Once in a while I get a glimpse of how things really are, or ideally are, spiritually speaking.
Now, I put "spiritual" in quotation marks in the title of this post, because the way I use the word, it has nothing to do with God or the supernatural -- which in my view don't exist.
Rather, when I speak of spirituality, I mean a quest to understand how best to live life. The ancient Greeks called this philosophy, literally "love of wisdom." However, these days philosophy usually is considered to be not a way of life, but an academic discipline.
So for me spiritual points to an attempt to live life fully, happily, wisely, compassionately. And since I'm a lover of science, I enjoy thinking of my personal form of spirituality as a Theory of Everything that applies to me -- yet might have some appeal to others as well.
This post is just a first attempt at laying out an outline of how I'm seeing things. The pieces I'm trying to fit together include:
-- Responding to a totality of circumstances
-- Objectivism within subjectivity
It probably is obvious (to some, at least) that my inspiration is a blend of Buddhism and Taoism, two philosophies that I have a lot of fondness for when they're stripped of supernatural mumbo-jumbo.
Rather than describe how those six notions listed above relate, which I'll try to do in another post, for now I'll simply describe an everyday event that's a broad-brush illustration of my personal Theory of Everything.
I'm driving along on the two-lane, curvy, hilly road that leads from our home in rural south Salem to the city limits about five miles away. The speed limit is 55 mph. I come up behind a car that's traveling much more slowly than I am, 35 mph.
There's no doubt about the objective reality here. My VW GTI is following another car. We're both going 35 mph, which is about 20 mph slower than what my car was traveling at before I caught up to the other car. However, my subjective reality could take several turns at this point.
One way it could go would be to get irritated at the person driving the car ahead of me. I'm late for my Tai Chi class, per usual, and I don't need a slow driver making me later. Irritation would be a form of reactivity that wouldn't change the objective situation, just my subjective feeling.
I could, though, simply observe, "That car is going quite slow."
I also could realize that the amount of time I'd save by driving a few miles at 55 mph rather than 35 mph is minimal. Coming to a bunch of red lights when I got to town, or not being able to find a parking space close to my Tai Chi class, would affect my arrival time much more.
Thus I could detach from a view that following a slow car is a bad thing.
Instead, it is just a thing, a happening, an event tossed up by a wide variety of circumstances that together, resulted in me ending up behind the car in front of me at this particular time, in this particular place. I wouldn't see this event as having any special significance.
This person driving the car ahead of me isn't trying to slow me down. They may not even be aware of me, if they fail to check their rear-view mirror. They're likely just driving as they typically do, slower than I like to drive.
I could even try to imagine that I'm experiencing the vehicular version of a Taoist tale about a man rowing across a lake who becomes angry when he sees another boat coming right at him, as if he wasn't even there, forcing him to take evasive action to avoid a collision.
Then he sees that no one is in the other boat. It's drifting on its own. His anger subsides.
So I could envision that I and the driver of the other car are powerless to do anything than what we are actually doing. The universe has conjured up chains of causes and effects that have led each of us to be driving in a certain fashion on the stretch of road that leads to town.
Thus those six notions I listed above can lead me to a calm acceptance of the situation, rather than an irritated response. This may not seem like nirvana, but actually it is quite close to how Buddhists view this state of non-reactivity.
Anyway, naturally there's more to say about my personal Theory of Everything. Being a wordy person, I'll probably be doing that saying before too long.
(By the way, even given what I said above, I could still calmly pass the slow-moving car when it was safe to do so. Which I do frequently, since my VW GTI is a joy to drive on hilly, twisty roads. And everywhere else, really.)