I was listening to CBC on my drive home last evening after spending the evening contemplating with friends metaphysical considerations. The program on the radio was about a Greek philosopher who wrote about the Pelopenesian War of his time. He possessed an atypical perception of war for a person of that time, in contrast to nationalistic, racist opinions that were more the norm.
He perception that the suffering, bias, hate and abuse that emerged from war was more the reality than the glorified beliefs about what the outcome would bring. It reminded me of the dream like propaganda that is being waged by populist, national movements today. They as well seem to be ignorant of the suffering and destructiveness that seems to be more the reality.
Some thought this Greek author to be pessimistic in his thinking, not embracing the advancements and progress that would unfold from such a war and not realizing the need for it to pursue national security and greatness. It’s understandable that some would perceive nationalistic emotions in such a positive light as they often do today. Others recognized that the author was not pessimistic, in a conventional use of the word. It was a more insightful perception that he was able to bring and by delving deep into the suffering that was inevitably a part of war, he was able to envision more humane and progressive possibilities and that ultimately this all arose from what seemed to be his being “resigned to impermanence”.
It seems that even in modern times, that to contemplate life and death beyond our conditioned notions can be interpreted as a pessimistic endeavour. People more often prefer to select what are considered to be more fixed, familiar, learned ideals that have authoritative cultural origins.
Could it be that this way of perceiving is limited; that what is often overlooked is the possibility of experiencing a sense of liberation in opening up to more creative and direct ways of experiencing existence that fixed and closed ways of thinking do not enable. Something more authentic of our being arises from a more expansive contemplation of life and death and things in between that go beyond the limitations of culturally conditioned notions that have been handed down to us.
In my own experience a more expansive and ineffable realization of impermanence is part of a contemplative life that takes one beyond a more conventionally defined and conditioned perception of reality. What arises from the awareness and embracing of impermanence, although ineffable, closer to truth than our fixed ideals ever bring us.