The Mystery of a Reality beyond Imagination

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people use the word “ridiculous” to describe an idea that another has expressed. Sometimes, instead of using the word “ridiculous,” I might hear the more polite “I’m just keeping it real.”  It doesn’t matter what word or expression is used, the insult is the same.  I say insult because the person reacting to the “crazy” idea is displaying a disrespectful arrogance toward the person who is promoting the idea, as if the reactor knows more about reality than the idea’s promoter.  It doesn’t matter how nice the reactor is trying to be.  It doesn’t matter if the reactor is trying to help the promoter.  It doesn’t matter what the reactor’s intentions are at all.  An insult is an insult.  The question is does the promoter accept the insult?  I hope not!

As a promoter of various ideas myself, I have been the recipient of unsolicited critical feedback numerous times. So, I am sensitive to this interpersonal dynamic.  As a result, I do my best not to knock other people’s ideas that I deem to be problematic unless they ask for my input.  I think I am successful in this endeavor because I am aware of a difference between opinion and reality.  The former is built upon beliefs, mindsets and interpretations, whereas the latter is really beyond the comprehension of any individual.

Yes, I said it. Reality is beyond the comprehension of any individual! Not even science has a monopoly on reality.  The best science can offer is theories to explain observable facts.  The more that people test a theory and obtain results that verify it, the more it may be accepted as reality.  But we should never forget that theories are always vulnerable to be invalidated.  Therefore, the best we humans can do when trying to describe reality is give our own interpretation of what we observe.

So if we can never totally comprehend reality, what does that imply? For starters, it means that each of us has a lifetime of exploration before us that is limited only by our imagination!  How many times have we seen marvelous inventions built upon inconceivable technologies?  Would we continue to experience progress or have a totally different lifestyle from our ancestors if we collectively accepted the belief that we understand reality in total?  Hardly!

Of course, there have been numerous instances of people who claim that they do have it all figured out: From advocates of religions and philosophies to the scientifically inclined.  Sooner or later, though, proponents of any model of reality have to come to terms with the limitations of their model.  I am reminded of the famous quotation from the end of the nineteenth century, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”  Some paradigms are not easily dropped, though.  Science’s embrace of materialism is one example and any of the major religions of the world are other examples.  This resistance to let go of concepts that no longer serve us suggests to me that we humans have a deep insecurity that demands that we be able to control our world so that it does not surprise us to the point of annihilation.  This need to control encourages us to play head games with ourselves in order to justify our feeling of victimization by a world we don’t fully understand despite our claims to the contrary.

By desperately clinging to our beliefs, we deprive ourselves of the liberation that the mystery of life can provide. It starts with asking questions–constantly.  If you don’t question your world, you will never know your world; if you don’t question yourself, you will never know yourself.  Nothing is sacred, and yet, questioning is the most sacred of acts!  When we ask questions in our exploration of experience, we discover that we are gods in the sense that we literally create our own reality!  Again, our creative powers are limited only by our imaginations.  If you cannot imagine that the world is spherical, then of course, you will experience it as flat and will not likely challenge your horizons.  On the other hand, those who do challenge their horizons will find that their horizons have no end.  By way of their imaginations, the adventurous see the invisible and do the impossible!

So whenever I hear anyone say that any particular idea is ridiculous or that the idea is not realistic, a red flag is raised. I take this as a signal to either confront the person who is spewing their limiting beliefs or simply remove myself from their company.  After all, I don’t want my ideas polluted with someone else’s limiting beliefs!  If they want to live in their little prison of a world, that is their right.  As for me, I choose to live freely in my experience of reality.  For in seeing reality as an incomprehensible mystery, I embrace this mystery in order to continually learn about myself and my world and create a reality beyond imagination!

Those Who Know Are Ignorant; Those Who Don’t Know Are Wise

I have been in intellectual conflict with many people in my life and sometimes it can be downright frustrating! I have noticed in all my interactions with others that people are reasoning from one of two perspectives:  reasoning based on knowledge or reasoning based on wisdom.

The culture in which I was raised (the United States) seems to be a culture that predominantly values reasoning based on knowledge. We see this in law, science, engineering and religion.  In law, we demand definitive knowledge and facts in order to determine if we should convict or acquit.  In science and engineering, knowledge and facts determine what is and is not possible.  In religion, the knowledge of accepted interpretations of scripture determines what is right and what is wrong.

The other form of reasoning is from a place of wisdom. This viewpoint is aware of facts, but it is also aware of a bigger picture.  Choices have consequences because the bigger picture reveals a connection between all of life.  This is the compassion perspective that is not quick to judge (unlike reasoning based on knowledge), nor is it quick to apply knowledge without forethought.  Above all, it does not blindly accept the written word at face value.  Reasoning based on wisdom is a totally different way of thinking from what traditional western culture normally employs.

Yet, two different ways of thinking are not required in order to have a debate with another. I have found that heated disputes occur when at least one party reasons based on knowledge.  I think that this has to do with an underlying craving to be “right.”  After all, to be right is to be loved and accepted…or so the belief goes.  Because a person reasoning from knowledge feels separate from his adversary, he need only concern himself with making his case so that the other will “see the light” and support and love him.  It does not matter so much how he wins the argument.  What does matter is that he wins the argument because if he doesn’t, he is deemed “wrong” and loses out on the ultimate prize–love and acceptance.

Winning and losing as well as being right or wrong are meaningless to those who reason from a place of wisdom. When you are connected to the person with whom you are engaged in discussion, why on earth would you want to defeat that person?  If you are aware of a bigger picture, how could you claim that you are right and the other person is wrong when rightness and wrongness is a simple matter of perspective?  As a result, when two participants are reasoning from wisdom, both recognize their connection to each other and therefore, quarrels do not occur.  This does not mean that differences do not exist and resolutions are always arrived at.  Sometimes solutions require time as each side slowly assimilates what has been learned during the interaction with each other.  Those who are wise recognize the power of being uncertain and are quite comfortable in not knowing.

Not knowing, in this sense, is different from being ignorant. One displays ignorance when interacting with another when one is paying no attention to some aspect of what is being discussed or its context, be it the bigger picture or the background of the other person.  Not knowing, on the other hand, is being uncertain, and interestingly opens one up to possibilities that tend to be missed by those who are certain in their knowledge.  If you are certain that a person is guilty of a crime, why bother gathering facts at the scene of the crime?  If you are certain that a certain technology is harmless, why bother testing it?  If you are certain of the meaning of a sacred text, why not simply follow it to the letter without further study and contemplation?  It is obvious that deep down, we all know that nothing is black and white and that mistakes and misunderstandings do occur and that solutions beyond our current imaginations are possible.  Thus, we all have a part of us that is wise, if only we allow ourselves to listen to it regularly!

Having the ability to act wisely does not guarantee a life free of troubles. We must put this wisdom to use regularly.  Otherwise, we open ourselves to be manipulated by others in a way that can be summarized by the following:

The easiest people to fool are those who know; the hardest people to fool are those who don’t know.

This is true because some of what we think of as facts or truth is not facts or truth at all, but merely theories or accepted beliefs. As long as people fail to recognize that a particular idea is just a belief or a theory, they can easily be led through a line of reasoning that convinces them to conclude that what would otherwise be seen as false is true and what would otherwise be seen as true is false!  On the other hand, when you acknowledge that don’t know something, you open yourself up to seeing things from a fresh perspective, untarnished by collective biases and nefarious manipulative techniques.

A person free from manipulation is a person free to be authentic and free to truly enhance the world we live in. In writing this article, I am reminded of verse 71 of the Dao De JingHere is my current translation of it:

One who knows what he does not know is a superior man.
One who does not know what he knows is sick.
If one truly consents to be sick of being sick, this is the reason he is not sick.
If a saintly person is not sick, it is because he is sick of being sick; this is the reason he is not sick.


Authenticity Is the Antidote to Corruption

Picking up from the ideas in my Who Has the Power? article, I want to write about an important aspect of harnessing our personal power together with others in order to create a society that works for all.  Obviously, society does not work for all at this point in the evolution of human beings, but why is that?

It comes down to one word: corruption.  Corruption typically is associated with money influencing public policy.  Many of the problems that we experience collectively, if not personally, are a result of public policies that favor wealthy campaign contributors over the general population.  For instance, pollution is rampant because governments allow, if not favor, the production of various products that directly or indirectly pollute the environment.  Poverty is increasing because governments encourage the flow of money toward a relatively small number of corporations mainly through tax regulations, subsidies, mandates (such as requirements to have insurance) or laws designed to obscure information that would discourage the public from buying certain products (such as laws to prohibit the straightforward labelling of genetically modified foods).  There are many more examples of corruption and the interesting thing about the examples that I gave is that they are forms of legal corruption.  So, corruption is more than merely breaking the law in order to make a buck.

In fact, I see corruption as more rampant than a few corrupt politicians or a few laws that favor the rich. We have corrupt governments because we the people are corrupt citizens!  What I mean by that is that many of us place great importance on money in our lives.  Some display corruption when they act in a stingy or greedy manner.  Others show corruption when they are struggling to survive and feel forced to focus much of their attention on making or saving every penny they can.  Both of these cases differ from the traditional examples of corruption in that instead of being motivated to gain political power, they are concerned with attaining personal power within a societal context.

That’s not all. Corruption needn’t be limited to acquiring money.  In the broadest sense, corruption occurs whenever a person deviates from being authentic.  Examples of corrupt action that have nothing to do with money are when someone follows an immoral law, yields to peer pressure or succumbs to manipulation.  In the case of following an immoral law, the legal system uses a threat of punishment in order to get people to do things they might not want to do naturally.  In the cases of peer pressure and manipulation, the threat of social isolation is a prime motivator for suppressing authentic expression in favor of conformity to a particular standard.

It seems to me that there are two forms of peer pressure: concrete and abstract. Concrete peer pressure is demonstrated whenever a person feels compelled to act in a certain way in order to avoid social isolation.  Examples of this type of peer pressure include keeping up with the latest fashion and incessantly attending parties where drinking is the main event. Abstract peer pressure, on the other hand, is exhibited whenever a person feels compelled to think in a certain way in order to avoid social isolation.  This type of peer pressure involves embracing unexamined traditional beliefs, be they religious, philosophical, political or scientific in nature.

Now that we have looked at how a person can become corrupt in the broadest sense, it becomes apparent that we all contribute to the existence of corruption in the world simply by not being authentic. The next thing to ask is, “How can I be authentic right now?”  To answer this question, you have to be brutally honest with yourself without condemning yourself.  The purpose of this self-examination is to transform destructive ways of being into constructive ways of being; shaming yourself for engaging in unconscious, corrupt behavior merely focusses on the problem instead of the solution.

I have found from personal experience that other people can be helpful in determining whether you are being authentic or not. By considering the thoughts of others who might have drastically different ideas from what you are used to, you gain a new perspective that makes it easier to question the validity of your own beliefs and worldview.  If you see your religion, philosophy or scientific paradigm as the absolute truth or if you see that your political party can do no wrong, you are keeping yourself imprisoned in a mindset that will keep you from understanding who you are.  After all, self-discovery is a never-ending process that deepens our understanding of that on-going mystery which is at the core of our being.  As we allow this process to unfold naturally, we effortlessly learn more about ourselves and become more authentic.

As a result, becoming more authentic is a gift to the universe by the universe which created us. Hence, acting authentically is our life’s purpose.  Because we are all connected in the deepest sense, to deny our life’s purpose denies the world of your gifts and results in the suffering of all to one degree or another.  This is why corruption is something that we naturally frown upon whenever we see it.  A few benefit from it at the expense of the many.  Corruption reveals an absence in the awareness that we are all connected and that our mere existence was designed to enhance all life in some way.  If this were not the case, how could you even be here reading this article?

It is one thing to identify corruption in yourself; it is another thing to actually transform the corrupt thinking and behavior into those which are authentic. Becoming authentic is not a trivial task.  It is often scary and it takes practice because we typically are replacing an old way of being with a new way.  Until the new way becomes second nature, the old habitual way of being can always return.  Therefore, if you are determined to be the authentic person you were born to be, you must undertake the moment-to-moment discipline to confront your fears that discourage you from making the change that you desire to make.

Corruption in the world begins and ends with you! If you do not acknowledge corruption in yourself and others, you encourage it everywhere.  So, continually ask yourself if you are being authentic in the moment.  If you are, great!  If not, what can you do to become authentic here and now?  The more of us that get in the habit of doing this regularly, the less we will witness corruption out in the world and the more we will enhance each other in our day-to-day living, thereby creating a world that works for us all!