Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Digestion

{{Potd/2005-10-4 (en)}}Image via Wikipedia
Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. If that is the case then my life is worth it because examining is my passion.

There are some who think of life as one long process of digestion. Stuff get shoved in one hole, time expires and processed stuff comes out another hole. Not much thought about where the stuff comes from, how the holes got there in the first place, nor where (if anywhere) it all goes afterwards. Actually it’s not a bad metaphor. It just needs some fine tuning and some critical thinking. So let’s break it down and do some examining together.

First the holes: Let’s begin with one of those chicken and egg things. Which came first? Believe me; there is no logical answer by thinking inside the box. Both chickens and eggs are in the box. So what’s outside. Obviously something beyond poultry. It’s sort of like the mother and child thought. When does a mother become a mother—Before of after a child? If before a child then it may be a woman but it’s not a mother. If after a child then how can a child be here first? Again, outside the box.

Getting outside is something that Siddhartha (the Buddha) and Nagarjuna (the 14th Patriarch of Buddhism) were really good at. And the reason they were is because they didn’t just think about being outside, they WERE outside and looked back to the inside. Ever wonder what that must look like—from the outside looking in, versus the ordinary view of being inside and trying to get out? It did, and does make a difference when you can see the whole picture instead of a one-sided piece.

So what did they see that might be of use to us want-a-bes? What they saw and have being trying to share (somewhat unsuccessfully) is that our view of life is inverted. What we see is what an old friend of mine called “seeing the inside of your own eyeballs”. Our view is severely constrained by the insane notion that the holes (and the stuff that goes in and out) just came into being all by itself, with no links to anything beyond. Our view is obscured because of what advertising folk call “noise level”. In that business there is a huge challenge in figuring out how to stand apart from the crowd of others who are also trying to stand out from you. It isn’t an easy task. What we fail to realize is that we are walking-talking noise machines almost all of the time, only the noise is not “out there” it is in here (buzzing brains: Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz). We are watching home movies nearly all of the time and there is nobody home.

The really amazing thing is that when we turn down the noise level—it can be done—we don’t just disappear. What can be discovered when our minds quiet down is that there is some pretty incredible wisdom behind the cacophony which is just waiting to get a turn. I’ll share just one tiny pearl here and reserve others for later: A ladder with one leg. What? No buyers? What’s so difficult about a ladder with one leg? How about the obvious: It wouldn’t stand. That seems so simple doesn’t it. Even a three year old child can see the obvious problem. But you know what? We act like such a thing makes sense all the time, only we don’t call it a ladder. We call it “independence”: A one legged ladder which stands by itself against a non-existent wall. Neither makes more sense than the other so what is the alternative? How about two legs and a wall? Translation please.

The alternative is interdependence (two legs, at least—actually there are an infinite number of legs) set against the wall of transcendence (meaning that while the wall is there we just can’t put defining characteristic around it). If there was no wall the darn thing would just fall down, even with two legs, or more. Before leaving this inaugural Blog I would ask you to look closely at my signature graphic. Please notice the two legs within a circular “wall”. You may be familiar with the symbol for the two legs (Yin/Yang). Actually it has a more fundamental name. It is called a Taijitu and symbolizes interdependence among everything (more on this later). The symbol for the “wall” is known as an Enso which in eastern metaphysics and philosophy represents unending transcendence. Two realms. One unbroken reality. Now a closing verse from Nagarjuna:

Like the flame of a lamp
The flow of matter and mind
Neither ends nor never ends.

This would end
If mind and matter failed to flow
From the dying of their past;
It would never end
If mind and matter failed to flow
From a past that never died.

If half this ended and half did not,
I would both end and never end,
Leaving half the grasper
Dead and half undead,
Half the grasped destroyed,
Half undestroyed.

It doesn’t get much better than that.
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