"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience."
~Teilhard de Chardin
by Bev Walton~Porter
Countless people -- souls, actually -- are lost to senseless violence and events on a daily basis, all across the world. Think of all the blogs, stories, anecdotes, photographs, lifetimes and memories are attached to all those people and the ones who knew/love them.
Human life is precious thing. Much too precious to be snuffed out through war, violence and other such senseless acts.
A second ago, another soul was taken from this plane of existence in some way, shape or form. We do not know who they were or what life they lived...but you can be sure they added spark to the universal flame of consciousness.
Many remind us that life is a cycle of death and birth, and that life and death are different sides of the same coin, and that "things happen for a reason." That is cold comfort and solace in the dark wake of a loved one's death. There is room for the rational, and the inevitable truth that "life must go on"; however, let us not abandon the emotional parts of ourselves as well...and for some (those who believe in some...thing...) the spiritual element as well. In the aftermath of such tragic events and losses, feel all you must feel and be not ashamed of it. There is a place for both the rational and the emotional responses to things; it's what makes us completely human.
We are but human, and our knowledge is limited. The question of "Why?" echoes through countless voices throughout history on this planet, only to be met with either silence or loose speculation. We often ride on alternate waves of discontent and overwhelming joy during this earth-bound journey. What awaits us? Depends on whom you ask: some say nothing; others say some...thing. Since we cannot be sure (or perhaps we ourselves create what lies after death with our own minds a la quantum physics and the holographic universe), then we can only operate on what happens every second, every minute of each day of our corporeal existence. Even at that, some would say staying firmly in the present and being fully aware at the time is still ambiguous since the present itself is malleable and can be manipulated by the observer's "observation" and participation in current events ("The universe as we know it is a joint product of the observer and the observed" - Teilhard de Chardin). The NOW is exactly what we sculpt it to be, in other words. What we do or say within the next second -- or minute -- can forever alter reality. Not just for ourselves, but for others too.
Is this true? And, if it is, imagine the power and ability we all have to make massive changes in ourselves and the world itself. But if that is the case, then that means WE are responsible for what we are and what we do, both on a personal level and a global/spiritual level. The idea is a heady one -- and a scary one. Imagine that we DO hold the key. We've either forgotten it or we are afraid to use it. Or maybe we don't want to use it. Because if we use it, then culpability falls squarely at our own feet. It's much easier to blame other people. I've done it in my life many times, and I'm sure many of you have done it, too. It's easier to point the finger at "somebody" or "anybody" than at ourselves. I've done my fair share of that in life; have you?
There's a term called "negative responsibility" I've often heard discussed in philosophy. Basically, if something is going to happen and you don't do anything to stop it (because you don't want to get involved, for fear or some other reason), then if something bad DOES happen, then are YOU responsible in some way because you didn't try to do what you could...or at least make an effort?
A friend of mine wrote to me recently and told me, "Sit quietly and listen the Universe...maybe it's saying 'no.'" In other words, *assume* the answer is NO. Take no pro-active steps and simply allow things to happen with no action on your part, because whatever happens -- without your input -- is what is meant to happen.
I disagree. I think the Universe isn't just a YES/NO proposition. Sometimes it's a "maybe, but...." What I mean is this: if you want to get a job, you can't just sit on a sidewalk and "wish" all day long that someone will come up and offer you a high-paying job out of the blue. It's not that the universe is saying NO to you; instead, it's the Universe saying that YES, there is potential for you to get a job (and it may not be high-paying, but perhaps you are meant to START at this position), but the Universe is giving you the opportunity by saying, "Maybe, but..." YOU have to take action and focus your intent. YOU have to take that opportunity and take action in some way. Action may not mean huge, gaping steps, but rather smaller, more manageable steps that, over time, culminate in consistent intent/focus/action. Then if the path you're on leads to a dead-end, it's time to forge a new path using your creativity and ingenuity. We have higher-thinking abilities for a reason...as well as intuition.
There is a concept in Taoism that always fascinated me: Wu-Wei, or "without action." But wait! That is not all. It is actually part of a paradox known as "wei wu wei," which is "effortless doing," or "action without action." If you're confused, it's no wonder. Western thought and Eastern thought are two very different things, and when you are raised in a boiling cauldron of Western thought, it is difficult -- and sometimes seemingly impossible -- to grasp certain Eastern concepts. In fact, when you you use the word "concept," you've missed the entire meaning of the Tao, or The Way, completely.
Buddhism is interesting to me, but Taoism is a belief system I am drawn to in a big way. I'm not a Taoist, and I'm not sure I could ever be one; however, if I had one belief system that appeals to me the most in the category of Eastern Philosophies, Taoism is the one that vibes with me more than any other. Again -- Western thinking: "this" is better than "that," putting things/ideas, etc. into boxes and categories of thought -- labeling them. We Westerners like to do that; we don't know what to do without that control or categorization. It's not just enough to "be," is it? In fact, consumerism is a major component of our capitalistic society.
But I digress....
Wei wu wei, does not mean take NO action. Instead, it's the right action at the right time. What it means -- to me, anyway -- is analogous to merging onto a busy highway. You obviously take action to get onto the highway, but you can't take action (merge into traffic) at any old time or you'll cause an accident. Therefore, you must judge the flow of the traffic and then take the right action (merge) at the right time to smoothly enter the flow. Too soon or too late and you suffer the consequences (and so do the drivers behind you who may be involved in an accident.) This is how I "see" the concept of Wu-Wei. It does not mean do nothing at all; instead, it's right action at the right time with the flow of things. In our Western culture, we have an old adage: "Strike while the iron is hot."
Any action by man, according to the Tao Te Ching, disrupts the already existent, harmonious ebb-flow of the Universe. Is it possible for man NEVER to exert his will, or never to take action in life and in the Universe? It is not possible. Even being born is an action. How you act and what action you take, however, depends upon the circumstances of the situation and the people involved. What is the prevailing atmosphere? How do you fit in that atmosphere...and what IS the 'right' action at the 'right' time? The answer is not static and depends upon each and every situation that presents itself. And every action causes a reaction, as well.
This all makes perfect sense to me; however, theory vs. practice is something quite different alltogether. Then consider crowds of people -- or groups of people -- and the dynamics therein. It's difficult enough to work within a dyad (two-person) configuration of interaction, much less a whole group or crowd of people with divergent attitudes, interests and perceptions. It's a wonder any of us communicate with any level of success at all!
Taoism is a philosophical belief system I admire. It is one that proves fascinating and provides more questions than answers in many respects -- especially for those of us caught in the dualistic Western mode of thinking. On occasion, something clicks and I understand...but then the more I think I understand, the more I realize it is nebulous and formless; The Way, and the understanding of it, cannot be boxed, labeled, separated out or explained in words. By doing so, the essence of The Way is lost. And thus is a paradox for us human beings, who use words -- both verbal and written -- to communicate and understand ideas and concepts.
At this point, I am far too Western in my thoughts/actions/demeanor to become a Taoist. However, I still find the Tao Te Ching to be one of the most comforting assemblages of written knowledge I've ever experienced. In modern times and under especially trying circumstances, it seems the Tao's wisdom is even more pertinent.
My point is this: what is the 'right' action, and when is it time to take said 'right' action? This applies to both our own lives and to world/national events on a grander scale, from 9/11, the war in Iraq, to the bloody massacre that took place at Virginia Tech and other similar horrific events in our past. What was the absolute First Cause? What was the chain of events, lining up like a macabre row of dominos, that led up to those events? Some people applied Wu-Wei during those circumstances, and others did not.
We are hindsight judges and juries in the aftermath of these and other events. On a smaller scale, we are also judges/juries in the aftermath of what went right -- or wrong -- in our own lives. We could further enter into a discussion of what the definition of 'right' and 'wrong' means in themselves if we wanted to go more in-depth in our analysis, but for now let's not expand any further.
Action without action. Taking 'right' action at the 'right' time.
If we are to live together, and to cultivate a more harmonious, less violent culture and society, then each of us is responsible for asking ourselves questions on a daily basis about what is the 'right' thing to do and when is the 'right' time to do it. It is easier to do nothing, and yet, doing nothing in itself is a choice. Sometimes it is better to wait and do nothing FOR THE TIME BEING because the proper time for action has not yet arrived (i.e. - waiting to merge into traffic). However, there is a balance to be struck in decision-making: you cannot act too hastily, nor should you wait too long, according to the circumstances. Nobody gives you an instruction book on when to act and not to act. You'll ask 100 people an opinion on what you should do, and get numerous different answers. So...what should you do?
I believe the answer can be found in the marrying of both rational and emotional thought when it comes to decision-making and knowing what is the 'right' time for you to do -- or not do -- something. When it comes to second-guessing others and whether they made the 'right' decision, it is usually a fool's game. You must first walk a mile in their shoes to gain understanding of where their feet met the road at the time.
Events and people are like dominoes in the patterns of our existence. What we do -- or do not do -- impacts other people and events. One change of mind or shift of thought alters the set pattern. Again, we hold the key and either we are unaware we have the key to change or we are afraid (or unwilling) to use it. The responsibility for 'right' action at the 'right' time ultimately comes down to our own individual decisions.
One word, one glance, one action could make the difference and change the pattern. It's a tall order and a tough dose of responsibility. There is no longer "somebody" or "anybody" waiting in the wings to take the 'right' action. There is just me and you (collectively).
So, where do we go from here?
As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said, "In the final analysis, the questions of why bad things happen to good people transmutes itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it happened."
It is easy to incite violence and hate; it is difficult to cultivate peace and harmony. For the sake of all of us, and our futures, we must find the 'right' path and walk it...however difficult the journey becomes.
*Note: this is a resurrection of a piece I constructed in the past; slight revisions have been made. The essence and importance of the message and the spirit in which it was intended has not changed, however. These are the thoughts crowding my mind on a daily basis.
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