Friday, May 13, 2011

Seeking Rest

The RestImage via Wikipedia
There are some odd passages in the Bible that I seem to skip through. There are references throughout the whole thing which talk about rest specifically, or which talk about being provided for generally. I think we might look at that sometimes and see it as weakness or foolishness or laziness. Rest? Don’t worry, be happy? Nonsense! You must work, and work hard, and even then you may still be poor and struggle to pay your bills and eat. One could take it in a fleshly spiritual sense (i.e. where we make the “spiritual” into merely an ethereal form of the everyday assumptions of the world as it seem through the limited filter of the self), that this world blows and we have to endure it but when we die we get a break. How pleasant. And also how meaningless for affluent people. And by global standard pretty much everyone who was born and raised in an industrialized Western nation is affluent. 

But we are all hard at work, 24-7. Even the most indolent and slackworthy and indifferent among us. We are all hard at work constructing and remodeling the world in which we live, and by that I am referring to the architecture of our individual perspective of what the world is like and how it works, our “mental” or cognitive maps. A lot of that is subconscious and necessary and generally beneficial. But there is an extension of that process whereby we seek control. We seek control through domination and manipulation. We build an interface with our surroundings to make sure we get what we need and what we want. Again, to a limited degree this is not surprising nor is it without use or benefit. Yet this element of our world-creating and sustaining system can be over-extended and over-loaded, leading to a very selfish and paranoid result. It as if the world would stop spinning if we somehow weren’t there to will it on. Even when we think we are useless and have no influence, this secret conceit remains buried and causes our perceived impotence to burn with indignation, leading to anxiety, depression and despair. We’ve lost the ability to control and manipulate and make the world dance to our tune, so we become frustrated, perhaps angry, perhaps despondent. Because even then (often in a subconscious way) it is still “up to us”. We are still the Creator and Center of the Universe we have wrought, even if at times we feel usurped. No wonder people are sometimes shocked at and disheartened at the realization that the world will go on without them. The religious and irreligious alike share this dilemma and even deal with it in similar ways that nonetheless appear distinct on the surface.

We get so used to being watched, to the Silent Observer in our lives, that it becomes invisible. The organizing principle of what we call consciousness, the root of awareness, goes unnoticed. It’s just absorbed into the standard perspective. It’s like getting used to wearing shoes when you are a kid or a tie as an adult, or becoming accustomed to your everyday surrounding and routine. The commonplace fades from view. Ancient clues and teachings referring to the Silent Observer are either incorporated as an element in our self-made universe (that would be making God in our own image in Western terms) or are seen as evidence of a mild psychopathy, perhaps some cultural induced paranoia or an overactive circuit in the brain for agency-detection. Then these two camps shit all over each other. Many people can’t stand the smell and therefore avoid the subject altogether. Yet they are still both world-builder and atlas, bearing a weight that can crush us if we stumble but a little. Material success can mask some of this, but it also adds more pressure, because then one has the looming threat of failure. It’s like a narcotic. Take some, feel better, then go into withdrawal. Take more, feel better, go into withdrawal. Take a higher dose, feel better, go into withdrawal.  And for some this isn’t figurative, it’s how they deal with the weight, with the pressure. 

The Buddha is reported to have said, as enlightenment dawned, that he had spotted the builder and would no longer be fooled. I kind of had the idea that we make our own little bubbles of reality, so this made a tiny bit of sense, but only a tiny bit, and mostly in a “I get the gist” intellectual sort of way. I think I get it a tiny bit more. As well as the offers of rest throughout the Bible and the claims we needn’t worry. I was walking today and I wondered about our inner monologues, and this led to pondering the nature of self-reflection and consciousness, which then went sideways into a reflection of a crack in an invisible wall into the space in which our thoughts form. For a second koans and koan-sounding things like “Who were you before you were you?” and “In what does existence exist?” didn’t seem like funky brain benders or exotic riddles. They seemed like perfectly sensible questions pointing to something we’re so used to we don’t even know that it’s there. I guess it could be framed as what medium is it in which we can see reflected our own awareness? It’s sloppy, but it’s as close as I can express it.  OK, well, that’s all. I still don’t know how to actualize this, or to seek a deeper rest. Talk to you later.
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