In his 1966 essay, The Search and the Seeker, Greenleaf suggests that there are two kinds of seekers: those who seek to find and those who seek to seek. The first see the search as a path toward finding something they want. . . .The search will be over. The others are interested in the search. . . .The searchgives them joy. They do not expect ever to settle down; instead they hope to grow. These descriptions represent tendencies rather than clear types, tendencies shape choices, and choice makes the seeker. Choice marks off the search from fantasy. It is the choice to find one’s way in a direction that has no way, no clear path to a destination. It is the choice that does not name a goal. [p.1]
What I choose, then, defines the type of seeker I am. What else, besides tendencies shapes my choices? Greenleaf was influenced by the poems of Robert Frost and this passage reminds me of Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken. I am also reminded of Pablo Casals. He continues to be considered the world’s greatest cellist. When he was in his eighties he was interviewed by a journalist. Arriving at Casal’s residence he was told that the great artist was just finishing up his daily, four hour, practice session. The interviewer was astounded. His first question to Casals was: Why do you continue to practice, you are the world’s greatest cellist already? Casals responded: I need to continue to grow in order to improve. Here was a person on a ‘search,’ not a person on a ‘find.’ Gentle Reader, when do you choose to be on a search ‘in order to find’ and when do you choose to be on a search ‘in order to be simply experience the wonder and joy of the search’?
In his 1966 essay, The Search and The Seeker, Greenleaf wrote: . . .the search is a lonely affair. Beyond the few with whom I share individually, I have found it so. No group, no movement carries me very far, although I value the ‘lifts’ they have given me. When. . .there are brilliant bursts of group effort, they succumb quickly to the leveling effect of organization. This may be for the best, I do not know. But I do believe that every seeker must face who he is – alone; and that it is disturbing – sometimes terrifying – until he learns to love himself as he is and to see as Emerson put it, the good of evil born (not the evil in men’s deeds, but the evil in men’s hearts). [The Search and The Seeker, p. 5]
One of Greenleaf’s recurring themes in his essays is that the focus always begins in here, in the person him/her self. Looking out there first is, in fact, a distraction from the inner work that each of us, as searchers and seekers, is called to embrace. A challenging piece of inner work is that each of us is called to seek to understand who one is and then to learn to love one’s self. A daunting challenge.
On Page 5 of his 1966 essay, The Search and The Seeker, Greenleaf writes: I did not begin to find my way to a knowledge of my own uniqueness until by chance (but there is no chance) I became aware of seekers who were on the path ahead of me, not necessarily going in my direction but men and women whom I came to accept as guides, guides who only had at heart my getting lost. Because they were seekers some of them were lonely and welcomed my interest in them so that they could show their interest in me. Interest became the lamp.
I have been blessed and privileged to have had, and continue to have, met and walked with other searchers and seekers; others who were walking ahead of me, others who were walking behind me and others who were on a parallel path; others who were like me and others who were un-like me. I have not sought them out. I have held, and continue to hold, an intention that those I need to walk with me will show up – and they have (although I believe that I have missed some for I was not awake, aware, intentional and purpose-full when they appeared).
Gentle Reader, who walks with you? What attitudes do you hold that invite others to walk with you? What space do you create so that others know there is room for them on the path with you? What do you do that helps you be awake, aware, intentional and purpose-full so that you do not miss a ‘fellow traveler’ when he/she appears?
Greenleaf writes: I went through a long wilderness period in which I sought resources outside myself and ignored the rich endowment in my own uniqueness –the great inward source of inspiration which every man can claim as his own because of his own access to it. Only as what is uniquely me emerges do I experience moments of true creativity, moments which when deeply felt temper the pain of long periods of frustration that are the common lot of most of us and give me the impulse and the courage to act with force and wisdom in the outside world. [The Searcher and The Seeker, 1966. Draft, p.4]
I know many folks, including myself, who have experienced a long wilderness period and who have sought resources outside of one’s self while ignoring the rich endowment of one’s own uniqueness. When I search outside of myself I search ‘to find’ through reading; I once believed that if I found the right book then I would, finally, have all of the answers. I then moved to hoping that if I read enough books that I would find the answers. I do trust my own inner endowment more than I have and I like to think that I read in order to learn, or in order to challenge my thinking, or in order to stretch my experiences or simply in order to search and seek more than I read in order ‘to find.’
What outside resources do you, Gentle Reader, use rather than engage your own rich endowment of your own uniqueness?
Here is a photo gifted to me by my friend George (2018). It captures, for me, the wilderness.
In his 1966 essay, The Search and the Seeker, Greenleaf writes:
As I pause in my search I am also sharply aware of the great evil in my cultural conditioning which defines sanity partly in terms of isolation from one’s own vast awareness; which teaches one to demean a man because of the color of his skin or the family into which he was born; which holds the market place to be unworthy of the finest of man’s talents when operating in the world; which holds abstract knowledge that is extruded by reason and bounded by words in priority over the promptings of the human spirit; and which justifies violence in a way that buries it deep beyond our conscious knowing and leaves us with control as the primary basis for a civilized society. [The Search and the Seeker, 1966 unpublished draft, p. 4]
If I were to pause in my search, what is the great evil I perceive in my cultural conditioning? What does my culture teach me about the ‘stranger,’ the ‘other,’ and the ‘one that is not like me?’ To what extent do I emphasize ‘differences’ more than honor them? To what extent does the ‘stranger,’ the ‘other,’ and the ‘one that is not like me’ generate fear within me – and, if so, fear about what?