Thursday, April 06, 2006
We can and must do both. As we refine our understanding of our relative and functional selves, to avoid the hollowness of success alone, we must simultaneously look at the ontological ramifications of all this functionality. When our physical and social needs are met, we can free our energy to look at the depth of existence. We can take a look at ego from another angle. There is no doubt that ego is useful and functional. The new question is, what else does it do? If we are focusing on the relative merits of survival, what are we missing? What depth are we avoiding for the sake of lateral movement in the world of the obvious and apparent (comfort, intellect, survival)?
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Then, in a moment of despair, I found, as I so often do, a moment of sanity. I saw clearly that relying on beliefs would forever take me out of the moment, because I would always be trying to figure out how the momentary circumstances fit into my framework of ideals. I saw clearly that the answer to the questions that matter come, not in the form of words or logical frameworks, but in the form of resonance. Who am I? Perhaps a better question is, ‘what do I resonate with’? Where is my joy? What makes me cry? What music fills my soul? What people do I feel chemistry with? What is funny to me? What poets, authors, philosophers, and artists consistently bring me inspiration and meaning?
Now, the problem with this truth, as with most other truths, is that it lies beyond the purview of the logical mind, which means it is beyond control. The ‘will to power’ does not sit kindly with such ideas. But, you see, you can’t control what music you like. You just like it. You can’t control who you love. You just love them. Resonance is something that is done to you. I don’t willingly resonate with the blues any more than I willingly beat my own heart. The good lord beats my heart and the good lord in the blues vibrates that corresponding string in my heart. So, perhaps verbs should be more clearly distinguished and understood as action verbs and resonance verbs. Resonance verb sentences make sense whether they start with the subject or the object. I resonate with the blues. The blues resonate with me. Who’s to say which way the resonance goes? In fact, placing ‘I’ first tends to confuse the issue, by implying a choice in the matter. This is the way our language is structured. It demands a subject and an object. Perhaps this is what was meant by Lao Tze when he paradoxically said, “Those who know do not speak and those who speak do not know.” Why? Because any true knowing is beyond subject and object. Any true knowing is beyond the separations and definitions and distinctions that are necessary for coherence in language. So why am I typing this? Perhaps the same reason Lao Tze spoke his words. Perhaps because language can be used to deconstruct itself. Perhaps because language can point beyond itself. I guess, because I resonate with the proposition that our ‘salvation’ lies further down the current path, rather than backward at some turn in the road we may have missed. This means that I don’t think we have to bomb everything back to the primitive ages and forget all the linguistic and scientific advances we have made in order to find the primal wisdom we seem to have glossed and cemented over and forgotten about. No no. The way is through the middle of the fire of passions, language, logic, and ego. The true way honors all of this as part of the dynamic tension that has brought us to this beautiful, if precipitous precipice. It has brought us to the brink of meaning. The voice of a faint muse is singing in the void, calling you home. A voice so silent it might be in your mind… or very far away. Ineffable. Inexplicable. Infinity either way. Wrapping around on itself, through you and I, an unbroken and musically waving spiral of light singing the necessary night of mind. See how the questions melt away?
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
“Let there be light.” – (Christian, , King James Bible, Genesis 1:3)
“God is the Light of heaven and earth.” – (Muslim, Qur’an, 24:35)
“The Soul's light shineth pure in every place;And they who, by such eye of wisdom, seeHow Matter, and what deals with it, divide;And how the Spirit and the flesh have strife,Those wise ones go the way which leads to Life!”- (Hindu, Bhagavad Gita)
“Loving the light, with watchful mind, with clear consciousness, he cleanses his mind from torpor and dullness.” – (Buddist, Buddha, The Word (The Eightfold Path))
Come, let us journey into the fascinating metaphor of light, exploring its phenomenal experience, its physical properties, and their seemingly divinely mirrored correlates in the spiritual world.
A couple months ago, I had a somewhat otherworldly experience while meditating, which was ultimately the reason I chose to write on this topic. I experienced a timeless dimension and was bathed in a warm light. I felt like I was out of my body and connected to a source of great healing and wisdom that connected me to everything. The light felt very loving. After the experience, feeling very serene and joyous, I wrote the following:
There is light. There is nothing else. The degree to which we transcend ourselves is the degree to which we experience the light of self directly, beyond subject/object, and thus, the closer we are to the light which is our source. So, it’s about getting beyond the ‘lens’ of self, and bringing the observer out closer to the observed, until they merge, indistinguishable from one another in an experience of wholeness. With this direct experience comes the unfiltered, unbent, unrestrained explosion of pure light energy.
After I had written of my experience, I came across this account by the Hindu mystic Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, which almost eerily mirrors what I said above:
When the mind, introverted by being engaged in the Quest of ‘Who am I,’ is lost in the Heart, and the ego bows his head in shame, there shines by Its own light a Pure Consciousness as the limitless I; that (Consciousness) is not the spurious ego; It is the Transcendental, Infinite Reality: It is the blissful Real Self. (Sarma 1991, Verse 35)
Since I began research on this paper, I have found countless other mystical experiences employing the metaphor of light as a touchstone to God, no matter what the religious tradition. It is the merging with light beyond ego that is stressed in most spiritual uses of the metaphor. The experience of being touched by this light adds an experiential element to faith in a higher form of consciousness.
I will look at several ways the experience of inner light is articulated in different spiritual traditions, while at the same time speculating on some ways the metaphor could be extended by applying what we now know about the physics of light, which serves to make the comparison that much more intricate and compelling.
Metaphor of Metaphors
In the endless (and endlessly important) search for unity among religions, we need look no further than their shared invocation of light as a metaphor for spirit. In addition to the examples given at the start of this paper, the Nicene Creed, which is the only statement of belief accepted by the Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Christian churches, contains the following lines:
“God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.”
In fact, “Everywhere in recorded history light doubles for intelligibility, comprehension, and- underlying all of these- conscious awareness” (Smith 2001, p.139). From the Hindu and Buddhist concept of enlightenment to the Jewish mystical Kabbalah belief in the ten sfirot, or emanations of light, to the Muslim Sufi mystical tradition, which contains a mystical epistemology referred to as the illuminative philosophy (Khan 2000), light streams through the teachings of the spiritual traditions. According to the Upanishads, the Atman is a "light in the heart". Christ said: "Within a man of light, there is light, and this light illumines the whole world."
More Than a Metaphor?
“In a metaphor, a first object is described as being a second object. Through this description it is implied that the first object has some of the qualities of the second.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphor)
The fact that such a huge percentage of the religious descriptions of being ‘touched by God’ use this metaphor can easily be explained away. It could be said that the religious people study each others’ traditions and pick it up that way. Also, it can be noted that the mysterious and invaluable quality of light makes it a no-brainer for choice as a spiritual metaphor comparison object.
I, however, am going invoke my professor Tobin Hart’s method for inquiry into the unknown and ‘suspend my disbelief’ that there is some fundamental connection between the light we see with the physical eyes and that seen with the inner eye of the mind. It almost seems that light spans the gap between the physical and the metaphysical. Its similarities, across the inner and outer realms, are almost too elegant and too intricate to be a mere comparison. To quote the Sufi mystic poet Rumi, “Wist thou not that the sun thou seest is but the reflection of the Sun behind the veil?” (Smith p.144)
Light is Apparent
In trying to develop a philosophical system to define existence, Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi needed some self-evident reality on which to base his entire epistemological framework. He settled on light, stating: “Light is what which is apparent in its own reality and makes other things apparent by its essence” (Khan 2000, p.149). Described in this way, light’s similarity to consciousness is clear. Just as the physical eye’s objects of perception are made apparent by physical light, the light of consciousness makes possible the experience of the abstract inner awareness.
Looking at it from Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity, we know that light is, in fact, apparent. His theory has only two postulates:
- The laws of physics are the same in all inertial frames.
- The speed of light is a constant in all inertial frames.
At the speed of light, time would stop and distances would shrink to nothing, while mass increased to infinity, all of which are impossible. Therefore, no physical thing can travel as rapidly as light. As the one constant, light is at the ‘limit’ of the physical realm, and at this limit, it takes on a definitive and creative sense. In other words, Suhrawardi, and all the other mystics and philosophers, could have done a lot worse in choosing a metaphorical referent for the idea of a ‘first cause’ or a ‘creator’.
An interesting phenomenological account that provides integrity to the idea of the interchangeability of inner light and the outer light described by Einstein is that of the blind hero of the French resistance, Jacques Lusseyran, who said: “I saw the world in light, existing through it and because of it.” (Lusseyran 1963, p.18)
My light is better than your light
It seems, no matter how elegant the metaphor becomes, the desire to differentiate will creep its way into the discussion about the light of the sun and the light of the mind. If physics defines light as the ‘creator’ of this dimension of space and time, the mystics will forever ask, ‘but who created light?’
The illuminative philosophy of Suhrawardi, as with many of the spiritual metaphors of light, makes this normative distinction between inner and outer light when he says, “Like material light, immaterial light is “light in itself”, but unlike its accidental counterpart it is also “light to itself”, meaning it makes itself apparent to itself, rather than merely to something else.” With this sweep of logic, Suhrawardi places the inner light of pure consciousness on a higher plane than the ‘accidental’ and un-self aware, if creative, light of the physical world. (Khan 2000) This same perception can be seen in Rumi’s quote from the last section in which he suggests that the sun we see is ‘but the reflection of the sun behind the veil’. Yet another example of the alleged superiority of the inner light is found in the lyrics of the song Soulshine by venerable southern rockers, The Allman Brothers: “Soulshine… oh its better than sunshine… its better than moonshine… and its damn sure better than the rain”.
Another interesting and spiritually applicable feature of light is that it illuminates darkness. That is, darkness is nothing more than the absence of light. Light is measurable and energetic, whereas darkness is lifeless and devoid of any inherent measurability. An interesting addendum to this discussion, however, is that physical photons streaming through open space cannot be seen. Is that darkness? That is, photons must ‘run into’ some matter before they ‘light up’ and become actualized as ‘light’. Matter, however, has a philosophically interesting relationship with the photons. While it brings the light out of a potential state and into an observable existence, it necessarily creates a space that will remain dark, behind the veil of its molecular structure.
Picture a bunch of soccer balls floating through space, intercepting a stream of heretofore ‘potential’ photons emanating from some energy source. They allow the photons to achieve their potential and light up, but they also, due to their structural mass, create a space inside the ball where there is actual darkness, with no photons at all. That is, in moving from potentiality to actuality, a dualism of light and dark is introduced. Although the ‘potential’ light of photons streaming through space is something we might call darkness, it really isn’t either darkness or lightness. It is simply potential light.
The concept of yin and yang, first delineated in the Iching, provides a perfect example of the necessary dichotomy between light and dark. “The principle of contradiction asserts that all phenomena are composed of at least two opposing elements (yin/yang) that exist in active harmony and balance. If every element turns into its opposite, in a never-ending cycle of reversal and renewal, then good and bad, active and passive, masculine and feminine, old and new, and so on, must exist in the same object or event simultaneously.” (Peng & Spencer-Rogers 2005, p.232)
A similar concept is found in Buddhism. “Enlightenment exists solely because of delusion and ignorance; if they disappear, so will enlightenment. And the opposite is sure also: there is no enlightenment apart from delusion and ignorance; no delusion and ignorance apart from enlightenment.” (http://www.humanistictexts.org/buddha.htm)
The interdependence of darkness and light has been also been touched on in the mystical Jewish tradition of Kabbalah. “The old paradigm views good and evil as a simple dichotomy: God is in one direction and Satan is in the other. The new paradigm suggests that God is in every direction, represented by light, and Satan is also everywhere, represented by veils. From this viewpoint, evil is defined as a force that dims the light” (Cooper 1997, p.160). In this sense, ‘evil’ is only a veil that keeps a person from seeing the purity of light. Furthermore, in the Kabbalistic sense, the veils of are ‘necessary evils’ for the fact that they make possible our very existence. “Without something pulling us away from the Divine, we would be overwhelmed by God, we would lose our free will, and creation could not exist as it does now” (Cooper 1997, p.160).
The dimming effect of the veil of ‘evil’ may be as necessary as our own eyelids. Consider this poem by Emily Dickinson (italics added for artistic effect):
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant —Success in Circuit liesToo bright for our infirm DelightThe Truth's superb surpriseAs Lightning to the Children easedWith explanation kindThe Truth must dazzle graduallyOr every man be blind
Just as staring at the sun blinds the eyes, so may the inner eye be destroyed by an encounter with unmitigated truth.
If we are to understand darkness in the ‘new light’ suggested above, a new conversation emerges. If darkness is necessary for creation, then ought we not thank it for our very existence? In judging darkness and ignorance as ‘evil’, are we, in effect, condemning our own lives and this entire dimension of reality? Are not the dualities created by metaphorical and physical darkness the forces that time, space, and matter depend on to create this ‘environment’ in which we are able to dance, breathe, laugh, cry, love, and sing? Does the existence of darkness not create the longing for truth that creates the drama of art, philosophy, and meaning itself?
At this point, there are moral issues that arise. If darkness and ignorance are evil, then newborn babies would be the most evil of creatures. They know nothing they did, lacking language, they would be incapable of spreading the light of the truth. This is, obviously, ridiculous. Another way to look at it is that babies are innocent because they had no hand in creating the structures of life and ego that actualized the beam of light that hit their parents’ embracing loins.
Of course, we can never know which of these speculations is correct. I would suggest that the a likely state of affairs is that we are born innocent and, as our free will grows, so does our responsibility to move towards the light of understanding to the degree that we can sense it.
In my own life, it is as if the ‘light’ of goodness has a natural gravity for me. When I ignore its beckoning, I am punished by a natural feedback loop of negative feeling. It is almost as if there is a principle at work that wants me to go towards the light. Jacques Lusseyran (1998, p.20), the blind Frenchman, articulates this potentiality beautifully:
“I could no longer afford to be jealous or unfriendly, because, as soon as I was, a bandage came down over my eyes, and I was bound hand and foot and cast aside… but when I was happy and serene, and approached people with confidence and thought well of them, I was rewarded with light… Armed with such a tool, why should I need a moral code?”
A Matter of Matter
If we look at the Ego as a structural mass of the mind, that which is considered ‘moral’ in the same spiritual traditions which use a light metaphor (virtually all of them), is also that which deconstructs this structure. Humility, kindness, openness, honesty, fidelity, modesty, frugality, nonviolence, equanimity, and devotion are a few of the more commonly cited.
This leads us to Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, commonly expressed in the most famous equation of all time E=mc², which means that the energy being used to hold together a structure is equal to its mass times the speed of light squared. The scientific implication of this formula was that “matter and energy are interchangeable… Since the speed of light was a fantastically large number, and its square was even larger, this meant that even a tiny amount of matter could release a fabulous amount of energy. A few teaspoons of matter, for example, has the energy of several hydrogen bombs. In fact, a piece of matter the size of a house might be enough to crack the Earth in half.” (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/einstein/kaku.html)
In a shockingly prescient piece of visionary writing that I just had to include, Baha'u'llah
(1945) prophesized, “Split the atom’s heart, and lo! Within it thou wilt find a sun.”
The energy released in the atomic bombs of World War II were a direct consequence of Einstein’s breakthrough theory. Through the splitting (fission) or dividing (fusion) of nuclei, atoms are capable of interacting to reduce their collective mass, which is released in the form of energy at the rate of E=mc². A similar principle is at work in the process of burning, except it is the energy of electrons rather than nuclei that are released.
In any case, whether it is through releasing electrons or mass, fission, or fusion, the bottom line is that, when elements have the ‘courage’ to change their basic ‘identities’ through interaction with other molecules, they release some energy (light) that was somehow pent up in their structures.
This physical process of releasing light by releasing pent up energy analogous to a spiritual one described by Kabbalist Isaac Luria (Cooper 1997, p.29)
“Every particle in our physical universe, every structure and every being, is a shell that contains sparks of holiness. Our task… is to release each spark… and raise it up, ultimately to return it to its original state. The way these sparks are raised is through… being in harmony with the universe… through consciousness itself”
To make the case stronger still, I will here add a bit of writing from Bahaullah (1945, p. 23-4) of the Bahai faith:
“the splendor of that light is in the hearts, yet it is hidden under the veilings of sense and the conditions of this earth, even as a candle within a lantern of iron, and only when the lantern is removed doth the light of the candle shine out. In like manner, when thou strippest the wrappings of illusion from off thine heart, the lights of oneness will be made manifest.”
Knowing what we do about how much energy is stored in matter, it seems as though the Kabbalist and Baha’i accounts are making the case that the ego can be metaphorically seen as a psychic ‘material structure’, whose transcendence opens the door to a communion with the source light of oneness.
Conclusion: This Little Light o’ Mine
What are the implications of what I have learned in this process? The rest of this paper will be even more highly speculative than it has been thus far. This little light o’ mine…how do I let it shine? First of all, according to the mystical traditions I have encountered, step number one is to release the idea that this light is ‘mine’ at all. The ego seems to be the structure that keeps me from the full experience of light and simultaneously casts a shadow on others in my proximity. In shrinking ego structure to a smaller mass, maybe I can be a more efficient structure, and allow the light of the source to stream through me, becoming more of a channel for the light. Perhaps, eventually, I can lose all of my ego mass and become metaphysically and metaphorically capable of truly merging with, and traveling at the speed of, pure consciousness.
Another thought that continues to have gravity for me is that we spread the light among ourselves by acting as mirrors. At different times, and in different ways, people seem to step into streams of pure source light that they are able to reflect for the benefit of others. I imagine spiritual discernment as the ability to follow one’s heart into the path of such an energizing and clarifying beam of light. What is interesting is that each of us, in our infinite difference, finds our energy in different ways. We are each called to fill a different place in this grand matrix of possibility… perhaps a place the source light calls us to… perhaps a place where we will be uniquely able to radiate truth and love to all of fellow life, like the full moon to a midnight traveler.
Theologian Frederich Baechner might call it, "a place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need."
Baha’u’llah, Valleys of Search and of Knowledge, (1945), Baha’I Faith
Cooper, D.A. (1997), God is a Verb: Kabbalah and the practice of mystical Judaism, New York: Riverhead Books.
Khan, Z.I. (2000), Illuminative Presence, Transpersonal Knowing: Exploring the Horizon of Consciousness, Albany: State University of New York Press.
Lusseyran, J. (1998), And There Was Light: Autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, Blind Hero of the French Resistance, New York: Parabola Books.
Puri, L.R. (1986), Mysticism, the Spiritual Path: Volume 1, India: Radha Soami Satsang Beas.
Patterson, S. (1993), The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus: Thomas Christianity, social radicalism, and the quest of the historical Jesus, Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press.
Smith, H. (2002), Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief, San Francisco: HarperCollins.
Peng, K., Spencer-Rodgers, J. (2005) The Dialectical Self: Contradiction, Change, and Holism in the East Asian Self-Concept., Cultural and social behavior: The Ontario Symposium, 10, 227-249.
Retrieved Dec.11, 2005 from (http://prayerfoundation.org/nicene_creed.htm)
Retrieved Dec.11, 2005 from (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphor)
Retrieved Dec.11, 2005 from (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/einstein/kaku.html)
Retrieved Dec. 11, 2005 from (http://www.humanistictexts.org/buddha.htm)
Retrieved Dec. 11, 2005 from (http://nongae.gsnu.ac.kr/~songmu/Poetry/TellAllTheTruthButTEllItSlant.htm)
Ring, K. (1998), Lessons from the Light: What We Can Learn from the Near-Death Experience, New York: Insight Books.
Sarma, K. Lakshmana, Bhagavan Sri Ramana (1991), Revelation A Sanskrit Version of the Ulladu Narpadu of Bhagavan Sri Ramana with an English Translation, India: T.N. Venkataraman.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Seed of life
The apple tree silenty evolves year after year, expressing more dynamic and beautiful parts of itself, like leaves and blossoms until eventually, after some sufficient epoch, if conditions are favorable, it 'evolves' what seems a quantum leap forward into supporting an entirely new and excitingly delicious kind of life... an APPLE!
The apple is special and knows it. It feels superior to the rest of the tree, as the latest and fullest expression of life itself. With an increasing sense of self-imporantce, it does its best to separate from the tree and do its own thing, even looking sideways at the other apples with a sort of competitive scorn. It marvels at how different it is from the tree and the other fruits in the orchard. It grows vain, admiring its shiny red skin and divine round shape. It is worldly and beautiful and unique- delicious and revered.
Eventually, after what seems a lifetime, it feels its skin shiver ever so slightly with the premonition of an approaching coldness. It feels its acidic meat mellowing and sweetening.
Then it happens. In a wind storm, it finally achieves the separation from the limitations of the tree. It falls ceremoniously toward the ground, elated at this chance for freedom... for this chance to use its divine roundness to roll anywhere it wants to go. But upon landing, however, it feels strangely ill at ease. After a few short rolls from the momentum of the fall, it is not able to move at all! It struggles with this mighty limitation, until, by chance, it looks to the spot where another apple had fallen long ago. Suddenly a flash of insight fills the apple with peace. Decomposing in the grass, gazing at the miraculous tree sprouting from the other apple's resting place, it finally sees its true nature. It feels its fruity flesh melt away, beautifully overmatched by the solvent effects of time. Its dying mind flashes back to an image of mother tree. At that humblest of moments, it recognizes itself as none other than the tree itself, united in cause and effect.
Infinite potential... let's dance
If you strip away everything… all the life and all the matter, there is still the potential for life and matter, which can never go away. Creation is possible. This is proven by the letters reaching your mind and slicing your moment right now. If we step beyond language and meditate, this is ‘evident’.
Perfect Logic self destructs
I suspect that perfect logic self-destructs. Perfect logic would see that it is a closed circle of premises and would therefore rest itself. I would guess that perfect feeling would do the same. It would find its uninhibited selfish hedonism meaningless without a language to describe it or any sustainable structure, so it would settle back into the void united with logic. I suspect that logic and feeling and all the other possible ways to experience this dimension are sides of the same infinite-sided coin, their connections playfully concealed for the sake of the game we’re playing.
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Freedom as a principle
In looking at the world and all of its ins and outs and ups and downs and spins and wobbles, one needs to start somewhere.
I start with the principle of freedom. Without freedom there is only a machine. A machine doesn’t turn me on.
First of all, as a basic premise, I believe that we have free will on some level or another. Exactly what level is not all that important. What is important is that at some point we make choices… real choices about what we think, say, and do. And that fact gives meaning to our existence.
Second of all, I believe that a principle of freedom on a societal level is the condition that will generally allow the most people to develop into their healthiest and most expansive selves with as few ‘neuroses’ as possible. Neuroses in my opinion are gaps in understanding that develop from inhibiting and suppressing parts of ourselves for the sake of the perceived expectations of society or family or religion or any other type of ‘should’.
I believe individuals should freely allow themselves to be who they are at any given moment. I believe there is a ‘guidance’ that comes through to us if we allow ourselves that freedom. If we transcend the ‘imposed’ guidance from religion, society, family, friends etc, then we are left to make our own decisions based on our inner conscience- a guidance that is our own truth, based on our own subtle interaction with the here and now. We each have a conscience that can discern what our truth is and what our deeper purpose is. Without someone else directing our thoughts and actions, we necessarily find the maturity, strength, and judgment to make our own ethical decisions. Freedom demands it of us. Freedom demands personal responsibility.
Allowing this freedom to individuals is risky, no doubt. It requires an act of faith on the parts of those involved. It requires risking temporary chaos for the greater principle that freedom yields truth. This risk is contrary to our deep biological and emotional instincts.
As survival-seeking beings, humans do not like the concept of others being free enough to hurt them and their chances at genetic reproduction. They are typically happy to manipulate the situation in favor of their survival. Fear is powerful.
As emotional beings, humans also don’t usually like taking the risk of freedom with their loved ones. They would rather hold on tight and keep those emotional bonds intact than set the person free to find their truth. Maybe the freed loved one will float away without those bonds. Fear is powerful.
People like to control each other. This can also be called manipulation. They do it in many ways. To gain advantage, they use their strength, intelligence, social/ emotional sense, rank or status or whatever other power they have. The most powerful (see ability to manipulate: manipulative) people, in these different ways, get to be leaders of structurally hierarchical institutions. They lead systems and clubs and societies and religions and cliques and gangs and political parties. These institutions all share the goal of stripping freedom from the individual by establishing shared norms of belief and behavior. They all thrive on codes and rules.
So, what’s wrong with codes and rules? Codes and rules take the ‘judgment’ responsibility away from the individual. Without the freedom to make their own judgments about beliefs and behaviors, people lose the meaning of their lives. They move toward becoming simpleton automatons acting out of their desire to be accepted in the group by conforming to the rules and being ‘good boys and girls’. As a result of this ‘outsourcing’ of their judgment to institutions, they end up losing their connection with their inner spiritual guide and their capacity for critical thought. They lose the ‘ownership’ over what they do. They do things ‘because it’s the rule’, not because it was a conscious decision.
For the institution, this is a good thing. With enough unquestioning rule followers as members, the big wheel has enough cogs to roll smoothly down the road. But from the perspective of the individual, things are not so optimal. The people who defer their opinions to those of the system end up losing their deep and nuanced identity to a degree. The system provides certain benefits- be they physical (gangs) economic (politics), social (clubs), or even 'spiritual' (religion)- in exchange for the member's allegiance and conformity. Thus, the individual becomes dependent on the system. And because of this dependence, the survival of the system becomes very important to the individual. As a natural psychological result, the individual identifies more and more with this 'beneficent' system, including its rules and unspoken norms of behavior. That person's integrity has been influenced. That person is no longer completely free.
Not only does the individual dependent on an institution lose some of their freedom, but they will also be necessarily unfulfilled in the deeper sense. They may be comfortable, but they will pay a high price for such pleasure. The price of membership is that the individual must suppress some of his or her beliefs, traits, thoughts, or behaviors in order to be in step with the codes of the institution. In suppressing these unique expressions of individuality and free will, the person will become necessarily detached from their deepest self, that is, from their unique connection to guidance and purpose, which is the only true fount of fulfillment.
Humans need to express themselves and the energy that flows through them in a free manner in order to be truly happy.
A human needs to be able to ask ‘why?’ and get the guidance from a deep spiritual place of personal truth, and not from the rulebook of some self-serving institution whose often unspoken or implied ‘response’ is designed to stem the flow of such structurally dangerous questions (see circular reasoning and appeals to ‘faith’)
Am I suggesting that everyone who works for a corporation or subscribes to a religion is a corrupted pawn of The Man? No. What I am saying is that one must be aware of the differing interests and the inherent tradeoffs involved in the dynamics of such relationships if one values freedom in this society. The individual's purest interests are freedom and self-actualization, while the institution's interests are for the individual to conform.
The million dollar question that always arises is whether or not people can actually handle freedom. I suppose this is the fundamental inquiry into human nature. That is, are we fundamentally good or evil? Can people act in an ‘adaptive’ manner without the forces of systems and institutions forcing their various colored and wild random shapes into confining grey square holes?
This is, of course, not an easy question. It has been a central question in philosophy for a good while now, and I don't claim to have a satisfactory answer. However, I believe we've gone way too far in oppressing and inhibiting the growth and expression of too many people. I see it in the eyes of those victimized by the over-systemization of society. I see the loneliness and separation and anger that has arisen as we categorize each other and let our enemies be dictated to us. I look at a nation who has elected a president based on fear. I believe freedom is the appropriate direction for us to point this spaceship if we want to find out who we are as a species. We will never find our true natures by inhibiting ourselves and our free will.
In gradually moving toward hope and freedom and tolerance, we may come to the conclusion that there are people who are best suited for a well-defined and structured environment. And that will be a fine and appropriate free choice to be made voluntarily. I believe that today, too many people are unnecessarily being crammed (or cramming themselves) into thoughtless and confining situations and it is largely inhibiting their growth.
We have grown too far apart as people. I believe that freedom is the only way to heal this fragmentation. Freedom unites us in a different way than institutions do. As a free individual, I can tell another free individual, in effect, “I will allow you the freedom to think and act as you please, and I will trust you to make decisions that lead to an ultimately more favorable environment than if we were all following strict and confining rules. And I recognize that a huge part of that favorable environment is my freedom sweet freedom which feels so good and gives meaning to my decisions. And I know that your freedom affects my freedom. So be free my brother, and let’s live with principle and without fear.” And this shared freedom is our bond. Our unity is our shared principle of freedom and our mutual respect and trust in our deepest natures.
So that’s the way I’d like to see this big ship steer. Away from institutions and rules, and toward freedom and a chance for true meaning. Not all at once, because we're not ready. If you give total freedom to a person who is not used to critical thinking and decisionmaking, it's like giving a loaded gun to an infant. Freedom demands responsibility and maturity. Baby steps.
How does it happen?
Education. Dialogue. Voting. Policy. Creativity. Revolution. We must begin to exercise our freedom to educate ourselves about the forces of control at play in our society and our world. Freedom has to come from the root upward. Corrupted and corrupting systems will not dismantle themselves for the greater good. It has to come from individuals who understand that the principle of freedom for all is the only path to the answering the deepest question, “Who are we?”.
Sunday, January 02, 2005
Now... no, later
Saturday, January 01, 2005
I'd like my change please...
And each moment, that same individual is different from what it was the previous moment. For this simple reason, any hope at defining an absolute view of reality is doomed before its utterance. Life changes. It grows and learns. Situations change. There are so many variables...
The worst thing for a person to do is attach oneself to such a permanent idea- to such a dogma. Because then he feels compelled to live in accordance with, and worse, to defend, something unchanging, in a world and a consciousness that most definitely is changing. And as the new clues come in- as the new lessons present themselves- he turns away- he turns inward on his rigid worldview as he turns his back on the truth of maybe- the truth outside oneself- the truth waiting on the other side of a crisis of faith.
If one's truth doesn’t change as he changes and as everything else changes, there are 3 possibilities.
One: he has found absolute truth and is now an all knowing diety.
Two: He is in some statistically impossible lockstep with the infinite changing variables of existence
Three: he has taken an oversimplified and dogmatic view of reality which allows him to avoid the daunting task of learning the lessons found in the admittedly often uncomfortable chaos.
What do you think?
all the shapes on the walls and the flow of the industrial design… cannnnnn notttttttttttt resissssssst.
$7 for two Fraps
A bargain, I thought.
That smiling mermaid in the logo made me do it. She made me spend $7 for two coffees.
Not only that, but I liked it.
Helpless in her spell.