“Every object in the world promises satisfaction, but it never gives satisfaction – it only promises”. SK
Experience: Table of Contents
|Part 1||Part 2||Part 3||Part 4||Part 5||Part 6||Part 7||Part 8||Part 9|
In this series on experience, we’ve been exploring what happens when the curtain gets pulled back and the true identity of the Great and Powerful Oz gets revealed.
When one comes to peer into the depths under the surface mind one sees patterns of emotional longings, unfulfilled desires, and a seemingly infinite list of wants.
Hollywood propaganda masquerades as common sense if you believe the meaning of life is to be happy. It is an absurdity of the first order to think we have (seemingly) only our brief life to try to extract out as much happiness as possible before we die and return to an eternity of oblivion and non-existence. Somehow, our life is supposed to follow the story-structure of The Hero: we begin in some naïve Garden of Eden, then crisis pulls us out of our slumber of naivety and, against overwhelming odds, we overcome our demons and dragons, thereby acquiring the peace and happiness that is ours by right of conquest.
If you think like this, I’m sorry to inform you it is pure bullshit from top to bottom.
When you pull back the curtain and see the frenzy, the typhoon, the flurry and torrents of desire and emotion whipping around in patterns not unlike those spiral patterns we discussed last time, it is exactly as Alan Watts described. Behind this wall of human craving, one finds deeper cravings on which those were built.
The politician’s reach for power is nothing but the ever-fearful insect mimicking the branches upon which it crawls. The will to build skyscrapers, to conquer nature with machines and technology, is but the wolf hunting the rabbit to sate its ever-recurring hunger. The desire for status and prestige is nothing but the mating ritual of dancing peacocks. The wish for happiness and security is the desire to regress to suckling Mother’s warm, soft breasts. The craving to own things, anything, is like the drowning man’s futile attempt to “catch even a straw that is floating on the surface of water” in the face of certain death. That includes owning ideas as much as owning material stuff.
We pull back the curtain of the surface of our mind to find only the second curtain of swirling human desires. We pull back the second curtain and we see the swirling desires of life itself, the mindless urge for survival, instinctive, unquestioning, self-reproducing. We pull back this third curtain and see the swirling energies at the root of all things, making infinite patterns, making time, space, and energy. Time, space, and energy: the dog chasing its tail; as it pursues itself, it runs away from itself. That eternal futile effort is the base of space, time, energy, matter…life and stuff.
What is experience? What is life?
“Every object in the world promises satisfaction, but it never gives satisfaction – it only promises”.
It is promises. Only promises. Empty promises. Never satisfaction. To quote again Swami Krishnananda:
“We love life very much; but it is not life that we love—rather, it is the pleasure of life that we love. If it was all horror and death-like pangs, one would not love life. But there is a drop of honey mixed with the venom of tense activity, and one is after the little drop that is sticking even to the blade of grass which can cut one’s tongue—due to which, life is kept moving.”
One is willing to stick it out only for the brief taste of that drop of honey. And when you finally taste the drop of honey sticking to the blade of grass, your tongue gets cut. Regarding the taste of the honey once acquired, David Bowie informs us:
“Every time I thought I’d got it made, it seemed the taste was not so sweet…”
What do you call an empty promise, a promise that only promises but never fulfills? Is it a lie? A deception? An untruth? Those words imply a type of intentionality that doesn’t capture the scope of the situation. For the moment, perhaps the best term is to call it a mirage. It looks like something is there, when really, nothing is there.
We run on mirages as a car runs on gas. Mirages in our minds, drawing us forward through time and space, ever shifting, ever-changing mirages: arbitrary, patterned, an ever-transforming kaleidoscope of mirages. The instant we think we have grasped it, it transforms into something else much different than what we were chasing after in the first place. And on it goes, on and on and on and on it goes.
In this mirage is the truth of all philosophy. It is in our minds, as the Idealists tell us. It is the World, the Universe and Stuff as the Materialists tell us. The Dualists are right too because it is both mind and matter. The Reductionists are also right: it all reduces to Ennie Weenies who can never catch themselves. It is meaningless and absurd as the Existentialists teach us, because it is always changing and ultimately makes no sense. But although it is always changing, it is patterned, and at any given moment appears to have order and logic, as the Rationalist tells us. There is reason in the temporary pattern, but it is not the reason the Rationalists hope it will be.
The reason is the patterns of desires, of longings, of hope, and it makes sense only by its consistent lack of fulfillment. It is always holding out the sign: “come hither for your satisfaction.” When you get there you see in the distance another sign that reads “come hither for your satisfaction”.
And so it goes, eternally, round and round.
This is not postmodern anomie that is being describe here, nor existentialist angst, nor even nihilism. No, not by a long shot. These are but specific, and dare I say, petty, manifestations of a much more comprehensive condition. What is being described here is cosmic in scope.
The Buddhists call it Saṃsāra, the eternal wheel of life, death and rebirth. The Hindus call it Maya, the inscrutable; the causeless cause, without reason or explanation or purpose. The West calls it “life” and loves it and embraces it and glorifies it, but also, hypocritically, kills it, exploits it, and is blindly and ignorantly driven by it. The latter state of mind is called Avidya. It is the condition of our becoming: beckoning with promises, only to be rewarded with more promises, never fulfillment.
When one sees the ever-spinning, ever-changing kaleidoscope of mirages within mirages within mirages for what it is, there is only one rational response: