version of: October 3, 2004
Chapter 24: An Invitation
Without plan or goal or hope or fear, without any attitude toward fixing anything, we can let everything occur naturally. Acting more and more spontaneously and authentically, our acting can become a true non-acting. Organizing can become non-organizing, a letting appear of what wants to appear, as appearance, without swatting it and pinning it down in a glass cage of meanings as in a butterfly collection. This ease and freedom cannot be captured, but it can be lived.
How Can This Be?
Not fixing does not mean being careless, and it certainly doesn't mean that we do not care. The problem with narrow attempts at fixing things is that narrow solutions always generate new problems. The wider our understanding of a situation, the more comprehensive our responses can be.
The problem with a self-centered understanding is that there seem to be rather stringent limits that govern our understanding: it seems that we can only learn so much, grasp so much, process so much. And the world is far too complex a place to be captured by such limited self-centered understanding.
The solution is to let go of the sense of self in the center. Doing so opens up remarkable new ways to deal with problems, in ways that do not resemble anything in terms of grasping or analyzing or other forms of pinning down, yet are more effective than any of those more specific approaches.
How can this be? If we ask this question, we expect an answer in terms of concepts, definitions, existing frameworks. The problem is that in asking for such an answer, by definition we close the door to the possibilities of answers beyond definitions. That won't work.
Why Even Try?
We are like actors on a stage. We have learned our roles and identifications so well that our attention is so totally focused on what the play is about that we can no longer see that it is a play in the first place.
Our usual ways of using logic just cannot capture what we're after here. The nets of logic are too coarse to capture the tiny fish of spontaneous living, with its spontaneous insight and activity.
Says who? Why? Metaphors don't prove anything. At best they can point to a new idea, getting you over a hurdle toward understanding a new idea. But here we're dealing with the non-idea of trying to get beyond any idea whatsoever. Why even take this seriously?
Well, Why Not?
We don't have to believe or accept these type of statements. But rejecting them doesn't help either, and would close the door to a fundamentally new type of insight. Instead, we can explore in a more tentative way. We can start off in an agnostic way, neither accepting nor rejecting.
In other words, we can consider what has been sketched above and in previous chapters as a working hypothesis, and test it for ourselves. Why do even that, one may ask? The answer may be different for different individuals, but for most people it seems to be a mixture of different ingredients.
It may be an intuition, a deep sense of inadequacy of a puzzle-solving approach. It may be an urge to try to make sense of some tantalizing experiences one may have had. Or it may be an intense curiosity to make sense of the utterances one has read by mystics and contemplatives.
Whatever the reason may be, why not try it out? Of course, it would be silly to try to literally give up all activities and all conceptual ways of thinking. That's not the point, and that would be impossible anyway. But even a little tentative move in that direction may bring a large surprise, in terms of new vistas opening up.
It is extremely odd, this notion that clarity and cognition pervade the world just as much as space and time. But odd as it may be, we can give it a try. Just as we test a new car by driving it around the block, let's just go for a ride.
There are plenty of places that can provide starting points. Perhaps you meet someone who you really don't like, for whatever reason. How about greeting this person in a friendly way, setting aside whatever notions you may have about past interactions and future expectations?
Or perhaps there is something you've put off, some chore you really don't feel like doing, from cleaning up your room to sorting out some messy situation of whatever type. Now as an experiment, how about setting out to just do that chore, without viewing it as a chore, without viewing it as anything in particular, but just doing it?
Such of form of just-doing-it may surprise you. You may surprise yourself. And in this surprise you can get a taste of what non-doing can mean.
Each time we try something novel, something that doesn't seem to fit within the rules of the game as we've come to understand the game, we can learn more about our freedom to act spontaneously. And each such discovery can stimulate further exploration, leading to a chain reaction of novel insights.
We can grow comfortable exploring, and trusting our way of exploration. Not following our habits can become a way of life, just like following our habits is the typical way of life for almost anyone.
This invitation to exploration does not mean an invitation to randomly breaking the rules of the game, only for the sake of being rebellious or just being different. Such a grating attitude is an extreme case of the type of self-centered approach that we're trying to drop.
Instead, experimentation with going beyond the rules of the game can be wholesome and healthy at all levels, of body and mind and interactions with others and the world. Ecology is an extreme example: too complex to analyze in full detail, in the longer term the environment can only be cared for by changes in attitude, not by any patchwork of local fixes.
The type of exploration and experimentation that I am advocating in this book is not something that lends itself to being packaged. I can't imagine an organizational structure that would do much good in this respect.
Seeing what is, by dropping our tendency to run in circles, this cannot become the program of an organization. Sure, an organization can show you new things to see, and new circles to run in.
In many cases, these new things may be interesting and helpful, and running in the new circles may well feel a lot better than running in the old ones. But we can do better than that.
This does mean that we have to struggle alone, as individuals. Trying to go beyond a self-centered orientation, it would be ironic in the extreme to withdraw into an ego fortification, forsaking communication about what is, about the nature of reality.
Wouldn't it be nice to share stories and little insights about adventures in the land of not-doing? If we could find ways to meet others who are also on a path of exploration of what is, we could engage in occasional conversations, while leaving each other free to continue in whatever way each of us would feel to be right.
Without walls or buildings, we can be like nomads, exploring reality as reality will move us, responding to reality as it presents itself.
Communication has become easy and quick these days. We don't have to travel even in order to engage in exchanges with others, all over the planet. We can communicate like nomads in cyberspace, stimulating and encouraging each other in our trek through reality.
Exactly how such nomadic exchanges can unfold, I have no idea. Would it help to have some catalysts, to encourage and guide some initial attempts at communication? Perhaps. We'll have to try and see.
Over the years, I have been involved with a few experiments at nomadic conversations, in various forms, with a variety of other individuals. Each time we all learned a lot, but each time we also ran into all kind of interesting obstacles.
Email is a great medium, with great opportunities to reach others and share, but also with great opportunities to really hurt and misunderstand each other.
I don't know of any system of rules or any organizational structure that has been successful in preventing abuse in email while remaining open to freedom and spontaneity. I bet the only way to be open and free and respectful is to let go of any specific attempts to regulate them.
If enough individuals will provide personal examples of the way in which they celebrate openness, freedom and respect, such an approach may turn out to be contagious.
How much is `enough'?
I don't know. Perhaps half a dozen will do.
We'll see. Let's try.
By the way, here is the pointer, promised in chapter 7, to the web site with reports about the subject/object reversal experiment.
Back to previous page
Return to title page