You cannot argue with someone who starts a sentence with I believe…! Well, you can try, but nine times out of ten it turns into just that – an argument!
Actually I don’t like the word because it imposes limits. I would feel more comfortable just believing in myself and that anything is possible. For example, were I to hold with Jehovah’s Witness would I be strong enough to let my child die for the sake of a blood transfusion? By the same token, would I refuse to give blood to save a life?
What to me is more important than blind belief is what I know to be real. Love, compassion, forgiveness and integrity are values that are very real, and very hard to live up to, but to embrace and practice them in the turmoil of daily life is fullfilling in itself. The act of giving, which is fundamentally what these four qualities are, invokes in me a deep sense of gratitude. There is nothing more rewarding than the feeling that you have made even a small difference in someone’s life, contributed something, even minor that they instantly value and take stock of. In the words of the Dalai Lama, “Live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.”
If you take these four qualities and were to live them all with no conditions attached therein lies the key to spiritual awakening.
Why do we mourn? Why do we cry when someone we love dies? Why do we gasp in horror when people are murdered en masse? Why do we fail to get over the death of a child? Why do we abhor cruelty? Or gasp with anger and indignation at injustice? These reactions are common and understood to be “correct”. But to me they are examples of the many human behaviours that demonstrate our deep-rooted “stuckness”, our “dyed-in-the-wool” lack of ability to evolve and grow and understand that there is a divine purpose for everything that happens. I don’t mean “divine in any religious sense as the providence of God, but the pure and uncompromising nature of all the cosmic energies that permeate the universe and everything in it. It is perfectly understandable that we feel sad at a loved one’s passing, but have we ever asked ourselves who we are sad for? And if it is for them and not ourselves, having been left behind, have we asked ourselves, why do we need to be sad?
Here we are, close to the end of the first quarter of the 21st century and humans are more disconnected than ever. Blaming this on technology is easy, but it is not technology itself that has come to rule our lives but our allowing it to. We have placed our trust and our fate into the hands of those who would sell it back to us in the form of shackles that over time institutionalize our loss of independence, making it acceptable, in turn creating a world where the very idea of independence and indeed our own uniqueness, no longer has a place.
We are a species burdened with language. A million words and a billion combinations, will we ever find the right one that resonates in perfect harmony, or explain with absolute clarity the reason for our existence. We are beset with a thousand external influences from the moment we awake, and every day we miss our chance just to be, to rest our mind, to let go of everything, to awaken to our own greatness. To reach that moment of freedom, that infinite moment when the mind is still and we are unencumbered. How that fleeting moment of reverie yields so quickly and easily to the life of distraction.
When I was young, things were made to last. Craftsmen took pride in their work. There was no plastic, it had not yet been developed. If something broke we would have it repaired and it probably would last another 20 years or more. The world seemed so much more cohesive then. Life was harder I think in many ways but as a child I took it for granted that people cared. We had to entertain ourselves with make-believe, and imagination, We looked each other in the eyes when we talked. We relied on each other. We knew the neighborhood. The community looked out for the children, and when someone died, everyone felt it.
Perhaps I am different, I hope so. But being different can be a difficult thing to live with. People are not always comfortable with you, some are even afraid. Some are fascinated but keep their distance and I am often misunderstood. And though people are nice to me they often ostracize me.
I am not particularly clever. I have no qualifications. I have never studied anything in depth. I once said, in the presence of my father, “I don’t like working”! Although he smiled forcefully at that moment, he was outraged, and let me know the extent of his wrath later when the company had left. I did end up working hard most of my life. I never learnt much about anything. I always had a tendency, if I didn’t know something, just to make up an answer! It never really mattered much to me. Knowledge to me seemed pointless, it still does. As life does. I don’t mean that in some despondent depressive way either. It’s just that I never really saw the point of it. There are people in this world who have done amazing things, truly fulfilling a purpose, and that is their vocation, a process of discovery that unfolds with life itself, that IS life! I sometimes wish that I had been smarter, applied myself more to one thing or another. But somewhere along the line I lost sight of something that I’d never even seen and so became truly lost, directionless, adrift. But strangely, it felt good!
I remember one time, I was about seven or eight. I was on the bus with my mother on our way to Edgware from Hendon where we lived. I don’t recall the circumstances exactly but I must have been messing about, swinging on those poles that connected the seats from floor to ceiling. My Mum said to stop doing that and settle down, “… or you might hurt yourself”! I remember very clearly my response. I said, “I’m not afraid to die”! Needless to say my Mum was enraged! “Don’t you dare say that”! and “What are you talking about”! and “Don’t be so stupid”! Or words to that effect. But, you know, I meant it. Don’t ask me why an eight year old who is full of life in a happy home should come out with something like that, but I did, not in some depressive, oh, I hate life kind of way but more, I know where I came from is a beautiful place and I don’t mind going back there!
That was the beginning for me. And the rest of my life hinged on the notion that I would try and make the best of it, let it be as long as possible, because it’s all just the blink of an eye, but I’ll be glad when it’s over!
I don’t pretend that I’m some super hero that’s unafraid of death. Most likely I’m as scared as the next person but I don’t think anyone really knows how they feel about it until the day comes that you know it will shortly be over.
Because of my lack of knowledge, know-how or ability to judge things correctly I’ve always had a tendency towards reckless abandonment. Saying or doing outrageous things just to get a shock reaction.
Beliefs are arbitrary, the thin and delicate fabric upon which we depend and so we build and grow our life according to them. It is speculative, unstable and dangerous. The world is deeply and irreversibly troubled by false and mis-guided beliefs that are cultured and hewn into society to accommodate lifestyle and convenience, and to bolster credibility and redemption for acts that hurt humans or any living thing, such as the soldier who hails God on his side just before he kills his fellow man. Humanity teeters on the edge on a vast chasm that is bottomless and dark. And into this we will most certainly fall if we continue to ignore the fundamental rules by which we choose to live based on our beliefs. The apocalyptic demise of the human spirit. The numbness that today permeates society in which we have no real control over ourselves anymore.
Religion, finance, health, children, marriage, there isn’t any aspect of life that doesn’t draw from us some belief that positions us where we want to stand in relation to it. Often that position is chosen not based on any real, altruistic view but on a reactive or self-serving one, and often rooted in fear. It takes courage to speak the truth, to be original and risk being laughed at. To break away from what society regards as normal and say, out loud, this is not for me anymore. To sacrifice openly that which makes us comfortable. Not just the fear of being laughed at, losing friends, angering others, being outcast, but the fear within of breaking out of a long-established safe haven, exposing our vulnerability, facing uncharted territory, denying the mythical truths learned from those we once loved, those who cared for us, looked out for and protected us and shaped the world. Perhaps we are at that crossroads where that long-established life we have always taken for granted has to be broken down piece by piece until there is nothing left except a great big empty space for a new beginning.