18: “In The Problem Itself” (J. Krishnamurti)

        “The search for an answer to the problem only intensifies it. The answer is not away from it but only in the problem itself.“
        -Jiddu Krishnamurti

        During my first year in Oklahoma, I spent a lot of time alone in my apartment. A lot of time. Later I talked with a friend, and I asked him something like, “What’s wrong with me, that I just lay there? Why can’t I get up and go do something?” He was quiet for a long moment, and then he said, “That’s one question. You could also ask, what is it about me, what is it about how I’m growing and what I’m learning right now, that I need to be sitting alone so much?”
        I don’t have an answer to his question, but I like it more than mine. I think I was learning a lesson in those long moments alone in my apartment. I’m not sure what that lesson was: maybe it was, “You can live this way, but do you want to?” Maybe it was, “You could try to love yourself,” or “You’re not balancing work and play. Think about that,” or “You want friends, find them.” Maybe it was just being quiet for a long time: hearts pull in as well as push out. That’s why our blood can circulate.
        If you want to climb a mountain, you have to step on the stones that are really there. You can’t walk the idea of a path, but only the ground that’s beneath you. When I played with art in Amherst’s metalworking studio, we had a rack of new materials and a broken pile of scraps that others had left. I liked the cast-off pieces. When I looked at an unmarked sheet of iron or a factory-perfect length of steel rod, I didn’t have any ideas. But in the bent, strange, cut shapes of the discard pile, in pieces marked by what had been made or what had been cut away, I always felt character. I felt balance, waiting to be found. When I was stuck with a piece, I would go to the scrap pile. “The answer’s here,” I told myself. “There’s something I’m overlooking, or something I don’t see how to hold, but the answer’s here.”
        Perhaps my friend was saying I could approach my own broken pieces the same way. The answer’s here. They have something to offer. Perhaps Kirshnamurti is saying that, if we stop looking for the mountain as we wanted it to be, we’ll find that these stones here support us.

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