WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

What’s the difference between a mental concept and a mentally direct experience?

“The tulip is reddish-orange.”
“Snow covers the mountainside blindingly white.”

Are these mental concepts or mentally direct experiences?

Or perhaps both?

Zen argues we should rely solely on direct experience
And avoid mental concepts which can be manipulated inside one’s head
And end up, really, as almost anything at all.

So, tell me, are love, truth, justice, and beauty, direct experiences or mental concepts?
If they’re direct experiences – they could be reality – the same as God.
If they’re mental concepts, on the other hand, they might be mirages, dreams,
or complex manipulations inside one’s mind – i.e., lies!

Zen repeatedly has attempted to distinguish between mental concepts and direct experience
but, in my opinion, has not had much success in parsing this.

I think that’s because, sometimes, mental concepts actually are identical with reality –
at least in certain times, circumstances, and places.

They just are!

“LAYERING”

Our minds “read” reality through differing layers of abstraction
Because human beings embody a complex architecture of consciousness
Made up of different “levels” of virtualization using mental abstraction.

For example, the micro-physical level is on a radically different level
From the “normal” human body level –
When we move our arm, the mental abstraction of “arm”
Lies on a different level from the millions of cells making up that arm
Which, in turn, is on a different level from the gazillions of electrons making up those cells.

So, given these different levels of “reality” –
Our minds virtualize “arm” as an ordinary everyday mental abstraction
As part of our overall physical self –
While our minds also have the capacity to visualize, using imagination,
The underlying cells and electrons supporting this “top” level of human reality.

God’s reality, however, encompasses reality at all levels.
Jesus indicated his understanding of this by teaching his disciples that God
“Numbers” the very hairs on our heads. (Mathew 10:30).

So, what is the next layer of abstraction that might become available to our human minds?
I think it’s a “human/God” level of experiential Love, Truth, Justice, and Beauty –
Which, in turn, would require a fresh spiritual language and accompanying supportive culture
To attain this newly-exposed world of reality existing beyond
All previous levels of human abstraction.

With the availability of a new language, fresh realities could open up to our “true selves”
So as to experience living “like” God would live if God were a human being – just like us.

LONELY AS A ROCK

If there were no God
I’d be lonely as a rock hurtling through the void.

If there were no “high true” human character to attain –
I’d travel to an amusement park and ride around all day –
Eating cotton candy – while going round and round.

If there were no love available for me –
I’d rent a room in some high attic
And never go out again.

If truth completely evaporated out of American society –
I’d hitch a ride to dusty red Mars with a bunch of bizarre billionaires.

If it turned out that Jesus was not really Jesus –
And that the Buddha never blossomed into his “true self” –
I’d stop asking further questions and respond solely in exclamations –
Like “Huh,” “Argh,” or “Wheeh!”

If I thought it’d be pointless to learn any new things –
I couldn’t find fault with Trump saying: “Duh, maybe Hitler was a pretty good guy
Since he did get people back to work.”

And if there really were no God, there couldn’t be joy either
And the word “hope” would never be found in any English dictionary.

GOD LOOKING AT GOD

Jesus did it –
So any of us can.

We need freedom, however, to accomplish it –
Because the “self” our parents and society provided us
Prohibits real freedom –
Yes, unfortunately, that “self” which we use to survive
And, hopefully, prosper in the world –
Partially blinds us to reality – as well as to God.

Very few individuals are able to drop their societal “self”
In order to glimpse God –
Zen Buddhist monks tell us that one should “Know nothing” –
And keep repeating it –
Because one’s “self,” and all its mental constructs, restricts our freedom.

This, however, is partially incorrect –
True, to the extent that when we accept any mental constructs
They tend to blind us to reality –
But false, in light of the millennia of human striving for greater understanding
That has led to acquiring tools that can test reality
For the presence of God –
That is, for “Love,” “Truth,” “Justice,” and “Beauty.”

Scientists of consciousness teach that we’re provided with approximately three seconds
To open ourselves to reality – that is, to God –
That we have a 100 trillion synapses available to accomplish this –
And that our mind has a capacity even larger than the entire known universe –
But also, of course, limited by the time available to take a look.

God, however, has no time limitations
(since “time” for God exists in an entirely different realm) –
Therefore, God is always looking at us –
And greatly pleased when we’re able to “feel” God’s presence
And, in response, turn in God’s direction.

Sometimes, we can “see” a flicker of God’s robes passing by –
In and out of our psychological reality –
Out there, on the edge of consciousness –

Not only “see,” but also have the ability to think about what we’ve just seen –
Using those spiritual tools of love, truth, justice, and beauty,
To reflect upon it.

This is what Jesus did, and why he was able to say the things he said,
And why the people who looked into his face could see God.

So, yes, Jesus is God
But so are you if you truly want it.

You just have to give up everything – so as to gain sufficient freedom
To “see” –
And then, have faith in what you are seeing,
Using those “spiritual tools” handed down to you
Over millennia of human experience.

We should be talking with one another about all this –
About God – and about our selves –

What could be more important?

GREAT GOOD GLADNESS

As I get older, the world appears to be getting worse –
But this is a mistake
Because things are actually getting better
The younger you are.

The young can’t remember anything they haven’t yet experienced –
So, to the young, now is always now,
The sun’s usually out,
And they’re certain love is on the way.

The young cherish clutter and rubbish –
Because it gives them plenty of “stuff” to clear away
When, eventually, they go out to make the world a better place.

There’re far fewer tragedies in the world of the young
Because everything is constantly getting better –
The Beatles knew this – singing: “Here comes the sun!”

The young are fresh, original,
With perfect skin and glistening eyes –
So they don’t need to pay attention to shadows
In their elders’ eyes.

Perhaps we got it all wrong –
That God was never an “old man”
Sitting on an emerald throne – dispensing iron justice –
But, always, simply, a beautiful child
Radiating life and joy
And, in general, great good gladness.

IT’S THE LIFE IN THE EYE THAT COUNTS

Where is beauty?

In a passing person’s face
Especially her eyes –   

Sparkling!

It’s the life in the eye that counts
Whether love, joy, or ecstasy –
The look that sees you as the center of the universe –
And as a manifestation of God –
You remember that passing-by look
For the rest of your life.

Tragedy, on the other hand, is when an actor isn’t aware he’s acting
Doesn’t know he’s in a play
And follows a script without the sense that he’s reading one.

He hears a smattering of applause, starts to bow –
And then
And then –

Wakes up.

WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED!

“You must die before you die.”
                                    Rumi

It’s a race against time –
Like a river filling up,
Drowning you, and then leaving you behind.

We begin life swimming upstream –
Towards birth, towards an unfolding life, and, then, towards death –
Which comes like a wave –
Or an unfinished song.

There is physical life
And spiritual life –
But they don’t start at the same time
Or travel in the same direction.

The physical life starts out strong but over time winds down
Spiritual life may also get old quickly –
However, “dying” to discover the next life
Sometimes can be useful –
Getting born a second time before dying the first time –
Entering a spiritual world –
Eyes wide open –
Prepared for a birth into love and joy.

Life is such a surprise –
So unexpected –

Who would have guessed!

BURNING!

“The cells of our bodies are like candle flames,
Their atoms constantly replaced by new ones.
 Only their structures live on.” 
                                                   John Leslie

Burning!
I’m burning up –
Yet being replaced instantly and constantly.

I’m also a flower –
In flower –
A bouquet in bloom –
A gift to myself.

I’m composed of about an octillion atoms
Walking around in my own modest interstellar space –
Sometimes, I spin out of control –
Like a supernova
Or a black hole
Depending upon which side you’re facing.

I know nothing, I know everything,
I know some things –
Modest in my enlightenment
I’ve also been accused of enlightened modesty.

One of our secrets, traditionally, has been love –
Hiding everywhere and nowhere –
Over and under our eyelids –
And deep in our – beat, beat, beating – hearts.

I want everyone to stop – just for an instant –
So love can finally appear in all its glory!

 

REALITY AT ALL LEVELS

How can we see like Jesus could see –
As fully human and fully God?

He saw with two eyes – one a human’s and one God’s.

A real human eye is found only in a “true self” –
Like the eye of an infant – where everything is fresh and new –
And, as the scientists say,
Pure uninterrupted experience is limited to three seconds,
But is never found in the head of a wooden puppet – like Pinocchio
As an “ego” or a “false self.”  

God’s eye is different –
It sees through time (eternity) and space (infinity) –
Set within the four cardinal points of love, truth, justice, and beauty –
With the lines meeting at the top of a spiritual pyramid –
Love meeting truth, truth meeting justice, justice meeting beauty,
And beauty resting on love –
All conjoined at the tip – where God lives.

Two eyes – one a human being’s and one God’s.

Jesus could see through a child’s eyes
Balanced by those four spiritual attributes of God.

When those two eyes exist in a single head
They see reality – and at all levels.

EXCHANGING THE EGO FOR A “TRUE SELF”

             Some say the most profound scientific discipline is theoretical physics which has vastly expanded our understanding of the structure of the physical universe using the language of mathematics, but I think this now needs to be matched by an even more profound spiritual/theological discipline that can further our understanding of the relationship between God and the human self through expanded human consciousness of love, truth, justice, and beauty as expressed through the arts. Materialistic evolution via science and technology has taken us about as far as we’re going to get while still retaining our basic humanity, but the prospects for our species will be pretty dim if that’s the full extent of what we’re ever going to achieve.

             I propose it’s time for human beings to make a conscious choice about which evolutionary path they should take: materialistic evolution (especially digital artificial intelligence) or the next step in humans’ spiritual evolution. Greater spirituality, however, won’t necessarily increase our intelligence or ability to manipulate the material world, but could, eventually, evolve us into an entirely different type of humanity – the kind originally pointed towards by Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed.

            When a person enters the world as a baby, they’re totally open to God – arriving as pure energy in human form. Because they come straight from God, they’re completely natural upon arrival. After their surprise landing in this world, however, they need to figure out how to survive in this particular time and place. They eventually do, but the cost is often high. They’re faced with the necessity of becoming the kind of person that other people readily recognize and the surrounding culture use. Since usually they’re raised by parents – people who’ve already made the requisite compromises and adjustments – the baby ultimately learns how to “fit in.”

            This baby, who started life as a tiny energy “sun,” eventually begins “dimming” because so much of her original natural energy will be perceived as “alien” to her family’s world. Eventually, the baby matures and becomes a “person” by developing an ego – and ultimately joins society. One day, however, that baby – after attaining adulthood – might begin wondering where all her previous energy had gone – and whether it might ever be regained.

            In traditional societies, a person’s roles remain largely the same throughout their life and also determine how their children will turn out.

            In modern societies, however, by early adulthood, a person usually gains abilities and opportunities to change “who” they are by making individual choices – leading them away from predestined family roles – becoming partly a family-destined person and partly a self-determined one – in a “composite” role. Nevertheless, whatever this composite role turns out to be, it’s still just a role.

            All roles, traditional or modern, become included in one’s “life story.” As Shakespeare asserted in As You Like It: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” So, the problem with developing an “ego,” along with one’s accompanying “story,” is the temptation to “make up” that story as one goes along – like in a dramatic film – even if carried out mainly unconsciously.

            Another problem with “roles” is their need for consistency and continuity, so the self can seemingly remain “the same.”

            This is why “higher” values are necessary to effect any serious changes in our quotidian roles and stories. Traditionally, humanity’s highest values have been attributable to a “Spirit” (usually “God’s”) – as well as to divine spiritual attributes like love, truth, justice, and beauty.

            Roles and stories, however, compel us to live as unfree. Since we believe these roles and stories (as reinforced by the surrounding society) constitute our “identity,” we sometimes even believe we would need to “die” as the price for achieving freedom. If a person becomes threatened with losing their identity, frequently, they’ll think they might as well be dead. That’s how important roles and personal stories are for a normal human being. In fact, there’s a general consensus in the humanities, as well as in psychotherapy, that the ego, as a person’s chief fictional character, is one’s essential self.

            So, how is it possible to free ourselves from embedded roles and stories that obstruct our natural human self-understanding and close down our best, most spontaneous thoughts – in order to gain the freedom necessary to become our “true selves”?

            The answer is that we need to be “born again” – at any age. That is, we’ll need to reverse direction, spiritually, and become a “child” all over again so as to become as free as God.

             Jesus himself said this, did this, and then died for it – all to show us how.

             To be “born again” is scary – few can do it all at once. Most people need time to shed their artificial roles until they’re free enough to make a long daring leap into their “true selves.” Starting at an older age, it actually becomes easier to work towards greater spirituality by breaking up and discarding pieces of one’s earlier “false selves” and gain a greater naturalness and openness spiritually even though one is at the same time physically degenerating.