Amnesiacs Raging At Ghosts

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If soap opera script writers are to be believed, a case of total amnesia resulting from a blow to the head is quite a common occurrence. And if cartoon script writers are to be believed, all it takes to reverse this condition is another blow to the noggin of equal force. This is pure fiction, of course. People do not forget the details of their identities and personal lives while retaining the ability to walk, talk, read, write and drive a car. There is no “identity lobe” in the brain that could suffer damage while the areas responsible for language, reason, impersonal memory and the application of motor skills continue to function normally. Regardless, I’d like to play with this idea for a moment. What if this type of amnesia actually befell a person? I’m not talking about memory loss resulting from dementia, alzheimers, drugs or psychosis, but a complete inability to recall one’s name, spouse, occupation, religious faith, political associations, family or friends while retaining the ability to communicate and function normally in all other ways. My guess is that someone “suffering” from such a condition would be the sole man or woman on Earth who knows what it feels like to be fully, naturally human. This person would be just like a staggeringly precocious and intellectual infant, yet he or she would be utterly free of regret. Whether you’re a mindfulness advocate perpetually admonishing others to live in the present moment or just a fan of the “Look Who’s Talking” franchise, you’d almost certainly find an individual so afflicted most fascinating and you might even envy their situation.

In a broader sense, every single one of us might just have such a case of amnesia and if so, it’s far from enviable. Despite the continuing march of scientific discovery, no one has yet been able to prove that the phenomenal Universe is anything other than a product of mind. A projection of consciousness that adjusts its hallucinatory images and sensations according to the beliefs and expectations of its spectators who are also nothing more than projections of consciousness. I’m speaking once again of pantheism, the theory that what we call “God” is every one of us. It basically posits that Consciousness is all there is and at some point, this Consciousness decided to play a game of hide and seek with itself. In order to play this game, of course, it needed more than one participant so it splintered into countless life forms all of whom are immediately saddled with amnesia as to “their” true identity. The game thus initiated, each of us run to and fro trying to figure out why we’re here, what’s our purpose and what awaits us after the deaths of our physical bodies. But we can never really hope to get those answers because of this very same self-inflicted amnesia. Refusing to admit defeat, we instead just started making shit up and repeating it with such frequency that slightly varied arrangements of this shit formed all of our personal belief systems. A caveat, in case this wasn’t clear: while this idea makes perfect sense to me, it is still just one more metaphysical best guess and I can offer no proof of its veracity. Therefore, my belief in this theory isn’t any different than a child’s belief in the Easter Bunny — or an adult’s belief in the Holy Trinity, Allah or Xenu. In fact, what it has most in common with these other theisms is that it appeals to the particular tendencies of my ego and therefore, contemplation of its implications is a meaningless exercise. It is precisely this ego and its misapprehension of the self as an independent and eternal entity that must be debunked in the spiritual practices aimed at liberation. Despite its insubstantiality, it is the sole idea from which we must liberate ourselves if we wish to vanquish neurosis.

All of that was a pretense for me to answer some very compelling questions recently posed by Tom Being Tom as part of his Liebster Award acceptance. Like me, he recently read the excellent book “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari — a book I highly recommend to everyone who reads — and his questions are infused with the subject matter of this incredibly fascinating and refreshingly philosophical history of mankind. Aside from the upcoming Q&A format, I think I can tackle his inquisitions without drastically changing the theme already established. Let’s proceed, shall we?

According to Harari, what separates man from beast is man’s ability to create stories that unite us into larger and more formidable numbers than any other creature on Earth. It may also be what separates our large groups from one another. Throughout history, man has created these stories and mythologies to not only explain nature, but to unite peoples. Of the hundreds of thousands of gods man has created, do you still believe in one? If so, why? Have you ever considered this question before?

I do not believe in any gods, per se, at least not of the popular anthropomorphic variety. By the same token, it would be inaccurate for me to identify as an atheist due to my predilection for pantheism described above. Not only have I considered this question before, but I’ve spent so much time in the futile contemplation of it that it has actually become its own obscuration — a way of engaging in discursive and irrelevant thought at the exclusion of the type of contemplation that dissects and defuses the ignorance inherent in such pointless eternalism. This is why Gautama Buddha allegedly answered a disciple’s theistic questions with the deceptively simple answer, “I don’t know.” He was trying to steer this student away from such a contemplative double-bind as that which we all still foolishly entertain. I am leveling this same criticism at everyone who may be reading this, of course, because not only is it the primary driver of our collective and individual suffering, it is the only one. The question of god is absolutely meaningless and it compounds our neuroses.

While the pantheist aspect of Hinduism may satisfy a certain intellectual curiosity for me, it does nothing to alleviate my delusion or even bolster my feelings of universal equanimity due to the fact that it is, after all, just another concept. Therefore, of the major world religions, the one from which I draw most liberally is Buddhism. Before cultural norms and superstitions began to attach themselves to this amorphous wisdom tradition, questions of reincarnation and the Bardo had no place in its cosmology. In fact, it can be said with some accuracy that the pure core of Buddhist thought dispenses of a cosmological theory altogether. That’s exactly the point. The reason Buddhism remains the major religion with the least number of adherents worldwide is due to its uncomfortable insistence on dismantling our precious egos. Here in the West, it is almost a heresy. There are only two pillars that form the base of Buddhist thought: interdependence and impermanence. And it just so happens that those two realities are the most distasteful to our sense of self-importance and our addiction to attaching invented meaning to our lives. The discomfort that arises from questioning our deeply ingrained sense of self is exactly what motivated people to create pacifying myths that purport to infuse reality with sense and purpose. But once a myth is established, it develops a mind of its own and insidiously infects every single person trapped in its cultural orbit. This can be seen quite clearly in the West in the way our alleged atheists express themselves in the very same religious language of extremes: things can be viewed nihilistically or eternalistically at the exclusion of all views potentially contained in the vast chasm between those two poles.

An example. Do you remember XTC’s 1980s hit “Dear God”? This purportedly subversive piece of pop sacrilege is nothing more than a self-contained contradiction. I would have expected more from the normally cerebral Andy Partridge, but maybe he was just trying to fulfill some contractual obligation for his record label and thus didn’t put much thought into the lyrics. The song reiterated the most common yet ridiculous mental habit of modern man: the tendency to attempt to negate the existence of God through anger at the very same God allegedly disbelieved by the one who is angry with it. In the final verse, Andy accuses God of drowning babies, waging wars and a host of other atrocities caused by his meddling in our earthly affairs. Then, after this exposition of the charges brought against the Creator, Mr. Partrdige perplexingly concludes, “…if there’s one thing I don’t believe in — it’s you, dear God.” What?! How could one of the premier artisans in the realm of thinking-man’s rock entertain such nonsense? Do you disbelieve the myth or are you angry at its central character? You cannot allege that you don’t believe in god in one breath while in the next detailing your petty grievances against it. If you are truly an atheist, you can only shine your spotlight of judgment on something other than god since you’ve allegedly relegated the very notion of “god” to the realm of fairy tales. If you claim to harbor no theism whatsoever, expressing anger at god is the same as raging against the inhumanity of The Grinch. This is because the whole myth game is rigged to create a convenient scapegoat. If you really wish to give a good ass-chewing to the entity behind your suffering and confusion, all you can do is yell into a mirror. But that would be too much like taking personal responsibility for your own lot in life and we have made what should be the only worthwhile human endeavor into an iron-clad social, psychological and cultural taboo. To fill the void created by this refusal to engage in uncomfortable introspection, God entered stage left.

I am of the belief that morality and ethics are independent of our myths. Those of religious faith who also feel empathy, compassion and forgiveness do so despite their faiths. Those who have little or no compassion hold up their faith as flimsy proof of their pitiful reserve of morality. Therefore, I think that the value of our mythology has passed. Whereas it once had the power to unite formerly independent pockets of culturally-diffuse humanity, it long ago turned a corner and became the very thing that divides and devours us. The only way to break out of this imaginary yet powerful force of myth is to tame your own mind in such a way that it no longer harbors the anxious desperation that relies on such mythology. In other words, you need to let yourself feel deep down in your gut the truth that you do not have an existence independent of everyone and everything else and that in the not-too-distant future, you are going to die. For the purposes of vanquishing delusion and its attendant suffering, you must also dispense of such eternal concepts as heaven, hell and an eternal soul. If these things be true — and again, there is no way to prove that they are or aren’t — they still do nothing to solve our most basic human problem of ignorance and thus deserve no acclaim whatsoever. The only way to discover your “eternal self” is to paradoxically understand that there is no such thing. The longer we continue to model our society and our sense of self on these dualistic myths, the deeper into the quagmire of suffering and strife we sink. If you’re an atheist, be a fucking atheist. That means when your cat dies, you do not have the option of shaking your fist at the sky at the unfairness of it all. Right view does not recognize fairness. Justice is a notion born of a gross misunderstanding of what and who we are in relation to each other. So what do you do? You shed a few tears for Fluffy and you move on in the knowledge that cats, like everything else, are by their very nature impermanent. And if that sounds cold, it’s only because it subconsciously offends your ego that congratulates itself for such natural drives as kindness to animals. Yet once an organism dies, it no longer needs your kindness. These kinds of after-the-fact declarations of love and affection only benefit the one feeling them. Fluffy is utterly unaware of your tears and even if she witnessed your touching display of grief, she still probably wouldn’t give a shit.

In summary, here’s a suggested practice: try to spend the next week blaming no one and nothing for negative events or moods that might arise. For those who are a bit more advanced than that, try fully experiencing whatever comes without applying the labels of negative or positive to it at all. If you can manage to do this even sporadically, you are on the doorstep of liberation. God need not apply.

By the same notion, we create more than just gods, we create imaginary borders and mythical unions called “nations.” We then exalt our own nation as the greatest one. Do you believe your nation is the greatest one? If so, why?

The latter part of this question is something I can answer quite succinctly: hell no. As imaginary notions go, the United States of America may just be the most dangerous of them all and this was true long before the advent of T***p. The US in its very short history has been the initiator of almost every major war fought since its inception and has incarcerated more of its own citizens than any other “free” nation on the planet. There are, of course, countries that treat their citizens with far more immediate cruelty, but none of them strut around like peacocks proclaiming to be the “greatest country in the world” or even more ironically, the “Land of the Free”. Fuck the United States of America. If that last statement rattled or offended you, then you are clinging desperately to a phantasm to bolster your individual self-esteem through association with an idea designed to foster a feeling of collective self-esteem. Do you see the relation to the god myth here? It’s the same psychological drive to invent meaning from meaninglessness. Ditto for the imaginary notions of money, culture and language. So really, for me to have started this paragraph with a scathing rebuke of one myth in comparison to others was nothing more than an illustration of this tendency to reify the legends we pull out of our asses. Clearly, I have just as long a way to go in achieving something approaching right view as anyone.

Take this quiz. Report back to me your coordinates on the grid. If you’ve taken it before, please do so again. Were you surprised by your results? If you took it before, have your results changed?

Your Political Compass
Economic Left/Right: -6.75
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.74

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Do you believe that man has ever stepped foot on the moon?

Inasmuch as this question assumes the existence of such a celestial body, yes, I do. Remember when conspiracy theories used to be fun? Questioning the moon landing along with implicating thousands of shadowy people in the assassination of JFK used to be very entertaining ways of wasting time on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Then, and very recently at that, the kooks who tend to really buy into such far-fetched theories and unfounded doubts became the loudest and most influential voices in society. The lunatics are having their day and if you think that’s anything less than an extreme existential threat to the species, you’re not paying attention. Just to clarify: the earth is round. It revolves around the sun. The moon is a satellite of the earth. It is close enough for modern conveyances to reach it. Oh, and there is photographic proof of man’s landing upon its surface for those who still believe the information gleaned by their senses. If that last thing seemed unnecessary to point out, then take a look at the next high profile civilian-shot or lapel-cam footage of a cop beating the living shit out of an unarmed “suspect” and compare what you saw with your own eyes to the almost always successful defense of the act as being somehow “proper police procedure”. It would be threatening to the system to admit that brutality itself is what cops consider “proper police procedure” so instead, shifty attorneys in the employ of police unions endeavor to make us question our own powers of perception. Incidentally, this is the one and only ploy utilized by the current occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in an attempt to cover their criminal tracks.

Is Bigfoot real?

Maybe. This central figure of modern cryptozoology seems to have some compelling evidence to back it up, but often this very evidence gets debunked years after it was released into the public eye. It seems to always be described as a primate and it is rarely endowed with any sort of supernatural abilities, so its existence as just one more specimen of the animal kingdom is very possible — perhaps even more so than the already verified existence of the unlikely platypus. However, the odds of Bigfoot’s reality become more and more slim with every forest habitat we destroy. The fewer untouched areas of wilderness that are left on the planet, the less likely it becomes that there is an as yet undiscovered primate inhabiting them.

If we are on the verge of technology that would allow a human life to continue indefinitely, as some believe, would you choose to do so?

A thousand times no. This question brings us right back to our central neurosis – the misguided desire for immortality. First of all, nobody ever seems to really think this through. Immortality would be a curse, not a blessing. An event that begins must, by definition, end. Without such an ingrained death wired into an organism as the natural pole to its inception, it would be impossible to appreciate the very fact of being alive. Remember Fluffy? The only reason she was able to lay around and puke on your furniture for 15 years or so is because she was destined to die from her very first breath of kittenhood. If you really want to celebrate her life, you must understand that the death aspect of it is essential to the whole process that she was (and still is as her constituent parts rot and disintegrate somewhere in your back yard). An immortal life form is an oxymoron. Learn to view it as such.

If we are on the verge of technological and societal achievements that would allow us to feed, clothe, and shelter all human beings on Earth at zero cost, as some believe, should we do so?

YES — absolutely. If our knowledge and resulting technologies can’t be used in service of the basic needs of all people, it is nothing more than vanity. At the present, our technology is forging a questionable evolutionary path that we refuse to acknowledge due to our addiction to convenience at all costs. More often than not, when friends “get together” these days, what that really means is they are sitting in close proximity to one another while at the same time completely ignoring each other in favor of their stupid fucking distraction devices. We have happily allowed technology to vastly increase our ego-driven antisocial tendencies, but we still fool ourselves into thinking that we’re communicating with others when we tap furiously on a schmutz-covered touchscreen, oblivious to the real people all around us to whom we could be communicating via that antiquated device called “speaking”. This is also just one more attempt at controlling our environment. The rise of “smart” home devices like Alexa (just an improvement upon “The Clapper” of the early 90s) illustrates our folly in bending over backwards to achieve maximum control over our artificial environments when the real power that so few of us seek anymore is to intuitively understand our inherent symbiotic relationship with nature. But the overwhelming feeling that would result from such a return to our roots would be an understanding of our inter-dependence — again, a truth that offends our anxiety-ridden desire for independence and immortality. Your iPhone holds no answers nor does it alleviate suffering but it does further solidify your delusions of self-importance. I wish this were nothing more than a fad with a correspondingly short shelf life, but clearly that’s not the case. At the very least, though, can’t we please press at least some of our limited funding and brilliant minds in the service of altruism? You can still have your precious phones, I promise you. But maybe while you’re busy retweeting another stupid meme, some poor kid on the other side of the globe can eat today.

I think I’ve pontificated more than enough for today, eh? Before I take my leave, though, I’d like to make one final statement. Usually when I compose a long-winded, finger-wagging diatribe of this nature, I tend to dial back some of the things I’ve said in the comments section when faced with a reader who thinks they have a uniquely personal reason for being exempt from such universal truths or the application of the antidotes to human ignorance. Comments like “Yeah, I understand what you’re saying, Paul, but in my case, I have no choice because…” will not be entertained in the wake of this post. You are not unique or precious and you have no legitimate “but”s to constitute a fly in my philosophical ointment. Nor do I, of course. There are only two approaches to this mysterious thing called life: ignorance or wisdom. The way of ignorance is always defended by declarations that begin with the words “yeah, but…”. So just for today, please deposit your buts in the ashtray located conveniently at the exit. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.

Fabric Softener

 

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I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. – The Beatles

Morgan Freeman really gets around these days.  While hosting the brilliantly mind-bending series Through The Wormhole for several seasons on the Science Channel, someone over at National Geographic clearly saw how perfect his temperament and delivery worked in the service of exploring foreign and often misunderstood ideas.  And what ideas are more rampantly misunderstood than the ones that inform people’s religious beliefs?   So earlier this year, NatGeo hired him to host a miniseries entitled The Story of God and now, as almost a companion piece to that religion-based series, he hosts a similar show called The Story of Us.  Pantheist that I am, I see little difference between the subject matter of these two recent programs and Mr. Freeman approaches both topics with his characteristic respect and genuine curiosity.  But I’ll get back to Easy Reader shortly.  First, we must take our own little trip through the wormhole.

The overarching aim of the paradoxically aimless discipline of Mahayana Buddhism is for the practitioner to attain a state of undisturbed equilibrium through the perfect conjoining of Prajna (wisdom, right view) and Karuna (compassion, lovingkindness).   I’ve talked an awful lot here about concepts that I feel illustrate the correct apprehension of reality – right view — in a necessarily awkward and imperfect attempt to show that the ideas explored by science and spirituality and philosophy and meditative awareness are all artificially separated, relatively specified aspects of an unbreakable Whole.  But if you view such expositions as being applicable only to the wisdom aspect of the Prajna-Karuna field, then it’s a safe bet you do not understand them correctly.  It is the job of that ornery yet insubstantial bogeyman we call the Ego to focus attention on one step of the grand dance at a time, as this reinforces the illusion that the observer himself is also a distinct and unique thing with definable boundaries.  This is what gives us our erroneous sense of self and it is at the heart of all interpersonal struggle.  A more holistic viewpoint would clearly help to lessen our anxieties, all of which have one single mental error as their basis: the mistaken belief in the self as an inherently existing entity with the skin marking its definitive boundary from and against everything else.

Meditation is the method by which one can begin to feel the reality of Universal interconnection rather than just understand it intellectually, but more detail about that is beyond the scope of this post.   For now, suffice it to say that Einstein’s use of the word fabric in describing the space-time continuum was more ubiquitously applicable than he even realized.  He was attempting to illustrate the idea of curved space in describing the movements of celestial bodies.  However, space itself is inseparable from the perceived objects within its field.  Space does not contain things, nor are things surrounded by space.  Every single phenomenal “thing” is, in fact, a space-thing where every outline or boundary is shared and hence non-existent.  But in order to really know this, one cannot rely on words or concepts – the very symbols for reality that we confuse as being reality.  That is the entire problem.  I leave it to you to decide how or even if you wish to embark upon such metaphysical explorations, but not before adding with a bit of urgency that at the current crossroads we face as a species, it is very important that you do.

Much like the undefinable physical boundaries discussed above, wisdom and compassion exist interdependently.  I could say that it is important to understand Universal interconnection in the scientific sense because it helps one to understand the logic of developing compassion and empathy for those who are simply different aspects of the same shared field.  Or, conversely, I could tell you that it is vital to practice compassion for self and others because it will expand your view of humanity’s (and by extension, the Universe’s) interconnectedness.   It really makes no difference because both of those differently worded statements actually made the exact same observation.  Is your skin the boundary of you or is it the boundary of the space around you?  The answer to both questions, of course, is “yes”.

The ego’s job is to discriminate.  Although the word itself has a very bad reputation, this imaginary yet effective illusion of individualism is also essential for navigating life in the phenomenal world.  Just because there is no subatomic separation between your constituent elements and those of a brick wall you are approaching doesn’t mean you should just keep walking into the wall.  I assure you, that wouldn’t be a pleasant experiment to conduct.  So we must necessarily pick and choose when a situation calls for Ultimate wisdom or relative wisdom.  Relative wisdom discriminates; it is what tells you to stop walking because there’s a big fucking wall just inches from your nose.  Ultimate wisdom understands that just because you wisely avoided an unnecessary and almost certainly unpleasant broken nose doesn’t really mean that you did anything.  You and the wall did not do a dance, but collectively you are a dance.  The wall was just as essential to the waltz as you were, and yet there was only one dancer, that can be defined simply (if esoterically) as Self.  The capital S is meant to differentiate it from our usual egocentric definition of the word self, to align it with the Hindu concept of the Atman, the god-spark, the breath of Brahman that both animates and is all things.  That’s it.  Whether your mind embraces this to mean that there is only one Thing or that there is not actually a single Thing in existence is irrelevant.   The way to proceed from there – from right understanding – is the same either way.

Now we see Lila, the grand dance, and all of its constituent movements.  These movements are no longer composite elements but literally elegant steps in an infinite masquerade ball – a way of playing with the phenomenal world gracefully, artfully, in the unspoken knowledge that no one is doing anything nor is anything doing us.  Actor and action are inseparable, as are life and death, inside and outside.  1-2-3-4, step ball heel toe, grand jete, repeat.

Back to the relative action.  Most of us are rightly very worried at the current state of our human interactions due to the growing influence of gross ignorance upon them.  “What can we do?” has become a rhetorical question born of sad desperation.  In truth, none of us can do a damn thing about the cruel machinations of nationalism and totalitarianism sweeping across the globe, but if you need to feel like there’s something you can do, go enter a booth somewhere in your district next November and pull the levers that make you feel best about yourself.  Someone will even give you a little sticker to pin to your lapel on your way out broadcasting to the world that you just pulled the best levers a person can possibly pull.

But if you really want to help, you need to continually remind yourself of the inextricable bond between all life forms until it becomes clear that charity is not helping others, nor is it helping yourself, it is simply helping and this is where Karuna merges with Prajna to form The Great Perfection.  This is already what you are, as am I, as is everyone, but without the proper experiential understanding, it cannot be integrated into the elegance of the dance, which is another way of saying that if you suffer from the delusion of self you will never understand the sheer power of the lovingkindness of Self.  The reason this is an essential thing to grasp is because once it is understood, you will be naturally guided at all times to the most helpful actions towards seeming “others” because you will know in a very real sense that he and she and they are all literally you.

Now back to Morgan Freeman.  An episode of The Story of Us explored the power of Love in various human interactions.  The final segment of this installment of the series had Morgan in London visiting a hair stylist with a very inspiring hobby.  His shop is located in a section of the city that has a significant homeless population and for many years, this man felt impotent to help in any significant way these brothers and sisters who had fallen on such hard times.  Then one day he had an idea.  After closing his business each day, he now goes out on the streets, stool in hand, in search of suitable recipients of his daily acts of lovingkindness.  When he finds a homeless person that seems a good candidate, he has a brief chat with them before setting them on the stool where ever they may be – in an alleyway, below an underpass – and then he proceeds to give his new friend a shave and a haircut.  That’s it.  And the emotional effect of his selflessness on these long-forgotten human beings is as great as if he had gone around purchasing houses for them because you see, the real tragedy is the fact that we are scared of our unfortunate fellow travelers in this dance, ashamed of ourselves for feeling this way and consequently unwilling or unable to conjure the courage to help them.  Our warm-hearted hair stylist understands this.  He knows that what these people really lack isn’t just shelter but dignity and he does his best to give a little bit back to them.

Whoever we are, where ever we are, we can adopt similar hobbies.  How better to quiet one’s neurotic stream of consciousness than to direct that stream outward?  Do you really want to save the world?  Do you wish to vanquish racism and xenophobia and hatred?  Ensure a better, safer world for your children?  Fine.  All you need to do is go help someone.  That’s it.  It doesn’t matter who, it doesn’t matter how.  Just help.  If you do this often enough, you will eventually come to realize that helping yourself and saving the world are two phrases describing the same exact thing.  If it helps to sweeten the deal at the onset, just remind yourself that in the mind of one Donald T***p, an act of charity is a hostile act.  So let’s be as hostile as our hearts will allow and transform our habitat – our shared fabric —  with the magic of love and compassion.

The War Dance

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Mourning in the aerodrome.  The weather warmer, he is colder.  Four men in uniform to carry home my little soldier…What could he do?  Should have been a father, but he never even made it to his twenties.  What a waste, Army Dreamers. – Kate Bush

World war.  Civil war.  Turf war.  Cold war.  Race war. Drug war.  Cyber war.  Nuclear war.  Proxy war.  Religious war.  Price war.  Gang war. Chemical war.  Range war.  Cola war.  Drone war…

Billions of fractured micropixels defragment into a lumbering mass of global identity crisis.  Egos seek pride in the illusion of uniqueness.  When Consciousness splinters, its wisdom-deprived constituents draw battle lines and engage in suicidal struggle.

If you cherish yourself, you are a warmonger indeed.  With your self-hatred, you have tossed an explosives-laden boomerang into the air.  If you acknowledge any other self than That which encompasses all, you march perpetually into battle.

War begins at home, in the place where you keep your mirror.  The I asserts its independence, the amygdala electrifies, anger rises up and looks for a place to express itself.  It seeks confirmation of its worth only to find that everyone is too busy confirming their own to acknowledge yours.   In the fog of delusion, we fight for our survival.

In the light of reality, there is no one to fight.  Om Tat Sat.  When we awaken from the dream of self, doves will fill the sky.  Illusion will disappear along with the sleep in our eyes.  The peace of Unity is the endgame of wisdom and wisdom alone is immortal.

Lay down your arms, for the battle is internal.  There is nothing to be vanquished but delusion.

Lila

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Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun. – Alan Watts

We’re playing the game all wrong.  All of us.  The most embarrassing part about it is the fact that we invented the game but got so caught up in playing it that we forgot we are engaged in a game whose rules and playing pieces we created in the first place.

If this game had a name, other than “life”, it might well be called Amnesiac Gods.  Arthur Hancock and Kathleen Brugger’s book “The Game of God” is a playful and simplified take on Alan Watt’s pantheistic philosophy, tackling with wit and whimsy this frustratingly taboo view of theism that is also shared by the Hindus.  Pantheism, as the name implies, is the belief that “God” is not a separate, judgmental creator spirit existing on a different plane such as “Heaven”, but is a convenient word to describe the Consciousness that resides in an indivisible and indestructible state within each and every one of us, imbuing us with the power of creation that we so foolishly attribute to independent outside forces (atheists do this, too, in bending over backwards to explain all aspects of life and the Universe from a purely scientific perspective while ignoring the proven role that consciousness plays in the very existence of the phenomenal world).  In short, all Western philosophy and theology makes the fatal mistake of believing in duality.

Early on in “The Game of God”, the authors provide a simple analogy to make this clear, which I will now paraphrase.  Imagine a billionaire who likes to “slum it” at the local blue collar dive bar a few times a week to experience how the other half lives.  He dons scruffy working class clothing and hob-nobs with the locals over two dollar well drinks.  This person is not even remotely experiencing how the lower class lives.  No matter how carried away he may get over the course of the evening, in the back of his mind he is well aware that at closing time, his limousine will be waiting outside to take him back to his Park Avenue penthouse.  He may have experienced a small taste of the sights, sounds and conversations of the folks with whom he was drinking, but he did not experience their struggles, anxieties, disappointments and tragedies.  Now let’s think about God in the typical Judeo-Christian way.  “He” is invariably described as perfect, flawless, without limitation.  Okay.  What is the only thing that a limitless entity cannot possibly experience?  If you said “limitation”, give yourself a pat on the back.  Perhaps God wanted to experience what it feels like to have limitations and in order to find out, he/she/it splintered him/her/itself into billions and billions of little God-microcosms who are instantly given amnesia so that they cannot, like the dive bar billionaire, console themselves with the fact that since they are God, they are impervious to harm resulting from their own game of hide and seek.  This makes the point of the game — or “how to win”, if you will — to remember what you really are after your head has been filled for years and years with countless ideas and “facts” that claim otherwise.

As I said, it’s a simplification and as such, takes a few of its own anthropomorphic liberties with the “god” concept.  But it’s a good place to start for anyone interested in delving into the idea of pantheism.  (For those who prefer to rip off their Band-Aids in one painful tear rather than ease them off, “The Book: On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are” by Alan Watts is a much more advanced treatment of the theory).

Our biggest folly and the sole catalyst of all of our suffering is our insistence upon simultaneously inventing, fearing and worshiping an ether-dwelling Capo di tutt’i Capi in front of whom we humble ourselves, and running roughshod over every other creature and resource at our disposal because we also invented the idea that man “holds dominion over the Earth”.  Here’s what’s really going on: animals, minerals, plants, God, and every man, woman and child are all different names we’ve created for aspects of the same ubiquitous thing: Consciousness.

Consciousness created the phenomenal world and Consciousness sustains it.  One of the most clichéd logic riddles around asks if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, would it make a sound?  This is a ridiculously easy question to answer: NO.  First of all, sound is the effect of vibrations upon the ear drum, so in the absence of an ear drum, there’s just a vibration having nothing with which to interact.  But even that is an unnecessarily complicated line of reasoning to arrive at the answer because, of course, we made the tree and the forest and the vibration and if we weren’t here to sustain the illusions that comprise our planetary game board, no tree would have existed in the first place.  The ear in that riddle is actually Consciousness, without which nothing could be experienced and so, for all intents and purposes, couldn’t exist.

So continue to play out your personal dramas and victories and defeats for as long as they are fun.  If you find that you are genuinely depressed, confused, enraged, hopeless and self-destructive, you need to review the rules of the game.  To recap: 1) You do not exist as a separate entity, so stop taking yourself seriously; 2) no one else exists as a separate entity, so stop letting them get to you; 3) you created the Universe (the game), so stop feeling like a confused outcast in a cruel alien world; 4) shut the fuck up once in a while and pay attention to this weird, beautiful, chaotic phenomenal display of your own creation.

In other words, you are God.  So get over yourself, for God’s sake.

Deify Yourself

aum

Now’s the time to have some big ideas.  Now’s the time to make some firm decisions.  We saw the Buddha in a bar down south, talking politics and nuclear fission.  We see him and he’s all washed up — moving on into the body of a beetle.  Getting ready for a long, long crawl.  He ain’t nothing.  He ain’t nothing at all. – Shriekback

For a moment there, I forgot who I was.

Chaos theory holds that the pendulum of phenomenal occurrence swings both ways, sometimes in a positive direction, other times towards darker situations and events.  Expecting to achieve a static, balanced fulcrum is ego whistling in the dark.

This is just the condition in which we find ourselves.  I have intellectually embraced this existential fact and admonished others to do the same, the implication being that such acceptance is for one’s own good.  I go with the stream, never resisting the bursts of momentary doubt and fear, and send out an invitation for others to join me in the gentle current.  I invite all to let go of their life preservers and trust the wisdom behind the stream’s ever-shifting peregrinations.

Except I had never let go of mine.  And when the pendulum slammed unexpectedly into the shadows, I grasped at its illusory safety with all of my might.  “Why is this happening to me?” I screamed impotently into the abyss, where my words were seemingly lost until an unseen hand swatted them back with the return thrust of a boomerang.  That metaphorical hand was the reaction of the dark matter in my psychic universe, recently unaccustomed to absorbing egoic self-pity and thus regurgitating the foreign agent back to its point of origin.  “What the hell is this?  Turn it into something I can use before tossing it back into my sanctuary,” is an approximation of the message I received loud and clear from that hazy realm where wisdom resides.

That mysterious realm of wisdom does not belong to me or you.  All messages originating therefrom are directed at the Universal Consciousness, which is also their source.  It’s god’s echo chamber and we are merely its sonic vibrations.

AUM

In raging against the stream, I awoke the sleeping giant of delusion.  Chaos became a personal affront; an injustice in the sand castle kingdom of misguided ideals.  The dignity of being and calling forth the qualities of the resting Godhead seemed suddenly beneath me and incompatible with my ego’s well-deserved temper tantrum.

For a moment there, I forgot who I was.

My reactions were those of a solid, inherent entity; a tiny conscious island in an infinite heartless ocean.  For a few days – just another measure of the eternal moment – “I” was ascendant with all of its attendant phantasms.  A relapse into the addiction of self-importance at the necessary expense of Self-importance.  Like visiting a prison from which I’d recently escaped to gawk at the current group of inmates and daring them to pull me back in, a request they happily obliged.

But the psychic dark matter direct from the mind of Brahman can be a silent and compassionate bail bondsman.  It has the power to direct each and every one of us back to our true boundless home where no one has a name or a face.  It reminds us that We are It and It is Us and All is Us and We are All and no one is any one apart from the only One.

Unity does not compare, so it knows not of injustice.  When Unity dances into multiplicity, the temporary satellites of the Godhead become confused and forget about the invisible tendrils connecting them irrevocably to their fountainhead.  Sooner or later, all energy returns to its source.  But with clear vision, each of us might have a much easier time of it while we await reunification in some non-existent future.  It allays frustration and gives us something to hope for while we try to remember that there’s nothing to hope for because we’ve been nothing other than that Unity all along.

AUM

For a moment there, I forgot who I was.  And it was beautiful.  No one gets an opportunity to reclaim the throne of a deity until becoming vulnerable enough to lose one’s shit as a human.  When we swear and pray in equal measure, we literally create the Cosmos.