Tuesday, July 3, 2012

On Suffering

Life is a pastiche, a process, a melting pot. Life is love and anger, hope and despair, understanding and intolerance, charity and greed, joy and pain, peace and suffering. Still, it remains always dominated by a suffocating atmospheric mixture of fear and desire which play together in a swirling vortex, each constantly influencing and reinforcing the other in the unconscious' mental realms.

We are taught to want from an early age in our infancy as needs are not immediately met. We are not taught to examine the reasons for our unrelenting wanting. Instead we merely accept it as the natural state of the human psyche. We want because we are afraid of not having, of lacking, of feeling the pit of emptiness within and the scrutiny of others who possess that which we seek. We fear these conditions because the ego demands to reign supreme, not just over the self, but over everyone. We seek supremacy because we fear that autonomy will be encroached by others. In the ego's wish for a place in eternity, it seeks to fill up the empty spaces where inadequacy finds footholds with the acquisition and attainment of personal desires.

It is this manifestation of personal desire, setting personal motivations and accomplishments ahead of everything else in the one's world (or cultural motivations and accomplishments when cultures express desire - whether militarily, economically, or religiously) which the Buddha warned as being the root of all suffering. The Buddha taught a lesson which is hard-learned - when our actions, thoughts, feelings, and/or intentions come from personal motives - we are in a place of greed, desire, and selfishness. Personally motivated desire will always lead to suffering.

However, to act altruistically, without considering what personal benefits or harms may arise due to a course of action, is the highest expression of love. This is everyone's highest calling in life, the lesson each of us is here to learn, and the underlying struggle in all our interpersonal relationships and life choices. Giving in to altruism negates personal desire, liberates one from the domination of the ego, and opens one up to a much larger world with the potential to engage in and with universal principles and universal purpose. To the degree one integrates ones personality in greater degrees with altruism in every moment and every individual choice, one negates desire, increases peace and harmony in life and eases the causes for suffering (not only in one's own life, but in the lives of others, too). Stress (which is a symptom of the ego when dominated by fear and desire) does not arise from living out the highest expression of love since stress is only a personal reaction to one's focus on one's own desires. Stress never attaches to altruistic actions or motivations.

It is often true that individuals delude themselves regarding their motives. We all create useful excuses in certain circumstances to allow us to remain in denial as we pursue individually motivated agendas: "I know best," "I only want what is best for (fill in the blank)," "It's God's will (or any other term which denotes some individual's term for 'higher power')," "I want to save you, or protect you, from making the same mistakes I've made." This list can go on and on, but you can see the manifestation of the personally motivated rationale by now. The real question one can ask oneself in any and every instance remains, "Am I doing this on even the remotest possibility that I will gain something I desire as a result (or avoid something I wish to avoid)?" If the honest answer is yes, then the contemplated course of action is personally motivated, and the result can only bring personal suffering along with it.

Life cannot exist without some degree of suffering. Life is a process of becoming. As one engages in the process of becoming, one will, being human, make mistakes in life. The quality of human frailty and tendency for individuals to err underlies the process of learning and growth. These mistakes will, naturally, lead to suffering. What do I mean by mistakes? I am alluding to actions based on and colored by personal desires.

Another facet of personal desire is that it rarely stops to consider the free expression of the personal will and choice which divests itself in others just as surely as it invests in oneself. The interplay between exalting one's own ego driven needs while also negating the free will of others is the ethical principle, and fundamental esoteric basis, underlying the interrelationship of personal desires with suffering. Actions based on personal desire will cause someone to suffer: either the person undertaking the action if/when their expectations for the outcome are not met, or the person being manipulated or affected by the action which negates their free opportunity to choose the events and circumstances affecting them from and in their environment. In either case, it is also part of the nature of suffering that it festers, causing enmity between both parties, leading to suffering in both, as well.

Life, as a process, flows through a constant series of yin/yang experiences - experiences that reveal the effects and influences of both extremes of the polar opposites in every duality - whether that yin/yang might be expressed and experienced through emotions, careers, beliefs, relationships, economic/political systems, cultural ethos/pathos, or sociologically influenced dreams for the future. One cannot know happiness without also knowing sadness. If only one of the states existed, that state would not be distinguishable, and hence would only be experienced as part of a bland, unperceived ennui.

However, the law of existence which demands that the poles of opposites must be intertwined and present as the duality of reality (whether in individuals or cultures and nations) should not denote that it is not possible to improve the conditions of existence for the better. We can do a lot to ease suffering by reducing our individual, natural, and cultural orientations to desire. Humanity will never fully eliminate suffering, but the degree and suffering felt as well as its pervasiveness throughout the world can always be alleviated by varying amounts. The only path to reducing suffering arises by commensurately reducing individual, national, and cultural desire.

The contemporary world is rooted in stress. Those most successful in accumulating wealth, position, and power require a willing workforce to perpetuate the division into classes and widen the gaps between classes. So, the worker is placed under the constant stress if not only having to produce on the job, but having to protect and maintain their income in order to continue paying for: rent, house payments, car payments, insurance payments, repair bills, food, clothing, and, of course, the purchase of all those objects which are accumulated out of desire - for status, for the acceptance of others, to create envy in others, to make one feel good, and to create a sense of personal self-worth. Stress keeps people "in their place," sociologically, as it also reveals the people who cannot cope - those who societies ultimately cast aside.

Humanity has re-created (or perhaps redesigned is a better word) the planet. Humanity has done this out of the personal and collective desires for an unending and unfathomable "more." Yet, while the quest for all this "more" makes the already wealthy exponentially wealthier, and the affluent more comfortable and more estimable in others' eyes but generally lazier to a commensurate degree, this "more" also leads to greater doses of suffering on a planetary scale as the divide between affluence and poverty widens, as extreme poverty spreads, as famine becomes endemic, as species are rendered extinct, as the quality of the environment deteriorates, and as we use up the planet's natural resources at an alarming rate without ever stopping to consider the needs of future generations who are, after all, our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

This culture will, ultimately, consume itself into oblivion. People will survive, no doubt. But the structure of the culture, the economic, political and sociological models upon which the contemporary social order are based will all perish as the culture consumes itself into oblivion. The people of the future will have to develop a more sustainable mindset and more sustainable method of integrating humanity with the natural world as they seek to integrate necessary comfort while maintaining a viable and naturally abundant ecosystem (which the planets is capable of providing for us if we allow it to) while overcoming the desire for luxury and predominance.

Humanity will have to reduce its numbers dramatically. Human sprawl must cease to usurp nearly all the habitable land and wisely understand that if we so reduce the planet's diversity, we ultimately doom it to evolve into a lifeless waste heap incapable of functioning as an living, interconnected, and vital ecosystem. Thus, humanity must find a way to teach, individually and collectively, the personal responsibility that accrues with existence and the need for balance between ego driven personal and collective expressions of desire with the moral and ethical imperative of honoring and respecting all other lifeforms.

In the process if dying, one discovers that the implications and influences of duality are slowly stripped away. The ego (and nearly always the body, too) is immersed in pain and suffering. The process of dying may seem instantaneous or drawn out over a long period. However, in both cases, the process of dying demands the ego focus on the pain and suffering which is insuperably connected with the encroachment of necrosis (mentally, emotionally, and physically). This dynamic is another law of existence because the process is meant to purge the individual of personal desire before they enter the light, feel the sensation of perfect love awaiting at the end, and reunite with the "All."

What comes after death?

No one who has not been there can answer that with any degree of certainty. Those who have encountered Near Death or Out-of-Body states are also incapable of answer with any degree of objective certainty that question, too, because they did not cross the threshold, and therefore, have not actually experienced the afterlife (if one exists). No, those folks have gone up to the door, but they have not walked through it. Thus, no living being can offer anything objectively or definitively true about the post-death experience.

All living things possess consciousness. Even coral reefs know the exact right time of the full moon, and the one full moon of the year, during which to coordinate their reproductive discharges to effectively propagate new life. The timing of coral reproduction, the hive mentalities of ants and bees, the way packs, herds, pods, coveys, schools, and all other collectives of species of life on this planet (including colonies of single celled organisms) work together to enhance their chances of survival, all prove to me that there are hierarchies of collective consciousness.

The Earth, our planet, is also an ecosystem, utterly interconnected and interdependent. This planet has created, nurtured, and propagated unfathomably countless variations of lifeforms over the eons of the planet's presence in the cosmos. Until redesigned by human inventions' intervention, the bounty the planet offered seemed limitless. Consequently, it seems obvious to me that there has to exist a planetary consciousness which exists in conjunction with the ecosystem.

It is my contention and belief that when individual lifeforms die, each individual consciousness reunites with the planetary consciousness, and that is what I call, "Reuniting with the 'All.'"

I can only suggest that, from any logical perspective, the "self," or individual consciousness, would be a puny thing compared with the "All." The only way the "All" can be enriched is by and through the love we bring with ourselves into it at the moment we "step into the light" and reunite with our source, the fountain of life. As the individual consciousness joins with the planetary consciousness, there is no more need for the individual self-awareness to persist. However, all the was the self integrates into the "All," and so it (and each of us with it) lives on in the planetary consciousness. This is why all aspects of personal desire and ego must be purged through the stripping away process contained in pain and suffering as expressed through the process of dying. What is left is the pure love accumulated and expressed in one's lifetime, which then joins with the planetary consciousness, the expression of altruism and love which nurtures physical reality. In this process, the planetary consciousness can be understood as the ever-increasing, ever-intensifying, ever-expanding, ever-diversifying, and infinite expression of the planet's accumulation and apprehension of love.

In the same way, our solar system is also an ecosystem, as is the galaxy, the local cluster of galaxies in which our galaxy drifts through space, and on to our universe, indeed, leading all the way to the Multiverse. So, our consciousnesses never die, even though they cease being self-aware. As part of the planetary consciousness, they merge with the solar consciousness when the Sun goes supernova. This accumulation of pure love and eons of nearly infinite expressions of diverse experience will seed the new solar system that arises out of the (quite literal) ashes of the supernova of the previous one. Eventually, when all the available energy in this area has been used, the collective consciousnesses of the many solar systems will join with the galactic consciousness, which will join with the collective consciousness of local cluster of galactic consciousness when our galaxy burns all its energy, and so on, through the merger with the Universal Consciousness, and ultimately, the Multiversal Consciousness.

Rather than mourn the passing of those who die in our lives, we should rejoice. Our mourning is an expression of our own losses. But in reality, death purges and perfects the soul, making it ready to reunite with the "All." The soul becomes an instrument of pure and perfect love which then enriches the planetary consciousness, and through it, all of humanity, as well. Suffering ends. The ego is overcome, and the individual expands into the "All" in the merger of reuniting. This is an event to rejoice because love is served. This is the esoteric meaning of "Love-ism."


James Evangelista said...

Thank you Don for putting the wordless into words all those thoughts and sensations, you describe so well ....
I very recently lost someone so close, & missing him is a painful & heartbreaking experience. But as a lifelong lover of nature & all her gifts, I realize that healing may come by reflecting on what you wrote. It is all so true, so familiar, so very real...thank you for reminding me how crucial it is to be one with the "All" first, and then to release such logically driven grief, embracing the likelihood that the soul I miss is in fact ever-present, as are all of us. Blessings & peace to you, thank you, & please never stop sharing your miraculous voice.

Shoreline Driftwood said...

James, thank you for your thoughtful remarks and kind words to me. Responses like yours provide my motivation and nourish my writer's soul more than money ever could. You, and people like you who respond to my work, keep me writing. Thank you again. I wish you the best and offer you sincere condolences for your recent loss. May you heal as love and light continue to fill your days and nights.