On Reality (Part 3: What does it matter?)
[continued from PART 2]
What if we’re wrong about everything?
What if our theories continue to be overturned as more and more pieces of the puzzle come together, and then we go deeper still, and things fall apart again? What if it turns out that what we’ve been studying is nothing more than a complex and convincing facade, and nothing is what it seems?
What if we never get to the bottom of what all this is? What if the fabric of reality, once seen as fundamental, is just a veil that we can never clearly see through? What does it even matter, to me, to you?
I can speak for myself and how living in the mystery and the (very likely) possibility of being wrong about everything can actually be incredibly liberating.
But let’s get real. Insight into this unknowability doesn’t lead to instant liberation. Like all philosophical and spiritual insights, it can be difficult to sustain and even harder to integrate into the moments of our lives. We might know intellectually that we are interconnected and that illusory external objects won’t bring lasting happiness, but we keep forgetting. So we march around as if we are separate selves, chasing objects and people and places to make us feel whole. On some level, this separateness and need is real. For a fleeting while, objects and people and places do make us feel good. But it never lasts. Ultimately, they were illusions, and holding on to phantoms is ultimately disappointing.
It is possible to sustain this insight that the world is fickle and unknowable. I can, with a meditation practice, remember that a stable, separate self and solid external objects are mere illusions. With practice, I can simultaneously hold in mind that on some level, things are there, and on another more ultimate level, not really there. On one level, a table is solid, and ultimately, mostly empty space. I can remember that things are not as they appear; that time and space are elastic and relative, not as fixed as they appear; that this experience is a lot like a virtual reality. Only here the headset is biological, made of flesh and bone, and cannot be removed until death disembodies us and maybe then we might get a glimpse of the great beyond. Maybe.
Until then, I am here. Here, in this strangeness that I know nearly nothing about. When I remember this, I know there is nothing to do here except just be in it. There is ultimately no winning or losing and things that seemed so heart-wrenchingly important before now matter a little less. Chasing virtual objects with any seriousness seems absurd and so I giggle and soften my grip on the entire world.
There is nothing to do. There is just experience, this sense that things are happening, and all I want to do is be here fully for it all. This is my greatest aspiration.
I want to run my fingers along the edges of things and notice the colours and textures out there and the sensations and range of emotions in here. I want to be fully alive and awake. I want to be present to the richness and depth of being human, with all its joys and also its sorrows — all of it!
I won’t deny existence. I won’t belittle pain, mine or yours. Pain is real and the hurt is real. So is delight. So is every wild somatic experience that rises and ripples through this human form that I get to embody, for some time.
I won’t deny or bypass any part of this human experience. I also won’t be pressed up so close against it, entangled and blinded, that I miss the rest of life. I won’t hold on so tightly that it hurts any more than it has to when objects morph and break and slip away, as all phantom things inevitably do. I will show up fully, yet hold lightly. I will participate whole-heartedly, and yet wisely step back, take a deep breath, soften my grip, and witness with eyes shining bright with wonder and awe. At this. This beautiful, unknowable play of both light and dark.
It is still strange to be here. I know not what is true and that will set me free.