One of the coolest things I got to do in France happened right at the very ass end of my trip. My host, Arnaud, arranged a meeting for me with Gilles Farcet, author of the book The Anti Wisdom Manual. In fact, the meeting very nearly made me miss my flight to Karkow. But even if I had, it would’ve been worth it.
A lot of times when someone recommends some spiritual book by some spiritual teacher that he thinks is “saying exactly the same things as you,” I take one look and go, “Oh shit! People think I’m saying that kind of stuff?” So when Arnaud told me he’d set up this meeting I wasn’t overly enthusiastic. I mean, I like meeting pretty much anybody, so I figured it wouldn’t be so bad. But I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy about it.
That was until I started reading the book.
Rather than trying to write a book about what one ought to do on the spiritual path, Farcet has taken the opposite approach. He positions himself as your “Spiritual Enemy” and tells you exactly how to sabotage even the bravest attempts at coming to stabilize oneself in reality. He does this because, he says, he has had a lot more experience in sabotaging his own journey than in doing it right. He bases his advice firmly in all the things he himself has done. Here’s one of my favorite passages among many favorite passages:
Remembering the importance of poor posture begin by pretending to meditate without seriously worrying about posture. Used to holding your body any which way, do not seize the opportunity of an initiation to meditation in order to change your habits. Have the incoherence to approach the exercise often called “sitting” without taking the trouble to learn how to sit. Decide right away that the proposed posture, generally with the buttocks on a cushion, crossed legs touching the floor, is “too hard for you.” Feebly attempt it once, just to say you have tried for appearances sake, then give up at the first twinge of pain. Justify your inability to be asked to make the slightest effort with an argument that stresses the necessity to not abuse oneself, and the absurdity of suffering. Confuse goodwill with complacency, exigency with mistreatment. Never take into consideration, even for an instant, that generations of meditators have, for millenniums, taken the trouble to accustom themselves to a traditional posture in order to later reap its benefits. In brief, don’t give yourself the slightest chance to find yourself one day at ease in a posture which in itself is a teaching.
As regular readers know, I’m not a big fan of the word “spiritual.” But Farcet uses the word differently from most. He doesn’t talk about the spiritual as somehow higher and truer than the material aspect of reality. The Spiritual Enemy goes to great lengths to remind readers to think of their body as “the body that one has rather than the body that one is.” So “spiritual” in his use of the word refers to a point of view that questions society’s usual approach to things and aims at a clearer understanding of true reality, which is neither purely material nor purely spiritual.
Anyhow, I just felt like I ought to mention this book because I really like it. Highly recommended.
One nice surprise of this trip is the discovery that I actually speak a little bit of French. I'm not good at it by any stretch of the imagination. But in France I could read most of the street signs and follow at least the basic thread of most conversations. Here in Wroclaw, Poland, my host speaks better French than English and we've gotten by so far mainly in French. Thank you Mrs. Parillo and Mrs. Petrie, my high school French teachers!
And, amazingly, years of watching Cleveland-based horror host Big Chuck Schodowski has provided me with a tiny little bit of Polish. They really do say "kapusta" and "gatches!" Plus the word for vegetarian is "vegetarianski," which sounds like a joke from a Keilbasi Kid episode!
Polish tour dates are at this link.
Now I gotta go. I got bunches of stuff to do here in Poland. See ya later!