The Heart of the Matter — distracting oursleves with long explanations, theories, or beliefs is a mind game. Living life in the present moment gets to the heart of the matter
In This Moment
It’s Summer, it’s Fall, it’s Summer again. Reading, writing, and still looking for reviewers for my next e‑book!
So, try this: a fact is something either obvious, “The light is on,” or demonstrable through experiment, “Dropping a cannon ball and a ping pong ball from a tower will result in both hitting the ground at the same time.”
A belief is non-demonstrable, and has its basis in faith. Because of this, there will be endless tomes describing the belief, complicating matters, and ending with, “You must believe this, just because.” (Think angels, heaven and hell, virgins for martyrs, fairies, reincarnation — in short, anything that is not obvious or provable.)
The photo for this week’s article is a sketch our niece Anjuli left for me. She was sitting at my computer desk, apparently busily working away. Today, as I was thinking about the article, I saw the sketch and had an idea.
I made only one change to her drawing — she might have done it herself if she’d have had coloured pencils. I coloured in the flower.
Let’s call the flower the “heart of the matter.”
And let’s call all of the “paths” around the flower “beliefs.” Anjuli has drawn, to my eye, the problem with complexity. Complexity needlessly complicates things.
Another niece of ours tends to complexify everything. She was here for a visit a few weeks back, and announced she was doing a Zombie Run in Toronto. She then listed all of the things she was afraid were going to go wrong, or be weird. (“Guys in zombie make-up trying to grab ribbons!” “Some obstacles have mild shocks, and it’s going to rain!” “I’m scared of zombies in the dark!”)
Dar and I suggested she train for the run, and then go run, and decide afterword how it was. Because her stories (beliefs) were unnecessarily complicating things — and they couldn’t be proven in advance of the run! Back to this in a second.
This blog has a Zen undercurrent. Because Zen makes sense to me, and passes the obvious / experiment test.
- If you sit, over time, your relationship with sitting changes. And then your relationship with everything changes.
- If you do only what you are doing, as opposed to doing while thinking of other stuff, you’ll find presence in the experience. (Do the Zombie Run first, then evaluate.) — “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” — The Buddha
- If you want to “change the world,” change what you are doing.
- Drop the stories as “true,” and act in accordance with your heart. (If I say I will communicate well, I prove it by communicating well.)
- Or, to put it simply, — “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” — The Buddha
Today, in and e‑mail from my niece, this:
“I survived my race. It was really fun, and would definitely do it again next year.”
Hmm. No electrocutions, no Zombie rash.
Two weeks ago, in “Learning to be Ordinary,” I wrote about this idea, and used Placeholder Theory as an illustration. One loyal reader thought I was suggesting you either have to be (as she put it) a star OR a placeholder.
Let me just say that wasn’t my intent.
I was pitching “ordinariness.” Or, better put, simplicity.
What I’m really saying is that creating a system of belief (placeholder theory, whether we pick our parents, etc.) adds on a needless layer of complexity.
We create complexity because our minds “need” to know why. Our minds hate it that the world “just is.” Filtering our experience through a belief causes the basically meaningless universe to “fit the pattern.” The problem (as we see as conservative Christianity confronts conservative Islam, for example) is a “war” over “who’s right.”
And we still have to figure out a way to live together that doesn’t involve shoving my beliefs down your throat at the point of a gun.
So, my “pitch” is this: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Gandhi
Decide how you want to live, and just do it. Zombie Run — Run. Communicate — use a model, all the time. Be turned on by life — let go of holding back. Want dinner — chop vegetables.
Getting to the Heart of the Matter, in a sense, needs a weed-whipper. Cut through the explanations and theories, let them go background (or drop them entirely) and choose how you shall live.
When asked about how you live, admit the truth: I live how I live because that’s how I choose to live.
No excuses, no pointing to some system of belief, no abrogating responsibility by pointing to fairies or blaming the “debbil.”
Just get on with it.
And no, quoting Gandhi or the Buddha isn’t abrogating my responsibility or demonstrating fealty to Hinduism or Buddhism. They just said it better than I can.
In the end, they are fingers pointing at the moon. What theory I follow means nothing. What I do with my life, with each interaction (no stars, no placeholders) — cleanly and because that’s what I choose, is the best any of us can do.