Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Movement Back to Spontaneity

Inspired by Alan Watts lecturing on the practice of Zen:

To try and explain life with and within the typical syntax of words and phrases is as clumsy as trying to drink water with a fork.  Therefore, it can be very difficult to make sense out of life if you are trying to do so through words.  The complexity of life is comparable to the masses of stars and nebula or the waves and fissures of a rock. These things are quite complex to define or describe, yet quite simple to understand through sense emotions or feelings.  To try and put this kind of order into words will always be beyond reason.  This is why one who attempts to define life will always fail.  If one believes they have a good grasp of this order or this life, then they should examine how they grew their own bones, how they came upon a certain experience, or how they managed to become a conscious being.

However, this is not how we are raised to perceive and relate to the world.  For instance, at a very young age we are taught to do away with spontaneity and to try to figure everything out, forming words into meaning.  The first thing we are taught are the names of everything.  We are taught that these other things are separate from the self.  Also, we are taught to behave consistently, like characters of a book.  It’s almost as if we take our cues for living from literature.  Life is not consistent.  It is quite unpredictable in almost every way.  Because we are brought up to develop ourselves into a certain someway, we are forced to develop a second self inside of ourselves.  This is the observing self that asks questions of conformity: Is what I do consistent? What will other people see?  Does what I do make sense?

In childhood, we are quite spontaneous.  As we grow older, we become more and more self conscious.  Worried about how others perceive us and what we do.  We try to make sense of ourselves through a correctly formulated strand of words and meaning.  We become rigid and conforming.  If only we could step back and see this nonsense for what it really is: trying to drink water with a fork.  There are those who regain this spontaneity in life, poets and artists, those who see the illusion of it all.  In recapturing this original freedom, they are making sense of the world through nonsensical frivolity, emotions and feeling rather than words and definitions.  To be carefree and separate from the ups and downs of life is much like gazing into the stars or looking upon a painting, no meaning necessary to appreciate the beauty that lies in front of you.  Abandon the want to form the stars into your own likeness.  Rather, watch in awe, without a care whether they stay or explode.  This is a Zen approach to life: the movement back to spontaneity.

Once you realize
that the road is the goal,
and that you are always on the road,
not to reach a goal,
but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom,
life ceases to be a task,
and becomes natural and simple,
in itself an ecstasy…
--Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

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