– About the difference between confusion and not knowing, about The Mystery –
Brains don’t understand mystery,
the heart does.
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In reality there is only perception. The perceiver and the perceived are conceptual, only the fact of perceiving is actual.
No one can ever really comprehend this utterly senseless truth, no Self can ever accept this, only in our heart we know it. In our heart we don’t need to solve the mystery, in our heart we are the mystery. We create the concepts that allow us to perceive the world. Call them abstractions if you like. But they are as real as things get. When we say that a thing is real we are simply expressing a sort of respect.
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Once, at the warm shores of the Salton Sea in southern CA, we had car problems. What a great place to break down – we appreciated this a lot – but the problem still had to be solved. Even though I lay under cars a lot in my life, with dirty hands and banged up knuckles, and although I managed to single-handedly get us out of countless serious car problems on all our crazy travels, I never enjoyed it. Any skills I may actually have picked up over half a life time traveling with cars came uninvited and reluctantly. But now I have them, and that determines how I react when the motor home doesn’t start anymore. I learned to fix things, I couldn’t do it any other way; others have cultivated skills how to find help – hard to know what is ultimately better.
Of course, this is trying to show off a difficult Yoga posture. Yoga postures do have an element of exhibiting, displaying, and presenting; the modern Yoga hype is literally living of it. But when you reflect on it, an attitude of posturing, of even pretending can easily be misleading. If it actually is showing off, it may be showing off to yourself, demonstrating to yourself what your body can do, how it feels when you do it, and carefully observing the entire process.
However, everything, done mindfully, is meditation. What is so special to sit on top of such a rock ball? Not much when you think of it. To actually get up there might be a bit challenging. But when you don’t think of it, or rather don’t pay much attention to the usual crap that pops up in the mind about stuff like this, it is the most extraordinary thing. As long as you just experience it and don’t jump on the train of thought that immediately starts running, it is magic, it is a direct contact with The Mystery, with what moves the entire world. As soon as you describe it it is thought, it is what brains can deal with. Brains don’t understand mystery, the heart does.
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Another season is coming to an end. On the way home I reflect on a few things that crossed my mind in some of these last messages. I know, I couldn’t resist to raise some difficult thoughts again. I mostly don‘t know who may actually be picking up this stuff. I only hope that at least my pictures, that ultimately all say the same what my words only try to say, are easier to understand.
It’s my mind struggling to understand what the heart already knows. However, I still came to believe that it is a profoundly useful, perhaps even necessary endeavor to think things through, to put the mind at rest on its very own terms, to carefully, lovingly, and compassionately prepare the mind for its ultimate peaceful surrender. It is not easy, but the mind can understand itself and thereby see its intrinsic limitations, its inherent guiltless arrogance and give in, give up the war, and finally surrender.
Why is there so much suffering, why do so many things not make sense at all, why is it mostly so hard to distinguish between right and wrong? To not know inevitably feels like failure. For the mind the truth is often one insult after the other. The terrifying emptiness of not knowing seems unbearable and yet, isn’t it the ultimate price of a mindful life, of seriously responding to the mysteries of life?
The truth is forever mysterious, but the great mystery is not a threat and surrender is not defeat. Darwin himself suspected that the human brain, evolved over so many million years for other reasons, might just be ill equipped for solving the deepest and most abstract questions about life’s ultimate meaning.
In my younger years I felt confused most of the time, today I gradually settle into the very different state of not knowing. The difference between confusion and “don’t know” is that confusion can only see one way out and that way is blocked, while ‘don’t know‘ is open to miracles and insights. In confusion we are so far away from ourselves, in ‘don’t know‘ we are right there watching, fascinated. My new friend J.Carse calls it “higher ignorance”: an awareness that even the simplest of our certainties are laced with mystery and surprise.
We certainly are the product of this universe, and I think it can be argued that the entire cosmic code is imprinted in us. Just as our genes carry the memory of our biological ancestors, our logic and our capacity to think carries the memory of our cosmological ancestry. We are not just imposing human-centric notions on a cosmos independent of us. We are progeny of this cosmos and our ability to understand it is an inheritance. However, there is a distinction between intellect and intelligence. Intellect is thought, functioning independently of emotion, whereas, intelligence is the capacity to feel as well as to reason. Intelligence is much greater than intellect, for it is the integration of reason and love. We have filled our minds with knowledge, information, and arrogance, we are full of quotations of what others have thought or said. But merely cultivating the intellect, which is to develop capacity or knowledge, does not result in intelligence. Knowledge is not comparable to intelligence; knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not marketable; it is not merchandise that can be bought with the price of learning or discipline. Wisdom cannot be found in books, it cannot be accumulated, memorized, or stored up. Wisdom, as we intuitively know so well, is a stillness, a light within that is already there before we ever think about it.
‘Is truth really just a so-far-unfalsified hypothesis? What status does truth have in the strange, uncertain world of quantum theory? Is anything ultimately true?‘ Richard Dawkins stated this question, Dawkins, who became one of the unrelenting leaders of the modern atheist movement. As much as he inspired me in my early thinking, I see him sadly burning up in useless opposition to people who are not open to serious discussion.
Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.
(I don’t remember who said this, it echoes in my mind often)
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Klaus March 23. 2010