Projecting Our Conventions

I listened to the late Harold Bloom today in an interview, recorded a few years ago, with Michael Enright of CBC radio. Something he said struck me. That was that we humans use convention as a way to help deal with chaos, the consequence of this being that the use of convention is suppressive.

I often feel with others that there is a subtle imposition or projection of their perceptions and way of seeing the world on to me. I suspect that this is how the human ego functions. It all seems to be a very normal way of surviving and bringing order to a chaotic external world in lieu of opening to what is missed in that orientation; however no less authentic and relevant. That includes the realty of a sense of vulnerability as an impermanent being in this universe.

I am increasingly aware of what is missed in being dependent on conventions and how our tendency to understand the world in terms of isolated, external and conditioned criterion is confining.

At a personal level I feel at times as if barriers are being constructed around me in which I am constrained and defined by a force external to me. There is something amiss in this. How can we expect to understand well what is going on in cosmic history apart from a careful examination of what goes on in the interior striving of life that reaches the summit of its intensity in humanity’s spiritual adventures?

It’s not that others are the problem. The pressure is in fact arising from the insistence of my own demands; possibly to the degree that I am attached those norms and wats of seeing and have abandoned direct experience as my guide to knowing myself and the world.

Maybe it is all a necessary and unavoidable step in human development. But in arriving at a place where I am seeing the limits of convention and discovering more openness I am realizing that there is a point where we become aware of how much of what we do and expect is limited in our blind acceptance of what we have been told about God, religion, culture, science and most any other thing we come to believe in.

Maybe it requires an act of grace that we are enabled to step out from what we have been conditioned to believe, to discover for ourselves the deeper truth of life. I don’t know, but, I am extremely grateful that something of my being has been enabled, to question and inquire and to realize the limitations of convention and to allow myself to be drawn to a more open and expansive envisioning and other possibilities than what convention allows for.

Aversion to Aloneness

Most of us humans spend our life hiding. Relationships can help us to hide. In short, in our ego-consciousness we ultimately see ourselves as separated beings, fragments that relate to other fragments in terms of efforts to obtain some advantage. As such we experience life in a limited way, ignorant of something more complete of ourselves discovered more in looking within.
These days many old relations seem to be falling away; partly a result of impermanence and partly because I am becoming aware of the aversion to being alone that has sustained many of these fragmented relationships. This piecemeal identity that I have created myself “to be” in a search for security has ironically perpetuated a sense of being unreal and alone in life.
In stillness I realize with greater clarity the consequences of all this. I see the self centred neediness that has contributed to and is part of the fragmented perception of the world and others. I still at times resort back to this, although in silence, there is clearer seeing and a falling away of the old crust. I am left naked in that falling; at loss and feeling vulnerable, at these times. All those feelings that I have ultimately and relentlessly avoided experiencing.
I am better able to cope with these changes these days in my contemplative way. The darkness discovered in isolation seems not to be so incapacitating as I imagined it to be. A big part of this is adjustment involved in coming to new and more real insight and in shedding beliefs that were once held so closely; that once served as an illusive sense of security. I was blinded in those beliefs, to the confusion, entanglements and illusions of self and depthless relationships that I was enmeshed in. It all seemed to serve a groundless creation I called “my self” rather than anything more intimate or authentic of what I was.
It seems now that there is an ending in sight of the suffering that came with the grasping and from the darkness that it sustained and emerging from that opportunity for more truth and intimacy in relating with all in life.
Most people don’t know what to do with my openness to feeling and talking about my sense of being vulnerable. Often there is an assumption of depression or something that should be fixed; some part of myself to be improved or some ideal or optimal state to be reached. Advice is often offered about how I might be able to fix or improve my self image. It seems to be quite prevalent in the Buddhist practitioners that I have come to know perhaps from the dangled Buddhist offer of an end to suffering. But I no longer see the need to fix myself; discovering that there is liberation in being able to experience life in a deeper more authentic and complete way free from ideals beliefs or notion of pathology that divert me from looking sincerely at what is within. 

Aversion to Suffering

Contemplation, for me means, withdrawing attention from outward, objective, particular, and temporal concerns, and refocusing on inward, subjective, general and even eternal realities. The desire for self entertainment falls away as I turn my attention inwardly toward the heart. I see that desire is fuelled by outward, objective, particular, and temporal concerns; a yearning for distraction from a a truth of life that includes both joyful and uncomfortable experiences. A possible truth might be that through these concerns we separate what is inseparable. We are conditioned to pursue hedonistic impulses and to avoid suffering. The irony is that one is not separate from the other. Turning toward the heart we find a joy for life not dependent on the search for pleasure. From this place we are better able to understand and deal with the temporal and particular. We find joy in love as we bring it to relations. But it includes a tolerance for suffering that our conditioning causes us to be averse to. I find that it is in coming to be ba able to be with my suffering that I rediscover compassion and a more direct experience of relating to the suffering of others.


Ilio Delio writes that “Science and technology mastered nature’s secrets, but the price of these discoveries was steep: the Soul of the world. We bartered our souls for the comforts of materialism, wealth, and luxury, turning a blind eye to everything that did not fit into our manufactured, privatized worlds.”

When I walk around in the external world as a self-sufficient achiever I am in fact stumbling in the dark, blind to the remedy of our collective illness.

Scientific advances have revealed with clarity the story of an evolving universe. But there are deeper implications to consider as John F. Haught illustrates in his book “The New Cosmic Story”. Many others who have written books on life and the universe—including Stephen Hawking, Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Dawkins—have overlooked a crucial aspect of cosmic history. That is the drama of life’s awakening to interiority and religious awareness. “Science may illuminate the outside story of the universe, but a full telling of the cosmic story cannot ignore the inside development that interiority reveals”

More then ever I am becoming oriented in “interiority” . My life long stumbling has been a consequence of perceptions and assumptions arising out of cultural programming rooted in a scientific, technologic materialism. In attending to and cultivating what is discovered in the interior experience, at my centre, I am guided through the maize of life in what seems to be more holistic, real way.

There can be no movement in the outer universe toward unity and peace without change in the inner universe toward unity and peace.Teilhard de Chardin believed that ” there can be no movement in the outer universe toward unity and peace without change in the inner universe toward unity and peace.

Stumbling into Something More Real

I now realize that this illusive power and control that we strive for is rather unimportant and in fact it is often pretend and show that propels us into an entanglement that keeps us from realizing something more authentic of ourselves. Something newly awakened in me sees how I become entangled, participating in other people’s abandonment, betrayal, rejection, or marginalization and how I am lost in that.

That something inspires me to step back and to find the grounded space where I can let go of needy parts that create, strive and grasp onto attachment to unnecessary things. In that seeing I return to living in presence and what is real. It’s not an intellectual choice but more attending to what is authentic ineffable of me,that at some point in the past I have been conditioned to ignore.

A difficult part is that in this revelation I am presented with a suffering and sensitivity that I must learn to be with and to live with. The pain and loss that life brings is inevitable and I can not find compassion and contentment in diversion, distraction and avoidance of that experience.

No Control

I’m quite angry with the world right now. I feel as if I have so little control of how things turn out, however, I suspect that this is the truth of life, somehow forgotten. At least I can now recognize the delusion in what, over the years, I have been taught. That is the teaching of our children that “they” have the power to become something that is more important than what “they” are, as they are, and that “they” as individuals can achieve and change their sense of worth and how others perceive them. And that will bring them power, wealth and a sense of importance and possibly invulnerability to life’s less pleasant afflictions.

People that I love are becoming sick and any effort to fix or distract from that inevitable reality seems to be so superficial and unreal. I’m so aware of the dysfunctional aspects of attachment to surreal ideas and that includes the nonsense of pursuing an individual sense of power that promotes Both disconnection and entanglement in relationships and that takes me so much away from presence and the love I find in that.

I now realize that this illusive power and control that we strive for is rather unimportant and in fact it is often pretend and show that keeps us from something more authentic of ourselves. It is only in presence that I can see what is real of myself and life and death. It is the only place that I can find authentic ground from where I can respond with heart to others, watching the anger and suffering and hoping to be conscious of my habitual reaction that only serves to complicate and confuse things.

To See the Totality in Life

To be able to see the totality of things as a familiar occurrence, involves an ability to free myself of all representations.We take language to be words, and words to be agreed-upon naming, following the grammatical laws of a particular culture, used primarily to communicate. That is, words themselves are assumed to be “empty,” though they convey meaning and those words make up our representations. Coming to an understanding that my perceptions have been influenced by these representations, many of which have been handed down from family and culture has played a part in promoting a new realization, That is that most of these words and representations have been accepted in blind faith and have gone unexamined in that acceptance and that our dependence on them may in fact take us away from more comprehensive revelations that have their influence in a non representational living experience,

But what is a child, first emerging from an existence and entirely free of every and any image to do if he is to get by in life. Nominal representations, that take the link to gesture out of words and in turn the direct experience out of representations and life become a requirement that we all become dependent on in our social conditioning which enables one in communicating, interaction and relating. We become trapped in this conditioning in that it creates a filter that limits perception and a more authentic process and experience of life.

According to Plato, Socrates, the human being, through recollection, finds truths buried within himself, that existed prior to the representations that have formed. In the traces and seeds of an otherwise forgotten state the original freedom eventually appears not as lost, but as something to be rediscovered: it is ahead of us as the goal of a liberation; of a becoming which consists of detachment from images. Whatever my knowledge may be and whatever my works may be, if in this present instant I dedicate myself to them without making them mine, if I remain as open and as free from entanglements as I was in the beginning, then I am truly detached and disposed to a totality. Detachment arises and is verified in such a “now” which is always new.

In our modern world of reliance on abstraction and representation, a majority of humans subscribe to a materialist philosophy, undoubtedly influenced by fragmented and limited representations. We’re they honest, they would admit that in their scheme of things that “non representational life”, influenced by artistic and poetic forms, can be dispensed with altogether. There is in fact a school of thought whose explicit purpose is to affirm the ‘meaningless’ nature of life and in fact that it has no place in the lives of the majority of the modern populace, who differ, in this respect, from their illiterate ancestors, in whose memories songs and ballads pointing to a more total truth had their place.