Sunday, September 07, 2008

All Structures are Unstable


So this idea of reincarnation. I was talking with my wife while we were driving back from Cayucos this morning, and we were discussing Eckhart Tolle's idea, or his expression of the idea, that ego is responsible for the lions share of our suffering. The ego, unsure of its position and stability, constantly struggles to make itself feel important and stable and real, usually by amassing wealth or fame or power, or by gossiping about others to make itself feel better by comparison, etc. 

So I was thinking about that in a kind of background way and also running a simultaneous track on the whole geologic, vast, universal time frame, just mulling about the fourteen billion years or whatever it's been since the big bang, and how our arrival was just about a millisecond ago in that kind of mess of time, and it struck me in a visceral kind of way that there is just no fucking way that we are anywhere near the point. I mean, we as a species

Can you picture God just hanging out for that fourteen billion years, waiting? Opening the oven door and peeking in every few million years, wondering 

"Is it ready yet? Are my little humans cooked up?" 

"Ah, shit. Still just microbes. Better give it another fifty or sixty million. Maybe I should turn it up to 350."

I don't think so. 

It seems like we are just an interesting side effect, or product, of this little evolutionary machine that keeps on spinning the DNA wheel and seeing what comes up. 

A point, if you will, but hardly the point.

So, that dispenses with the idea of a special soul, a special purpose for humanity. We're just an interesting biological process, with the odd side-effect of consciousness. The consciousness is a really cool, really interesting effect of rolling the genetic dice over and over again for four billion years. But so are feathers. The much-touted eye, that would have everyone believing in a "creator" to make such a magnificent machine.

And then I thought, well, what about your buddhist idea of reincarnation? Isn't that, at least in a western conception, dependent upon a soul to be reborn again and again? To carry those karmic seeds?

Not really, I reminded myself. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying lays it out for us- there is no continuation of the specific individual in any way after death. It's a more general thing. It's not ego specific. 

And then I realized that in the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic tradition, there is an afterlife just for the ego.

That's the whole point for those religions. That's why you get seventy-two virgins. A halo and wings. Streets paved with gold. A seat right next to God.

It's all just more food for the ego.


The ego is what we must jettison if we are to evolve.


What I let it all go with was the idea that we are not nature's only experiment with consciousness.

Just the first one.


Like a clumsy prototype.


There's bound to be someone that can do better with it than we have managed so far.


Peace to you. 

Make pain your teacher, and you will not live in ignorance.


Also, today my seventeen year old daughter got a call from a friend of hers whose parents were dealing with an emergency. She gets us to buy a bunch of food so she can take it over to them. 

She's over there now cleaning the house, tending to the kids, and fixing dinner.

Our little bodhi-satva.





Blogger Radish King said...

So I wonder, and I've been thinking about this lately, how one can create art without investing hugely in ego? Not to mention desire, and I mean perverse desire, the kind that fuels original thought and the mostly solitude it takes to enter into our natural genius (our birthright). The creation of art, if you think of creation as to cause to come into being (as imagined or real gods do) takes ego and acknowledgement of that ego. Then again, I'm not very Zen.


8:59 AM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...

I think that's a really interesting question. I don't know. If we advocate the escape from identification with ego, or the destruction of ego, or overcoming it, whatever, do we risk the loss of that kind of creative energy that comes from ego's struggle with the external and internal world?

My initial reaction is to say that any art arises out of our interactions with the external world, which we can't and shouldn't avoid. I mean, that's the whole point of being here, right? To get messy and involved, to fully experience the beauty and the horror both.

So, can the artist do this without investing in ego? I suppose one interpretation of the artistic impulse is that it is at least in part driven by the ego's desire for recognition- both of individuality, specialness, and of talent.

"look at me, what I did. This makes me special and good."

I mean, if you have really obtained inner spiritual creaminess, would the strong desire to create art still exist?

I dunno.

When I look at my own creative urges, my own art, of course I would deny that my own ego fuels it. I am pure, after all.


But, really, I see my own ego in my reaction to a piece after it's been completed. Do I like it? Is it good? Am I more special because this thing came into being through me? These are the kinds of thoughts that go through my head.

But not so much during the creation phase. Or during that achy kind of hungry feeling that comes before the creation phase, that feeling of some nascent image wanting to come into existence.

But that's just my own take on the feelings associated with the creative act. I think that the answer to the question you pose might be that, just as we are unable to escape from the 'real world' in our quest for spiritual growth, we are obligated to 'step back' from engagement with the ego-
we can't escape it or destroy it.

So the goal becomes a kind of 'intelligent use' of the special gifts that ego presents, without becoming a slave to it, without letting it take over everything. Use it mindfully when beneficial, then put it away.

I don't know. It seems to me that bringing a quality of attention to our thoughts and actions is a necessary first step.

There's also another question that comes to mind when thinking about ego's role in the creative process. I know that I tend to be more driven to create when I am in pain. When I'm suffering, then writing and making art act as a great balm to me. But when I'm very happy, I am more content to simply live my life, and making art becomes much less important. And that, of course, overstates and oversimplifies things, but there is an element of truth to it.

More pain= more art.
Less pain= less art.

I guess there could be a risk of losing some of our art if we all got spiritual creaminess, but I don't think we would.

We all get sucked back into the human drama. That's what the Huckabee's movie taught me.

Well, that was a fairly inarticulate response. Maybe someone else can have a go at it.



10:25 AM  
Blogger Christine Carlton said...

Love the post, love the comment. But not sure what to do with it.

Its like digging my hands into the shredder box, and throwing it up in the air, letting it float down and around and in everyone's hair, then looking around... and saying YEAH. That's EXACTLY what I meant to do.

Except you did it... with some well chosen words.

Incidentally, don't do that in dispatch, they get pissed.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Meredith said...

Wonderful post, thank you. I feel the need to contribute, which is something that I do not normally do when I read things. But this speaks to me in a way I cannot ignore. So maybe something good will come of it.

Being an artist, the question that Radish King posed is very interesting. Tearful, your response was lovely as well. And Christine, I love your imagery to convey what you felt. So here are my 2 cents on this.

Art has many forms but what comes to my mind (maybe my bias) is the physical form of visual arts such as illustration, animation, fine art, sculpture, and etc. And my question is this: Does all art come from the ego? The answer I feel is no, it doesn't. I do feel, however, that much of it does. But maybe some works come from somewhere much deeper. Just like some music pieces, a painting might be a doorway to lead a viewer into that moment of internal stillness, satori. It may be able to touch something the viewer wasn't aware of until that moment, or bring them to a place of utter stillness that they had never experienced before. It may be fleeting, yes, but it is the beginning of the awakening. The piece of art is a sign post that points towards an inner shift, a sign that points the consciousness inward. Would it still be from the ego? Even if ego was present somewhere in said piece, if the artist's intentions are worthy, and the piece speaks, does it really matter? If it can touch people and shift their consciousness inward and allow satori to happen, does it matter if it isn't “pure” so to speak?

I feel as humans it is our way to err. But the consciousness and the inner intelligence behind someone who is “present” will cope with the err differently than someone who is unconscious. They will cope with acceptance and peace.

There is more I wish to convey, but the words to articulate these thoughts escape me at the moment. Hopefully my intention is conveyed through what I have said, and hopefully it also makes sense.

- Mere

12:47 AM  

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