The older I get, the less I care. Must be getting close to my Ultimate Enlightenment.
Except, I care so little, I've lost interest in trying to figure out whether I'm closer to or further from something or other... God, spiritual truth, Buddha-nature, enlightenment, Tantric ecstacy, whatever.
For a long time the notion of a spiritual path made sense to me. Now, it doesn't. A path leads to somewhere I want to go. And which I know exists. What the hell is a spiritual path? Can anybody point to it? Are there signs of the destination?
Devotees of religions, forms of spirituality, mystical practices -- they're seeking something they don't have.
I can heartily identify with that. I don't have a Retina Macbook Pro laptop. And I want one! Difference is, I've seen and touched a Retina Macbook Pro laptop. I haven't seen or touched God, spirit, soul, ultimate reality, heaven, or anything else spiritual paths supposedly lead to.
So meandering aimlessly appeals to me now. I still have things on my to-do list, of course. (I'm married, after all.) I just feel much more comfortable not-knowing what life is going to bring me. Or what I'll bring to life.
Yesterday I woke up with a plan for the day in mind. Finding that our wi-fi router, Apple's Airport Extreme, wasn't working dumped that plan in my psyche's garbage heap. I spent much of the day figuring out what was going on with some recalcitrant pieces of technology, a modem and router, which had their own ideas about how I should spend the day.
Which was fine.
A few years ago, in January 2008, I talked about this sort of meandering in "Meditation is useless." I can't believe how wise I was in that post. That's the thing about me: I find it so easy to agree with myself!
I've meditated daily for almost forty years. I've read Zen literature for even longer. I've never actually practiced Zen. But maybe I have. Heck, I surely have.
We all have. We're alive. And once in a while, either by accident or on purpose, or with purposeless purpose, we see what life seemingly is all about. A glimpse at least.
It's cold here in Oregon right now. Freezing cold at night, which is fairly rare in the temperate Willamette Valley. This morning I got up and looked at our indoor thermometer, which also shows the outdoor temperature.
"27.2 degrees," I said to myself. At that moment I had a flash of it's so absolutely right. That was the temperature! Absolutely marvelous! In a little while it'd be different. And that too, absolutely right.
It might snow later in the week. Which could make it tough to drive around. Still, absolutely right. There's always only one thing going on: what's going on.
Any attempt to convince oneself of that – completely useless. Yet this is what religion is all about. As is Zen and Taoism.
The only difference, and it's a big one, is that religions take themselves seriously. Zen and Taoism don't. From what I've read, the ultimate Zen experience is throwing a pie in the face of your most revered Master.
Whereupon he laughs uproariously. So do you. What a joke!
True. But the humor can be related to serious neuroscience.
This morning I was reading another chapter in my new favorite book, Iain McGilchrist's "The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World." Divided refers to the left and right hemispheres, which look upon the world in markedly different ways.
Thus it is almost as if we're two different people. McGilchrist says that in people where the connection between the hemispheres has been severed, they can still function mostly normally.
So the two hemispheres can be viewed as each being conscious, since this is explicit in a "split brain" patient and implicit in our own everyday divided sense of self. At the end of McGilchrist's The Nature of the Two Worlds chapter, I learned about a central difference between the left and right hemispheres.
The left is purposeful. The right is caring... about what is, not what could be.
The nature of language in the left hemisphere and its relationship with grasp imply the overriding value to it of use. The left hemisphere is aways engaged in a purpose: it always has an end in view, and downgrades whatever has no instrumental purpose in sight.
The right hemisphere, by contrast, has no designs on anything. It is vigilant for whatever is, without preconceptions, without a predefined purpose. The right hemisphere has a relationship of concern or care (what Heidegger calls Sorge) with whatever happens to be.
...The world of the left hemisphere, dependent on denotative language and abstraction, yields clarity and power to manipulate things that are known, fixed, static, isolated, decontextualized, explicit, disembodied, general in nature, but ultimately lifeless.
The right hemisphere, by contrast, yields a world of individual, changing, evolving, interconnected, implicit, incarnate, living beings within the context of the lived world, but in the nature of things never fully graspable, always imperfectly known -- and to this world it exists in a relationship of care.
If "spirituality" is a word that means anything, and increasingly I feel that it doesn't, it points to the world of the brain's right hemisphere. There's no path here, no perfection, no eternal truth, no disembodied reality. There's uncertainty, awe, being present caringly with what is here and now.
Where the left hemisphere's relationship with the world is one of reaching out to grasp, and therefore to use, it, the right hemisphere's appears to be one of reaching out -- just that. Without purpose.
Remember one of the unsacred teachings of useless Duhism:
The Universe hears your every wish, and wonders why you can't hear it replying, "Uhhh… no."
"Where the left hemisphere's relationship with the world is one of reaching out to grasp, and therefore to use, the right hemisphere's appears to be one of reaching out -- just that. Without purpose."
So on the left, the brain is purposefully grasping, and on the right, it's all fluttering fingers feeling. Sounds like a balanced relationship: one half is sensitive and nurturing and the other half is grasping and opportunistic. The two collaborate beautifully under certain conditions, but in the world as it is, Lefty tells Righty to shut up until bedtime.
Posted by: cc | September 07, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Hey Brian, this might be out of context, but have you tried Swami Ramdevs yoga? I know you do Tai Chi which helps with stress, but you should give Swami Ramdevs yoga a try, I've heard it cures nearly all diseases and brings real peace to the mind.
Posted by: Gaz | September 17, 2012 at 02:11 PM