Monday, April 30, 2012

On Being Unlimited II

Scott Bradley


It may well be that we are essentially nothing. But that is no disgrace or loss if everything is nothing. Being nothing, we are utterly everything. But 'nothing' is a designation which, though possibly the case, does not describe our actual experience in the world; we are, in life, a something that is also a nothing, which is to say, we are an emptiness.

Daoism recommends that we discover our essential emptiness and dwell there. Emptiness is the unlimited in that it has no boundaries.

How is it that I who sits here writing can be said to be limitless? Clearly, limitlessness has nothing to do with space and time. Nor can it be any specific 'thing'; 'I' cannot be limitless. Limitlessness is, I think, the nature of Reality. So, in this case, 'I' am limitless. But this is metaphysics, and we need not go there. The limitlessness of which I speak is experiential, which is to say, psychological. It is the experience of being unfixed, unmoored — of wandering.

Is this all just a lot of blabber, or do I experience that of which I speak? Blabber, mostly. But, as you may be aware, I subscribe to the belief that, though there may be irreversible, transformative experiences — that 'turning about in the depths of consciousness' — there is also the more mundane and messy experience of approximation. "All or nothing" is the general touch-phrase for the advocates of 'enlightenment'. And if such an experience is possible, then there is some truth in this point of view — if you have experienced it. But I do not know that it is possible, nor do I believe it would come through seeking it, if it were. This leaves me with what I have called 'messy'. It is messy in that it does not resolve to pat formulas of either/or; like life itself, it does not succumb to logic.

Approximation is the application of the human to the human. It's doing the best one can manage. It's practice. It's growth. And when done in the context of an understanding that nothing need be done (because it already is), it breeds no strife, within or without.

Spinoza believed the cosmos to be reasonable and intelligible, and if one could bring one's thinking into complete harmony with it, one would be it. One would be the "face of the Universe". But he was a smart guy who also understood that the human experience was a very limited one, and such an understanding of the Universe was not possible. His 'enlightenment' was an unrealizable ideal. No matter; those limits can be filled with joy and pleasure, just in the approximating.

Soaring forays into the unlimited are possible, but the gravity of our addiction to opinion and preference, the defining characteristics of 'me', quickly bring us down. No matter; the joy is in the effort, when the effort is the joy. And the effort is the joy when we realize no effort is required. All is well.

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

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