Vanity thought #991. Silent Scream

This whole week I’ve been writing about mundane entertainment – the movie Her and then the TV show Cosmos, since it’s a week already wasted maybe I should just continue and get other stuff off my shoulders as well.

Yesterday I was quite favorable to Neil DeGrass Tyson’s fascination with wine, arguing that it could be the only logical solution to our utter insignificance in the face of grandeur of the creation. Normally we don’t realize it and the illusion forces us to take ourselves very seriously but once you see the size of the creation and once you realize that you are an integral part of something that stretches gazillions of years and gazillion of miles in all directions, all our mundane concerns become trivial. Once you have nothing to do and reject surrendering to God you might just as well drink yourself into a stupor, out of sheer hopelessness and frustration.

It’s not drinking that I was positive about, it’s the reasons behind it that gave me hope about NDGT. Just a few hours ago I saw NDGT’s answer to “What’s the most striking feature of the universe for you?” He said it was realization that we are all made of the same atoms that were spewed out into the space billions and billions years ago by some unknown star in an enormous explosion, so perhaps I’m not far from the truth when I say that NDGT has an extraordinary respect for the Creation but, sadly, without similar respect for the Creator.

There’s another, fictional character with a drug addiction problem that I remembered in this regard – Nurse Jackie. I wrote about this show nearly three years ago and it’s still going strong, maybe it’s time for an update.

Jackie has been through a lot since that first season but she also hasn’t moved an inch, she is still exactly where she was but became more cynical and less human. She is a highly functioning drug addict, no one even notices when she is high, and in the beginning she thought that she could keep her addiction and lead a normal, healthy life in every other respect. She had a fulfilling job, a family with two daughters, a lover for her other needs – there was nothing she could wish for.

Except for a job all of it is lost now and, more importantly, she has little hope of keeping whatever chances at normal life she hasn’t squandered yet.

Her addiction has become public, her husband left her, her daughters are totally alienated and take drugs themselves. She’s been through a rehab and stayed clean for a year but then, on the anniversary, she took another pill and never said anything to anyone about it. She keeps public appearances and her sobriety token, or whatever they call it, yet she keeps taking drugs in secret. She even lies to her sponsor, which is a big thing for those kind of treatment.

She has a man in her life who has high hopes for her but when he takes her outside for a dance in a club she takes cocaine with the local dealer and has sex with him in the bathroom, too, all while her “boyfriend” stays outside and thinks that she has a loose stomach or something. Obviously, it will not end well.

So, what’s so important about this show that I keep watching it? Maybe it’s the fact that it is filmed in a Catholic hospital and nearly every episode they either visit the chapel there or have some important talks in the presence of the local statue of the Virgin Mary. That statue was a hero of an entire episode once – how it was about to be sold but the administration fought hard to keep it because this Virgin is part of hospital’s identity. A medallion with the image of the Virgin Mary is part of the opening sequence, too.

On itself this has no significance and religion wasn’t mentioned even once but this persistent presence of God puts everything in a different perspective. Why does Jackie never go for confession, for example. Why does she never pray? Why does she never seek spiritual help? Should she?

I don’t know, on one hand turning to God and praying never hurts, on the other hand she might have a much deeper relationship with Him that she keeps pure and clean and uncontaminated by her everyday sins. I like the possibility of this deep seated devotion and therefore I like Jackie’s attitude to life – nothing really bothers her, nothing breaks her stride, she always keeps cool, above and aloof from her everyday problems. Compared to this alleged devotion nothing really matters and that’s how Jackie lives her life.

She knows all her sins and she knows their gravity. She gives in to her addiction but she also sees it as temporary, it’s a bane of her existence, her cross to bear, and she does it as best as she can. Chemical dependence is a powerful thing and it destroys not only people’s lives but people’s souls, too. Jackie can’t hold onto to her life but her soul still remains pure and “good”, in everyday terms.

She doesn’t pray because she feels God is too important to bother Him with her petty problems. I appreciate that, or maybe I’m only imagining that, but it’s a nice thought to have anyway.

We’ve bee taught, even in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, that God is like our father and, as His children, we should always seek His help, He will never refuse. We might get ignored or even punished but a father would never abandon His children so we can always seek His shelter. Being a father also means that He is very concerned with our well-being and appreciate when, despite our professed independence, we turn to Him from time to time.

As students of Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism, however, we’ve also been taught that service, not dependence and begging for favors, is the better way of relating to the Supreme. As followers of the gopīs we have also been taught that for Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure we should be prepared to take all kinds of personal trouble. Gopīs were ready to go to hell if their actions could relieve Kṛṣṇa of a simple headache. Our ācāryas actually came down to hell of the Kali Yuga to bring Kṛṣṇa some new devotees, that’s how we all have been saved here.

So, with a bit of maturity, we should stop praying to Kṛṣṇa for our personal benefits, too, it’s the only responsible way to serve our gurus. We know they are there not to take care of us but to give us the opportunity to serve, so we should not miss it. Service is our ultimate prize and we should dedicate our entire lives to it even if we don’t have a shred of actual devotion. Service is also our constitutional position, the essence of our being, the purpose of our being, it’s the only thing that makes us fulfilled. Asking things for ourselves? Avoid it if you can.

When we look at Christians we see this begging for daily bread and we don’t give them much credit for the attitude but here is Jackie who always wears a medallion with an image of Mother Mary and yet she never asks anything for herself, no matter how hard life hits her. She considers it against her nature, against her dharma, to ask God to serve her. What’s there not to appreciate about that?

Maybe I’m reading too much into it and maybe the show writers would be completely baffled by such interpretation but as long as I see it I consider it beneficial for my own progress. When sh*t happens, and eventually it always will, I hope I’d remember Jackie and her silent determination to persevere in her selfless service.

There’s another aspect of it, too – she never utters Lord’s Name in vain. We have our Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra and we use and abuse it for all kinds of purposes but, perhaps, if we really knew its value we’d probably hardly ever say it out loud for the fear of offenses and simply because most of the time it’s inappropriate.

This is why we have a fixed number of rounds to chant every day – we must do it with proper attitude and without any distractions or ulterior motives. Increasing the amount of chanting without simultaneously increasing our purity and maintaining the proper attitude is not advised for us. Chanting 24/7 is our ultimate goal but only when we are ready.

In this we have advantage over Jackie because she doesn’t have allotted time with God. On the other hand, she suffers in separation, which is even better.

The thing is, if we have a similarly deep respect for the Holy Name, similarly deep indifference to our own lives, and similarly strict rules about committing offenses, then only one single utterance of Hare Kṛṣṇa will liberate us from material bondage forever and then bring us to the level of love of God. Just one single utterance, but we have to say it right.

That’s why Śrila Prabupāda compared our chanting to elephants bathing – they come out of the water and immediately roll in dust, because they actually like to be dirty. We are the same – we chant and then we immediately start abusing the Name for our personal benefits. Frustrating for us? Yes, but imagine how frustrating it must be for Kṛṣṇa.

Good news is – He is still our father and He will never abandon us in our efforts to become His pure devotees. That’s our only hope

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