I had one of those oh, yeah! moments yesterday when everything became so clear to me. Now, I've had such moments before. In my "Mini-secret of universe revealed" I described a couple of them. One mescaline-fueled. One clear-headed.
So I'm not claiming that my most recent epiphany is It, the Big One, a foretaste of my impending satori. But hey, it could be.
And it's in line with my other revelations, though you might have to be under the influence of a psychedelic to appreciate my late '60s insight that it's all about a paper bag turned inside out.
I was running around yesterday like I often do. Lots on my to-do list. Feeling like I had more to accomplish than time to do it in. Home chores. Land use appeal chores. Exercising chores. Internet and email chores.
I'd be at the Marion County Planning Division office feeling like I should already be at Kinko's making copies of the documents I was picking up. Standing over a Kinko's copier I'd feel that it was past-time for me to be at the post office, if I was going to get this stuff mailed when it should be.
And so it'd go. Whatever I was doing didn't feel quite right. There was always a raspy buzz of dissatisfaction playing in the background of the music of every moment.
I wasn't unhappy. I never felt that I should have been doing something else. It wasn't my actions that were off kilter, because I was engaged in just what I wanted to do.
So what was creating that annoying buzz? Why wasn't I feeling absolutely fine? Where did that sensation of not-rightness come from?
Suddenly a truth hit me, seemingly obvious but not well recognized until that moment. I'd overlaid the actuality of my day with an imaginary idealized version of it.
Early on in the morning, when I was thinking about what I wanted to accomplish, I'd envisioned how things would ideally go. So much time for this. So much time for that. No wasted effort. Crisp clean efficient doing – exactly unlike how every day previous to that one had gone.
There's always surprises. I always get distracted. I always end up doing something different, or at least differently, than I expected.
Yet I still had a template of expectations that formed the backdrop of my day. When what was actually happening on the stage of my life didn't match up with the script that I'd laid out in my mind, that warning buzz of dissatisfaction would start up.
Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert! Reality had broken into my conception of what should be, and that was bothersome.
A lengthy back-up at the intersection that I usually flow right through that time of day. A normally reliable copier jamming. A phone call coming just when I was ready to leave. How could reality dare to deviate from the plan that I'd laid out for it!
That thought sounds crazy. And it is, really. Self-absorbed. Egotistical. Delusional. How could I expect that the world would revolve around my intentions for an entire day?
And yet…almost everyone engages in this same sort of insanity. Our myriad worries, anxieties, frettings, and fears almost entirely stem from the same source my buzz of dissatisfaction did: a perceived mismatch between an idealized template we've laid out for the events of life, and what really is happening, has happened, or we expect is going to happen.
Religions market their wares by playing on this same sense of wrongness. Without it, people would have little reason to buy any religious product.
You're sinful, so you need to be forgiven. You're heading for hell, so you need salvation. You're fallen from grace, so you need rising up. You're immersed in ignorance, so you need the truth. Need. A gap between what is and what should be. That's the void religion tries to fill.
But how real is that void? Which is to say, how real was my feeling during much of yesterday that whatever was happening at the moment needed improving upon?
Religions hold out to us the hope that one day – not now but in the future, just have faith and it'll come – all of the wrongness that we feel about life as it's being lived now will turn into a perfect sense of rightness. Bliss. Peace. Nirvana. Love. Oneness.
My big insight, though (and again, this is so obvious that most of us, including me, already know it; we just don't know how to handle our knowing), was that the perception of wrongness is what's wrong. With me, and with religion.
Yes, we should strive. We should try to accomplish things. We should learn more and love more. We should have goals. We should try to make both ourselves better people and the world a better place. All this is absolutely right.
But it's wrong to believe that whatever is happening is wrong, that an error message is flashing on the screen of the cosmos every time reality fails to conform to our expectation for it. That way lies madness. Or at least, anxiety, confusion, and divisiveness as competing groups (including religions) argue over This is the way it should be.
There's only what is. Period.
Admittedly, this includes the sense of wrongness that almost all of us feel much or most of the time. However, I don't believe that this purely human perception is an inherent aspect of really real reality.
It's an unnecessary anthropocentric add-on that creates a lot of grief, both individually and societally. If there's anything wrong with the world, it's that sense of wrongness. Without it, there'd be no need for religion. Or for all the other ways we try to reassure ourselves that one day It'll be all right.
"It" is just fine. It's our perception of It that's wrong.