Archive for ontology

Rules For Good Communication – Both In Writing, and Verbally, and In The Arts (Along with core points on the philosophy of language, knowledge, perception, consciousness, ontology and epistemology, and the nature of being and reality – and lessons on how not to be long-winded!)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2020 by jtoddring

Here are a few thoughts on writing and verbal communication, and all forms of communication. As an author, writer, reader, lover of books, and philosopher, I believe I have some potentially helpful thoughts to share on the subject, though my own communications are not without faults themselves. I am no great orator, such as Martin Luther King Jr., nor am I Shakespeare, Dickens, or Dostoevsky. But I think there are some valuable points here, for any who may be interested. And since communication is something that we all do, and something which is essential to being human, then I would say that it is something that we should all be interested in – and something we should be interested in life-long pursuit of improving. Why stop our learning at See Spot Run – or the level of the newspapers and major media, which is scarcely higher?

Learning is for life. Communicating clearly, and effectively, and well, is important – in all areas of life; and it is something which we should all aim to continuously improve. Why not? It can only benefit us, never harm us.

Why sound like an idiot? Put another way, why should our reading, writing, communicating or thinking, our lives or our minds, be on a low level?

Moreover, if the purpose of communication is to communicate – and not to obfuscate, sow illusion, deceive, evade, create separation or division, or to increase or maintain or consolidate one’s power or ego status, which, sadly, it frequently is – then we should learn how to communicate: a) clearly; and b) effectively (which is something beyond mere clarity). This requires learning and skill development, which requires both time and also practice. We should not be afraid to admit that we are not yet omniscient, nor infallible. Hubris is not helpful; but a balance of confidence and humility are always to our advantage.

1. Rule number one of good communication is: There are no rules of good communication. Use whatever works. Sometimes holding up a flower is the best way to communicate. Sometimes a finger pointing, for example at the moon, is the best way to communicate. A genuine smile of genuine friendliness, compassion, respect, cheerfulness, reassurance, or warmth, may be the most effective form of communication possible – and generally is. Keep it simple, and do not be hide bound by rules or an excessive complexity.

Remember what my great Swiss aunt was fond of saying, “Complicated works too.”

2. Rule two: All communication based in language, concepts or words are symbolic, and hence dualistic in nature, comparing this to that; therefore, no words, language, concepts or texts are capable of conveying the nature of reality, which is non-dual. (See Shankara) The best physicists have begun to realize the sages were right: reality is non-dual – and 400 years of Cartesian dualism have been based upon nothing more than a shared delusion; a delusion now crumbling in light of recent science. We are thus confined by the very nature of language and conceptual, discursive thought, to the realm of images and appearances, not reality in itself. We are discussing shadows on the cave wall.

See Plato’s parable of the cave. Or read the first line of the Tao Te Ching: “The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao.” Read the Lankavatara Sutra: “All of the scriptures are like a finger pointing at the moon. If you mistake the finger for the moon, you will understand nothing.”

Language, words, texts, spoken and written communication, are not definitely not meaningless; nor do they capture or convey reality. They are tools of communication, and they are also tools of perception, knowledge and understanding. They are very valuable tools – but they are also profoundly limited tools. If you expect them to tell you what reality is, you are mistaken – they cannot. That, you will have to see for yourself.

And in order to see, you must first cut through all illusion. Therefore, the via negativa, as the Western mystic tradition  calls it, is the only possible avenue – if, that is, we are at all interested in reality (most people are not).

We must proceed by stripping away all illusions, until the naked truth stands self-evident. Language, words, concepts, texts, spoken and written words, can all be immeasurably helpful. But they cannot take us to the final destination.

They can bring us close enough to jump into the ocean. But we must decide to dive in. Standing on the shore is like reading the menu outside the restaurant door, and being content with that, thinking you have sated yourself fully, when in fact you have not tasted a single thing.

Use language, concepts and texts; but understand that they can never convey the fullness of experience, or even, the nature of reality itself.

3. As every good musician knows, you must first learn the rules before you can bend or break them. Rule three, therefore, is to disregard rule one (which, you will remember, said there are no rules).

We must learn to think in paradoxes. As Sun Tzu said, you should be able to use conventional means or unconventional means, and to shift between, and blend the two, as needed, as the situation calls for.

No, there are no rules. But do learn the rules; for while there are no strict or universal rules for good communication, there are certainly useful guidelines available. (You’re not going to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix or Andres Segovia if you don’t first learn a few chords, at least.)

There are times for either/or thinking, and there are times for both/and thinking. For example, “free” universal education, including unlimited higher education, along with universal public health care, and a universal basic income (as even Milton Friedman recommended, and is advocated by both the left and the right), along with a Green New Deal, which is to say, a bold infrastructure building project to transition our society to one that is not driving us over a cliff of self-destruction, and which, in the process, would create millions of jobs, and launch the economy out of the recession which it has been in since the economic crisis of began in 2007, are all affordable and achievable, separately or together, so long as we do the other things which must be done in any case, and urgently so, for reasons of social justice and the preservation of liberty and democracy, and the defeat of the neo-feudal corporatism, aka fascism, which we have now. If we tax the richest 1% and the biggest corporations, in terms of income and profits (at 90% and 40% top bracket rate, respectively, for example); and further, tax the wealth of the richest 1% and the fortune 500 corporations (at even 5% or 10%, much less what is both needed and justified, which is 90%); put a tax on currency speculation; and de-fund the military industrial complex and the global surveillance and police state apparatus; then there would be – excuse me…will be – more than enough money and real world resources available for these things, which every just society, or sane society, should consider basic necessities to its integrity as well as to its wisdom.

But while these things are both attainable and also urgently needed, for reasons of justice, democracy, freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and sheer survival, this is the case, and there are also bolder actions yet which are also urgently needed, and for the same urgent reasons: such as, serious anti-trust action to break up the big banks, along with the Big Pharma, Big Tech, Big Oil, media and military industrial corporate empires. It is not an either/or scenario. We need the bold yet moderate actions described above – universal education and health care, UBI and a Green New Deal; and we need more radical action – such as breaking up the big banks, and making all central banks publicly owned and democratically controlled. Either/or thinking only harms us, and puts us into what Blake described so vividly and so well: “the mind-forged manacles”.

This is an injection of political philosophy into the philosophy of language and communication, yes. It is also a fact: yes, there are no hard and fast rules to good communication; and yes, there are rules, in the sense of general guidelines, which are quite helpful.

It is both/and, not either/or. Secular and religious fundamentalists, and others who prefer mental straight-jackets and prisons, to living, and thinking, in the real world, are overly fond of either/or thinking. It is either this or it is that. But that thinking, while sometimes useful, is seldom appropriate, and often confusing, misleading, or simply, delusional.

So, the short answer is, yes, there are rules, or guidelines, for good communication, be it verbal, written, or otherwise (art, music, dance, theatre, film or architecture, for example). We should learn them and use them. Then be certain not to be bound and gagged by them.

4. Don’t be a name-dropper or otherwise pretentious. Communication, if it is good, is both clear and also effective (moving, emotive, or persuasive, for example). Parading one’s ego is not only childish, is also taints the communication, making it less effective. Showing one’s social connections by dropping names, or showing one’s erudition or good training or education, by dropping names, that is, by being showy about the use of names, only shows immaturity and insecurity, lack of confidence and lack of self-dignity, a readiness to debase oneself and lick boots for ego gratification, praise, fame, career advancement, power, wealth, status, or some other personal gain. By showing a lack of integrity, maturity, confidence and also wisdom, or discernment, the effectiveness of the communication is thereby, always, damaged and undermined. As the I Ching says, “He who shows himself does not shine.”

5. The corollary is this. Don’t be afraid to use big words, uncommon words, quotations, allusions, references, personal stories or histories, when using them will enhance either the clarity or the effectiveness of the communication. To argue passionately for liberty and democracy while quoting Thomas Jefferson or Martin Luther King Jr. is not only acceptable, it is a matter of simple intelligence. You use whatever powers you have in order to communicate clearly and effectively. You don’t fend off barbarians at the gate by using your letter opener alone, thinking it modest and therefore best. You draw your sword, naturally, and use the best tools you can find at hand. If that means calling forth Daniel or Dumas, Dickens or Dostoevsky, then you do it, and without hesitation, of course.

6. Be concise, but do not be hide bound by concision.

Martin Heidegger spent 700 pages to tell us that the question of the nature of being is one that is worth asking. All he accomplished by that tome of utterly long-winded but hollow verbiage was to get his name listed in the pantheon of Western philosophers – by proving that he could be as much of an addle-minded windbag as the best of them, and that he had absolutely nothing of value to say.

Western philosophy has perfected the art of needlessly obscure, needlessly long-winded, needlessly difficult and cryptic writing. That is, in general, an unconscious habit arising due to: a) the need to conform to arbitrary and foolish norms which accomplish nothing, but do a disservice to the entire field; b) the need to conform to an academic fashion which likewise does more harm to the field than it does any good; c) the need to be perceived as writing something profound, and profoundly important, simply because the writer cannot write clearly or concisely, but, again, can only utter needlessly obscure and long-winded verbiage, as if the lower the quality and greater the length of the writing is proof of the importance of the thought – which of course, is absurd; and d) to hide the fact that the writer really has little or nothing of value to say. (And yes, there is that value word. Post-modernism is a revival of long-dead ancient Sophism, and should be treated as the rotting corpse that it is – and buried.)

Someone once said of physics, and it is generally true in most fields, though admittedly more difficult in some than others, that if you cannot express your ideas in ways that an intelligent lay person can understand, then you probably don’t understand your subject.

Keep it simple. Keep it short and concise – when and where appropriate, of course! Don’t be unnecessarily obscure. Don’t make a virtue out of being arcane or esoteric. Don’t fetishize jingo. (My good Lord how I hate that pervasive trait.) And don’t be long-winded. Use enough words – not too many, nor too few. And who decides that? You do, of course. Not convention. Not literary fashion. Not social custom. You.

If Western philosophy is renown for being needlessly obscure, arcane and long-winded, then the rest of Western culture (sic) is obsessed with speaking at an eigth-grade level, to match the general “dumbing-down” of the culture and the people, and obsessed with concision: to the point of reducing all thought and communication, with few exceptions, to the status of sound bites.

The modern journalistic style of writing and speaking has been useful, but it is far too bound by rules of concision (among other systemic problems which are even more dire in implications, such as nearly universal deceit) – and worse, the rule of concision for journalism has bled into the general culture, such that everyone feels they have to be hyper-concise at all times.

Few people read books anymore, and when they do, it is generally pop psychology or cookbooks, not philosophy or political-economy, for example. (There is nothing wrong with popular psychology books, in principle, nor with cookbooks. We should simply not limit our reading to that.) Attention spans had been shrunken to seven seconds, by the 1980’s. With the invention of cell phones, “smart phones”, texting, instant messages, emails, and “social media”, attention spans are now commonly at two seconds. A single long sentence loses most audiences now. But if people cannot concentrate for longer than two seconds, then nothing of significance can be communicated, or discussed, or even thought; and hence, we are doomed.

We must recover the ability to concentrate. That means that we cannot be afraid of long, in-depth conversations – that actually focus on something, or even several things, but not a thousand things, in an endless stream of hyperactive, scattered, unfocused sound-bites, which is now the norm. We (the people generally, that is) must learn again to read an entire book, and not just consume a never-ending stream of disjointed and largely superficial sound bites.

7. While we should not be pretentious or showy, we should also not “dumb it down”. If everyone speaks, writes or otherwise communicates at the lowest common denominator, we will find that no one is left who can speak, write, communicate, or think, beyond an eight grade level. If that happens, then, again, we are doomed.

We must refuse the impulse, or the implicit order, to dumb it down at all costs and at all times. We must refuse to write solely in short sentences, and short paragraphs, using small, commonly used words.

We must be willing to use long sentences, long paragraphs, and a vocabulary that goes beyond what is contained in See Spot Run. At least, some of us must continue to speak and write for adults.

Not all of us can follow the downward arc of a “civilization” in moral, spiritual, cultural and intellectual decline and decay, writing only for the infantile and the childish, as the mass narcissistic regression continues, and continues to accelerate.

Some few, at least, must stand strong, and remind us all that higher aspirations are still possible, and are never wasted, and not ever futile.

What goes down must also, sooner or later, go up again. Every collapse is followed by a rebirth – and a renaissance; assuming of course, we don’t annihilate ourselves, by, for example, refusing to rise above a childish and infantile, narcissistic culture of common and mutual degradation.

Choose your audience. Is it academia? Is it intellectual culture more broadly? Is it an intelligent, wide audience? Or is it more narrow than that? There is room for popularization, and that is not a style of writing or communication which should be disparaged. But not everyone must write for the collective of 8-12 year olds which our techno-entranced, hyper-disconnected, reality-avoidant, functionally illiterate, largely lobotomized, modern 21st century “culture” represents.

8. Use a dictionary – and a thesaurus; at least until the need diminishes to minimal use. Keep a hard copy next to you, or keep a browser tab open, of/with the Oxford dictionary, or the Oxford Canadian dictionary, or Miriam-Webster, if you prefer – and use it constantly, for decades, until you rarely need it, and can refer to it only occasionally.

Better yet, spend an hour here and there just reading the dictionary. Start with a word you have heard or read but may know only roughly. Then carry on. The more language you have, the more words you have, the more tools you have for both communication and also for understanding. Use them, expand the collection; then use the ever-enlarging collection, so they are retained and incorporated.

Don’t make the speaker or writer feel he or she has to dumb it down for you. Instead, rise up to his or her level. We are all equal in worth; but different in skill sets and knowledge. There is nothing wrong with that. And yet, there is no excuse for being lazy, either. We can learn for life, and we should.

9. If writing is important to you, or is something that you want to do, then you have to do it. If you say it’s important but you make no time for it, then clearly it’s not important at all. How you spend your time is your decision. Stop making excuses. If writing or communicating in one form or another is important to you – be it non-fiction books, essays or articles, novels, short stories, poems, or art, music, dance, theatre, film, or some other medium of communication – then you have to make it a priority. Don’t let your death bed be a place of sad regret. If something is important to you, do it now. Life is fleeting, and the hour of death is definitely uncertain. Do it now. Never hesitate, never rush. Make your priorities your priorities – not simply a set of routines that you do because you’ve drifted into them, or out of habit. Choose your life consciously and deliberately, and live it!

10. Immerse yourself in communication – especially good communication. That means, read voraciously. It also means, read the best books first. It means, read widely. It means, reflect on what you read. It means, see art, films, theatre, architecture, live music, dance. The more you immerse yourself in reading and literature, and in other forms of communication, the more you absorb of the means and methods of communication, as well as culture and understanding. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain!

April 15, 2020

“It Depends Who You Talk To” – Relativism, Nihilism & Mass Insanity

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2020 by jtoddring

Let’s get some things out of the way, right from the start. Our society is insane. Fromm was right, and there is no doubt about it. Illusions, delusion, lies and half-truths, distortions of the truth, avoidance of reality, denial, psychological numbness, narcissism and disociation are all epidemic. That is in addition to the many serious mental and physical health problems that are created by, and pervasive in, our truly insane, delusional, wildly out of balance society.

How is our society insane or delusional? By thinking that infinite growth is possible on a finite planet, for example. By perpetuating fossil fuel addiction while knowing it is planet-destroying and suicidal, for example. By, for example, fervently believing that the production and consumption of ever greater quantities of material goods and entertainment can solve all of life’s problems, and is itself the source of human happiness – when in fact, this ideology, world-view, psychology, paradigm, or philosophy, is rapidly destroying all life on Earth, as well as being both the cause and the symptom of a pervasive epidemic of spiritual, intellectual, emotional, psychological, political and social decay. That’s just three out of countless examples.

Treating differently-abled people with callousness or disrespect is not a good thing, of course. It should be overcome. It can be overcome, just as other forms of cultural ignorance, bigotry, prejudice, oppression or discrimination can be overcome, by raising awareness. But oppression, injustice, unkindness, prejudice and discrimination cannot be overcome through censorship, or the closing down of freedom of speech.

In fact, the closing down of free speech is about the worst and most dangerous thing that anyone can do. It gives vast powers to those who are power-hungry, and who care nothing about injustice or oppression, but are quite eager to chain and exploit all people for the sake of their own power-lust, egomania and greed. It is imperative that the social justice movements clearly understand that.

Moreover, we must be able to speak about our reality, or the insanity of our society will not be overcome, but will only get worse. And in this case, what we need to directly identify, name, and speak about, is precisely the insanity of the society in which we live: its chronic lies and self-deceptions, its rationalizations, its self-delusions.

The lies, illusions and delusions which grip the majority must be recognized, spoken, and identified for what they are, or we are quite simply doomed, and will wake up in a very Orwellian world where everbody “knows” that 2+2=5, war is peace, and slavery is freedom.

Relativism and nihilism must also be identified and named. There is reality, whether we understand it or not. Therefore there is truth – truth is that which is in accord with reality: truth is reality; reality is truth. Truth is therefore not a social construct, as the addle-minded post-modernists, or neo-Sophists, contend.

Post-modernism is neo-Sophism. It falls apart upon the slightest rigorous examination. It is founded on the dogmatically asserted, anti-doctrinaire doctrine, the fervently, rabidly dogmatic ideology, which claims to be anti-dogmatic and anti-ideological, that all truth is a social construct. That means that people who believe the world is round, and people who think the world is flat, are both right. Clearly, post-modernism is an incoherent and thoroughly self-contradictory plathering of polysyllabic psychobabble, not worth the paper it is written on.

The world is round, not flat. If every media outlet and every “journalist”, pundit and “expert”, and every government “authority”, stated unanimously that the world is flat, and disagreeing with that official narrative is a thought crime, it would still not make the world flat.

It is not a matter of opinion whether the holocaust happened – it did, and was a horrific crime against humanity. It does not “depend on who you talk to” whether or not gravity works – gravity works, period, regardless of what you believe. You can believe anything you like, but if you throw yourself off a cliff, you’re going to fall, and probably die.

We may be clear, partially clear, or unclear, as to the facts. We may be extremely well informed and clear on a subject, or we may be extremely misinformed, deceived or deluded – or we may be anywhere on the spectrum between these two poles, of basic clarity versus basic delusion. But the facts remain the facts. It is not a matter of opinion.

Gravity works, the world is not flat, and facts are facts, regardless of what the frequently deceived and deluded, manipulated masses may be persuaded to believe.

Are we clear on that? I should hope so. A great deal depends on it, including the future of our world, and whether we will be slaves, or free.


April 2, 2020


The schizoid nature of the Western world: Overcoming the root paradox of Western civilization – and our own minds

Posted in analysis, anthropology, Buddha, Christianity, common ground, consciousness, cosmology, empowerment, freedom, history of Christianity, inspiration, life, peace, philosophy, Plato, political philosophy, political theory, psychology, quotes, religion, religious philosophy, resources, science, social theory, sociology, spirituality, theology, truth, world religions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2011 by jtoddring

The Western world is still trapped in a paradox and a self-contradiction of our own making: we are schizoid with regards to the body, the material world and to our physicality. On the one hand, we have, as people of the modern world, embraced our physicality, and even gone headlong into a love-affair with it, and are absorbed and engrossed in physicality, materialism, consumerism and the sensuous – fascinated and engrossed by the mere surface of things. On the other hand, we still retain the legacy of more than two thousand years of Judeo-Christian distrust, contempt, fear and loathing of the physical, and seek to avoid, escape transcend or be rid of the physical and all its perceive evil and limitations. Again, we are entangled in a paradox and a self-contradiction of our own making. To resolve the paradox and end the war that rages within us, and that we inflict outwardly upon the world in our confusion and pain, we must go to the roots, and reflect deeply.

Because we are not fully at home with either the spiritual or the physical, there is a pervasive alienation and gnawing discontent across the modern world – we are in a perpetual state of exile, always unconsciously nostalgic for paradise lost, longing or home, and always searching, restless, uneasy and hungry within. This alienation and inner hunger in turn drives the consumerism, voyeurism, escapism and quiet despair which plagues the modern world, and which in turn creates and underlies the ecological imbalance and devastation, injustice and war that is tearing the world to pieces, and threatens to extinguish all hopes for a bright future for humanity – or any future at all. To resolve this deep-seated paradox that lies at the heart of Western and Westernized civilization, and also within ourselves, is not only to heal our own fractured souls, but to begin to heal the world. But if we are to resolve the paradox, the internal contradiction, the war within, we must first understand it.

The root problem is a perceived duality or division between spirit and the flesh, or mind and matter, consciousness and the material world. Such a duality does not exist – other than in the fantasy world of our own imaginings. To redress the imbalance that we live under and within, we cannot simply go to one side, and reject one half of the infinite knot of interdependence which is the ground of being and the nature and fabric of existence. We have tried that for over two millennia, and that method has failed, and failed miserably and utterly. We cannot reject one half of our existence and ever hope for peace, for wisdom, for joy, for happiness, or even for basic sanity. Body and mind are one. Spirit and the flesh are not separate. Consciousness and the material are not two, but inseparable. When we begin to realize this, we will begin to be free, and we will begin to live in peace, and in the fullness of our being. Jesus and the Buddha, Shankara and the Kabbalah, and all of our greatest sages, prophets, mystics and visionaries have seen this, and have tried to rouse us from our disturbed and discordant slumber, but we have not yet listened, have not yet had ears to hear.

“We may therefore regard matter as being constituted by the regions of space in which the field is extremely intense… There is no place in this new kind of physics for both the field and matter, for
the field is the only reality.” – Einstein

“The perception of a division between self and other is a kind of optical delusion.” – Einstein

“Form is emptiness, emptiness is form;
form is not other than emptiness, emptiness is not other than form.”
– The Heart of the Sutra of the Perfection of Wisdom

“When the two become one, then you shall see.” – Jesus

How do we proceed to rectify the situation, to restore wholeness, peace, basic sanity and clear vision? There are many ways we can approach the question, the essential paradox of not only our civilization, but of being itself, but ultimately, we must realize this: if we wish to transcend the physical, we can only succeed by embracing it; and if we wish to fully embrace the physical, it will not be possible until we have realized its transcendent nature. When the two become one, then you shall see.

If we wish to embrace the physical and live with a richness of sensory experience – which, it would seem, a majority of people in the modern world, both East and West, North and South, now wish to do, and passionately so – then we shall have to realize the true nature of the physical: which is the true nature of being. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. If you believe that things are concrete and inherently existing “out there,” separate from yourself, then you are living in an illusion, and only pain can come from illusion. We are still dwellers of the cave of shadows, to use Plato’s analogy. It is time we ventured out into the light of day.

Unity and diversity are inseparable – they are two sides of the same coin: this is the union of opposites which is the heart of being, and the very fabric of existence. “Things” and beings are not two but one. When it is realized that the two are one, then the physical can be embraced without risk of getting lost in grasping, confusion, and the pain and suffering that inevitably arises from attachment and clinging, which in turn arises only from the illusion of duality, the illusion of separation. Until the unity of being is discovered, any attempt to embrace the physical or the sensory, material world, will be fraught with suffering, anxiety and fear. “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all these things shall be added unto you.” Find the real within the heart of being, and the world is transformed from a mixture of pleasure and pain, fear and delight, into a paradise of open-hearted, unqualified joy – the peace that surpasseth all.

Until the non-duality of being is seen and realized, it is wise to live with as little clinging and grasping attachment as possible, and instead, cultivate a simple appreciation for what is, along with an open heart and a presence of mind. These qualities or states of mind will not only allow for much more happiness and peace, but will open the door to wisdom, and to seeing. Life can be enjoyed. And it will be enjoyed much more when delight replaces craving, and appreciation replaces attachment. Until the wisdom of directly perceiving the non-dual nature of being dawns in our minds, this is the course of the wise, or simply the sane path of life: the path of peace.

Alternately, if we wish to transcend the material and the physical, and find solace or salvation, illumination, peace or joy in the transcendent realm of the spirit, then we will have to sooner or later come to terms with the body and the material, for the two are one, and to reject the one is to miss the other. Peace is not found or attained through war, and the war within is what prevents us from seeing, and therefore from experiencing and knowing and being peace.

To emphasize the spiritual over the material, or consciousness over the purely physical, is the safer and also the more direct and more intelligent path to the resolution of the paradox and the solution to life’s riddle, generally speaking, although there are always exceptions, depending on the particular psyche of the individual and what works best for him or her. But to embrace and pursue or dive deep into the life of the mind and the spiritual is not necessarily to reject, banish or despise the physical and the material. To have contempt and disdain for the material and the physical is to miss the truth entirely, and to be forever at one end of a yo-yo, trying to maintain that precarious position through sheer will, when that position is artificial and impossible to sustain, since it is based in delusion: the delusion of duality. It is like trying to find your nose by cutting off the rest of your head. It doesn’t work. (The analogy is poor, for that which we are seeking, which we do not yet understand, is that which is All in all, and not merely a part among other parts – but the violence we do to ourselves by denying one half of the inseparable unity of being is accurately, if in an understated way, represented here.)

If we want to transcend the physical and material limits of time and space, our bodies or the world, then we shall have to embrace these, and not flee them. This is the fact. You can hypothesize and theologize `till you’re blue in the face, lacerate yourself with infinite cuts from the lash and your own self-flaggellation, lay on beds of nails and eat nothing but a grain of rice for eons, but you will not find the truth, nor will you find true transcendence or the depth or heights of the spiritual with such a deluded, dualistic and one-sided view. Contrary to the maxim of Orwell’s nightmarish depiction of our possible future, war is not peace, and neither does war lead to peace. War neither leads to wisdom, and war is what we have been practicing for some millennia now.

If we wish to transcend the physical, we shall have to embrace it – not by chasing after it, nor by clinging desperately and fearfully to it, but by simply allowing it to be, with openness, compassion and a calm abiding that can begin to see through the illusion of duality, division, alienation and separation. (The exile from paradise exists only in our minds. It is our forgetfulness of what is real that is our banishment, and we did that ourselves – so long ago, that we have forgotten the act which we even then misunderstood. Genesis is what we may call, a parable. It is not to be taken literally!)

Only that which we embrace can we transcend. Yes, we may be afraid of getting lost in that which we embrace, and that is a risk, but to shun or hate that which we wish to transcend will only lead us into a defensive and paranoid mode of being, in which neither the truth nor the depth or height or breadth or reality of spirit or being can be seen or found.

That which is rejected is secretly clung to, for to push away is to grasp and attempt to throw, but the grasping remains the central and underlying fact, as all zealots and Puritans and fundamentalists should some day come to realize. To reject is to be reactionary, and when we are reactionary, we are not free or transcendent of that which we are rejecting, but tied to it through our reaction to it, like Pavlov’s dog, who is ever bound to the spell of the bell. It is a conundrum that cannot be solved by the same kind of thinking that created it, to paraphrase Einstein. This koan, like all koans or paradoxes, must be resolved by discovering a deeper, broader, higher or more subtle way of seeing, so that the paradox is no longer an entanglement, but naturally resolves itself. When the bubble of our illusions burst, we may cry, or we may feel afraid, but if they burst at a deep enough level, and we see they were merely illusions, then laughter and joy will arise, and there will be a great and indescribable relief. At the very least, bursting the bubble of our illusions, however we may respond to it, removes more layers of fog from our minds, and opens the doors of our minds to a deeper and richer experience of reality and of life. The piercing of the clouds of illusion is the entirety of the path. Let us not be addicted to our illusions, but be glad to be rid of them.

To transcend the physical we must embrace the physical: and we do so, not by clinging to things, but by a simple openness of heart and an appreciation and compassion for what is. In that open space – which we do not create, but merely acknowledge, and allow to be – there is the ground of being, and there is the ground of our awakening. There, and there alone, will we find the path to peace, to transcendent joy, and to the ultimate truth. There is no path, in actuality, but only an opening to what is. In that opening, the truth is seen. And when it is seen, it is realized that it has ever been, that it has always been present, and that we could not have been separate from it for a moment, but only forgetful of it.

The truth is here. Open the heart and find it. Set yourself free. The truth is the key. And you hold that key, for you hold the key to your heart, and none other.


If we wish for happiness, to be of benefit or help to others, or to know the truth – that is, if we wish for richness of life, quality of life, fullness of life, a meaningful life, joy or peace; or if we want to be truly effective in helping others, and bringing them peace and happiness and freedom from suffering; or if we simply wish to know and understand the true nature of life, the world or our own being – then we must come to understand that these four elements are the keys: compassion, feeling, reflection and openness. With these four, all doors open, sooner or later – that is, all doors that are worthwhile to open – and not only are joy and peace found, but also the empowerment to be of greater help to others, and the wisdom of knowing the true nature of things. In this short meditation I have emphasized openness, but all four elements are needed to bring us to the capacity to realize and achieve these goals.

End the war now. Open the heart to what is and to all beings, and realize who you are.

Emptiness is the ultimate key. Emptiness is the doorway to fullness. It is only by being empty that we can become truly filled. Voidness is truth: and voidness is the infinite; and the infinite is the very ground of being itself – the nature of who you are, and the nature of all things. Form and emptiness are one. Neither can be reduced to the other, as the materialists and the world-rejecting spiritualists have presumed. Clinging to worldly things, or rejecting and hating worldly things, clinging to the transcendent or clinging to the material and the physical: these are two sides of the same coin, and they both represent the illusion of duality, and reaffirm the illusion of duality. Simply be, open the heart, and see what is. Let compassion and joy move you, and be not afraid. There is nothing real that can be threatened, and there is nothing unreal that exists. Open the heart, embrace life, and see.

The truth is not only close at hand, not only within you and all around you: it is all that exists.

We have been sleep-walking for some time. It is time to awake.

September 13, 2011

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