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.
From his book “The Faith to Doubt” Stephen Batchelor suggests that through our conditioning, awareness of our nature has become unconscious. He writes that “in psychological terms it has become disconnected from the ego-complex. It surfaces into the lake of consciousness sporadically and uncontrollably.“
To awaken to a more authentic way of being is not dependent on the use of technique or religion. Our “nature” is a part of us despite the fact that we my be disconnected from it through our conditioning. There is no technique for finding our way back.
The focus on technique is a continued use of calculating, reductive and fragmented ways. In that we create and perpetuate a limited perception of self that is extricated from our nature. We can not truly understand what our nature is through the removal of what is authentic of ourselves,however unmeasurable it may be . Our methods and ways for understanding our world and ourselves are missing something fundamental of our nature.
Realization of our nature is not something that can be achieved by reducing it to a problem to be unraveled or solved.We can not attain that insight through any technical or theoretical moulding. Conceptual distinctions and calculable divisions are the substance of techniques.
Through meditation, rather than looking to theory; add a little bit of grace, it is possible to introduce a more insightful, deeper realization of what we are and what we are ultimately inseparable from.
From Terrence Keenan’s book “Zen Encounters With Loneliness”. It is autobiographical, about an alcoholic Irish, American poet and Zen monk. I enjoyed his reflections. One can almost envision his maturing as the story goes on. I found his self fixation annoying at times as I guess I find my own equally annoying. This self fixation appears on occasion and as well, it seems that he is quite attached to his use of poetry as a way of capturing meaning at times. Rather then poetry being an expression and reflection of a truth of where ever one might be on life’s journey. Obviously, until we see with clarity all else that has been accumulated interferes with that.
His story seems to be a more realistic and honest portrayal of the struggle with life and death. I can see myself in him, a lesser ideal of what a Buddhist monk might be and succumbing to the ego and old habits and then seeing again. There is a point that we are awkwardly and mistakenly looking for the mystical meaningful experience of Buddhism and then realizing that we have to let go of what we think we know before we can enter the truth of nothingness. It has its own rewards,
This is a quote by Terrence near the end of the book that has much relevance for me. “I had to start over by giving away all that I knew. It was the strength of the discipline and meditation and the real knowledge I had gained through years of giving myself to the practice that stood me in good stead. It allowed me to be strong enough to heal, change, and begin to grow again.”
Come said the muse,
Sing me a song that no poet has chanted
Sing me the universal.
In this broad earth of ours,
Amid the measureless grossness and the slag,
Enclosed and safe within it,s central heart
Nestles the seed of perfection
By every life a share or more or less,
None born but it is born, conceal’d the seed is. – Walt Whitman
It seems that today in our modern world there is much to divert of us from the experience of being. There was a time when it was an everyday occurrence for most to contemplate the bigger picture and questions of existence. We are in truth inseparable from all that we perceive to be separate from us. In that moment of silent contemplation there is that awareness. We can realize the limitations of all that we have come to believe and have developed and created in our striving to influence and alter our environment as an aid to our sense of security and insurance of our existence.
John Daido Laurie writes that ” In the cold dark shelters of our primitive ancestors, lit only by the flickering of campfire, at days end there was a time for recollection and stillness that would help to fuel the next days events. Since the beginning of time the still point has served as the birthplace of all our activity.”
Rodney Smith writes that “we are immediately confronted by the conditioned tendencies that have unconsciously driven our life. Our history, with its expectations and fears, is embedded within these conditions. These tendencies contain our preset ways of relating to this moment and cannot be perceived as long as we are unconsciously acting from them. These unconscious patterns assure that our present actions will be based upon our history and that we will endlessly repeat this conditioning into the future. Every unconscious action strengthens our preconceived view of the world and assures our reactions within that view.”
What is it “to be” in this universe without the influence and interference of all that we have become? How can we know for sure that what we so vigorously perceive and assume to be true is in fact so? What can we know of our origins that might be beyond what we have become? Does our learning (conditioning) as children defer from “being” or does it add to the experience and does a reconnection with that experience of being enable us in a way that may not be realized through conventional ways of understanding.
For the most part of my life I have been at the mercy of what I was raught and what I learned. I owned no other tool that I knew of. I now question how much one can know of an authentic experience of being through this process of becoming conditioned as a human being.
I am quite sure that this question of direct experience of being can not be known through conventional means. Turning towards a more meditative and contemplative life has helped me to relax my learned responses and assumptions about life and existence. What I know of “being” I experience through attending in direct awareness. I realize that I must return to my acquired conventions in order to communicate the experience, however it is that ” being” is not definable through the use of those tools that humans typically define things and as well find meaning and negotiate our every day life.