I have been struggling at times finding my way in a society of humans that seems to be lacking in compasssionate response to one another and destined to destroy itself. I have no difficulty realizing the inadequacy and limitation of conventional social thinking and the perceptions that influence it. I am aware as well of my own limited thinking and other ego/personality limitations so much so that it has been somewhat of a challenge to take myself too seriously or at times to like myself. Something of that comes from the fact that I dont know what do with my life or how to respond in this place of “not knowing”
Something Rodney Smith wrote the other day struck me. “The truth is not a set way of perceiving reality, but a release of all” In all the work that I have done over the years at coming to recognize and deconstruct the “not knowing ” in the ego, there is something there left in the fear remaining around the hole, that is tied to the past. I can see more clearly, now that the ongoing task is to meet that residue of fear in awareness. Rodney Smith suggests something that is relevent to me “The more we surrender our separation, the quicker we complete the work of dissolving our fear. Patterns that hold less identification are quickly released, but eventually we have to confront those areas where we are still tied to the outcome, image, or expression of our personal pain. These are areas requiring great sobriety and maturity. We know awakening involves our total being, but we may still hold a little of ourselves in reserve. We dawdle, hoping for a reprieve. The sense-of-self plays its final card, its wistful need for nostalgia. Will we disappear like a hand through water, leaving no trace of our place on earth, no small monument to “me”?
I am more aware these days of the separation that my unconscious thinking has created and am more able to face the anxiety that dominates modern life from a more authentic sense of self as a being inseparable from that life. Realizing my being and its greater connection has involved a refining of awareness. I heard the line “the practice of awareness” suggested the other day, which takes some of the discomfort away from the aversion I have had to the notion that we must practice to become something different from what we are. It seems to me that to walk the way of being true and authentic to myself and the world that I am a part of that I must be aware. I have no plans or intentions to make myself better other than to follow where my heart leads me and to unfold from that and “practicing awareness” seems to be of assistance in this way.
There is a saying of Chinese Buddhism that goes, “A Bodhisattva avoids the causes; the ordinary person tries to avoid the results” In awareness there seems to be some realization that there is significance in learning to bear the pain that is a consequence of our modern collective choices. From understanding fully the disastrous consequences and origins in our thinking that has contributed to them we can perhaps take a different approach to making collective decisions. It involves an inviting in, what is real and what is here now. Much of what has lay hidden out of clear sight.
To attend to and follow the heart has not always been an easy task for me.There have been many influences in life that serve to interfere with and compromise that; opinions, definitions, concepts amd diversions in life that take me away from a more authentic orientation to self and life. That I might be able to return to a connection to the heart when I am lost is my ongoing hope.
One of Victor Frankls most relevent insights from his book “Man’s Search For Meaning” is the realization that forces beyond ones control can take away everything one possesses except for one thing. That is the freedom to choose how you respond to the situation. For myself a return to the heart is always an option and it is helpful to remind myself, as Rodney Smith suggests that “the hearts love is found by releasing all that is not love”.i
There is something of what I am that is incredibly vulnerable. It seems to underly all that I have created myself to be and looms forward at moments of increased lucidity, if I am able to cope with the sense of groundlessness that it brings. The frozen perspectives of self and world that have become isolated from the fluidity of life seem to have been maintained in order to establish mental certainty in an often-confusing world. In these moments of awareness I see the illussion that these fixations assume of my self. Efforts I make to express a truth of what lay beneath this are inadequate. In that place of being vulnerable there is nothing that I can assume to know since knowing provides insulation and separation from that deeper experience. All known truth seems to be relative in terms of using that process of language to capture any substance. I can however be aware of what my experience is outside of knowing, however insufficient my words are in attempts to express that. My experience is the most authentic way of realization.
I am helpless in my vulnerability and it seems that it is something of my authentic experience that I hope to come to live with as opposed to becoming and dwellng in something of an illussion for the sake of providing a superficial sense of security.
Before I could begin to discover who and what I was; before I could begin to search and understand, I had to survive. I realize now that a large part of my early years were about survival. I didn’t know where or how to begin to live and so it was an endless search for who and what I could trust in. There was often only the instinct for survival, at that time, the insane fumbling actions and drive to find stability and security, however misguided and superficial it had been; in that chaos.
I went to see the documentary movie “I am Not Your Negro” today at the TIFF. Last week it saw Denzil Washington’s “Fences” and last month it was the movies “Hidden Figures”, “Moonlight” and “Loving”. These were all about Black America and the struggle and adversity that African-Americans have encountered. Much of the focus on life for a large percentage of them was survival.
At a social level my struggles and life issues did not compare with the suffering that they encountered. But even the white Americans who have been the oppressors were struggling with survival it seems. Fear of how black Americans would respond, in their freedom, must have been a concern for them. Why else would they choose to live a broken, fragmented and delusional reality that slavery and segregation brought. Yet how can anyone truly come to know themselves in this atmosphere of fear and insecurity that their social and personal delusions reinforced.
There is a need that we all feel in different ways: as an anxiety endemic to modern life, as a near-universal feeling of meaninglessness, as a relentless ennui from which we can only ever be temporarily distracted, as a pervasive superficiality and phoniness. It is a feeling that something is missing. Some people call it a hole in the soul. What we are seeking in our technological and other addictions is nothing less than our lost wholeness, and its recovery is what lies on the other side of the imminent collapse of the regime of separation.The causes of boredom are permutations of the interior wound of separation. The ascent of humanity has come at a price, and I am not speaking here merely of the destruction of the ecological basis of human civilization. Our separation-fueled ascent exacts its toll not just on the losers, the victims of our wars, industry, and ecocide, but on the winners as well. It is the highest of all possible prices: it comes out of our very being. For all we have built on the outside, we have diminished our souls. When we separate ourselves from nature as we have done with technology, when we replace interdependency with “security” and trust with control, we separate ourselves as well from part of ourselves. Nature, internal and external, is not a gratuitous though practically necessary other, but an inseparable part of ourselves. To attempt its separation creates a wound no less severe than to rip off an arm or a leg. Indeed, more severe. Under the delusion of the discrete and separate self, we see our relationships as extrinsic to who we are on the deepest level; we see relationships as associations of discrete individuals. But in fact, our relationships—with other people and all life—define who we are, and by impoverishing these relationships we diminish ourselves. We are our relationships. “Interdependency,” which implies a conditional relationship, is far too weak a word for this non-separation of self and other. My claim is much stronger: that the self is not absolute or discrete but contingent, relationally defined, and blurrily demarcated. There is no self except in relationship to the other. The economic man, the rational actor, the Cartesian “I am” is a delusion that cuts us off from most of what we are, leaving us lonely and small. Stephen Buhner calls this cleavage the “interior wound” of separation. Because it is woven into our very self-definition, it is inescapable except through temporary distraction, during which it festers inside, awaiting the opportunity to burst into consciousness. The wound of separation expresses itself in many guises, ranging from petty but persistent dissatisfactions that, when resolved, quickly morph into other, equally petty dissatisfactions in an endless treadmill of discontent, to the devastating phthisis of despair that consumes vitality and spirit. Riding any vehicle it can, the pain from the interior wound manifests in a million ways: an omnipresent loneliness, an unreasonable sadness, an undirected rage, a gnawing discontent, a seething resentment.”
From Charles Eisenstein’s book of the same name as the title here.
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Humans have transformed this planet in way that no other species could. Our tendency to see particulars in a focused way has resulted in amazing inventions. With many of the advances that have come with our unique way of seeing there have been unforeseen destructive consequences.
At one level a technical way of working with the material world works but always there is a greater cost at another level. Batchelor writes “A technical way is a calculative one that proceeds with the conviction of its own validity, knowledge. and expectations. A technical attitude is locked in a narrow vision which is blind to the wider implications of its actions.“
How much can we submit Nature, including our own understanding of our own nature, to our technical, reductionist ways?
Aussies Response: What makes nature work is its intimate responsiveness to change. The survival of individual animals requires them to be very aware of their environment and to adjust to changes in it. Our position of near invulnerability has taken us out of that relationship and thus disrupted the system. I think the way forward is to seek to do things on a smaller scale that brings us closer to a sense of our dependency on the natural system. This would be more labour intensive, but that could be beneficial in providing jobs. Maybe we need to recognise that we needn’t always use the most advanced technology available to us in every instance. I think of fishing. We have been overfishing the oceans with trawlers. Some people could go back to fishing the old-fashioned way, with a couple of people in a small boat with a net. The fish would be more expensive, but we could skimp on some of the extravagances of life to know that we were in a healthier relationship to the planet.
Gord Response: Yes I can easily agree with what you write here. And there might as well be a passion in those simple actions that is missed today. The means as opposed to the ends, sort of. Most of it might be that we lack the insight that this is what technology does; that it is a tool to aid us as opposed to being an end all. And than we resort to technology (technique) to find our way to the spirit that we have been disconnected from. I talk about technique as being a calculative way to bring some form of generalized replicated insurance. Is it that the problem is; that we have become to comfortable with looking at the world and our resolution of perceived problems in this way. Just because we can use technology and technique does not mean that there are no consequences for it; that we probably have to deal with eventually. Even with the use of technique in a spiritual sense there are consequences. As you seem to suggest there might be substantial merit in just being present with the simplest and most ethical ways of meeting our needs both indidually and collectively.