The Infinite Tablecloth

Imagine a super-stretchy tablecloth that goes on forever in all directions. Or it could be infinitely-stretchy but fixed in a huge wooden frame, for the purposes of this metaphor, both work as well.

Now it starts off perfectly flat. This is the ‘fabric of reality’ and it’s right now both all and nothing: it’s the ‘stuff’ that all is made of and ‘all’ you have to work with, but since it’s perfectly flat, ‘nothing’ exists, there’s no thing which stands out from any other thing.
Continue reading “The Infinite Tablecloth”

Someone Else’s Symbols

Magic is a mental practice – where you exercise and selectively focus your intent, your ‘motivation’ or ‘will’, behind an action in order to be more effective and increase the odds of success/achieving a goal or desire. In that way, it’s really not very magical at all and sometimes that can be a disappointment to many who come to any of the ‘magical’ practices (Wicca, any Pagan variety, Chaos Magic(k, depending on your tastes) and even Jediism and Satanism), because they come to it expecting something extra-ordinary and are shown something very ordinary and ‘boring’.

But if you stick around long enough (or come back to it afterwards, like I did) then you’ll find the ordinary is un-believably extra-ordinary!

Continue reading “Someone Else’s Symbols”

The ‘Good Enough’ Principle

I know, that doesn’t sound like a very ‘formal’ philosophical principle, but bear with me.

To exist means to stand out (from Latin “ex-” meaning ‘out of’ and “stare” meaning ‘to stand’), and so for a Thing to exist it must be different from all other Things. But how different? Just enough. In fact, any amount of difference is ‘difference enough’ for existence. (yes, there’s a circular tautology in there – you don’t have to like it).

Continue reading “The ‘Good Enough’ Principle”

Reality is all …

Fill in the blank

When referring to the nature of Reality – what it’s made of – as soon as someone begins their statement “It’s all made of … ” the next word could be anything – gouda, gold, god, tao, apeiron, the force, consciousness, anything. The reason I know this is because I’ve understood what “all” means to our human brains.  The next word may as well be “all” for what it’s worth, and it would be a more honest answer because at least the speaker recognises the futility in putting a label on it.  In that light, anything you wish can be what it’s all made of – the significance lies in the fact that it is what you feel is closest to your understanding of what Reality is made of.  It becomes the context or raw material from which you make sense of the world.

My own personal struggle is trying to reconcile my modern scientific understanding of the physical world with the deeper insight of how my brain operates.  Sameness and Difference.  That is how my brain operates (and how I think we all operate at the most fundamental level).  My scientific mind interprets Sameness and Difference being ‘made of’ Transformation (in the mathematical and physical/mechanical sense) so to that part of me, “It’s all Transformation.”  But my spiritual inclination wants to say “It’s all Magic” or “It’s all Chi/Ki” or “It’s all The Force” and the two aren’t friends yet.

Trying to do something with Ki/The Force/Magic feels supremely silly and foolish because I know at the same time it’s all transformation – and transformation doesn’t behave in the way I want Magic/Ki/The Force to behave.  Magic then becomes merely my own will, and to get more banal than that seems impossible to imagine.  Sure, my ability to ‘will’ my arm to move may seem magical if we really ask ourselves how that works (the whole mind/body interaction), but my ‘will’ and thus my capacity to ‘do magic’ goes no further than my own body.  Then I have to get creative and make excuses for this ‘magic’: if I want a glass of water to appear before me, I have to “concentrate very hard” and “gather up all the strength of my willpower”, “channel” it and “release it out into the world” (i.e. I ask you to get me a glass of water), whereupon the “influence” of my magic extends outwards (you walk to the kitchen). Then my “energies will be returned back to me” (you’ve come back from the kitchen) and voilà! I have a glass of water!

Do you see how silly that is? I’m irrationalizing the rational!

However, there is a non-negligible aspect of magic when you do think of reality in those terms. There is an undeniable “power” to words that gives us pause. If my magic is my will, then I must become cautious of how I use it (what words I say out loud, what gestures and actions I use my body to effect).

But this perspective is also an open door to madness: every thought I provoke in you, every image you experience in your mind through the “descriptive power” of my words, become the very real effect, however subtle it may be.

But working of magic as none other than the cautious application of will sounds very much like Mindfulness doesn’t it?  Where one is highly conscious of one’s gestures, thoughts, and words.  Everything becomes deliberate and full of careful intent.

And thus the working of magic regains its respectability, as the phoenix of decorum rises from the ashes of folly.

So to close this with a quote I give you:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

On Enlightenment

I hesitate to say I was enlightened, but damn, it sure felt like it.

Since that moment nearly six years ago, my worldview hasn’t changed that much – I still don’t believe in a sentient supreme being, but I now definitely understand why people would feel inclined to call ‘it’ a god.  Because now I feel I get ‘it’ – I’ve seen ‘it’, I’ve felt ‘it’.  By ‘it’ I mean whatever humanity has experienced in these several hundred thousand years that has kept us coming back to the concept of something ‘divine’ and put a different name to ‘it’ for each of our cultures.  From my worldview I still see red as red and a car as a car – it’s just that my understanding of it all has broadened, deepened, expanded considerably.  The ‘ah-hah’ moment blew my mind and left me sitting in a state of stupor in the middle of the pavement half-way between my home and the office.  Thankfully nobody thought I’d had a stroke or called an ambulance.  But in that deluge of insight, my brain scurried and raced to sort and handle all the tumbling truths and incredible ‘fitting’ of a million pieces of a universal puzzle of my mind, and it was very nearly overloaded, so ‘walking’ was relegated to a far lower priority.  But after it all slowed down enough, I got up, and continued my walk to my workplace, and the day went on as usual (but let’s not kid ourselves here – I was far from being ‘ho-hum’ about what I’d just experienced! I was still shaking by the time I sat down at my desk).

It is very frustrating to experience such world-rocking insight and not be able to communicate it.  I completely understand the drive one might have in ‘experiencing the word of god’ to tell others about it.  But sadly, and this is part of the greater insight, it is much more like Zen Buddhism where you cannot be told, you have to live it yourself.

So what is a person to do with their enlightenment?  Put it to workUse itLive it.  There is an old maxim which is very insulting: Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.  Well, it should be the other way around: those who can, teach. Those who can’t, do.  That’s how Zen is taught – the student does precisely because in doing, one learns.  The challenge of teaching is knowing the right thing to do which will be conducive to learning.  And there is no one ‘great exercise’ that will allow every student to ‘get it’ – to achieve the universal insight that we call enlightenment.  Every person thinks differently, has different worldviews, and takes different pathways of thought. In an ‘all roads lead to Rome’ way, “The Truth” will be the same for everyone – but how you get there is different for everyone.

See that’s the thing about enlightenment – once you’ve experienced it, you see the other religions and realize they’re all saying the same thing – using different words:  Buddhism’s “Nirvana” is Christianity’s “Alpha and Omega” is Taoism’s “Wu” is Anaximander’s “Apeiron” is Vedic “Moksha”.  It’s all the same Truth – a truth as old as the universe itself (enlightenment is after all a deep understanding of the nature of Reality itself).

The act of seeing the parallels as they meet at infinity is why people describe enlightenment as the experience of ‘transcending’ reality – it’s a metaphor because in our mundane experience we must ‘step back’ or ‘step outside’ or ‘rise above’ a situation in order to see both sides – i.e. compare and hold things side by side – and so when one has the experience of seeing Reality as a whole, then one can only describe it as though one had ‘gone above’ or ‘outside’ or ‘beyond’ Reality in order to have done so.  But in reality, the experience of enlightenment doesn’t ‘take you’ anywhere – you’re still right where you are when you ‘left’ – be it meditating in your living room, or sitting abruptly on the pavement on your walk to work.

Enlightenment does not make you a better person.  Or it does but doesn’t. I mean I’m no better than anyone else – I’m not going to say “I’m enlightened, and you’re not” – it doesn’t work that way. I am still the same guy I was, and I still have my days.  I can still be a pain in the ass or drive my girlfriend up the wall because no matter how hard I try I’m just not in sync with her.  And there are still days where I just don’t wanna.  Enlightenment is not a way to flee your troubles – just like seeking out ‘greener pastures’ where you get there and realize you’ve brought all your ‘baggage’ with you – it doesn’t solve problems.  Instead it gives you the capacity to solve problems.  That’s a different thing isn’t it?  The old saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” – sure, but the guy still has to get off his ass and go fish.