Simply Being

Simple way to live a joyous, meaningful life: don’t forget that I am a speck in the universe. 

Keep it always in mind. When I forget it, bring it back to my awareness. As I develop this practice –  cultivate and nurture it – a lightness infuses my being. A radiance and letting go of my fears feels second nature, and nothing feels unnatural or unfair.

Three main ways I am prone to forget the truism of my insignificance:

– when I have bodily needs,

– when I intract with others and am in the web of emotions;

– when I am enthralled intellectually and am trying to figure something out.

At any moment in life, one or more of these applies to me. I am hungry, horny, have a headache. I am proud, jealous, nervous, happy. I am figuring out what to do for the weekend, reading a book, solving a puzzle, working to bring about social change.

In these contexts, in different ways, the truism of my cosmic insignificance recedes from my view. I seem essential to the world. What I do, or what happens to me or mine, seems crucial. The world can be this way or that way, good or bad, fair or unfair, and my fate seems to hang in the balance. Each moment feels like a lottery I am trying to survive and win.

How is it that in these contexts I so easily forget the cosmic truism? Why in these contexts do I seem so central to the world?

Because in these contexts the world as I experience it is my world, situated around my needs (physical, emotional and intellectual). The baby experiences the world as providing milk or not, and the baby’s hunger is the center of that world. Likewise, when I am angry, I experience the world (things outside of me) as appeasing me or not, and the issue of my appeasement is the center of that world.

This ego centric awareness of the world is true even in intellectual activity. When I am trying to creation political change, even with the motivation to help others, I experience the world as thwarting or aiding my aim. While the ego-centricness is explicit in physical needs, it is implicit in intellectual needs – but present all the same.

This is the basic illusion embedded in experience: the experience is of the world, which creates the sense of objectivity, but it is for the sake of the experiencer, which is the subjective reality.

The cosmic truism is a reminder that this double play is intrinsic to all experience. That the appearance of objectivity in the experience covers over its subjective structure. Remembering this is the only way to come closer to a more truly objective awareness of the world.

That border where the subjective, being aware of its essential subjectivity, seems to merge selflessly with the objective – that is the frontier of human awareness. It is the space of tranquility and being with the simple isness of life.

The Great Equalizer

Normally my thoughts keep churning: “Why did they do that? What should I do? I am right, they are wrong. I am wrong, they are right. Life is hard. Boring. Hopeless. Wonderful. Unfair…”

As this happens, the world feels big, much bigger than me. Populated in the first instance by the hundreds of people I interact with, or feel directly impact my life: family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, atheletes, politicans, celebrities, scientists, artists, philosophers, etc. It is my village, filled with the dozens who live in that village with me, and bigger-than-my-village beings – the famous people – who live in the castle on the distant hill controlling what happens in my and other villages.

Sometimes I realize this is not the truth. It is my perception only, created by my limited awareness. The way parents seem larger than life to a child.

And then I see my struggles in my village are not the ultimate reality either. Beyond the distant mountain where the rich, famous, powerful people live, there is a vast world. In which what happens in my house and in my village, and even in the famous people’s houses, is but a passing occurrence, a drop in a much bigger ocean.

I have an admin job and live my middle, lower- middle class life. What I do affects a dozen close family and friends at most. If I don’t show up at work, I will be replaced in a week. The city, state, country, politics, entertainment, industries, science and arts move on unaware of, and irrespective of, me.

Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Bill Gates, Brad Pitt, Einstein, Picasso – they are in the pantheon of culture, seemingly controlling things I only see from a distance. My doctor makes 5 or 10 times what I make, and Brad Pitt makes 10 or 100 times what my doctor makes. And Bill Gates makes 100 times what Brad Pitt makes. This is the hierarchy of human life.

But beyond Earth, beyond human life, me and Brad Pitt and Bill Gates and Donald Trump are not that different. We are all specks. What difference there is between me and Bill Gates is infinitesimally small – to the point of no difference – from the perspective of space.

This is a truth. At root, I am a speck in the universe. So are my family and neighbors. So are the most rich or most intelligent or most powerful people on Earth. This truth is the great equalizer.

We all know this truth. It is not a surpise to anyone. Yet: we live as if it wasn’t the case, as if the hierarchies in human life, the relative advantages and disadvantages between humans, are the reality of life.

Wisdom is to live in continual awareness of this simple truth. To not be caught in the as if reality of social hierarchies intrinsic to the human perspective.

Hence a farmer in a village can be as wise as, or wiser than, a philosophy professor in a big city. Wisdom is not a matter of knowledge that some can acquire and some don’t. It is not itself another hierarchy in human life. It is instead to see the minuteness of human life and to live with that awareness constantly.

The wise person doesn’t acquire the God’s eye perspective. Nor does he stay mired within the ordinary human perspective. He hovers in between, continually aware of the vast gulf between the human and the God’s eye perspective.

Freed thus from the grip of human hierarchies, he acts without being caught in the mental cacophony of blame, doubt, guilt, possessiveness. He acts more in light of the deeper reality, without the as if fantasy. Like an adult in a land of children.

To an infant, the mother is the center of the world. To a child, his home is the center. To a teenager, his budding social circle beyond the home is the center. To an adult, human life is the center, which defines his role and aim in life. To the wise person, the universe is the center, with an awareness of one’s own, and humanity’s, cosmic insignificance.

Three Views of Life

There are three views of life.

The rationalist thinks human nature can be understood by thought. Who I am, who we are, how we ought to live, how we can best organize ourselves politically – the rationalist has a two step process for addressing these and any other issues. First step is to come to a conceptual understanding of what is the right thing to think. The second step is to then will ourselves to act in accord with that right understanding. The rationalist aims to cultivate rational awareness, grasping the world in thought.

The anti-rationalist thinks human nature cannot be grasped in thought, and that thought and reason are false Gods which only the naïve and the weak believe in. The true energy and reality of human life are our brute powers, more basic and more subterranean than thought: the will, passions, identities, instincts. The anti-rationalist sees reason as a prison to be freed from so that the power and majesty of brute instincts can be unleashed. And life is a battle of those powers. The anti-rationalist aims to cultivate an awareness of power.

The supra-rationalist agrees with the anti-rationalist that life cannot be grasped in thought. But he agrees with the rationalist that thought is needed to guide our basic instincts and passions. The supra-rationalist thinks just as thought is needed to guide instincts, so too an awareness beyond and above thought is needed to guide thought. Thought is not the end of human consciousness, but only a step. Further beyond thought lies greater realms of consciousness and deeper modes of being. This is a cosmic awareness beyond the strain and effort of thought.

Our current time is no different from past times: it is the struggle of thought to grow beyond instinct, and of awareness to grow beyond thought.