The Examined Life

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Sunday, May 29, 2005

When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It

This is a quotation from a particularly interesting man, Yogi Berra. Yes, the baseball player. I find, what makes him so interesting and intriguing is that he's not trying to say anything profound or amusing but is simply being himself. He puts words together in ways that are meaningful for him but others often find his expressions quirky and odd. Among his more famous quotations we find "It Ain't Over Till It's Over", which almost everyone has heard. I know Yogie did not intend there to be hidden meetings in what he said but I find it fascinating to think about the different ways of interpreting his remarks. In a childlike naivete he has expressed that he doesn't understand why people find his expressions so unusual, "After all, I know what I meant". There is something exquisitely innocent about the way Yogie expresses what's going on in his mind. Of course, I never knew the man personally but his expressions suggest to me that he is a person who cares about people and is always delighted to share what's on his mind even though people often think he is just being zany.

The quotation above got me thinking that, in life, we all come to a lot of forks in the road. In my life I have decided to take Yogie's advice (although he didn't mean it this way). So when I come to a fork in the road, I take it. I have realized that this is the most sensible thing to do. The other alternative is to agonize over which is the "right" fork to take, to hesitate fearing the consequences of taking the "wrong" Fork. In so many cases, where the direction is not obvious, it is best just to realize that it is better to make a comitted choice rather than to get caught in the paralysis of indecision.

Although I may never eliminate entirely from my life the compulsion to be "right" and avoid making "wrong" decisions, remembering Yogie's expression helps may remember that action is usually preferable over inaction when I feel the anxiety and helplessness of indecision.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Illusion of Reality - We Are More Than This

The physicists and the mystics are more in agreement now that ever before that reality is an illusion, a construct that is more energy than substance, more malleable than solid. Yet we feel we are trapped in this maya even though psychedelic drugs and meditation give us brief glimpses and inklings that we are more than this. But in our heart of hearts we know we are more than this.

Understanding why we find ourselves tenaciously treating an illusion as real is indeed an interesting question but it is only part of the puzzle. An even more important question for me has been “how can I feel fulfilled in my life regardless of my circumstances?” Understanding that what we call reality is a construct that I am in part responsible for creating, I believe, provides access to this feeling of fulfillment. I am in hopes that my words my help shed some light on this concept.

Other questions we need to address are "how did this situation (the illusion) come about?" and as much of a cliché as it is, "What is the meaning (purpose) of life?"

When I asked this question "what is the purpose of life?", it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there is some grand plan or ultimate purpose for the existence of the universe. I believe however, as the existentialists have suggested, there is no grand purpose for life but that we give our own individual lives purpose by choosing to live them. In fact we have an opportunity every moment to declare in our lives to be what we choose to be and we can do this for absolutely no reason other than the fact that we have the power to create.

Held in this microcosm of creativity (each individual), in the absence of the need for any purpose or reason and in the presence of the ability to create from "what is" is manifested the same energy that we find in the macrocosm (all that is), the creation of which we attribute to God.

Alan Watts has given us a parable "Hide and Seek" in "the book..." which describes how the universe was created through will (The Word) and out of what is, the "one" consciousness that is all there is. What I understand from this is that we are this consciousness and that we have the power to create or recreate in every moment. And indeed this is what we do, consciously or unconsciously through our words and thoughts.

All that we experience is literally created in each moment by what we believe. In other words, reality is created in each moment by the "collective consciousness". Our belief makes everything (the illusion) reality. This includes all the mater in the universe and the laws we believe govern its behavior. This is the underlying message in the movie "What the bleep...".

Now tying this all together, it seems to me that most people believe that the universe is a threatening place that we are trapped in and that by struggle and in fear we stave off death and secure a tenuous refuge for ourselves until we die. In a world of conflict it is easy to believe we are powerless and to buy into this view of life, as depressing as it is, because it is predominately what is being created at every moment by the "collective consciousness" I spoke of.

My point here is that this so called reality is only the way it is because we believe it is and we are without power to change it. When we believe this, this is indeed what we get, both in our own lives and our own experience and collectively. Frank Zappa expressed this in one of his songs "do you love it, do you hate it, there it is the way you made it". Our experience that we have been cast out of the Garden of Eden is only a reality because we believe that this is what is the case.

I am convinced that the only real human failing is the failure to understand that we are the creators of the universe in which we live and that the purpose of life is not death or struggling or hopelessness. I also acknowledge that human consciousness is not the only consciousness or creative force at work in the universe. I believe that everything has a consciousness of sorts. For instance rocks have a kind of rock consciousness. The consensus of the collective consciousness is that rocks are hard and that is indeed how they occur to us. But we also believe that steel does not float yet through human creativity we have fashioned ships out of it! In this different paradigm that I am suggesting the universe is not what it is but what we make it. We are not victims but players.

To this end I have personally taken on revising my belief system to utilize my ability to create a universe that supports life, love and beauty. I do this not because it is right or wrong but simply for the reason that I have the ability and choose to create this even in the face of everything that I see that is telling me otherwise.

This is my quest for personal happiness in my life. Sharing with others what I have found is my contribution to changing the collective consciousness that creates this universe in every moment. This is my personal expression of life, love and beauty.

To complete, I believe the purpose of life is the expression of life itself, love in all forms and the appreciation of the beauty of all that is.

I have of course only scratched the surface in this brief dissertation about the awesome power of using personal consciousness to create the universe. What is that play here is universal and I believe that hidden within each of us is the knowledge that we have the power to create and the responsibility for what we have created. I believe the evidence for what I have discussed abounds. It is not only the focus of much of the Eastern philosophy which Alan Watts studied but also the central theme of the recent movie I referenced "what the bleep...".

One of the most coherent and concise treatments of this topic is found in the works of the mystic and Christian scientist Thomas Troward who gave a series of lectures in the early 1900s (which became books) the most famous of which is the Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science.

Thomas Troward asserts that this power to create is universal and there is plenty of evidence that it can work not only to create life, love and beauty but to create the antithesis of these. This is indeed a reasonable explanation for all the misery and suffering that exists around us. A close look at my own personal life has shown me that misuse of my personal power has caused me much anguish. I have now adopted the practice of asking myself if what I am about to do is an expression of life, love or beauty. If I cannot determine unequivocally that this is the case, this is my signal to rethink what I am about to do.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Taoism, Experiencing Life

I recently listened to an old audio file of Alan Watts speaking about Taoism. He suggested that in order to begin to get a feel of Taoism that we imagine ourselves as just born. All of our senses are working but we have no way of understanding what we experience, we have no words for the sensations and no way of relating them. Everything is just experience. We don't even know where the experience is located. This certainly eliminates the possibility of there being a "plot".

The analogy he gave provided me a powerful insight into how much time and energy I put into understanding, and talking about things rather than just experiencing them. Today I heard a bird singing. The experience was immediately interrupted with my mind saying "there is a bird singing, what kind of bird is it?", but then the experience of the bird singing was gone!

The plot is, if you will, "There is a bird in a tree above singing". In Taoism I simply have an experience. I hear it, as part of me, I am the sound, I am the bird, I am the tree.

When I first started thinking about what goes on with me regarding experience in contrast to talking and thinking about experience, I found my self feeling guilty. I felt I should be able to be with the experience instead allowing the experience to quickly be replaced with mind chatter. Then it came clear to me that this is a life long task and that to simply become aware that there is an experience separate from my thoughts is a significant step.

We all know what it is to be with an experience. There is a timeless effortlessness about it. Words are inadequate, even unnecessary to describe it. We are swept along by it, the way an ocean current moves us along the shore without us noticing.

Suddenly I hear my mother calling me in, there is a coolness in the air. It's getting hard to see the baseball now, I strain to read my watch, it's almost 9. My hands are dirty and I am blissfully tired. Where did the hours go, what took place? It doesn't matter. I am filled with a feeling of being whole and complete.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I Never Met A Man I Didn't Like

Will Rogers is famous for his remark "I never met a man I didn't like."

How is this possible? Aren't there some people that are more likable than others? Actually the statements says more about Will Rogers than it does about people. I believe what he is saying is that it's just a waste of time and energy concerning ourselves with who is worth liking and who's not. His approach seems to be to always see the best in people regardless of who they are or what they do. I don't think this means to be naive about people. What I think it means is to always draw the best out of them. We'll always find that we seem to work better with some people than with others but that doesn't have anything to do with liking them or not.

So if we stop spending so much time thinking about who we should like or dislike, what are we left with? We are left with being, just being with others who are willing and excited to be with us.
What a blessing to live your life without sorting people into good and bad piles, without trying to figure out who is safe, who is a threat who is worth spending time with and who is not. What is life like when you stop sorting people into acceptable and unacceptable categories. Life is an adventure, you feel excited you feel the love and the connectedness.

Will Rogers was famous for his humanness. He made a difference in the lives of others by meeting every soul and accepting them as the gift they are. Most of us could learn a lot from Will Rogers about being with people.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I Am Not My Body

A lot of confusing questions come up if you believe that you are your body or your mind. If you know that you are more than your body and your mind and that you will exist after those are gone then you know you are also spirit.

If you want to achieve this so called "higher consciousness” work on the idea that you are spirit (energy). You might want to rent the movie "What the Bleep..." if you haven't seen it. It will answer many of your questions. You may come to understand that we have no real certainty of what we are but I know I am not just my body. My body is just where I am focusing my spirit right now.

What we really are is energy; we are God talking to himself. Everything else is just a game we (God) invented to enjoy ourselves. If I am lucky I will have the joy of sharing a new idea with you. If I am lucky you will share a new idea or way of looking at things with me. And if we are both very lucky we will discover together something that neither of us has ever thought of or experienced before. That is the game I invented for myself. I don't meditate or take drugs. This is one way I expand my consciousness. I am an expression of God as are you. The only real relevant question is “are we willing to play in each other’s games?”

The movie "What the bleep" will show you that the experience of life is not really this or that but that it is all made up. If we create this then our experience of life is this. If we create that then that is what our experience of life is. For example if we believe (whether we admit it or not) that, for instance, "Money makes the world go 'round" then that is what we create. Money will make our world go 'round. If we believe "All we need is love" then love will be all we will need. That is how the universe was created in the first place, through thought and the word. That is still how it is created.

One of the traps that is so easy to fall into is the belief that life is something that can be figured out, or that life just is a certain way or is something that happens to you. If you believe that this is so, then this is exactly what you get, but there is no power in this way of thinking. The power lies in knowing that you get to create/re-create your life every moment with your thoughts and words.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Hope You Find It

In the 1980's a popular singer from England named Howard Jones released a song entitled Hide and Seek. The song tells a story which is a kind of creation myth. I listened intently to the song as it revealed to me what I know to be the true nature of God. When I heard the words of the chorus I felt a lump from in my throat and I began to weep.

I often listen to the song and it never fails to move me to tears. However, throughout the ensuing years the importance of discovering why the song had such a profound effect on me never occurred to me. Consequently, I kept this part of me a secret.

In 2001, nearly twenty years after first hearing the song I had signed up for a weekend seminar that promised to help me discover something profound about myself. On Sunday, the third day of the seminar, in the evening, the course leader opened a large book and read a story that I immediately recognized as the creation myth Howard Jones had put to music.

According to the story (creation myth), God fills the universe step-by-step by successively adding increasingly complex organisms right up to the creation of man. However, after each step God becomes dissatisfied and bored with what he/she has created because even man, having been created out of the mind of God, is still controlled by God like a puppet or doll would be controlled by a child by being moved about and given words and thoughts. God is dissatisfied and bored because he/she knows that every move and every thought and every word are actually his own. At this point, according to the myth, God makes a momentous decision. Being God and therefore capable of anything, God creates a game and in that game he will pretend that every thought and word and deed in the universe did not originate with himself and as part of the game God will forget that he is just pretending. The result is that even though God is everywhere in the universe and in everything, this knowledge is even hidden from God. God has thus endowed man with free will and with that free will comes the same power to create as God himself possesses. But because God has chosen to forget that he has hidden himself in each of us in this way (pretending that we are separate) what we create as individuals is a complete surprise to God, thus the title of the Howard Jones song “Hide and Seek”.

Now, I wanted to know what the connection between the Howard Jones song was and the seminar I had taken twenty years later. To answer this question I asked a computer group set up to talk about Howard Jones the singer-songwriter. I put out the question asking if anyone could tell me what had inspired the song Hide and Seek. A man from England who had attended a Howard Jones concert said that Howard had revealed that the inspiration for the song was a book by an English scholar named Alan Watts.

Hot on the trail, I soon found the book by Alan Watts which is called "The Book on the Taboo against Knowing Who You Are." Sure enough right in the first chapter of the book you can find the text of the creation myth Hide and Seek.

At this point I still didn't know how the text from Alan Watt’s book had gotten into the weekend seminar that I had taken. It wasn't until several months later, in a discussion with a friend in which I was telling him about my quest, that he told me that Alan Watts had been a professor at Berkeley in California in the 1960's and that one of his students at that time was the creator of the seminars known as “est”. The students name was Werner Erhard. This seminar went on to become the course that I had taken in 2001.

I later learned that Alan Watts was a scholar of Eastern religion and philosophy and that the origin of the creation myth is rooted in ancient wisdom crossing all cultural boundaries.

In virtually all cultures there really is a taboo against knowing who we are. This knowledge is often cleverly hidden in common religious texts. The King James Bible clearly tells us that “The kingdom of God lies within”, Luke 17: 20-21.

As Howard Jones expresses in the chorus of his song (I) “hope you find it, hope you find it in everything, hope you find me in you”, he expresses the deepest longings of my heart, for us all rediscover that we are not separate but all connected, all one, and indeed, we are all God.