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
"One of the first, knockout exercises that you can do with actors, which is used in lots of theater schools where they use masks, is putting a plain, blank, white mask on someone.The moment you take someone’s face away in that way, it’s the most electrifying impression: suddenly to find oneself knowing that that thing one lives with, and which knows is transmitting something all the time, is no longer there."
~ Peter Brook
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.”
"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."
Jack Kornfield's response to the question, "What in Buddhism have you changed your mind about, and why?" Tricycle Magazine, Summer 2008:
I have changed my mind about a hundred things. Effort in meditation is one example. I used to think that to become free you had to practice like a samurai warrior, but now I understand that you have to practice like a devoted mother of a newborn child. It takes the same energy but has a completely different quality. It's compassion and presence rather than having to defeat the enemy in battle.
Here’s another thing: I used to think that sitting in meditation was enough, that it would really change everything in your life in a whole and complete way. For a few people, it might work out that way, but in general, it ain’t so. For most of us, meditation is one part of a whole mandala of awakening, which includes attention to your body, attention to your relationships, attention to right speech and right livelihood.
I used to think that deeper, better meditation and practice was happening in the centers in Asia than what we could teach here in America, and that for the real thing you had to go to Thailand or Burma or India or Tibet. Many of us who studied in Asia used to think that, and maybe some still do. But now, when I go back to Asia, I realize that beautiful deep practice is happening in Burma and Thailand and India and Tibet, and the same beautiful deep practice is happening here, and I think, “Oh, that was just a delusion I had.”
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
"Filmed at the Carnegie Natural History Museum in Pittsburgh, The Wake explores issues of life and death, imprisonment and freedom, and sleep and dynamic reawakening. For this video, Dana Levy released one hundred monarch butterflies and filmed them among the museum’s specimen drawers, cases, and cabinets, creating a haunting tension between the living and the dead."
"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.
Listen, don't be afraid: remember that I ate of the forbidden fruit and yet was not struck down by the orgy of being. So, listen: that means I shall find even greater refuge than if I had not eaten of life. . . Listen, because I dived into the abyss I started to love the abyss of which I am made. Identity can be dangerous because of the intense pleasure that could become mere pleasure. But now I'm accepting loving the thing!
And it's not dangerous, I swear it's not dangerous.
Since the state of grace exists permanently: we are always saved. All the world is in a state of grace. A person is only struck down by sweetness when realizing that we are in grace, the gift is feeling that we are in grace, and few risk recognizing that within themselves. But there is no danger of perdition, I know now: the state of grace is inherent.
Listen. I was only used to transcending. Hope for me was postponement. I had never let my soul free, and had quickly organized myself as a person because it is too risky to lose the form. But now I see what was really happening to me: I had so little faith that I have invented merely the future, I believed so little in whatever exists that I was delaying the present for a promise and for a future.
But now I discover that one doesn't even need hope.