Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Paradox of Non-Choice

Some months ago I wrote a post called, “The high price of choice: winning battles, losing wars.” In that post I spoke about making choices based on perceptual differences. This post is an extension of that one, which I’ll call The Paradox of Non-Choice.

For nearly forty years I’ve tried, and failed, to articulate an experience that transformed my life. The reason for my failure concerns words, which by definition are reflections of matters that can only be expressed in reference to something else. The other thorny dilemma that has contributed to my failure is there are some things that can never be adequately explained, and this was one of those. But this morning I awoke with a sort of pictorial vision that perhaps gives me a way of describing that indescribable experience. I can, however, describe the picture which you can imagine in your minds-eye, and if you can assimilate the essence of the picture, there’ll be a reasonably good chance of grasping my experience beyond words I’ve struggled to describe for these many years. And this in turn can give you hope of realizing the goal of peace and harmony—unity with all things.

Picture in your minds-eye a three dimensional ball with an empty core. To help you see that, imagine “Wilson” the soccer ball that became the sole partner of Tom Hanks in his movie Cast Away. For those who didn’t see the movie, Hanks was a FedEx employee stranded on an uninhabited island after his plane crashed in the South Pacific. Everything was lost except a soccer ball made by the Wilson sporting goods company. To keep from going insane Hanks developed a “relationship” with Wilson and that kept him from losing all hope.

Like Hanks, anyone can perceive the outside a soccer ball but no one can perceive the inside (except through imagination, and imagination became the friend of Hanks). In order to perceive anything (and understand what is perceived) requires certain conditions, one of which is contrast. For example if everything is the color white and the surface of the ball is white, the ball couldn’t be seen. The outside of that ball then is properly called conditional—one thing contrasted with (or conditioned upon) another different thing. That being the case we could label the outside “relative,” or “conditional.”

Now we come to the inside of the ball which is empty or hollow. It’s invisible for two reasons: first because it is hidden by the outside surface, and secondly because its empty, meaning nothing is there (except air, which can’t be seen). We could properly label the inside unconditional since emptiness, by definition is a vacuum lacking limitations or definition (except when seemingly confined, as in the case of the outer surface of a soccer ball). If we were to remove the outer surface, what was inside (nothing) would be the same as if there were no surface. It wouldn’t go anywhere since it was nowhere (yet everywhere) to begin with.

Now we can describe the ball entirely: the outer surface is relatively conditional and perceptible, while the inside is unconditional and imperceptible. Thus the ball is constructed within the framework of three dimensions: the outside with two dimensions and the inside with another. And (importantly) the outside is completely opposite from the inside (and in that sense also relative): neither the outside of a ball nor the inside could exist without the other. But when the inside core is isolated it is wholly unconditional. However, it can only be that way when confined within the outside conditional surface of the ball.

Now take the next step and relabel the ball as a living organism (one of which is a human) and this living organism is constituted in exactly the same way as the ball with only one addition: consciousness. Consciousness is a two way street: there is an unconditional source that functions through perceptual mechanisms which are outwardly oriented to perceive relative things that are conditional. The one dimension that consciousness can’t perceive is consciousness itself since it is an unconditional, non-relative non-thing (no-thing/empty). And furthermore, anything unconditional is everywhere at once—outside as well as inside and completely lacking detection.

Since the function of consciousness is perception, it remains the source, wholly complete, and undetectable (empty). As such we remain unaware of its presence. We are aware of only things that are detectible and composed of two dimensions of differing natures. And unfortunately we differentiate (or discriminate) these things into judgements of good/bad, right/wrong, black/white, up/down and on and on.

The problem here is that we conclude that everything is either this or that and go unaware that at the core everything is united into an unconditional, indefinable non-entity. Enlightenment is the pure sense is self-awakening (the experience of) penetrating through the outer surface of differentiated things and into the core where we experience/realize that everything is actually constituted as nothing (meaning emptiness). We then “know” our true, fundamental nature and at the same moment of this dawning, we realize we are neither good nor bad, white nor black, or any other this vs. that. And with this dawning we come to realize that everyone is exactly the same at that fundamental level—all united and unconditionally the same. 

So the next time you’re tempted to judge yourself, or another, just remember Wilson the soccer ball and know that your true self is just as empty (and thus the same as everything else).
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