Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Producer

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”—William Shakespeare

Once upon a never-time, in the land of everywhere, there lived a person of enormous wealth: a producer with great ideas for making movies. But he knew that making movies was an involved process, and he would need talented people with different functions to turn his ideas into a film. Since he was very wise, he knew he would need to hire the best talent for each function, give them all clear and adequate direction, equip them with the right tools, empower them with responsibility, and then not micro-manage the filmmaking process. He understood that to micro-manage the production would be futile and could clearly see that he’d need to pay big bucks to hire the best talent. He also knew that making movies was quite an involved process and didn’t want to manage just producing movies since he had many other demanding projects for which to care. He thought about this challenge and decided he first needed to hire a top-flight general manager.

Having given some thought to finding such a person, he realized that what he wanted most in that position was someone as nearly as possible like himself. If he could find the right person, then his life would be much easier, because such a manager would be able to anticipate his needs without looking over his shoulder every few minutes. After some time of trial and error, interviewing various candidates, he found the person he was convinced was just right. Of course, the person didn’t come cheap, but in the long run, he reasoned it would better to pay the price than hire the wrong person, fire him when he didn’t work out, lose time and money and then need to start again from scratch.

After extensive contract negotiations, he hired the ideal GM. Now the two sat down and talked about the producer’s ideas and the need to find the rest of the crew. He told his new GM that money was no object: hire the best talent and get moving. The GM was excited and off he went to scout and hire the crew. Let’s see, there was a need for someone to write the screenplay and that person must have a vivid imagination and wordsmithing skills. An art director to work with the writer would also be needed, a camera crew, an editor, someone to write a musical score and arrange and orchestrate the music, a costumer, someone to scout locations, another person to find and cast the actors, a director, and of course someone to put together the work of all those people. Oh, and one more important matter—a theater would be needed where the film would be projected onto a screen.

After what seemed a long time, everyone needed was found, hired, equipped, and given direction by the GM, and finally shooting began. From time to time, the wealthy producer would check in and review where the project stood. He watched the dailies and talked with the GM about any adjustments that seemed appropriate, but this was a delicate matter. People with the skill and expertise of the GM were not terribly comfortable with heavy-handed direction, and they were generally somewhat of a prima donna. So he needed finely crafted people skills to get what he envisioned without alienating the GM.

All went well for a while, but slowly and surely the GM started to resent the wealthy producer. Of course, he thought the producer was not aware of this developing situation because the GM was a crafty fellow. The GM had decided to plan a coup, intended to steal the entire production and take all of the glory for himself. Being a wily person he pulled off the coup. But what he didn’t know was the producer knew this all along and intended for the GM to carry off the coup. Why would he allow such a thing? Because he knew that an arrogant GM was like a wild stallion and needed to be broken to be of much long-term usefulness. 

Talent seemed to come along with a big ego and he knew the project would flop under the exclusive reign of the arrogant GM. And when it did, it would be abundantly clear to everyone (most importantly to the GM) that the reason it flopped was that the wealthy producer was no longer running matters behind the scenes. The producer didn’t care if the project flopped since his wealth was vast, and he had a whole lineup of better film ideas awaiting production if a trustworthy and proven GM could take charge. So the producer allowed the coup to unfold with no resistance. And what was predicted happened: the show flopped and with hat in hand, the GM had no choice but to see that he needed the producer after all. Before it wasn’t clear, the GM had a big head and imagined his independent greatness; he had to learn the hard way, by failure. NOW the real show could begin. NOW the pompous, self-righteous GM had been broken like a wild stallion, and NOW the two could make some really great films together. 

Are you wondering why I’ve spun this tale? The reason is that this story is what happens in our mind. What all of us need to know is that we are people of great wealth already, we tell stories and we make movies. True wealth is what we think we would buy one day once we have earned enough. So we spend our entire lives working to obtain that distant goal. We chase the rabbit of more, only to discover that there is never enough and the harder we run the faster the goal moves away. Then one day, if we’re extraordinarily fortunate, we stop and catch our breath long enough to realize an invaluable truth: the prize is already closer to us than our own breath.

True wealth is not on the horizon for a number of reasons. First, there will never be a distant goal. That’s an illusion that shimmers like heat dancing on the pavement, as we race across the desert toward the mirage of an imaginary oasis. It only looks real. There is no distant goal. There will never be anything other than now. That’s the first reason. The second reason is that we need to think more clearly about the nature of what we seek. What we all seek is to love and be loved, health, emotional and spiritual abundance, a sense of joy and amazement, happiness that arises like effervescent bubbles from our depth, quality relationships, having our basic needs provided, a lack of stress and fear, and a bone-deep knowledge that we are fine just as we are. These qualities constitute genuine wealth; they can’t be purchased at any price, and they will never not be here and now, because they exist within us all. They are the worth beneath our mistaken notions that more of the stuff that passes away moment-by-moment will ever be enough.

We are all geese who lay golden eggs. Only we don’t know because we get into such a rush chasing that rabbit that we never pause long enough to find our roots. When we stop, we can find this never-eroding treasure buried beneath the race to oblivion by our arrogant egos. We were, and always have been home, living in a castle of enormous wealth—it is called our mind. That is our true nature, our only true nature. Everything else is an illusion, a dance of insanity. Nothing is lacking, and the race to obtain what is already ours is sheer madness.

But then there are those who will read this and say, He just doesn’t get it. If he only knew what I have gone through, he wouldn’t be such a Pollyanna. It is true that I don’t know what you have gone through, but I do know what I’ve gone through. We all bear the rigors. We all suffer. Everyone experiences terrible tragedies. None of us can escape the consequences of karmic adversity. I’ve had my own tragedies and suffered greatly to the point of utter despair. I stood at the edge of death a number of times. First in war, and later when I saw no reason for hope, I was ready to take my own life, but the grace of God spared me. I stepped away and I found that producer, and then I discovered my own treasure within, buried down deep beneath my own corruption. So don’t delude yourself with this idea, this victim excuse that mine is terrible and others aren’t. Suffering goes with the territory of living. Nobody escapes, and everyone is already wealthy, beyond the boundaries of our rational imaginations. That is why the true Self is known as being transcendent. Rational imagination is not our friend. It is a prison of the mind. And the not-to-be-found mind moves us away from fantasy and back to reality. 

The wealthy producer in the story is behind the scenes running the show, but nobody knows he’s there except the GM. The GM is our ego— self-righteous, talented, with a big head and of very little worth without being broken. And how does an ego get broken? By trial and error. Give it enough rope and it’ll hang itself. Try to force its hand, and it’ll resist. It’s a crafty creature and up to no good, until it learns how inadequate it is by itself. We are the real power behind our own throne—the wizard of the Oz we create, and our ego has to learn the hard way that the producer and our ego are a team. Until that lesson is learned, there is only chaos.

The rest of the crew are our various functions that collaborate to produce what appears to be a seamless rendition of reality. When the film is in the can and the audience assembled, the film is projected, but the screen is not out there―it is being projected in the theater of the mind. It is such a stunning movie that it is almost like being in the movie. What we don’t realize is that we are actually in the movie that we ourselves produce. We will never be outside of the movie, since the movie is us, only we don’t call it a movie. We call it our relative and conditional world, which, we imagine, is not us. We are the movie, the crew who produced it, the audience who watches, the GM, and the producer. It is all produced within a virtual realm, which we imagine is a real world. Everything produced is a virtual reality—all conditional and based on causes and effects. Even the unconditional producer is a virtual being. The entire assemblage is an illusion—a story we tell ourselves. This is our mind at work, which can’t be found. 

As the movie (movement) unfolds, our mind comes into being. When the movie stops, our mind likewise ceases to exist. Our mind and the movies are one and the same thing. The only function of the mind is movement. When the mind moves, the world appears. When the mind stops, the world disappears. Zen masters and sages, even before The Buddha have said this is a true rendition, and now the science of neurology confirms it.

Is this just a fantasy? Perhaps an interesting story, but no more? Granted, creative liberties have been taken, but fundamentally the story is an accurate portrayal of the way it is. This is the Dharma of true life. This is what The Buddha saw when he woke up. It may seem strange, incredible, and fantastic, but it is accurate.

So how must we understand this? Awakening can be confirmed only through personal experience.  We—our only substantial and true nature—is the unchanging and already the complete producer, who is lacking nothing but can’t be seen. Nothing can be added to, nor subtracted from, a complete mind, since the mind is everything (yet nothing). To try to do either (add to or subtract from) is an exercise in utter futility. Nothing is lacking. Everything is already present. Clinging to anything adds nothing to who we truly are. Our true identity is secure, and the rush to add to something that is already complete is a fool’s journey. The vector of wholeness does not come through addition. It comes through subtraction, and that is what we must do when we meditate: allow the virtual to vanish into the void and, when it dissolves, we find we’re home, right where we’ve always been. We are Buddhas, waiting to wake up from a virtual dream.

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”
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