Monday, May 11, 2009

Always Be Seeking Truth

That's the answer, as best I can guess, to my good friend Teddy's question to my previous post. He said:
The challenge becomes holding on to the vision you've enunciated, because the forces of the world keep clouding our line of vision, making us see nothing but the narrow, trivial, parochial day-to-day details that we need to just survive. How do we hold onto the timeless while we try to hack it now in time?
If you haven't seen the great movie Glengarry Glen Ross, there's a scene where Alec Baldwin's character is talking to a bunch of salesmen, wherein he gives them the formula for success in sales: ABC--Always Be Closing. He repeats it like a mantra, and tells them that if they are going to make it in that business, they'd better listen.

So, lately, like a mantra, I've been seeking the Truth, but with a capital "T." Teddy's right: the forces of the world do conspire against us to keep us small and upset and shriveled. The people in "power" do not want us to reach our potential, have an interest in keeping the status quo, have an interest in confusion and obfuscation. On a more micro level, it's also just the minutiae of daily life--earning a living, taking care of the house, educating the kids, what have you--that keeps us myopically focused on the here and now.

I know it's unfashionable of late to say that there even is a Truth. After all, isn't truth just what we think it is? Isn't everything relative? My truth is what I believe, your truth is what you believe, etc. ad infinitum.

But the only way we "hold on to the timeless while we try to hack it in now time" is to attune ourselves to Truth. Which means there must be at least something that's universal, something that's True.

But what is it? Does it even exist?

First, it's a mistake to think that you can solely come to Truth through reason and rationality. You need these things, but reason can serve our basest, most depraved instincts, too, so it must be checked by something else. After all, the intellect can perform mighty tricks of ratiocination that can lead to somewhere very, very dark.

But it's also a mistake to think that you can rely entirely upon emotion to find Truth, since emotion and the instantaneous reactions emotions can elicit often take us to improper conclusions, at best, and terrible deeds, at worst.

But you do need both of these tools, so how do you harness them properly? What causes them to go so profoundly awry?

In my search for Truth, I recognize the culprit again and again and again, both in my own life and in my study of history: Ego.

Ego is the entity that lies to us all about our importance, about what we want and need, about the importance of the ephemeral world. Once we can begin to act in ways not driven by gratification of Ego, we begin our journey toward seeking truth and serving truth.

Practically speaking, I have found that there are already ancient practices meant to aid humans in truth seeking, in diminishing the power Ego has over us. In many ways, it is the role of ritual and religion, though many of those practices--especially in the West--have been profoundly corrupted by man's Ego.

For me, the practice of yoga, meditation, and now, tai chi, have done wonders for my ability to perceive and move through the world in a less ego-driven fashion. The temporal world is still there, but I am more likely to see through it and less likely to be tempted by its fleeting and material promises.

As they say, there are many paths to the kingdom, but I truly believe there is only one kingdom. It has many names: Nirvana, paradise, heaven, enlightenment--even happiness and bliss.

Every culture in every part of the world speaks of this kingdom. But we make a mistake when we conceive of it as being "out there" or as a place. The kingdom--bliss--is not out there. It is the oldest Truth and it is within us. It is hard to grasp, because in a sense, there is nothing to grasp. There is no "it" and there is no "other."

We find this unified, harmonious experience when we meditate on what we know in our bodies and in our consciousness to be fundamental and universal: the great, the wondrous, the awful, the beautiful, the terrifying Mystery.

So, again, practically speaking, the next time you find yourself distracted by the stuff going on all around you, repeat to yourself: Always be seeking Truth.

And that, friends, is what I have to offer for preserving this penetrating, clear-eyed vision when the duststorms blow and men work as hard as they can to wound you. And as you go to work, and mow the lawn, meditate there, too, and there you will ask the questions that will lead you to an ever more satisfying, blissful life here on earth.

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