Sometimes we make things up to excuse our lack of effort. But what is this “lack of effort”? Are we indeed habitually opting for the line of least resistance while hoping for the best, or is this some conspiratorial travesty for the subjugation of the masses? Are we passively taking in the sights and sounds of a life less virtuous and sheepishly gobble down the agenda of our downfall? No questions asked, no second-guessing, no remorse. You may have even scoffed a bit at the word “virtuous”, which somewhat proves the point… perhaps. I mean, what use is virtue when everyone and everything around us seems to be on a wilful downward spiral. What can we glean from this proverbial mess that is our life? Steeped in contradictory messages that urge you to spend more but save, even when you don’t make enough to cover the basics; love but not get involved; live but quietly die inside because you’re not allowed to express your experience of fear, loss, abandonment, or even joy without the guarded restrictions of ostensibly good conduct. I OBJECT YOUR HONOUR! I strenuously object. Are we really disallowed the necessary luxury of expression, or is it a self-imposed limit we have been forced to accept subliminally? Do we do this to ourselves or is society surreptitiously and through a constant subtle bombardment of exhortations leading us astray? Possibly both, and possibly none. Where does the truth lie, if there’s such a thing as “the truth” in a world full of relative notions and abstract certainties.
Coming from two distinct traditions – western philosophy and Buddhism – the picture appears to be even more blurry. You’d have thought we would have reached a state of blissful synergy by now, what with all the earnest attempts at bringing people together in love, kindness, acceptance and understanding. Philosophy is eagerly throwing a spanner in the works every single time. I may be a friend of wisdom, but wisdom defined by who? Certainly not the ones who need it most or the ones who actually have it. When you’ve been walking around telling everyone you’re wise, maybe you’ll believe your own hype. Tomes of books attest to that. But then, tomes of books attest to the need for that detached tender benevolence toward self and others. How do you marry the two notions without cancelling them out or compromising their essence? How do you define self – if there is one – and other without resorting to “otherness”. Could we ever lose the “self” within the framework of a society that insists on labelling everything we are and do, thus conveniently providing the sum of our parts…
When asked “Who are you?” what would your direct answer be? A series of signifiers perhaps to adorn your being. But your being is more than just those words. You are an experience and, more often than not, this experience cannot really be couched in a few choice statements. Does all this sound self-referential and even somewhat nonsensical? That’s because it is.
And if you can’t just be, fill the empty space with an assortment of distractions to see you through this rough patch. Until you’re ready to face the void.
How does emptiness feel? Is it cold, hot, damp, dry, light dark, up, down? All these words cannot really sum up the essence of emptiness as a fundamental experience of the psyche. Your soul would tell you, if it could “use its words” what emptiness is like. But there are no words in the soul – there is movement in tandem with stasis, everything is always here and now and is always deferred yet paradoxically present. How you view it is what makes all the difference. Which brings me back to lack of effort.
Can we afford to adjust our viewpoint, to get uncomfortable, to redefine our lives in a way that goes beyond the verbal realm? To accept that both and neither can be a valid option at any given time? How does my philosophical friend respond? We must give it a name – we must define its core so that we can break it down to easily digestible parts of ostensibly incomprehensible abstractions. And then, when the meaning becomes clear, through distillation, filtering and refinement maybe then we can begin our journey. But by then, your head is already a pot full of tasty word noodles that beckon you to stick around. And you oblige. You do nothing other than keep defining yourself and others using a vocabulary handed down by those who chose it for you. They gave you the abridged version of this dictionary and never bothered to introduce you to the word “thesaurus”.