It is often said that there are two questions that are most important in philosophy: “Who Am I?” and “What is True?” (Buddhism, for which I have enormous respect, asks a corollary question: “How can suffering be ended?”)
Today being my sixty-fifth birthday, I find that these core questions are more important than ever. The truth is that the process of questioning peels away all the representations until you reach something not unlike the neutral space in The Matrix. But…that nothing is everything, pregnant with all the universe. It is difficult if not impossible to express in words, but if you’ve glimpsed it, you know.
If there is any truth that CAN be put into words about this process, and what it reveals, it is that whatever you are is revealed in what you do, consistently, day after day. Writers write. Martial artists sharpen their “swords.” Warriors protect their tribe. Parents parent. Lovers love. Healers heal. Teachers teach.
But none of these things is you. All of them are roles, expressions of that central energy that births us, the undifferentiated “emotion” that causes babies to scream at birth, the “Earth below, Heaven above, no one in the world like me!” burst of lifeforce that says “I’m here!”
Joy, anger, fear, discovery…all at once, as if those emotions are colors of the rainbow, and what is REAL is the white light that fractures into the differentiated colors once we try to break things down into language.
Arguing about language is always time away from the real quest. It is fun, but a distraction. It is living in the dualities, in the fractionated artificiality of our concepts. A distraction.
A lady I know has an entire house filled with spiritual texts. Has spent a massive amount of years, resources, and energy in spiritual practices. Told me that as soon as she has THIS book, and attended THAT course, she will be ready to buckle down and find herself.
It was another version of that friend who wanted to be a writer, and spent decades writing a story that slowly expanded to a trilogy, only to discover she was bored. And then started over with a new story, which had begun to expand…
I wanted to shake her. “You have 1000X more information than you need,” I said. “You could write everything you need to wake up on the back of a matchbook. Just spend an hour a day writing out the answer to the question: `who am I?’ and/or `what is true?’ That’s it. Probably about three years of work to unravel all the lies you’ve used to navigate reality.”
She won’t do it, of course. She doesn’t really want to know. She wants to find some more tricks.
Some more distractions from the reality she can’t look in the eye.
Who Am I? Yeah, I know. Can’t tell you in words, though. Every day I’m digging away at it, and I publish much of my thought in these musings. But it is a matter of stripping away, not “learning.” No, I’m not interested in the new facts you have for me (most times. Curiosity gets me to engage with things, but its more a matter of realizing, once again, how rapidly we fall asleep, go unconscious…not learning something new, not at any deep and meaningful level.)
I suspect that if we’re paying attention, we learn everything important in life long before its half-way point. After that…it is un-learning, and re-discovering what we already know. In fact, I suspect that we learn all the REALLY important things, the “seed” things, prior to puberty.
Could that be? I think so. Just as all of complex existence is implied in the very first actions of atomic particles starting about a billionth of a second after the Big Bang, I suspect that everything about life is just an emergent quality of basic things re-combined in more complex patterns, those basics learned before we learn to drive. Certainly by the time we become sexual, or self-supporting. We just don’t pay attention.
So no, I’m not trying to learn new things. I WILL examine something that doesn’t fit my patterns, and backtrack until I see what I forgot, then build back up again. That’s the “What is true?”
My perceptions about all of it are part of the “who am I?” I am not separate from the pattern. All I have to do is look deeply enough into myself, grasping that in a very real sense there IS no “self” (another dichotomy: there is no self, but what is it that recognizes this? Is that not a “self”? Get the joke, and move on.) and I understand the rest of the universe. Only ego stops me.
What is the path? To find the way I represent the entire circle of archetypes. Connect them all with survival. Be those things. And be so busy with them that they engage my ego completely. And then…out of the corner of my eye, I can glimpse truth.
And then…during meditation, focus until I can get those “glimpses” more regularly. Then learn the odd mental slight-of-hand that allows you to focus without focusing, so that the glimpses happen more regularly. Where you begin to reclaim the energy your mind expends in creating the illusion of reality. THAT is a terrifying and amazing experience, only glimpsed…but more frequently now. The Quickening, indeed.
That’s where I am. You are welcome to think my mind closed. The truth is that earlier in life I pried it wide open, and looked at everything I could find, and traveled exhaustively until the patterns started to repeat. At some point, you stop hearing new things, just interesting re-combinations of basic elements you’ve already integrated. Infinite numbers of new combinations. Same old 10 integers.
You can keep gathering new things, or strip away what you are carrying to the smallest number of basics. Each is appropriate to a different time of life and awareness. And if you are as happy with your process as I am, you are a happy puppy indeed.
Happy birthday to me. Life is a hell of a ride.