Birds lack the words to get tangled up in the whys.
"Isn't it funny how no baby is born racist, yet every baby cries when they hear the cries of another. No matter the gender, culture, or color — proving that, deep down, we were meant to connect and care for each other."
~ Prince Ea
"I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality."
~ Ursula Le Guin
Transcendence isn't an escape plan, but an engagement strategy: liberation through intimacy. Transcending the self and the world begins with deeply accepting the self and the world. It grows naturally out of countless direct experiences of life as it is being lived and an intimate familiarity with how its composition constantly fluctuates.
“What both science and at least some philosophical and even religious traditions tell us is that the world is impermanent. Nothing in it stays the same. We don't stay the same. Our bodies don't stay the same. The people that we love and the things that we love don't stay the same. That's just the truth of the matter, that there's this constant impermanence, this constant flux. And some philosophers have argued over the years that we should just embrace that. We would be freer if we didn't try to hold that flux for a moment.”
"Due to its nature as a construction, rather than as a metaphysical entity, the sense of being an ego can be radically deconstructed. Accomplishing this deconstruction requires noticing and tracking the sensory phenomena that together make up the construction of the self, and then patiently untangling them from the whole. One by one, as the threads of the ego experience are pulled free, perception shifts to encompass all of creation."
"Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone. The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful, and decide what you want and need and must do. It's a tough, unimaginably lonely and complicated way to be in the world. But that's the deal: you have to live; you can't live by slogans, dead ideas, clichés, or national flags. Finding an identity is easy. It's the easy way out."
Will you provide a home for the unwanted? Will you offer refuge for the intensity that is surging through you? Will you grant asylum to your own confusion? Will your give safe harbor to your grief, your sadness, and your despair? Will you risk everything to know how whole you really are?
As a little one, it was intelligent to split off from overwhelming emotional experience; it was an act of kindness and creativity to disembody in order to protect your developing nervous system. It is all so fragile, really. You opened your world to those around you, to get what you needed; you were wired for love. It was too much to hold it all, though, to let in the disappointment and the abandonment, and the possibility that you were not lovable exactly as you were. This you could not let in. Your little heart could not absorb the implications.
But these disowned parts of you — these fragments of fear, pieces of sadness, and particles of shame; even the shards of joy, great excitement, and other undigested “positive” experiences – are calling for you. They are knocking at the door of your body and your heart, seeking a sanctuary where they can finally be touched and metabolized. What you are is love itself, a luminous space of pure awareness, with a capacity to hold and transform whatever comes into your experience. You are a vast field of intelligence; your body is made of the stars.
Friends, will you continue to turn from these orphaned ones within? Or will you allow them to finally come inside? Will you receive the transmission that they have come to bestow? Yes, it may appear that they have arrived as agents of darkness and despair, but things are rarely as they seem. These ones have come as light in disguise to unlock a secret inside you.
My father, who lived to 94, often said that the 80s had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life. He felt, as I begin to feel, not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’, too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities, too. One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty. At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.
I am looking forward to being 80.
See also: "William Maxwell, the 'Wisest, Kindest' Writer," Fresh Air, Jan. 25, 2008
"The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing comes in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don't make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I'm going to be pissed and miserable every time I have to food-shop, because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me, about my hungriness and my fatigue and my desire to just get home, and it's going to seem, for all the world, like everybody else is just in my way, and who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem here in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line, and look at how deeply unfair this is: I've worked really hard all day and I'm starved and tired and I can't even get home to eat and unwind because of all these stupid goddamn people...
If I choose to think this way, fine, lots of us do - except that thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic it doesn't have to be a choice. Thinking this way is my natural default setting. It's the automatic, unconscious way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I'm operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the centre of the world and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world's priorities. The thing is that there are obviously different ways to think about these kinds of situations...
...if you've really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars - compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things. Not that that mystical stuff's necessarily true: the only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship.
...there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the "rat race" - the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing."
"Artist Felipe Luchi has created a unique advertising campaign for Go Outside Magazine that reimagines familiar gadgets like the iPhone, a mouse, and an alarm clock as jailhouses. Each image depicts an individual escaping from these prisons, and you can see the more detailed, full resolution images at the artist’s website."
~ Kimberly Streams, from "Ad Campaign Illustrates That We Are Prisoners Of Our Own Devices," Laughing Squid, April 24, 2013
Freedom means the ability to have a complete experience when it's appropriate to.
Human beings are in some ways intended to be amphibians. We are intended by nature to be able to live in two worlds, to go back and forth between those worlds.
A frog is very happy because he is a creature of two worlds. When it's appropriate to be on dry land, it's completely comfortable on dry land. When it's appropriate to be in the water, it's completely comfortable in the water. It can go back and forth any time it wants, as frequently as it wants. And if it gets tired of the water, it can go to dry land. If it gets tired of dry land, it can go to water. There's no impedence in its freedom to traverse back and forth between two realms.
We human beings were also meant to be that way. To be able to go under the water of oneness, into the world of fluidity and connectivity. And then to come out into the solidity and aridity of dry land, for certain kinds of functions.
But the problem is, we forgot how to get back into the water and now we're stuck in the solid, arid, terrestrial zone. We have no way to refresh ourselves. We have no other perspective on things. And we can't really even appreciate the solidity and the aridity of the land because we have nothing to contrast it to.
A liberated person is like the frog—they are able to appreciate the congealed world of separateness and individual self in an entirely different way because they have the option of going into the fluid, connected world of complete experience any time they want.
"The ego wishes comfort, security, satiety; the soul demands meaning, struggle, becoming. The contention of these two voices sometimes tears us apart. Ordinary ego consciousness is crucified by these polarities. Again, the paradox emerges that in our suffering, in our symptoms, are profound clues as to the meaning of the struggle, yet the path of healing is very difficult for the apprehensive ego to accept, for the ego will be asked to be open to something larger than itself."
~ James Hollis, from Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up
100 Acres, June 16, 2012
Excerpt from The Tools: Transform Your Problems into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels:
Everyone one of us has a fantasy of a "magical something"—a relationship, job, achievement, or possession—that will remove us from the treadmill that is real life...Phil [Stutz] calls this fantasy of living an effort-free, undemanding life "exoneration." Most people think of exoneration in terms of being cleared of a crime, but it has another meaning: to be excused from a task or obligation. Here, it refers to the ultimate obligation—to make an effort for the rest of your life.
Deep down, we all wish for a magical something that will exonerate us. It could be money, an award, a high-achieving child, looking cool in front of your friends, etc. Take a moment to identify what it is for you.
It doesn't matter what it is, it could be the smallest thing; just be honest with yourself. Then, try the following exercise:
Let yourself fantasize that you get the "magical something" and it does take the struggle out of your life. Let yourself feel that for a moment. Now, crush that fantasy: imagine it can never become reality. How does it feel knowing you can never escape life's endless struggles?
...Exoneration is impossible—for an individual or for a society. When, inevitably, this false hope for "easy street" is shattered, we're left demoralized. This is an inescapable law: exoneration always ends in demoralization.
There's a path that can lead us out of this mess. But we have an enemy that's dead set against us taking it. It attacks us every waking moment: when we turn on the TV, go on the Internet, or read a magazine; it gets to us even while we're driving, and especially when we enter the dark, inner sanctum of its power, the shopping mall.
The enemy is called "consumerism." It speaks to us through every advertisement, endorsement, logo, roadside billboard, etc. Its underlying message is always the same: there's something out there you must have. Helpless to resist, we feel compelled to acquire thing after thing. Yet we don't enjoy each new item for long; once we possess it, we shift our focus to the next thing.
Inevitably, consumerism insinuates itself into all of our activities, not just shopping. We consume life experiences the same way we consume iPods, jeans, and European cars. A given song, idea, or friend is new and different until it's not. Then we discard it and go on to the next thing. Consumerism has become our model for living. This is the tail wagging the dog...
This "treasure hunt" is a quest for the impossible, but rather than admitting that, we relentlessly search for the next magical something.
This misdirected search for magic surrounds you every day. Consumers might deny this, but it shows in their behavior. They pursue something—a new spouse, a new wardrobe, a new hobby—with tremendous expectation. The expectation is never met, and that just makes them search even harder...
But you're not really free until all hope for magic is crushed.
- Feeling Slightly Out of It Most of the Time
- "Phil Stutz and Barry Michels Teach the Tools,"The Leonard Lopate Show, June 4, 2012
- "The Tools Authors Barry Michels, Phil Stutz Tuning Up Hollywood Creativity," The Toronto Star, June 16, 2012