(This pic is entitled ‘Emancipation’ and is an oldie from 2001 – and it’s still perhaps my favourite painting. It’s acrylic ink and watercolour on paper, cut out into different layers)
Get ready for this…
We’re all going to die!!
Don’t worry, that’s not a threat and there’s not some kind of HTML cyber-bomb coded into this blog entry. It’s simply an acknowledgement that we’re all going to die: myself, everyone that’s reading this, anyone that’s ever written or read any blog entry ever, everyone that you and I, and they have ever met or will ever met. Our lives always end the same way. The circumstances of our lives mean nothing: we can become a hugely successful billionaire or end up living destitute and homeless, for sooner or later it all amounts to nothing. Rich men die just the same as poor ones.
It doesn’t matter how much knowledge, power and influence we gather; no one can outwith death. No matter how much we struggle and strive to ‘do something’ with our lives, there’s simply no escaping the fact that every one of us is born with and will die of the universal, terminal condition called ‘life’.
This will strike many people as a very morbid musing, but that’s simply because as a culture we have a retarded attitude toward death. It’s a taboo subject; it’s something we try to ignore, deny and pretend will never happen to us. It’s seen as an immense tragedy when it happens, and this is something we need to re-evaluate. It’s part of life, part of our existence in this mortal realm.
In fact, if we began to re-evaluate our attitudes on this most important topic we might even begin to see death in a different light; as something that’s actually quite beautiful…the form returning the the formless essence from which it emerged, much as a wave dissolving back into the vast ocean. The wave never truly left the ocean — it simply appeared to be an existent phenomena with a separate momentum, but it was merely a movement of that vast oceanic unity. It had a beginning, a middle and an end, much as our forms do; we born, age and then die.
For the brief span of our existence, we rise out of the realm of the formless (which I perceive as an almost oceanic oneness; pure potentiality, the totality of pure unmanifested consciousness) and then in the brief flicker of our phenomenal existence, in which we perceive ourselves as being separate from our originating source. Most of us are totally unaware of our formless origin altogether, so wrapped up in our brief phenomenal form. We grow, mature, spend time doing whatever it is we deem most important — in the case of most people, this means working, making money, having a family and watching television — and then, after all that, we die.
At least, the form dies. ‘We’ return to the formless, originating source of being. What would be the point in grieving the ‘death’ of an ocean wave when we see it merging back into the ocean and know that it never truly had an inherent, independent existence of its own — that it was just a movement of much greater, of which it never was truly separate?
I can’t help but see this as a pertinent metaphor for our existence and the cosmic dance of life of which we’re all unwitting participants. Our scientific understanding, for all its remarkable achievements, such as ever-faster computer chips, Xboxes and nuclear bombs, is still in its infancy and yet recognises only the outer level of existence, the form-level.
But form cannot exist without the formless, just as words cannot exist on paper without the paper itself; the blank paper representing the unmanifested potentiality, the formless essence upon which form can then be inscribed. Our current scientific methodology allows us to decipher and understand the words inscribed on that piece of paper, but we currently have little or no understanding of the paper itself. We understand the phenomenon but are utterly ignorant of the noumenon. Where did it come from? What is it? Some people are so locked into the form (the writing on the paper) that they are unable to even recognise the formless at all (perhaps they take the paper for granted so much that they don’t even recognise it’s existence at all – they can’t see what’s right in front of them because it just IS and they have never questioned that).
My point is that most people, including the Newtonian, reductionist scientific worldview — which frankly is in many ways as limited as the old conventional religious worldviews and often just as blinkered — negates the formless essence without which the form could not exist. We’re so locked into form that we can see little else. So when the form dissolves and dies it’s seen as an immense tragedy. We are totally unaware that our form is just a wave rippling upon the surface of the ocean. We’ve spent so long focusing on the outer manifestation of the wave that we forget it’s simply a temporary manifestation of something infinitely greater and vaster, of which it was always a part: the ocean.
We’re all just waves moving upon the surface of a vast oceanic field of existence; one with no boundaries and no limitations. Our forms have their own short life-cycle and then dissolve back into the formless essence, the originating source. If we had a greater understanding of this — if we could feel the truth of our existence on a deeper and more profound level — then we wouldn’t fear death, because we’d see that there is no death.
And in many respects, there is no life as we view it…we think of ourselves as isolated, disconnected entities separate in time and space, but that is no more true for us than it is for the oceanic wave. There was never a time we were separated from the noumenal source, call it what you will…it’s no more possible for us to be separated from our source than it is for a wave to be separated from the ocean.
In the immortal words of Albert Einstein, who was one of those pioneering scientists who actually GOT IT:
“A human being is part of a whole called by us the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Umm…wow. I guess the point I’ve been trying to make here is to wake up from what Einstein refers to as this ‘optical delusion of consciousness.’
Basically, we’re not separate entities — that is the delusion. We have always been, and always will be connected to our originating noumenal source and to each other. To realise this is what the masters call to ‘die before you die’…in other words, to wake up to the truth of your existence, to let go of your illusions and distortions of reality and to then, as Einstein suggests, stop fighting with life, stop fighting to uphold this fiction of being a separate entity isolated in time and space and to start seeing the inherent ONENESS of life. In that realisation comes the awakening of compassion for all – because, quite simply, WE ARE ALL….