Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Lonely Road to Enlightenment

Knowing that this blog most likely will be obliterated someday, I feel that I have free reign to write anything here at all, anything. Imagine that, such open-ended freedom, such unlimited potential and possibility, to create anything you can imagine, or at least to create the idea of anything, if not the actual thing itself.

So I sit outside in my courtyard, though it's not mine really, I'm just a squatter here, occupying this space on borrowed time. But it is a courtyard nonetheless, which may as well be the courtyard to a royal palace, where I sit in relative peace and quiet and comfort, reposing amongst the cactuses and flowers and hummingbirds and statues.

I sit out here at different times, both day and night, but lately I've come to prefer the night, because it is cooler and quieter outside, and I enjoy being alone with the night under a star filled sky. Watching the stars inspires all sorts of philosophical thinking, and triggers many more questions than answers. I wonder if I will ever transcend my human limitations, and evolve into a more enlightened being, someone who is no longer controlled by feelings of selfishness, or held back by negative thinking and emotions.

So let's just say, what if? What if you were enlightened?

To put it bluntly, let's say that just when you think you've gotten your shit together, in terms of personal growth, psychological maturity, self-knowledge, and self-mastery, that you have become an enlightened being. That you see and understand everything with crystal clear lucidity. You know yourself, you know other people, you know the world, and you know exactly what you want, what needs to be done, and how to do it and why.

You have a clear vision. You see the problem and you know the solution. Not idle speculation. Not a theory. Not maybe this will work, but knowing that this will definitely work, that this is what needs to be done, and it is the best course of action to take. There is no hint of selfishness. No personal ambition. No lust for personal wealth, power, or recognition, just a selfless act of charity, of providing a solution to a problem, that would benefit the entire world.

Let's say this is the case. What happens next? Then the reality may sink in that you suddenly find yourself an enlightened being living in a very unenlightened world. Most of your fellow human beings are not enlightened, and they are not receptive to your message. You have the solution to their problem, but nobody is willing to listen. It's like in that movie Idiocracy. The idiots won't listen to reason. It's an upside down world, where the fools rule, and the enlightened are either ridiculed and dismissed as fools, or they're assassinated.

So what does an enlightened person do in this situation? How does the wise person relate to the foolish? How does the reasonable person reason with the unreasonable? How does an enlightened person communicate their message to an unreceptive audience? What do you do when you give excellent advice and wise council, but your words go unheeded? Or when you know exactly what to do to improve the lives of others, and yet nobody will listen?

Obviously I myself am not enlightened, because if I were I suppose I would have the answer to these questions.

But I do experience temporary moments of lucidity, enough to know that the more you know, the more you see that other people do not know. That the wiser you become, the more foolishness you see around you. That the less selfish you become, the more selfishness you see in others. And that the more you perfect yourself, the more aware you become of the world's imperfections.

In other words, you are where you want to be, but the rest of the world is not up to speed. So what do you do? You've perfected yourself and attained enlightenment, but you still have to deal with an imperfect and unenlightened world. How do you manage in this situation?

Are you a kind hearted person, having removed all traces of hatred and maliciousness from your heart? What happens when you are confronted with someone who is filled with cruelty and hate? How does that affect you? How does it affect you when you show someone compassion, when you show them loving kindness, and they spit in your face?

What happens when you have purged yourself of all your lower qualities, removed all traces of selfishness, hatred, jealousy, dishonesty, only to encounter these qualities in another? What happens when you are doing everything right, acting perfectly noble, kind, loving, truthful, and just, but you are treated like shit?

What happens when your kindness is returned with cruelty? When your love is returned with hate? When you help someone, and they hurt you in return?

What should an enlightened person do in such instances? How does the wise person get through to the unwise? How does the enlightened person enlighten the unenlightened?

I suppose only an enlightened person would know.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Starving Artist, Reader, Writer, Poet

The Poor Poet by Carl Spitzweg

I think this is a really funny picture, because although I look nothing like the character portrayed in this picture, this could be a scene taken from my life. Well not the part about sitting under an umbrella attached to the ceiling. What is that supposed to be some kind of protection from a leaky roof? That's funny, it definitely gives some extra character to the picture though. Kind of gives you the impression like they would be equally at home camped out on a park bench somewhere, with their pile of books next to them sheltered from the rain under their trusty umbrella.

But the similarity I see between myself and this picture, is mostly the part about lying in bed next to a pile of books, taking notes, or writing something of my own after being inspired by something I've recently read, and having my books close at hand for quick reference and inspiration.

I like books, not all books, but great books, books that I learn something from, that I find interesting, inspiring, and thought provoking. I like learning things and reading is a great way to learn. It's also an extremely convenient and affordable habit to get into. And if you are really eager to learn, who better to learn from then from the greatest minds that have ever lived?

Books give you that opportunity, to learn from the greatest, the smartest, the most successful and knowledgeable experts in any field. Where else would you get that opportunity in such a great wealth and abundance, if not for books? You most likely wouldn't. Therefore reading is a very special privilege, but unfortunately it is a privilege that very few people take advantage of as adults. At least according to statistics, where it says that very few Americans actually read books once their out of school.

But what does this mean, that most people stop learning as soon as they stop going to school? Or is that they become so preoccupied with other aspects of their lives, like working and socializing or raising a family, that they lose interest in learning? Or could it be that they put more of an emphasis on different methods of learning, like learning through direct experience and personal observation, the kind of learning that comes simply from living life?

Certainly there is no substitute for real world experience, but books I think when used as a supplement to learning through direct experience, are an extremely valuable source of solidified knowledge, a very concentrated food for thought, that once it is thoroughly absorbed and digested, becomes a part of you. And so when you read books written by the most intelligent and most knowledgeable people in the world that have ever lived to record their thoughts, some of their knowledge is imparted to you, where you now get to know some of what they knew, and without books that likely would not happen. How great is that? I say that's really great.

So where does that leave me? I need time to read. I cannot be working all the time, so that I do not have time to read. Therefore, if it means being a poor starving reader, to fund the time to read, so be it. Just like the starving artist, who hopes to one day create a masterpiece that will finally pay off and put an end to their starvation, one of these days I'm sure my reading habits will pay off too.