Purpose Statement

Exploration -> Experience -> Feeling -> Transformation -> Understanding

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Vacillations

The natural (as in normal) condition of life is intense. Consider the beginning and the end - birth and death – very intense experiences; frightening, painful, traumatic, bloody, violent. For most animals, including most humans, life in between birth and death is intense as well; eating and not being eaten, finding clean water to drink, shelter from the elements and safety from predators. Their lives are filled by attending to their immediate needs, immediate as in right now.

And while the niggers of this world
Are starving with their mouths wide open
What is it that turns the coins we throw at them
Into worthless little tokens?
– The Violence of Truth, The The

Not so for me and my bourgeois culture. We have mild, stable lives of comfort, safety and security. Consider our consumption; our obesity, materialism, consumerism, waste, and pollution. We are gluttonous. We have more leisure, more opportunities and options in life than anyone else in the history of humanity and yet we are paralyzed with fear and anxiety. And what is that fear and anxiety? Of losing our comfort, safety and security? Of being a starving nigger? Is it that the people who have the most to lose are the most fearful? We are so preoccupied grieving the past and trying to control our worrisome future, we have no attention for the present moment.

Eddie Izzard, Dressed to Kill stand up comedy routine – The bourgeois congregations of the Anglican church sing with absolutely no soul, vigor, vitality, or virility and the most fantastic music comes from the poorest, most desperate peoples of the world.

Life is right now and it is intense.

Two years ago I was meditating at the Honolulu Diamond Sangha’s Palolo Zen Center and I had a particularly remarkable sit. My mind was very quiet, as quiet as it has ever been, and I had an awesome experience. I once heard Geshe Michael Roach explain the Tibetan Buddhist concept of emptiness and his words carried some of my experience. The concept is essentially this – Every thing is completely empty until human consciousness comes along and assigns meaning to it. As a metaphor; we are projectors of light and what we see when we look out is the light that we project reflected back at us. Without our projection of light, there is no reflection to see.

Assigning meaning to every thing is a big responsibility. It would be easier to have God assign meaning and give us a set of simple rules to follow.

I think the root of bourgeois fear and anxiety is the avoidance of the experience of what I call the Void:

We are small and finite. We are going to die. Soon.
The universe is infinite.
No one, no thing has inherent meaning; the starving nigger, the gluttonous bourgeoisie, the stars, time - all empty.

We bourgeoisie have a choice; confront reality and potentially suffer the existential angst of experiencing the Void versus avoid reality by distracting ourselves with consumption and imagining elaborate alternative “realities” that we can believe to be true with faith.

Neurosis is the avoidance of legitimate suffering. – Carl Jung

My remarkable meditation was an experience of the Void, but I suffered no angst. In fact, I experienced profound peace and serenity, like Yeats in the London coffee shop:

While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.

I want to bless and be blessed. I want to be at peace with emptiness and take responsibility for justly assigning meaning. I want to attend to the reality of the present moment.

The neurotic bourgeoisie are not only disengaged from their own lives, they are disrespectful and destructive of other life. I don’t want to be a neurotic bourgeoisie.

What is wanted is not that we should find ultimate truth,
nor that we should become secure,
nor that we should have ease,
nor that we should be without hurt,
but that we should live fully.

Therefore we should not fear life,
nor anything in life,
we should not fear death,
nor anything in death,
we should live our lives
in love with life.

It is for us
to train our hearts
to live in grace,
to sacrifice our self-centered desires,
to find the peace without want
without seeking it for ourselves,

and when we fail,
to begin again each day.
- John McQuiston II, Always We Begin Again

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