I get deeply cared away
Buy you being
On the same side as me
Conveniently not paying
To the under
That there is but
Which wee occupy
This short poem addresses a theme that underlies much of my poetry, that, in ultimate reality, we are one. As Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently stated: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” The ego, wed to its own independence, over and above interdependence, resists a shared destiny, routinely seeking to carve out its own apparent advantage over larger realities. After experiencing one’s fair share of unpleasant events, and witnessing the sheer pervasiveness of such events in life, competing to rise above such a fray seems eminently natural — eat or be eaten, kill or be killed. Only a deep humility and an unbound love for life can transform destruction of selves into self-realization.
Must life feed on life? Of course, as one, what else could one feed upon? As a literal example, our food comes from living beings. Now, some meat-eaters employ this fact as a convenient rationalization that killing is normal, or at least a “necessary” evil, and lazily leap to a mode of thinking (and eating) where killing is of little consequence. I see enlightenment of living beings gently resting on that thin line between eating and being eaten. If life must feed on life, is there a way of feeding upon life that enhances life not diminish it? I believe that life can get bigger or smaller, as a whole, and as a self within the whole. How big or how small I’m not sure. Nonetheless, that thin line, our consciousness, is where the expansion or contraction rests. Is our consciousness, and conscientiousness, confined to our self, our family, our tribe, our species, our planet, or what? Consciousness may very well be the heart of life itself. In this case, increasing consciousness increases life and decreasing consciousness decreases life.
One construct of evil would be feeding on death, a level of (un)consciousness that does not recognize or share consciousness with other beings. Evil consumes consciousness. In a sense, what evil does share is unconsciousness or contracted consciousness. Functioning with a shared unconsciousness reduces humans to mere billiard balls, a set, albeit complex set, of cause and effect relationships guided by causes (including others’ wills) outside our self. In essence, “choosing” unconsciousness or declining to expand consciousness takes us out of the game (the game being enhancing consciousness, life). Contracted consciousness is a set of relationships (a “contract”) created and maintained by our wills, consciously chosen. It is these contracts that form the substance and style of our culture, ethical debates, and political fights. Still, consciousness, and its creative existential force, the will, lies outside any particular set of relationships (material conditions) that can be chosen. Expanding consciousness will necessarily run into this awareness, that any particular culture, set of social conditions, or ideology, cannot control our conscious free will. The seemingly obvious exception to this is death, or more specifically, killing, presumably ending conscious free will. Justified killing is included in most contracts among humans today. What this often overlooks is that killing particular expressions of conscious free will does not eliminate conscious free will; most bluntly illustrated by the fact that this would require suicide (thus, the fascination of murder-suicide by existentialist writers). No doubt, killing is a very blunt way of trying to reign in conscious free will. Of course, many contracted belief systems include an afterlife, the survival of conscious free will. If this is true, this radically alters the effectiveness of killing. Unfortunately, sometimes the belief in an afterlife, rather than simply leading to bold living, serves in the rationalization of killing (e.g., “kill them all and let God sort them out”).
Conjoining our consciousnesses seems best served by the most profound precept: love your enemies. That which is not you — or more aptly put, that which you do not want to be you — must be both transcended and entered into. Each of us and all of us are best served by manifesting the courage to confront and reconcile both our own inner dark side and the darkness manifest in others. Back to the eat or be eaten metaphor, the question is begged: what if you were the pray. The more gently profound precept, have compassion on all living beings, spurs us to walk in another’s shoes and no what it is like for shoeless souls laid bare to the world. May we all be grounded, and laid to rest, with such compassionate and conscious living. I deeply appreciate the Zen story of the man encountering another man somewhat boasting in tales about his great relationship and love of animals, to which he interjects, “A fish once saved my life.” The boaster’s curiosity was peaked to hear such a tale. To which he was told: “Once I was lost in the woods and perilously hungry. I found a fish in the stream, and I ate him.” This signature Zen approach is transcendentally funny and, not coincidentally, enlightening. He deflated pomposity. Lauded the fish which saved his life. Plus, he outflanked even the most compassionate ideology, witnessing to the mystery of mysteries needed to instill life into any chosen ideology. The Christian take on dietary ideologies is less clever but makes a similar point: “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (Matthew 15:11)
All great philosophies and the mysticism at the heart of all religions recognizes the irreducible, creative freedom present in humans. The mystery of creation parallels the making of humans in God’s image as co-creators, romping around the created universe. Creation focuses on the will, the power present in human consciousness, and presumably God’s consciousness. However, consciousness is the prerequisite to experience itself, whereby meaning arises, even made possible. Consciousness gives rise to (the experience of) the other, the myriad of things, including our body and mind. Consciousness, sometimes called “The third eye,” is the seat of all seeing, even able to see our mind from a vantage point other than the mind itself, the true “I.” Consciousness enlivens existence with experience and we can meaningfully participate in the myriad of things (the created world) through our will. I strongly suspect that the foundational importance of relationships, sharing, and creation spring out of the nature of God. As I see it, God consciousness and will give rise (create) to the other so it can share the experience of an other. Maybe God just got tired of self-consciousness (see my poem: An Answer to the Problem of Evil, which is much more playful than the weighty title might connote). Giving/creating seems to be the foundational nature of sharing present in enlightened beings, which cements the centrality of relationships among others. I am struck by the tripartite truth of consciousness of self, the palpable created reality in which we experience, and the irascibly creative will from which we add our own touches. Granted, I may be touched. Still, there is a spirit within me that will not rest until our created reality is won size fits awe.