Thinking and Open Inquiry

With all that is happening in the world these days there has been much talk about justice, individual rites and human nature. We have our conventional ideas about these things but for me it’s important to investigate in a more deep way. seems to me that thinking itself is a tool that we use to understand our environment. Words are very much a part of that thinking process. Those words are very much connected to language and allow us to see in abstract, metaphors, pieces and parts and to explore, understand and perceive things in different ways. There always seems to be another way to perceive things and we are always discovering new things and new ways of seeing so how do we know if what we think captures truth. For me thinking is not so effective in helping me to understand some very relevant things. Meditation and mindfulness seem to be more helpful in grounding me in a different aspect of being than thinking can provide or relate to. I enjoy the creative process of thinking but I see the limitations of thought especially when I am exploring the depths of my being. Nothing is fixed so how can our fixed thoughts, words and perceptions represent that. I don’t see that thoughts can represent truth or provide ultimate answers in terms of those things that I mentioned in the beginning. I look somewhere else for my relation to those things and in a more open contemplation and inquiry, what emerges is more substantial than can be explained in terms of thought although I cant seem to say why or in what way.

The Philosophers Awakening

Krishnamurti referred to thought itself as a very protective mechanism interested in its own survival. Richard Rorty wrote about the philosophers obsession with a kind of thinking which often involves succumbing to the old occultist urge to crack codes, to distinguish between reality and appearance, to make an insidious distinction between getting it right and making it useful.

In awareness there is the realization that you can not truly separate the object from what you say about it. The evolutionary development of thinking has been a revolution making tool. Self awareness: the phenomenon that differentiated humans from all other species was, one might say, the first realization of thought. An inevitable consequence of that, for humanity has been that this emerging conscious experience required a step of separation from the whole. In that separation there is a fragmentation if the whole experience and a resulting sense of alienation and vulnerability; as if one is entering a new unknown world. It is in another way of seeing, embracing and investigating the inner sense of separation and vulnerability that arises from our reliance on thinking, that we rediscover our wholeness; a wholeness that has never really left us. In that awareness we realize the limitations of our thinking.

Rorty continues “So presumably we erect the distinction as a barrier to our monomaniacal desire to subsume everything to our own needs. At the beginning of this particular quest romance, it dawns on the Seeker after Enlightenment that all the great dualisms of Western philosophy – reality and appearance, pure radiance and diffuse reflection, mind and body, intellectual rigour and sensual sloppiness, orderly semiotics and rambling semiosis – can be dispensed with. They are not to be synthesized into higher unities, not aufgehoben, but rather actively forgotten. An early stage of Enlightenment comes when one reads Nietzsche and begins thinking of all these dualisms as just so many metaphors for the contrast between an imagined state of total power, mastery and control and one’s own present impotence. A further state is reached when, upon rereading Thus Spake Zarathustra, one comes down with the giggles. At that point, with a bit of help from Freud, one begins to hear talk about the Will to Power as just a high-falutin euphemism for the male’s hope of bullying the females into submission, or the child’s hope of getting back at Mummy and Daddy. “

Meaning in Impermanence

I seem to be contemplating life and death a lot these days.I find myself more than ever alone by choice, averse to convention. Although, it seems to be an unsettling choice, there is something in the embracing of what arises in aloneness that enables a more complete confronting, coping and opening. This partly seems to be in moving away from the conventional socialization and personality that I have become. In facing the loneliness I move out from the barriers that have been erected, opening in towards a self-individuation and self creation through that revolt, against that process. A more intimate investigation and acceptance of what naturally and authentically arises allows for a movement through the discomfort of loneliness, towards an a more open-ended experience of the heart and expansion of awareness and revelation of the ineffable truth of impermanance/death. The American philosopher John Dewey wrote “ If you free the true self from various constraints it will automatically see truth.We have no better criterion of truth than that it is what results from such encounters.” There is more meaning revealed in that process for me than anything else that I have experienced.

Resigned to Impermanance

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.

Words and Experience

I encountered these reflections today in my reading of a Richard Rorty book, “Philosophy and Social Hope”. He wrote that “there is no inescapable truth which either metaphysicians or pragmatists are trying to evade or capture, for any candidate for truth can be escaped by a suitable choice of description and can be underwritten by another such choice.”
I wonder sometimes why I read philosophy and spiritual discourses. It seems that, as others suggest, it is often an overly intellectual and irrelevant discourse. Anything can be rationalized with skillful use of words; however, I realize that for me putting words together can have a similar effect as painting or other forms of creative indulgence. It can at times touch a place within of intimate, creative and passionate connection with life, my own unspoken origins and story.

When I describe my experience of “essence” I am referring to a deeper quality of awareness, than I have been conventionally taught to verbalize or even to realize. There are so many poets and artists that have adeptly captured this in unique, wonderful ways. I need not delve into it at this time.

There is a sense of increased awareness of a fluctuating flow of energy and peacefulness lurking at times behind all my conditioned actions. I think that this deepening of awareness and emerging realization of “essence” or “ being” might be at the heart of our human philosophical and religious origins and quests. I am doubtful about the possibility of being able to represent this experience in words or to discover it through dogma, although the process of “inquiry” seems to be most beneficial in this realization. There is something, as well, in the the experience and the sharing and expression of that for me. A key focus being to remain grounded in the experience and not to be seduced by the attempted representation of it. It seems to me that if we are not aware of the limitations of language we can find ourselves becoming side tracked. As the “Zen” adepts say, “it is a finger pointing to the moon.”

Where to Turn?

These days there is a strong realization of how much of my life has been lived in ignorance and how that contributed to suffering both of my own and for others. Of course I didn’t know any other way at the time, as so many others today don’t know what it is to live without ego. It’s only in recent years that I have emerged from that cloud of confused identifying.

As well there as increased intuition of the collective consequences of living in ignorance and a fragmented envisioning. Our collective human living has directly contributed to our contemporary global problems. They have arisen for a reason and it is no surprise to me what is happening on this planet at this time. Humans have a responsibility to address this or to continue be deeply affected. There seems to be only one way through it all; not in returning to old ways, but in bringing a deeper awareness to life and living and in realizing the vastness of our interconnection and how our actions and behaviour affect our lives.