Big Ideas

with capital letters. That’s what my mind’s been on recently. The “what is it all about” sort of thing. Let me explain the last couple of weeks. Actually, I’ll back up to the summer. I started reading a couple of interesting books- The Book and the Tao of Pooh. I’ve probably raved to you about them both. Talking to various friends; Beej, Ram, Julie, and others that I think are interested in the same ideas. I’ve also been reading some more entertaining but still philosophical stuff like Tom Robbins and The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham. Most recently, it’s been a book called “Voluntary simplicity” from Gerrit.

The point is, I don’t know a darn thing about things in general, much less big “why are we all here” sort of things. I’m trying to list how I started asking questions. I don’t know if it’s anything about this year, this summer, maybe it was last spring, or what, but my old world view wasn’t cutting it.

It wasn’t a terrible world view: I was comfortable with myself, mostly comfortable with others, and comfortable with the path my life would be taking. It was pretty Western/masculine/worldly/individual/Yang, though. (if there’s one thing I know, it’s that there’s a grand duality in the universe, and just about everything has two sides, and the middle is usually the best way to go. That seems to be a sort of universal truth, at least on some level, and it makes a hell of a lot of sense.) It was a fine world view, but “nothing to excess”, as the ancient Greeks through Fr. Ober taught me in freshman World History in high school. And the whole thing started getting to me, the one-sidedness of my existence. Even the idea of Love as the ultimate good, which was fine for me for a bunch of years. For some reason, I generally decided, over time, there must be something more.

This all sounds like I embarked on a Grand Spiritual Adventure. I haven’t really changed my life at all. Besides enrolling in a Zen Meditation StuCo. But the point isn’t whether I say “I’m embarking on a Grand Spiritual Adventure”, because saying that I’m doing something big is just a label. A label that lets me say “Look at me, I’m improving myself! I’m attempting to make myself better than anyone else, because now I’m spiritually cool too!” Which may be what I’m doing on a subconscious level, but consciously, I’m trying to avoid that. If I start to sound pretentious about anything spiritual, don’t even listen to me, because I’m entirely missing the point.

Anyway, so what is this Eastern view? I don’t know yet. To say “I am reading about Eastern religion” is like saying “I went to a restaurant in America.” There are so many different kinds. But I think they all have a few universal truths, or maybe even one universal truth:
The way to be is to lose yourself entirely and become one with everything.
That’s the quickest way I can summarize what I think I know about it. This oneness with everything shows up a lot: as nirvana (Hindu, right? Buddhist too? Shows what I know…), the Tao, enlightenment. Even as heaven in Christianity, although the Western conception of heaven seems nothing like the Eastern. For Christians, it always comes across as this place in the sky where you go when you die, if you’ve been good. But really, it’s the same thing, just worded differently.

Okay. So there’s some background. Last last Sunday I had quite an experience, which I’ll leave appropriately vague. Hi potential employers, hi Mom and Dad! Nah, my mom and dad are probably cool. The point is not the details of the experience, because it doesn’t change you. It just stirs up emotions and thoughts, like dredging up the bottom of a pond. (thanks, Ram, for the analogy)

I had expected this to leave me on an all-time moment of clarity, where I would realize more and more that all is one and one is all. I thought I would realize how little of an individual I am, and how it’s meaningless to even refer to myself as an individual, or even as myself.

Well, one thing was right: it gave me a sort of moment of clarity. I stood on the roof of the Slanty Shanty, and I wanted to breathe in the entire world. Everything was so vivid! And here’s the thing: I felt so optimistic about my future. I saw a couple of the high points of my life laid out before me (Colorado, December 2004; NYC, August 2006; the Alps, January 2007) I went back inside and sat down, and felt so thankful to everyone and everything. Thank you, by the way; if you’re reading this, I probably know you, and I want to thank you. I had a pen and paper, and I wrote something along the lines of “if I get nothing else out of this, it’ll be sincerity.” I felt like a child again; it was euphoric. It’s like when you realize you couldn’t have made it without someone, and you just break down and cry in gratitude, but that person loves you so much, they were just happy to help. Except it was directed towards everyone.

Okay, so I also helped make a fort out of Aaron’s bed (Aaron was puzzled to see how his bed turned out), listened to electricity (it sounds like little mice!), and had a stare-down with a Kurt Cobain poster. But the point is, it was a tremendous experience.

But how so? It was tremendous in a Western sense. Wow, I felt great, and life seemed like one ever-growing pyramid of fun! But I felt individual. I felt like Mufasa AND Simba, standing there and saying to myself “Everything the light touches is our kingdom”, where “our” was a use of the royal “we”. I’m the king of the world! …thanks to all of you who helped me get here.

This was frustrating. My life doesn’t need more Western materialistic greatness. (Don’t get me wrong, it does need some. I’m not saying there’s no place for a Western point of view. But it should be half of your view, not all of it.)

The next day, I felt so lethargic, I’m lucky I didn’t turn into a big plastic bag of Frosty. Not just lethargic, though; will-less. I didn’t want to do anything or see anyone. It was a terrible feeling, and I don’t know if it was due to the previous day, the previous year, or just a random bad day. Everyone irritated me, and everything bored me. I still don’t know why it was, only that it’s been turning up a couple times in the last couple of weeks. It doesn’t make any sense; it’s not like all my friends graduated (some of them did, but most of them are still around, anyway) or my job/major seemed pointless (now I have some direction for the first time in my college career).

So there have been ups and downs. Maybe I’ll add more details later, or more thoughts on things, but to avoid having 3 straight 6-hour sleeps, (and it’s only week 3!) I’m going to bed. Good night!


Ram -

You think too much. When your thinking is guided, or when you have the self-discipline and the intuitive understanding of yourself to tell where it should go without being told, that can be great, and that can be a gateway to whatever you want. But if you just let your mind go, then you’re just reinforcing old patterns and undermining your progress with self-doubt. Trying to make any positive changes in your mind just by thinking a lot is like trying to fix a broken hammer just by hammering with it. Whatever’s wrong with the hammer is just going to get worse because you’re applying the exact same pressure in the exact same spot over and over.

What you need, I believe, is not to think more but to experience more. Have some kind of spiritual discipline in your life, like meditating, and actually do it – it won’t help unless you do it regularly, preferably daily. I know that my solution to everything is always read this book or meditate, and I do understand that just because that seems to work for me doesn’t mean it’s good for everybody. But I really feel that you would benefit from having some regular practice or space in which you’re completely free and completely yourself. Which is really what meditation is all about.

The most important thing to remember in life is that things work themselves out much more then we generally want to believe. Think of Pooh finding Rabbit’s friend the beetle. The trick is to remember that and really believe that every bit of information or unique experience that you recieve is exactly what you need at the moment you get it. Having this attitude prepares you to make the most of everything that happens to you. Don’t think of your life as a big struggle to figure out how to balance the mundane world and the divine, or how to have your Grand Spiritual Adventure. (That last is good advice for me, too.) Just assume that every experience is arriving at exactly the right time and in exactly the right way, and try to figure out how you should respond. I don’t mean be complacent or just allow life to happen to you, but have an attitude of openness and preparedness like you did on the roof. I think that if you relax and go with it, you’ll get a lot farther in the long run than if you always question yourself and struggle against your own strengths.

I always find myself getting into a kind of didactic relationship with a lot of my friends, and I’m not proud of it. I don’t want to come of as arrogant, or appear that I think I’m all-knowing. I just sometimes feel that what I say can help, so I say it. With that in mind: any time I open my mouth, remember in the back of your head that I don’t know shit. But if it helps, almost nobody else does, either. “Those who know, don’t speak,” etc. The only important thing is what feels true to you. There are no ups without downs, and nothing ends that isn’t something else beginning.

Sorry about all that.


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