(Pour yourself a cup of coffee and relax. This is a bit long, but you might like it. Or you might hate it! In a response to my previous post, a friend of mine commented that I seem very different from Pat Robertson, after I had said “I am Pat Robertson,” even as I strongly criticized him. What gives? This is my attempt to explain a little more clearly what is sometimes called the “non-dual” (not-two) perspective… which is more and more how I sense, underneath all appearance, the world actually works. Pay close attention, and you’ll even get to see me use the word “Lethe” in a sentence!)
When I said that I am Pat Robertson, I meant it fairly literally. What I’ve come to believe, is that we identify with a very illusory beast that we call our “self.” When I believe that I “am” a “self” that is unique and different from all the billions of other “selves” out there, many, many things naturally begin to follow from that. Among them: that there are things that others do which I am intrinsically incapable of doing. Also, that I have “unique” gifts, talents, abilities, and knowledge that makes me different from others and, so I would like to think, (even if I won’t admit it) superior.
Also, because I am a “unique person,” I need to protect myself. If “I” go, Frimmitude could be lost forever, at least from earth, and shucks, Heaven is supposed to be so frimmin’ that I’m not going to make a positive impression there at all, to put it mildly!
But none of these assumptions survives a close examination. What is true, is that I have a personality, a frame of reference, a developing “story”, and deeply-ingrained ways of relating to myself and my environment. It is universally assumed by those who have successfully developed personality, relational habits and a coherent POV, that this IS them.
We think: this is me! I’m unique! Well, these attributes—personality, frame of reference, “story” and patterns are unique. But are they really ME? Most of them are constantly changing in various degrees. My personality is not what it was when I was a kid, or even ten years ago. There’s some commonality in the way I relate to the world with how I did in the past, but there are many, many differences as well. My “story” not only keeps developing as I rack up experiences, thoughts, days, and years, but other things fall off. I recently spent a long time going through old high—school yearbooks, straining to remember people and things forgotten and almost forgotten. And as for forgetting, most of the 84,000 seconds I lived today are already well-drowned deep in Lethe.
It’s been suggested that anything you can observe changing must be separate from you. You can watch a television, but you’re not the TV. You can observe your body, so you’re not your body, although you’re closely associated with it. In meditation, and other kinds of stillness, you can observe the comings and goings of your thoughts, and you see that you are not your thoughts.
That leaves point-of-reference. This is consistent. I seem to be “here,” and not “there,” and I only seem to experience things through this body/personality that walks around with the name “Jon Zuck.” The point-of-reference is always there, whether I’m conscious of it or not. If anything is “me,” this is.
Once I realize that I simply seem to be a sort of vantage point, I can see that everything else that I tend to identify with is a circumstance or experience or set of such, of some kind or other. My fears of death become baseless, because you can’t destroy a point. And my “story”—born here, named this, did that, felt thus—is simply the record of experience as far back as this body goes. The patterns of relating and “personality” are simply the dominant themes of what Jon has been like, and is likely to be like in the foreseeable future.
So what am I? Just a vantage point, made of either God-stuff or whatever stuff God made stuff out of… and I’m not talking about the body or any physical material.
What is Pat Robertson? Exactly the same thing. What is Hugo Chavez? Mother Teresa? Adolf Hitler? Genghis Khan? Sakyamuni Buddha? Points of view, and a point is nothing, or nothing definable, at least, although it is real. Hence, the phrase “no-thing.” Yet somehow everything is really this No-thing!
What we really mean when we say things like “if it had been me, I would have done such and such,” in thinking that we would have done something differently than another person is really this: “If I were able to transport my knowledge, viewpoint, personality, feelings, beliefs and experiences, into this other body, viewpoint, personality, feelings, beliefs and experiences, I would like to think that something different would be the result.
Of course, it’s impossible, and not just because of physical laws, but because as soon as you would put your “self” into the “other’s” situation, your “self” is no longer that “self” you’ve identified with, and the “other is no longer “other.”
Thich Nhat Hahn wrote that a key in forgiving is to realize that apart from the things that shape our bodies, experiences, and stories, there simply is no difference between us whatever! I may like to think that I could never commit mass murder, and that’s true (pretty sure!) of the superficial Jon, this walking point-of-experience who traces his story to beginning a whopping 44 years ago in a dusty city in Texas.
But if I had been born in Hitler’s birthplace, in his time, to his parents, and had the same experiences, and all the same influences he had, genetic, environmental, past-life, cosmic, whatever and what-have-you, I would not be “me.” “I” would not have the conscience that I do. I wouldn’t be “me” at all— I would be Hitler, and I would have done the horrific things he did.
This isn’t a matter of false humility. I am essentially (in essence— important word!) no different from Robertson or Hitler or Teresa or Christ. What is different is how I act, and that comes from my choices, and my will has been shaped by all my experiences, including things I’m sure I cannot even begin to understand.
So, with so much darkness in the world, how do we bring more light? I believe this is the key issue. The natural thing to do is to react out of our “personality” and story. However, in so doing, we bring its fears, anger, desires and identifications to the situation.
For thousands of years, people have attempted to change the world by reaction. If A is bad, then B is the answer—when B is no longer desirable, let’s fight for C. Barry Long wrote that every problem was once someone’s idea of a solution to a different problem. In many respects progress does get made, but in other respects, it is highly questionable. A quick example: on the one hand, we live longer, and have better standards of living than we did before the rise of civilization and the ego-mind. On the other hand, much, if not most, prosperity comes from the exploitation of others, and while we live longer, we have more anxiety, and we can snuff out millions of lives at once instead of one at a time. As Sonny and Cher said, “the beat goes on.”
The teachers we call “enlightened,” “anointed,” or “Sons of God,” say that realizing our true, pure, emptiness is itself the answer. Jesus said we should not to try to get specks out of other’s eyes, for we have logs in our own. As long as we identify ourselves with what are mere circumstances, all our efforts will be nothing more than trying force more circumstances to come about, as if that could give us a lasting freedom. Our first priority should be to empty our own eyes of foreign matter first, (our false identification with the needy, greedy “self”) and then we’ll see clearly enough to help others. We’ll act from our true nature, instead of our identifications, and live from a center that is beyond circumstance, which he called “the Kingdom of God.”