16 May 2011

The Sparrow

I was sitting outside today near a water fountain. There was a sparrow on the edge of the fountain looking at it. For a moment I thought I should get up and run the fountain to give the sparrow some water. I realized that doing so would scare the sparrow away, but I thought it might come back. From where I was I was sitting I could not see into the basin of the fountain. While I was considering this the sparrow splashed in the water that was already there, as sparrows will do.

I think it is more or less all like this. The water is already there and we cannot see it, due to our active point of view, which we treat as a passive and pre-given condition. It is a kind of strategic and 'functional' blindness. We take well intentioned, even necessary seeming action based on our current inability to see the water and create all the consequences of such action. We then have to deal with all those consequences and come to treat them as if they were also pre-given.

We seek to unify what is already whole. Doing so requires that we first actively fragment that whole, or relate to it as if it were fragmented and as if we have nothing to do with that. This becomes more and more layered and self reinforcing. The resulting actions and systems of apparent fragmentation and separation to interpret what is already interconnected and whole result in one aspect of what we call 'evil.' We might feel that such 'evil' is outside of us, or inside of us, but it is a product of that fragmentation and separation in either case. We relate to ourselves in a similar fashion, as if we were not whole and as if something needed to be done about that. We might attribute that 'evil' to some external source even as we fragment ourselves doing so.

We then have to create more and more systems to control and deal with the consequences of our self created state of fragmentation. Our attention is consumed by an infinitely increasing degree of apparent fragmentation, even as we look for some particulate, irreducible whole. Our means of 'knowing' are not capable of sensing the prior state of unity and interconnectedness, of which we ourselves are a manifestation. Our epistemology is a product of the erroneous assumption of a pre-fragmented, separative reality. The development and refinement of that epistemology will never have another result, since it is based on this false assumption. The efforts to address or 'fix' this condition are themselves also an enactment of that false assumption, therefore also leading to greater and greater degrees of apparent fragmentation and separation in the way we live.

In Plotinus, our (human) functional activity has to do with contemplating and celebrating that prior unity, as such, in the recognition that we are fundamentally also that. This is primarily a devotional act of the heart, implying an entirely different 'epistemology.' For Plotinus there is such an abundance of consciousness and being, that we are simply the overflowing of that. We are an expression of that abundance. This is so thoroughly the case that it does not even make sense to consider it as abundance. As such we celebrate, not ourselves as abundance, but rather the source of such abundance, which is prior unity, of which we are an expression.

There is nothing that is not that. We turn and are turned in our hearts. This turning is something that is already the case. Plotinus believes that we forget, which is to say we develop a point of view of ourselves as fundamentally separate and fragmented, rather than fundamentally whole and interconnected. At the same time, it is not something that can be actively remembered, since such memory is itself a product of point of view. It is more like the recollection described by Plato, in which we come to any moment with a 'mind' that is not pre-divided... A 'mind' or consciousness that is itself an expression of wholeness. Of course this is actually very simple and easy, since there is nothing to do. We actively invest a lot in the difficulty of it, which produces a great deal of suffering, drama and 'entertainment' of various sorts. Our 'minds' are constantly pre-divided and dividing. It is not a matter of fixing or even stopping that. Consider all that functionality for a moment as if it were a heartbeat. Simply allow it to happen, without undue attention or resistance. Turn and be turned in your heart and attention.

In the metaphor of "the cave" aspects of that process are themselves initially 'painful' involving crisis and ordeal, as we come to realize that the shadows dancing on the walls of our cognitive room do not in fact represent reality. We come to realize that the cave itself is a cave! In the first instance of leaving such a cave, we are painfully blinded, incapable of functioning. Our 'point of view' does not describe reality. In that metaphor the 'philosopher' has gone and is going through this and intentionally chooses to return to the cave, which is not a nice place, in a particular disposition of devotion and service. I can really imagine doing that and getting re-mesmerized by the images on the wall. This might even be necessary in that particular context of service. That is, it might be necessary to submit to all that and traverse all the ordeal again, such that you are not in some position separate from it. I don't know.

So here I am, fully engaged with the dancing shadows on the wall, unaware of the fire, or the bodies casting the shadows. Do I first need to see something about that? How on earth to I react when someone shows up, sits down by me and says "nice show." Well to me it is not a show. It is reality. I am so busy maintaining it and my relationship to it that I really have no time for your insane conversation about the fire and dancing figures behind me, much less that whole thing you are saying about 'caves' and the light of the sun and such. If you persist, I may find it necessary to take action, since you are threatening my ability in this moment to maintain my relationship to what is clearly reality. So likely, the 'philosopher' would really have to enter into and submit to the un-reality of that reality in ernest. It is an emancipatory disposition so various expressions of force and manipulation, themselves based on separation, do not work so well.

I think it is likely that the greatest failures of my own life have been my own inability to recognize when such a 'philosopher' has sat down next to me. Lest there be any confusion, I am not pretending anything about being such a 'philosopher,' but I do feel I have encountered such and more or less failed and continue to fail in manifesting an appropriate response. There is a process to all that. One very rare, fleeting occasions, it seems to me, I have encountered everyone as an expression of such a 'philosopher.' I think such a recognition must be the abiding state of such a 'philosopher.'

You know... there you are, under the 'Sun of Truth' and light before light, having a beautiful picnic and all. Over there a ways off is the door to the incredibly long, dismal stairway leading to the unimaginably miserable cave. It does not exactly 'exist,' but it is enacted and imbued with all sorts of life and conscious beings invested in its existence, as such. It is probably only really there when you place your attention on it. Hard to say. I can only imagine one thing that would make you get up and go through that door. It seems to me that you would have to just be a thorough, abiding expression of love - thoroughly lived as love - in order to do that. Particularly when you knew that your reception was not likely to be 'loving,' and that you were going to have to fully submit to the whole of the incredibly painful enactment of desire, suffering, seeking, and fragmentation. Which means it is likely that you would have to go through a process of 'forgetting' and 'remembering.'

I recognize that boredom, hubris, doubt, and confusion might also all be motives, but I think those only occur as such from within a disposition of self-identification as point of view, which is to say, the cave.

1 comment:

  1. I long for the sun, the picnic, but cant seem find the energy to turn...I beginning to think this is part of the problem...thinking energy is required when it is probably the completely opposite that is needed...something like falling.