Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cast Off the Lines II

Scott Bradley


I get a chuckle out of a certain self-published book that is essentially an exhortation to sailors to cast off the lines. Just do it. This person did, in fact, do it; she left California for Mexico where she soon found another comfy marina and once again tied herself to the dock. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. Indeed, I confess that I have now essentially done the same, though unable to afford the marina, I only anchor nearby. There are obviously practical considerations which effect one's ability to 'cruise' extensively — money, health, family, preferences. And this is where this particular metaphor of casting off the lines breaks down.

Releasing into the void might also be likened to throwing a stone into the air; up it goes, momentarily free of earth, but alas, down it comes again. Similarly, our little forays into the mystical, however exhilarating, are likely to be short-lived. They are, nonetheless, worth the endeavor. But while the truism that "what goes up must come down" is relatively true, it is not absolutely so. There is something called 'escape velocity'. It is this to which those who value transcendence aspire.

We can tie ourselves up in discussions as to whether one should aspire to anything at all, no matter how 'noble', but in the end we aspire, even if it is to not aspire. To not aspire is a worthy aspiration, but one unlikely to be realized without aspiring to it. Yes, I enjoy playing with words, but word-play can serve to illuminate the absurdity of our attempts to neatly categorize reality. Life teaches us that there are no true contradictions; there are only things as they are.

So, though we might aspire to attain escape velocity, and recognize that only that is true transcendence, we are not deterred from throwing ourselves up in the air. Who knows, maybe one time we might not come back down.

There is another lesson in the story of this sailor who cast off the lines only to quickly re-tie them somewhere else. We may abandon one dogma in the name of freedom from dogma, but how quickly this simply becomes more dogma. This should not surprise us given that this is what we most ‘naturally’ do. It is no easy thing to remain unattached to opinion and belief. To do so, or at least to win moments wherein we have done so, we must frequently take a hard look at where we are presently moored. I have elsewhere called his “returning to critical zero”.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

1 comment:

  1. I rather like the notion of "escape velocity" in connection with neidan practice where the goal indeed is to return to "critical zero."

    Some signage I have seen on a Chinese freeway seems appropriate here:

    "Notice Velocity" and "Curve Continuously."

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