Tolle and Kempis.

It’s been a while. It’s not that I don’t think about Deckchairs. Rather, I think about it every day, at least for a few minutes to an hour. And my interests in writing and blogs haven’t changed. But my ability to write, to produce something of interest, to craft something unique when so much is said and being said and written and argued and consumed is difficult.
No doubt, Twitter has made it more difficult. Putting a face on 140 characters is pretty easy, especially when others say it better, faster, and clearer. But I keep coming back to the greats – Zeldman writes brilliantly to this day as does Moll. So, I’m inspired to keep writing, at least preliminarily here until something else comes up to provide a good excuse. And, I promise that I’ll continue to use Deckchairs to write experimentally and armchairily.
Anyway, and more importantly, last night I finished Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. It was a slow but good read, full of sentimental logic but mostly powerful imagery. Tolle has been well reviewed and well received. His argument that humanity is forging an entirely new evolutionary construct today makes good sense to me. We’ve fully outgrown the devastating effects of long life, the overuse of natural resources, the exploitation of people and animals, and the denial of the multiple realities of our cultures (the latter part is my interpretation).
Tolle writes that humans have become so enmeshed in content, in our emotions and ego, that we find it hard to see the stillness and perfection of the universe and its gift to us. We are all made of stars, the eternal continuity of space and matter and our lives and our deaths are part of that continuity. Toole writes: “The sapling doesn’t want anything because it is at one with the totality, and the totality acts through it. ‘Look at the lilies of the field, how they grow’ said Jesus, ‘they toil not neither do they spin …’ Life wants the sapling to become a tree, but the sampling doesn’t see itself as separate from life and so wants nothing for itself. It is one with what Life wants. That’s why it isn’t worried or stressed.”
He argues, simply and accessibly, that “Every thought, every desire or fear, every action or reaction, is then infused with a false sense of self that is incapable of sensing the simple joy of Being and so seeks pleasure, and sometimes even pain, as substitutes for it. This is living in forgetfulness of Being.” By living your life with inner purpose, you gain access to what you want to achieve on Earth, in Life.
Based in almost every religion and spiritual order, Tolle calls for us to rejoice in eternity and cast aside our interests in material comfort and objects. Seek the inner and lose the outer; give up the need for possessions and possessing.
But, in all of this, one key thing bothers me. Throughout The New Earth, Tolle quotes Christ again and again as the exemplar of all things good: “Give and it will be given to you.” He even writes “Christ can be seen as the archetypal human, embodying both the pain and the possibility of transcendence.” Sure, he mentions Buddhists and Zen Masters and Descartes and Jung and he calls to task the Christian history, in particular, for pushing the doctrine over human life. But his singular focus on Christ reminds me of Thomas a Kemplis’ The Imitation of Christ, which states clearly: “Learn to despise outward things and to give thyself to things inward, and thou shalt see the Kingdom of G-d come within thee.” Kemplis even titles one of his chapters “That it is Sweet to Despise the World and to Serve God.” I worry that Tolle, like many more fundamentalist Christians, seeks to deny the world in favor of the afterlife (or the eternal, in his words). By focusing on the inner, he regrettably disparages the outer, which is what most of us have, at least for now.
While I understand that Tolle is using a bit of hyperbole to push us into recognizing the “source of abundance” because our cultural interests are so dedicated to external gratification, I wonder if he, in turn, is validating reality deniers, anti-Darwinians, and those who cannot afford to be internally abundant, yet.