Someone up there (or down there) is trying to tell me something. This great satirical piece on The Onion, “Search for Self Called Off After 38 Years,” almost exactly echoes what some friends and I were talking about last night.
I told them that when I peruse my extensive personal library, searching for some spiritual inspiration, usually the only books I can stand to read have Buddhist, Zen, or Taoist themes. All the rest seem too damn dogmatic now.
Buddhists and Taoists don’t waste much energy searching for a true self because they don’t believe that it exists. At least, they’re not sure whether it does. If it pops up and says “Hi!” one day, they’ll welcome the company. But they don’t agonize over finding a self that is different from the self that would be doing any finding.
Constant searching sucks. For a long time I’ve considered that I was on a spiritual path. Can’t see the path, though. Have no idea where the unseen path ends either. Or if I’m even on it. If it exists.
Last night we talked about trajectories. How when you’re young, it seems that there is a course to your life. A direction. An ascending flight of career, philosophical, religious, or whatever, stairs. You’re getting somewhere, one step at a time.
When you’re older, you begin to realize that the “somewhere” always is around the corner. The more corners you’ve turned, the less you’re able to keep telling yourself, “It’s going to be around the next one.” Almost certainly, it isn’t.
Doesn’t matter what “it” is. It seems to be human nature to want something more or different than what we have now. Money, fame, power, sex, beauty, knowledge, happiness, self-awareness: whatever the just right quality or quantity of it is, it’s always coming, never right here and now.
I think the Onion article is on to something. Maybe the searching itself is the problem. As Andrew Speth put it so pithily, “Fuck it.”
That’s a pretty good koan.
I told my friends that I’ve been reading Stephen Bachelor’s “Verses from the Center,” a book about the teachings of the Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna. I like Bachelor’s style, even if (according to reviews of his book on Amazon) he takes some liberties with his translations and interpretations.
The Buddhist notion of neither-this-nor-that fascinates me. Something else. None of the above. Think outside the box. Even more, blow the fucking box to smithereens.
Searching. Finding. Real self. False self. God. Devil. Masters. Disciples. Wisdom. Ignorance. Good. Bad. Right. Wrong.
More and more, I have the sense that It is something else entirely. By “It” I mean the root, the core, the kernel, the center that we’re all spinning around and never finding.
If I’m lost, or believe that I’m lost (same thing, I guess), probably the best thing to do is sit still. Real still. And get light. Real light. I’m evolving this theory—oh yes, everything is getting clear, very clear—that if I can just float weightlessly in my lostness, I’ll be drawn to where I should go.
Could be a magnetic attraction. Or a soft breeze. A spider’s web spun out to draw me in. I have no idea. No need to have an idea. Just have to be ready to move in any direction that It draws me to.
So I can relate to The Onion piece. This part hit close to home:
On Tuesday afternoon, he loaded books by such diverse authors as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Meister Eckhart, and George Gurdjieff into a box labeled "free shit," and left it outside of his apartment beside a trash can.
Great idea. Not quite ready to follow his lead yet, but I’m going to be keeping my eye open for a really big box.
I also can’t argue with his concluding remarks:
"Trust me—there's nothing out there for you to find," Speth said. "You're wasting your life. The sooner you realize you have no self to discover, the sooner you can get on with what's truly important: celebrity magazines, snack foods, and Internet porn."Except, I advise staying away from snack foods. Those trans fats will kill you. Of course, if you don’t have a self, who cares?