Monday, February 16, 2015

That Jugular Vein

And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than his jugular vein. [Koran 50:16]

Last year about this time the subject of “fate” surfaced and I wrote a note on the subject (here). That day  vast amounts of ice were melting; now the snow is decently frozen all over. In any case, the subject seems to belong to the month in which the blessed spring is but a month away. It occurred to me in the course of a morning conversation (that first cup), that fate, at the personal level, is all about temperament—and temperament is very much an expression ultimately of the body type. The verse I cite from the Koran is illuminating. It speaks of God’s nearness to us—but what about that jugular vein? Symbolically it is the carrier of life—but it is distant from us, you might say. It belongs to that region of reality over which we have very little control—the “given,” the material order.

Part of our conversation also involved laughing at the review of the movie If I Stay which deals with a teenage girl’s near death experience. Mia, the lead character, spends her time in an out-of-body state tracking her own body and her family and friends. The review ends on this note: “So does Mia stay or go? Let’s just say that she’s a child of her generation with an unshakeable sense of empowerment. Never mind what God or random-chance may have in store for her. ‘I’m running the show,’ she declares toward the end. Deathless words from a near-death decider.” [WSJ, August 22, 2014] I cite this snippet by way of indicating the modernist view of reality: “I’m running the show.” But the truth is otherwise.

We’re running the show in the same sense as a deep-sea diver is inside a massive diving suit—linked by lines and pipes to a boat and oxygen supplies—the boat itself linked in countless ways, not least by radio waves, to the greater world on shore. The surrounding “suit” is much more real, in the practical sense, than the self inside it. Just as our body must constantly exert itself against the vast influences which the world exerts so also the soul must exert itself, at times, against the temperament which we can manage but never really control. If it weren’t so, the concepts of body-type and temperament would not have so clear a meaning to us, and fate would have no meaning. Yet it is continuously invoked when our splendid running of the show starts fraying or even runs aground.

Even when it’s not a snowy February, such morning thoughts keep me humble—because mornings are hard on those who’s temperament is stained with the melancholic dye.


  1. As I've been rereading some of your blogs they are a continuing and refreshing surprise to me of your mind at work.


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