polarization politically in the United States of America. Without nailing down any numbers, we have maybe 60 million people on the right, and maybe 60 million plus three on the left who think the other side is stark raving mad at best, and in league with the devil at worst.
What does an epicure, Peter Pan, Puer Aeternus, Everlasting child, like myself, do in this most perfect of storms? I revert to my type. The glass has never been half empty for me, and now that it is not as half full as it was for most of my life, there still is water in there. Drink it, and don’t complain that we are running out of water. All my life, we were told that hope is wishing the future will be better. As a seven, I believe that hope is not about the future. Hope is about the past. It took us 13 billion years to get where we are. We have survived cosmic explosions, in fact we are the children of cosmic explosions which formed a universe of galaxies, which formed a universe of stars, which formed a universe of planets and satellites. And lately, in this last hour, as Carl Sagan said, it formed us and all our fellow creatures on this planet.
Maybe I’m a cockeyed optimist, but I believe in us. I believe in the human spirit and I believe in a mystery called grace. I have no idea, really, what grace is, but I believe it’s just amazing. I’m sorry, I don’t have a plan for surviving this perfect storm, but I know for sure, if we keep despising each other, if we keep hating each other, if we keep bombing each other, if we keep shooting each other, we will not only not survive, but we won’t be worth surviving.
Amazing grace: to admit we are lost, and to find each other, in our humanity, in our common origin in the Ground of Being. It took 13 Billion years to get here. “When we’ve been dead ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing “God’s/Grace’s” praise, than when we’ve first begun.
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Your blog shows me why I have always found you so delightful..
From the time you told me the yarn about 1. How to get peanut butter off
One’s finger and the story of 2. Delivering yesterday’s bread for your
Grandfather after he “kneed it” to make the old lady who had
Refused it when you first brought it up and now thought it
Was fresh bread!!!!!
Anyway what a fresh and hope filled 7 you truly are..It is
And EVERYPERSON’S SERMON…It truly is!! I can’t think of
A more powerful call to rapproachment, reconciliation, etc
Than all the things you’ve said about our short time here during
Those 13 billion years the universe has “been around”..
This quote towards the end is what I find most beautiful
I believe in us. I believe in the human spirit and I believe in a mystery called grace. I have no idea, really, what grace is, but I believe it’s just amazing. I’m sorry, I don’t have a plan for surviving this perfect storm, but I know for sure, if we keep despising each other, if we keep hating each other, if we keep bombing each other, if we keep shooting each other, we will not only not survive, but we won’t be worth surviving.
Tom, You have to be a seven. We monkeys and butterflies: I just got Richard Rohr’s book on the enneagram, and naturally, I read Type seven first. Rohr does not like us. We are Puer Aeternus’s, Peter Pan’s. I got that from Rohr, along with the monkeys and butterflies.But he did say something good about us: during the long time we were in the cocoon, we ate a lot of silk and cotton, and learned how to be sad when we had to. But NOW, for God’s sake, flap your wings and fly and don’t let the “bastards burn you up” as it said in the Office at 61st for twenty years. “NE ILLEGITIMIS COMBURENDUM IRI.” (tHAT’S the past pluperfect deponent.).
Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the Enneagram. You can read my article “Let’s talk about Eights in the Enneagram monthly about ten years ago. If you’d like to talk with me about the Enneagram just let me know and we can set up a time. Jim
Jim, How long have you been in to the enneagram? I never knew. During the past five months I have listened to Apple Podcasts :Typology with Ian Morgan Kron. So you are an eight probably with a seven wing because you are a skier. You may also be something of a Peacemaker. Maybe. I’ll look up your article, and we definitely will discuss our types again. Sal
Comment from Harry MacVeigh: Sal, REALLY enjoyed reading your Blog. With only one or two minor differences, I agree wholeheartedly with what you express. Though I do not consider myself a pessimist, on what I am going to comment on, I am pessimistic.
In millennial time man has not mentally kept up with his scientific discoveries since he’s exited Plato’s cave of shadows.
Though only responsible leaders are today in control of such awesome weapons of mass destruction it is only a matter of time before irresponsible leaders get control of them. Also, a factor to consider is the death of mankind through his lack of husbandry. Lack of adequate responsibility for ‘Climate Control’ is just starting to make our planet Earth less inhabitable’ to sustain human life. Add to that overpopulation which, because of the inadequate food supply to feed them and lack of adequate health care, populations are seeking new lands to survive in only to be met with hostility by the inhabitants. Their suffering is immense.
Unless major changes take place I am predicting the end of humanity within one to two, not thousands but hundreds of years.
Reply to Harry MacVeigh: Harry, Thank you for your very much appreciated comment. I actually agree with most of your assessment, except for the pessimistic view that the planet will be destroyed within the next two centuries by the abuse of power by greedy fools. There are plenty of greedy fools all right, but I am a cockeyed optimist and I believe in this “thing” called “Grace”. Some call it faith, but I don’t. My optimism comes from the experience of limitless belonging which I get from daily meditation and mindfulness. I am a fan of Dag Hammarskjold, the martyred mystic who said : ” I don’t know Who or What put the question, I don’t even remember answering, but at some moment I did answer ‘Yes’ to Someone or Something- and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and therefore my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.” My recovering friends call It ” a higher power”: Paul Tillich calls It the “Ground of Being”. MLK through Reinhold Niebuhr calls it “the arc of the universe that bends toward justice.” I just experience It in my gut as faith in the hope of love. Let it be.
I am enjoying your new book immensely. I especially like chapter nine and the invitation to meditate on the shower of being that falls on us like a soft summer rain, enlivening our inter-presence together in a seamless flow of continuity.
The feeling of gratitude underpins optimism. But it’s hard to feel grateful when one’s life-situation gets really, really bad, as it does for many people especially toward the end — but also, unexpectedly, at any time in life. Was Jesus feeling grateful when he cried out “why have you forsaken me”? I think “feeling” can be a trap; and much of what we call “spirituality” is the search for a refined pleasure that we add to our endless daily pursuit of what we like. Of course, the feeling of gratitude is the point of it all, so it should never be rejected; but it can never become the absolute end-in-itself. For I may find myself at the end without a sense of gratitude because the “feeling” of abandonment is insuperable. What then? Then, I say, in anticipation, it is finished: all attempts to manipulate my mind and feelings collapse in utter impotence and I am finally what I really am in this vast panoply of being: zero. I plummet like a stone. The plummeting is what I do. The rest … is not my business.
Tony, Thank you for your comments. You write, ” I may find myself at the end without a sense of gratitude because the “feeling” of abandonment is unsuperable,” AND ” What I am in the vast panoply of being is :zero. I plummet like a stone. The plummeting is what I do. The rest… is not my business.”
I always need to read you three times. Something like: 1. a thesis, 2. an antithesis, 3. a synthesis. I know, as a former liberation/Marxist you thrill to this analysis. (LOL). The thesis: we are zero, the antithesis: we are everything, the synthesis, we are totally involved with one another in the Oneness of Being: for better or for worse. We are one in being lost, and in being found, in feeling abandoned, and feeling loved.
You end by saying: “I plummet like a stone. The plummeting is what I do. The rest …. is not my business. A good psychiatrist I can’t recall said that what other people think about us is none of our business. I might say now in this perfect storm of 2020, that we are all each other’s business.
The 12 year old Jesus, when bar mitva’d in the Temple said, ” I must be about my Father’s business.” Whether that is a post-Resurrection story or not, aren’t we all about God’s (the Oneness of Being’s) business?