Carry On

From Paulo Coelho – Warrior of the Light  (p103)

“Jesus said: “Let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay.”  When the Warrior takes on a commitment, he keeps his word. 

Those who make promises they do not keep lose their self-respect and feel ashamed of their actions.  These people spend their lives in constant flight; they expend far more energy on coming up with a series of excuses to take back what they said than the Warrior of the Light does in honoring his commitments.

Sometimes he too takes on a foolish commitment which will in some way harm him.  He does not repeat this mistake, but he nevertheless keeps his word and pays the price for his own impulsiveness.”

I said I’d do it; so now I carry on.

When there’s no physical danger, no emotional threat; and the pledge remains intact . . . this is my best choice.  How many times do we “take on a foolish commitment” – only to regret it moments, a week, a month – years later?  I grew up in a throw-away society . . . where commitments seem easy to discard.  The damage this does to our psyche may be more than we realize.  Maybe repeating mistakes is connected somehow to our honor and our commitments.

“No” – a perfectly acceptable; sometimes preferable response.

“The river adapts itself to whatever route proves possible…” ― Paulo Coelho

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Is it Reality . . . Is it Delusion – Part 3

It’s shockingly difficult to peel away from our cultural and familial upbringing.  Some trauma might cause questions and probing … but candidly, how many of us enjoy thoughtful self-reflection?  Too many people live and die in their prescribed swim lanes.

Yuval Noah Harari outlined a bright spot for me with “The Law of Nature” and Buddhism in his chapters on Religion.  Among other natural-law religions, Buddhism maintains “that the superhuman order governing the world is the product of natural laws rather than of divine wills and whims.”

“.. suffering is not caused by ill fortune, by social injustice, or by divine whims.  Rather, suffering is caused by the behavior patterns of one’s own mind.”

There is a way out of the “vicious cycles.”  When we understand “things as they are, then there is no suffering.  If you experience sadness without craving that the sadness go away, you continue to feel sadness but you do not suffer from it.”

“But how do you get the mind to accept things as they are, without craving?  To accept sadness as sadness, joy as joy, pain as pain?”  

“. . . train the mind to focus all its attention on the question, ‘What am I experiencing now?’ rather than on ‘What would I rather be experiencing?’”

Suffering is optional.

Easy to say … difficult to achieve.

We don’t just – poof – overcome the programming of a lifetime.  We live in the community of common delusion.  Your traffic jam is my traffic jam.

The world is constantly changing.  The Industrial Revolution brought questions and science, a “mentality of conquest”, capitalism – “greed is good” slogans; and some say the collapse of family and community.  Are we better off?  Are we happier?

Harari says maybe not.

“So our medieval ancestors were happy because they found meaning to life in collective delusions about the afterlife?  Yes.  As long as nobody punctured their fantasies, why shouldn’t they?  As far as we can tell, from a purely scientific viewpoint, human life has absolutely no meaning. … Hence any meaning that people ascribe to their lives is just a delusion.”

“This is quite a depressing conclusion.  Does happiness really depend on self-delusion?”

Is it all in my head?  Does it matter?

Harari brings me back to the Buddhist philosophy; “the key to happiness is to know the truth about yourself – to understand who, or what, you really are.”

And here I am again!  What is real?
Physical – objective facts … things I can see, touch, hear, smell & taste?
Or the imagined – the gods, nations, culture, economics?
Reality will change when I tell a different story.

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“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” ― Albert Einstein

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes.  Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow.  Let reality be reality.  Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ― Lao Tzu

fin.

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Is it Reality . . . Is it Delusion – Part 2

The Philosopher Thomas Hobbes said “life outside society would be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’.”


Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapien persuades me that living outside society may not be possible – even while society’s “imagined order is always in danger of collapse, because it depends upon myths, and myths vanish once people stop believing in them.”

Harari asks, “How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order? Christianity, democracy or capitalism?”  First – we get people to believe in this “imagined order” by never admitting “that the order is imagined.”

“You also educate people thoroughly.  From the moment they are born you constantly remind them of the principles of the imagined order which are incorporated into anything and everything.”

We build our prison walls; our imagined order:

  • “..  embedded in the material world” – as with today’s individualism; our homes, personal space and privacy.
  • “.. it shapes our desires” – the “romantic, nationalist, capitalist and humanist myths” whisking us away on holiday, following our hearts, listening to the quiet voice within.
  • “.. is inter-subjective” “I am just one person” … I must need a job, money, car, an education – because we agreed this is what is.  Right?

“There is no way out of an imagined order.  When we break down our prison walls and run toward freedom, we are in fact running into a more spacious exercise yard of a bigger prison.”

It’s a catch-22!  We want science, logic and laws.  We want faith, grace and freedom.  We want to be individuals, but are bound together in the tapestry of our times.

What’s a Homo Sapien to do?
What does THIS Homo Sapien do?

Really!  What choices do I have?  Do I have a choice?

I’m part of the collective whole – no way around that. Propelled by primary “universal orders” like money, empire and religion; belief drilled into my brain and psyche.  Harari calls these three the great unifiers of humankind:

  • Money:  a psychological construct” allowing us to cooperate with strangers. No doubt, many of my life choices are based on economics.
  • Empire:  they came, they conquered … and “the process of assimilation was often painful and traumatic.”  No kidding!  National or Global – not likely to go away.
  • Religion:  our “system of human norms and values” – “founded on a belief in a superhuman order.”  Then there’s the history of universal and missionary monotheism which led to repeated and violent extermination of “all competition.”  Oy vey.

History is harsh.  No wonder denial is a thing.

… to be continued (again!)

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Is it Reality . . . Is it Delusion – Part 1

What is real?

Physical – objective facts … things I can see, touch, hear, smell & taste?

Or the imagined – the gods, nations, culture, economics?

Reality will change if I tell a different story.

When I started reading Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens in March I was oddly relieved.  The stories . . . our collective histories, today’s worldview – my personal narrative; all fantasy.  We buy into the illusion that it’s real.

“There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws, and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings.”

Reading this “brief history of mankind” offered a different perspective – the agricultural revolution … the industrial revolution … technology, didn’t necessarily make life better.  Harari says the agricultural revolution is “History’s Biggest Fraud” – that it only kept “more people alive under worse conditions” – “the pursuit of an easier life resulted in much hardship.”

“One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations.”

The “Agricultural Revolution” – a minuscule moment in time compared to our ancestor’s hunting and gathering days . . . aren’t the “great leap forward for humanity” we believe them to be.  That’s a myth, a great deception; one I musta bought or I wouldn’t be stressing out over today’s current flash in the narrative timeline.

Yes, oddly relieved.

Relieved to be advised that Homo Sapiens have been fucking up the planet from the get go.  No reason to get all twisted up about today’s shit show in my back yard.  Amazing how this un-funked me.  Infinity … Eternity … and Me. When I think about now – this time in the history of everything, my angst isn’t going to make a bit of difference.

Relieved . . . for a minute.  Then came a mini existential crisis.

Is this world – My Life, pre-determined?  Do I have a destiny?  Are some things meant to be?

Am I doomed – or graced – to be born of this time … flounder about in my worldview stew … and then die?

What about free will?

What is my moral responsibility as a player during this sliver of time in the universe?

Can my puny actions make a difference?

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… to be continued

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Choices – Possibilities or Regrets

Many odd and questionable adventures resulted from my vow to not be “that” old lady rocking on her porch regretting missed opportunities.

“I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations — one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it — you will regret both.” ― Søren Kierkegaard, Either/ Or: A Fragment of Life

Still, there’s an old adage that claims people regret what they didn’t do more than what they did do.  So I did – and continue to do … thankfully not in a rocking chair – but curious about how the cards are playing out with the hand I was dealt.  I find myself mostly grateful, sometimes cranky – occasionally aware that grace intervened.

We choose – or choose to ignore stuff every day.  Sometimes small seemingly inconsequential choices have deep repercussions.  Turn left, turn right.  Speak up, stay quiet.  Choose.

Tuesday I adopted a new puppy – my first little boy.  Two months ago it was just a spontaneous; okay – impulsive email about cute schnauzer pups.  Now I’m telling my friend Margaret that being home all day is helping me teach him the best places to potty – outside!  She responds: “a stay-at-home mom” – Hilarious; me, who never had or raised a kid.  Was that all choice?  Nah, just circumstance associated with lots of choices.  Now my maternal instincts, what there are of them, are channeled to furry critters.

The rear view mirror of life gives me perspective on my deck of cards.  Whichever way I go – or don’t go – the other choice disappears.  Yearning for what isn’t may not be surprising – might even be normal, but doesn’t seem productive.  Seeing the good my choices create feels better.  This week – it’s Riley.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell

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