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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Suggestions for Happiness (practical and philosophical)

1.     Eat what you like, but no more than you need
2.    Spend money only if you have it.  I have a credit card but the balance is paid in full automatically every month.  It’s a convenience mainly for shopping online.
3.    Life happens, so it’s best to accept fully whatever Life brings to you. Non-acceptance is called suffering.
4.    Assume you do not actually control anything. It’s very likely nobody controls anything, anyway.  If you think you are controlling your life, you may be mistaken. Just do what is there to be done. There can be no evidence that you have or had any choice in the matter.  This will save you a lot of worry. Giving up the illusion of free will is a radical step, but don’t you think some radical steps are needed?
5.    Understand that the past does not exist.  Memories are thoughts and feelings and if they arise they are happening now.  Life, including thoughts and feelings, can only be happening now. Even the concept “now” implies some other time, but there is no other time. The future does not exist, either; hopes, fears, expectations are thoughts and feelings only.  They are happening now.

(If there is inconsistency in these suggestions, please don’t expect a tidy scheme.  Take it or leave it.)

If there is no other time than now, then there can be no actual time, it wouldn’t make sense. The whole idea of time is just that – an idea. A convenience for everyday living.  For scheduling stuff.

I have found it very instructive lately, very helpful, to investigate carefully the nature of what is seen as reality.  Just going by my actual experience, without making any assumptions, I can see that everything I have been used to thinking of as “out there”, outside me, is really inseparable from my perceptions – in other words, a part of me.  So I could say that my world is inside me.  Or is me.  What I have been used to thinking of as “reality,” separate from me, is a thought construct,  a set of assumptions.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Sense of “I”

There’s something very strange about the sense of “I” each of us has.  Have you never wondered why you feel to be the person you are and not someone else?  Who decided you should be you? And if you were someone else, you wouldn’t realize it, probably.

There are a (relatively) few people who have lost this sense of “I”, some after much searching for the answer to this riddle or to some other universal question, but in many cases just suddenly and unexpectedly without any searching at all. They say this relieves them of worries, hopes, fears and regrets - in other words, they no longer suffer - and gives them freedom; they now understand that they are not a person: that person they thought they were was just a tiresome, restrictive illusion, and they call this new state of affairs liberation or enlightenment.  

You cannot get this liberation by looking for it, they say, because your idea that you don’t already have it is part of the illusion, so looking for something you already actually have makes no sense and gives no result.  You only need to realize it. 

No paths lead to it, you cannot get nearer to it just because the idea that you are not already enlightened is an illusion.  A “person” never becomes enlightened, because enlightenment entails the loss of the illusion of being a person. There never was a person .

Enlightenment doesn’t result in a life free from pain and problems, because the body/mind organism you have been used to thinking of as yours is still living the human game, of which pain and problems are an intrinsic part. There is no person but there is still a body with its associated thoughts and feelings we call the “mind,” and apparently its character is usually little changed by the transformation.   It is just no longer a personal possession.  To outward appearances, it seems the same as before, but the subjective experience is radically different.

To add to the fun, enlightenment appears to bring the realization that there is no such thing as free will.  Life happens, normally we think we are controlling our little bit, at least to some extent; but this, too, is part of the illusion.  And you don’t need enlightenment to realize that not having any free will is a distinct possibility, because it is impossible to demonstrate that you could have done something differently at the  time you did it.  If something can never be demonstrated, it is probably just an assumption and not true at all, but that doesn’t stop most people from believing it, because belief in free will is one of the important aspects of the game of being a human on planet Earth. I sometimes try to imagine what life would be like if everyone knew they had no free will.

Absence of free will means, of course, absence of any agent capable of exercising it. This alone reduces our personhood to very little – a completely passive thing, obviously not a person in any meaningful sense of the word.
Philosophers of every persuasion have had something to say about free will, so it seems that a little thought will give us pause and cause us to wonder if we really have such a faculty. Here is a link to a discussion of the matter of free will in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

The great majority do not wish to apply their thinking abilities to these tricky questions, they just prefer to get on with life as they believe it to be normally lived.  My wife is a good example: when I ask her to show that she really has free will, she cannot, or she will assert that merely saying she is going to do something and then doing it means she has free will.  Anyway, she believes she has it and that's enough for her!  She, like most, wants to use thinking to work out how to play the game more successfully, not to question the whole setup.  Thinking too closely may seriously interfere with the rules of the game!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Real Life? or dream?

Most people, however bad their life might seem from time to time, don’t want to leave it. The fact is, people are addicted to this human game.  I see it as a game that we, for mysterious reasons, have decided to play. After all, what else is there to do?! We don’t know.

 But what happens when we die – leave the human game?  Many people have beliefs, perhaps strongly held and even exclusive, but few have certainties, based in experience.  My personal belief takes its source in what happens to a dream character when we wake up.  The character is seen to have had no real existence, though we didn’t realize this while we were dreaming.  I think that’s what happens when we die.  I cannot say “I” will see that I had no real existence, since “I” will be seen to have never really existed – to have been imaginary, with a body somewhat like a counter in a board game, enabling me to play, collect rewards and forfeits, compare myself with others etc.  We call this “real life” since that’s how it appears to us, and if we understood that it is no more real than a dream, it might lose some of its excitement. Like the follower of this blog who unfollowed me when I queried “is life important?”  Life, to her, still relatively young, was vividly important.

Who, then, will see that I was only a dream character?  We have to resort to impersonal verbs: “it will be seen” – like that. The really fascinating thing is that for some, this seeing has occurred while they were still actively playing this dream game.  They tell us that though life is transformed, it still continues much as before, though since it's apparently a dream in which they no longer have a personal identity, they see it very differently.

 Should anyone be interested in acquiring this “seeing,” it seems it cannot be commanded.   

I may continue this subject in a day or two.


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