Towards Freedom – End of Certainty

It all sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Feel the urge to wake up, get some control over mind and talking, escape from the world version born out of societal conditioning whilst being cognisant of a growing self-knowledge. At the higher overview level, it is simple, but as the illusion fades there is an inevitable end of “certainty”. When the parameters of the world and the basis of a life start to fade what shall replace them? As the goals and stories shared by the commonality cease to be so concrete, the “ideals” suspect and even the reliability of perception in question, it is easy to feel lost, bewildered and without anchor. How does one navigate a nascent consciousness within the context of the common dream or at least living adjunct to it? There is no other way than to improvise. As all those things held to be “true” fall by the wayside one after another it can be tricky.

The societal template starts to dissolve, and the advertiser’s nightmare is seen for what it is, marketing. It isn’t real. No matter how many Instagram pictures one sees, how many “buy a house in the country programmes” one watches, the only commonality is you. Wherever you go, you goes to. No matter how you dress it, what extent of plastic surgery and how many pals you may have, you. There is no escaping it. The only real certainty there is, is death. And so very many are shit scared of death. At its simplest life offers death, of course there can be much in between birth and death. It is my observation that not much thought is given to how one spends that time. There is little discernment and quantity tends to dominate quality in the manner of living.

I personally don’t understand where this “must have” mentality comes from, I can observe it. And it is this ambition, the acquisition lust, which has prevalence. I doubt its satiation brings anything other than temporary even instantaneous relief or gratification. When the moment passes it is back, as hungry as ever. But what is it all for? What does it mean? Few question for the “must have” holds dominion in one way or another. That field over the fence is so tempting in comparison to the grass at feet. And mundane success is so often measured by the extent of acquisition, whether that be money, fame, kudos, clothes or notches on the bed post. It is my hypothesis that the “must have” does not bring peace, freedom or equanimity. I may be alone in this hypothesis though I suspect deep down most sense this if only as the autumn of life approaches. By then there is enough anecdotal evidence that folly does not fulfil. This “must have” holds dominion and it seems that the certainty of success pivots around it.

Might there be more than one kind of success?

A life lived to build a curriculum vitae for public consumption and personal advancement, may look good on paper. One might be able to talk to it, justify it and explain it; it may bring kudos and cash. It is on paper and not in being. No list of achievements can comment of the state of being, the degree of freedom or of equanimity. If one is striving, does one have balance? It does not take too much thought to see that striving and balance are not cut of the same cloth. If all you have at the end of days is a paper list of achievements, then perhaps your earthly sojourn looks good on paper but what has been the true value of living? Without sounding like some religious zealot, it is reasonable to suggest that the answers do lot lie entirely in material advancement, acquisition and consumption. Anyone who has lived a while knows this. It is convenient to abey this knowledge in the conversations of face value of mutual justification which comprise much of human interaction. Somehow it is way too scary to be open about dissatisfaction with the prevailing madness. It is de rigueur to compare lists, no matter how hollow this game is. If you take away the certainty of list-living it can be cognitively difficult to construct a justifiable sequence to peers and family. This end of apparent certainty is unsettling. If one seeks freedom, then that always goes hand in hand with a lack of certainty. There can be conviction that freedom is sought but how that might be achieved is fundamentally uncertain. There are no concrete boxes to tick to quantify success. One cannot draw graphs to talk to. All the life goals, often material in nature, are not the signposts or way stations on the walk to freedom. In fact, one may never arrive.

The broad consensus of living in the west has some materially quantifiable indicators of success, which provide a conversational framework for world version. Should these cease to apply then one has make a world version 2.0, and in between temporarily viable world version, there is no certainty. I have implied here that world version can be subject to a software update. In this the mind constructs a current world version operating system which is prone to update. But in the limit, there is no world version, just now. That now is of an eternal nature and updates second by second. To live in the now without apparent certainty is not to everyone’s taste. Freedom can be scary. It can have no comparators to give confidence, no metrics and few if any rules. Such an ill-defined world, a world not defined by social conditioning has less mental interpretive structure, it does not need justificatory sense making.

To walk toward freedom is to dissolve world version and do away with the illusory certainty. It is to stand metaphorically naked, a tiny being, against the backdrop of an awesome cosmos. This is reality. It is not the complex socio-political world version which humans appear to be enamoured of.  The world created in the minds of man, is inaccurate as regards its perceived importance within the cosmic context. Tiny beings deem themselves much more important and magnificent than they actually are. From time to time nature reminds mankind of its insignificance, those lessons are forgotten, and man carries on just as self-important and as self-absorbed as ever. The “certainty” of socio-political world version is tantamount though misplaced and inaccurate. 

If you want to be free, then you will have to end this apparent certainty of the socio-political world version and begin to see life for what is, accepting as you do the scale of your beingness. It is not to everyone’s taste to wake up from the demanding “must have” of the common illusion. Strangely if you don’t go to Santorini on vacation, can’t therefore post snaps on the internet or brag about it to friends, the universe does not implode. Why it does not do this is a complete mystery to me!

As it is phrased elsewhere one has to stop the world in order to get off. And it is only when you have gotten off that you can discern with clarity the extent of madness. Then one sees just how much assumption and supposition goes into building the apparent certainty of the common illusion. Once this certainty ends, questions begin, and learning starts. It isn’t comfortable. It is starting to be real.

Towards Freedom – Power

It may seem a little out of place to start discussing power in the context of freedom and equanimity, but it is necessary. Until you have more than a notion of your relationship to power and with power, it is difficult to have balance. Power of course has many meanings, there are many types of power and it comes in all shades. There is power in the sense of dominance, power in the sense of ability, power in knowledge and power as in material plane enforcement. Power is a vast topic itself. Some people have power, that can be positional or organisational power, it can be personal power, it can be muscular power or sexual power. There is the saying that power corrupts, though it need not, it often does. Humanity has a bit of a thing for and about societal power; it has a status hang up.

If you wield power in the sense of political or corporate power, it is unlikely that you will have equanimity and peace. This is because people are so often fighting for power. Even if your powerful position is secure, by the very nature of that position you will be required to make decisions. Those decisions are a responsibility of positional power and rarely do they come with serenity and peace. It is not the fate of most people to learn what high positional power means and those so called are in for a bit of a tough time. All societies have leaders, and these are of varying ability and quality. Some seek power with a thirst. And it is many that are so drawn who end up abusing power. Power has many traps associated for those drawn to it.

In the context of freedom, it is useful to figure out what has power over you and then adjust that situation. Things that have power over you can be as simple as arachnophobia. If a simple spider makes you come out in a sweat, then you are not free of spiders. A tiny creature can evoke a massive drama. It is not the spider’s fault, it is your reaction. For whatever reason you have a fear and a drama associated in your mind with spiders. Chances are this is disproportionate. Few spiders attack humans just because there is nothing better on the TV to watch. People have hang ups about a host of things and this restricts their liberty. Anything which can evoke drama upsets balance.  If small creatures have power over you, then what does that say about your level of mental control and balance?

Similarly, because of co-dependency, there are many people who have power over you. Some will go out of their way to manipulate you into a dependency and if you are so oriented you might even seek such people out, whether consciously or not. There are a multitude of buttons available to others for the pressing of. If at the pressing of a button off you trot into drama, then that button and the finger thereupon, have power over you. It can evoke drama and lack of control, you are off balance and flailing around. It is in this dependency and co-dependency that people give their power away to others. If you want to be free, then you do not need other beings having emotional power over you.

Many of the things that have power over you are to be found in the truck load of baggage which most adults carry with them. There may be shame, wounds, ambitions, unresolved conflict, grudges, guilt, vengeance, fear, unrequited love etc… The list is often long and until you have clarity on where the button comes from, it will stand proud and beckoning. It is in unpacking the baggage and by examination that one can begin to understand and slowly loosen the power over which is held. To be relatively free of buttons is to have more freedom generally. One is not beholden to the past and the narratives of it, which if we bear in mind the likelihood of selective perception are in any case often inaccurate. Memories and history are prevalent members of the set of buttons which are the indicators of something that has power over.  A skilled manipulator can spot these a mile off and press them at will.

If you seek freedom, then you must defend it. This may sound ever so slightly bellicose, but one has to fight to extract oneself from situations in which things, people and ideas have power over you. The past has power over most and reorienting the past in such a manner as to be free of it, is no easy task. The common dream advertises that building memories for your dotage is a good thing, but who can really live in a sepia or rose-tinted world? It is not real. It is imagined and unreliable of recall. To build “memories” is to never be free of them. This is perhaps slightly radical but do consider this. If you live in a mish mash recollection of the past, what do you make of the present, if you even notice it all? To be bound thus, is to not experience the now.

I have used bound, shackles and manacles already in this text, emotive words of slavery and imprisonment. It is up to you to figure out if I am by metaphor over egging the pudding. Until the duvet of illusion is pulled off, there is a cosy familiarity which can seemingly be justified.

Of course, in any material society there will be people and organisations that have temporal power over the circumstances of your life. Short of going off into the wild, this will always be the case. The freedom of complete anarchy is not currently possible in large society, this need not impinge overly on your state of mind, your mental freedom. One can see it for what it is, do the minimum necessary to be a “good” citizen and not feel overly oppressed by the apparatus of state. Within this framework it is possible not to succumb to ideological power over. People will do whatever they do, they will think whatever and opine ad infinitum. None of this need impact on your own equanimity. One does not have to agree, or argue or succumb. If your own mind is clear it is not overly perturbed by the folly and behaviours of others. Unless they are directly intent on harming or manipulating you, they are not direct threats. In keeping your centre, you can rise above it. If you cannot resist the pull of hive or herd mind, then it has power over you, which means you are not yet free of it.

As you begin to see though your own façade, understand your self and get close to your true nature, you will be acquiring power in the sense of knowledge. That knowledge pertains not only to you as a being but to other beings. This knowledge then opens up choices, possibilities for you which were hitherto not available, you have more personal power and more freedom. Freedom is in your choice as to how you respond to whatever life throws at you. There will be a reduced rigidity and an enhanced flexibility of living. With more personal power comes the temptation to exploit that power and perhaps use situations and others to your “advantage”. With all growth in personal power comes temptation. In the absence there are few choices. When there is a plethora of choices available some will not be life enhancing. If you are so inclined, you may use your personal power to exert power over others. As alluded to above that way is not freedom. How can one be free if one enslaves? It is not possible.

I have briefly touched on power here. Learning to handle new found personal power is a part of the walk to freedom. Keeping oneself grounded and developing humility offsets the temptation of power, which can enslave. In this sense knowledge is power which without wisdom and discernment can be a dangerous thing.

Impermanence and Value

For a long while I was resistant to many of the ideas of Buddhism such as non-attachment and suffering. It struck me that this was one miserable philosophy of life always focussing on suffering. Then one day I had a Tango moment. I saw dukkha translated as dissatisfaction. Now, it all made sense. Many people are perennially dissatisfied with their lot and love a good old whinge, complain, and moan. It could become an Olympic sport.

It was a truth, the truth of dissatisfaction.

How then to live in a world without being attached to anything and yet not having anhedonia or being nihilistic?

It requires only a subtle shift. Instead of resenting being born, which many appear to do, why not accept with joy the gift of life. In which one is merely borrowing the things which the universe supplies. Why not value these gifts without grasping, without clinging, because they just like you are impermanent. On the scale of the universe a human being is mightily impermanent, you exist for around 10-8 of the age of the current universe!! That is pretty fleeting.

But hey we can tend to see ourselves as mightily important.

The trick is to value without coveting, to enjoy without indulging, to take only so much as you need from life and to be thankful for the loan. Know that the universe does not owe us anything whatsoever, so we have no right to feel in anyway entitled.

If we are such fleeting beings time is precious and is a gift that is not to be wasted. You cannot hang on to a second, a minute or an hour.

Value is the middle way. Not clinging and attached, not nihilistic and uncaring, valuing with humility.

Attaining the meaning of impermanence, a being turns from dissatisfaction with a growing sense of equanimity and balance, and places value on the gift of life. Its chance to learn and evolve, here on this beautiful blue planet for but one fleeting moment of now.

No sight….

No sight

Only now

No sight

And, no how

 

The deafening silence

Of the future

Stands amidst the bird song

Flaunting its mystery

 

The flag of the unknown

Soldiers on the breeze

Unhurried not pregnant

Calling for a kernel

 

In nutshell nuance

Of a golden germ

Borne by the brook of beginnings

At the turnstile of time

 

Weighting heavy

On a song-line story

Sung out and into

The leaden of night

 

Forging the plums and the cherries

 

Pinking them blush

To cheek in the sun

Berrying holly

Blood in the light

 

The question of Watt

Joules in each second

There sparkles a facet

Of diamond’s delight

 

Next is the answer

Shape has it not

 

Cotton its colour

Thread yet to weave

Coughing a coffin

So hard, to believe

 

Hanging like washing

Pegged to this fate

As patient as gypsies

So must I, still wait

 

The deafening silence

Of the future

 

No sight

Only now

No sight

And, no how….

Dancing the edge

Tingling and tangling

Dancing the razor’s edge

On the weary toes of… hope

 

Searching the dark

winding

Passages wound

In the Lenten fabric of

before

 

Watching the whirring

Windmills of the mind

Step with Scheherazade

On to

The fragile stage of fate

 

In the wind comes

The fiddler’s note

Carving the heart strings

Tidal pull

 

And surging with Passion,

To bathe away doubt

Hung in a moment

On a bridge still to cross

 

In the never ending

In between

Of the vital, living, now

 

In the corner shop cavern

Of the aching heart

Searching the shelves

For that final ounce

 

Wrapping it well

With a moistened

Tear stained bow

 

And giving it anyway

Because…

 

That is what it means

………… to be truly alive.