At the Source of Life, Emptiness Moving Through Emptiness
Sumi ink on glass by F.L.
The thoughts, actions, and relationship patterns that make up the entire history of humanity have led to our present circumstances. No religious or secular social group or adult individual is innocent, and no one can seriously doubt that humanity as a whole is now faced with a set of closely interrelated variables that are putting its very survival in question. It is not a fantasy that we are already experiencing the deadly consequences of our insane disruption of the ecological equilibrium of life on planet Earth. It is not a fantasy either that we are incapable of overcoming the cultural and psychological distance amongst us, and that as a result we continue to suffer from unequal and unjust distribution of wealth, knowledge, and power, and the widespread incidence of deceit, abuse, and violence (either subtle or overt) that affects every sector and level of every society. We have become so irrationally used to all this that we call it reality and “educate” our children to comply with its ever more dehumanizing demands. Nearly constant mental disturbance, social upheaval, and war, including the monstrous possibility of nuclear war/winter, are hardly matters of general concern. We are generally too busy with our particular occupations and pleasures to care anyway, so it all just normal. Who will demand to see what might be the difference between this atomized and cruel reality and the truth, and what is the cost of doing so?
As we have seen in the previous posts in this series, the harrowing conditions in which we live are only the more general and salient symptoms of the real problem, which is the peculiar and self-sustaining character of a brain/mind conditioned by the memories and projections of particular cultural and personal experience. We are collectively incapable of creating and implementing significant solutions to the mental, social, economic, and environmental problems afflicting all of us, because we are personally reluctant to see how the world we live in is created and recreated at every instant by the thoughts and actions of billions of particular sets of exclusive memories and projections, each calling itself "me".
There is no real "me". All there is is a species-wide conceit of separate existence that “reasons” and acts inside innumerable private compartments of self-projecting cultural and biographical knowledge that are nearly incapable of opening themselves intellectually and emotionally to what is actually happening to themselves and the species as a whole. We are like walking and talking personal alibis, each struggling mightily to protect its own illusion of (a collective sense of) individuality from any disturbance that could put in jeopardy, its fantasy of a unique existence, and its laborious projection of slight modifications of previous experience through which it hopes to reach an idealized future self in this or one presumably yet to come.
Our fundamental problem is then, not that we suffer what we suffer, but rather that mental insularity makes the self indifferent to the life and fate of most others, unaware of itself as a mere instance of a general system of human thought conditioned by experience and, beyond that, unaware of the flow of life that lies forever beyond the reach of knowledge and is the source and intimate truth of all. In other words, the separate self is a mental expression of life reduced to the tribal and self-centered process of thought/desire, and this limited and otherwise dysfunctional mind is, of course, incapable of the caring intelligence that the consequences of its crude disharmony with life demand.
This is a plea that is simple and unassuming, it does not belong to anyone, and could not possibly serve anyone's interests. It is definitely not a call to join yet another ideological trap full of false premises and barren promises. Its only purpose is to highlight the urgent necessity to see the conditioned and isolated self as the embodiment of a general and irredeemable illusion of separate existence. An illusion that is responsible for the atomization of humanity, all the conflicts and sorrows of particular human beings, and our sustained and tragic alienation from the unfathomable movement of life.
Like so many other things this invitation to see if the way we live and die is reasonable and sane, may well yet another misleading lie. But if you feel the irrationality of humanity in your own mind and life, your only recourse is to directly and independently verify why this is so and whether it is a reversible condition. If the insanity is discovered to be collective, then that lays bare the existence of a general mental system made of countless ideological and psychological enclosures of which “your” and “my” own sense of separate existence, unique identity, and “right” to self-fulfillment are only given instances.
Yes, it is far from easy to look at oneself and everything else as if for the first time. It demands an immense love for the truth as the only force capable of freeing the mind from the bias and other limitations that its encapsulation in tribe and self have brought about. The one who would care to take an independent, accurate, and all-encompassing look at herself and the world must be willing to stand disidentified, and therefore alone. This, because family, friends, clan, nationality, religious and political belief, professional occupation, and all other sources of ascribed and acquired identity generally enforce compliance with a sense of reality that is narrow and full of falsehoods and fantasies, because its principal task is to grant identity and some sense of security and certainty to particular groups of people.
We detest insecurity and uncertainty for the same reason that we crave the shared protective meaning that can only be found within the narrow confines of knowledge/belief shared with some others, but never with all. It is also for this reason that we are so afraid of what may occur if we dare leave behind the fairly fixed boundaries imposed by different social structures and one's intimately related and equally predetermined and stiff mental habits.
Whatever may lie the known and predictable elicits fear and causes pain, and it does so, first, because it demands a certain movement away from all that is most familiar and cherished. Even though the rigid form that culturally determined relationships help impose on the tribal and personal mind is a permanent source of pain and distress, it can also provides pleasure and joy, and this is why the pressure that direct, independent, and thorough perception puts on self can hurt terribly. However, what really breaks one's heart is that this lucid perception of oneself as the human condition, fully unveils the acrimonious division and the depth of sorrow in which human beings have always lived, and are still insanely determined to project onto the future. Departure from the familiar grants a view that can be unimaginably wide, but as it opens up, it reduces the mental footprint and will of the seer at its rear apex.
The scale and depth of this shocking and painful insight leaves little of the memory-based self standing, but as it expands further and further away from any capacity to seek refuge, comfort, or control in anything tribal or personal, the self-centered process of thought and emotion finally yields to what is utterly beyond its capacity to know, imagine, fear, or desire. Awareness of the unthinkable human presence within the mystery of life indivisible, finally washes away all traces of the little portion of knowledge/belief that constitutes, protects, and projects the fantasy of a separate personal existence. Ultimately there is no one there left to see and re-act, but only seeing and acting free of any sense of a pre-established personal agenda.
It is irrelevant and counterproductive to attempt to determine what happens to the mind once it is no longer desensitized and otherwise corrupted by unnecessary (self-referential and self-aggrandizing) cultural and psychological content. Whether they are of a secular or religious nature, such projections are merely speculative and, as such, only serve the continuity of the same self-centered process of thought, fear, and desire that, as we have already repeatedly seen is the source of all our problems.
All that is reasonable for anyone to do is lend all available energy to observe habitual patterns of thought and desire so that things may reveal themselves as they are, and not as what anyone may think they are or, worse yet, ought to be. The very penetrating nature of that perception is what the world so sorely needs. Do not take my, or anyone else's word for it. Shun all authority or pretense of authority, including your own, be ruthlessly free in your exploration of yourself and the world. Let the truth be your only guide.