Archive for the 'dualism' Category

Something confected, or just reality?

May 24, 2015

I confess that I have not been keeping up with reading Father Rohr’s Daily Meditations, but today’s I read, and it reminded me of something I thought was an interesting shift in my own perspective.

It has to do with not seeing things as created for a purpose so much as perceiving them as just existing as they are, interlocking.

The issue comes up in the Daily Meditation with regard to “God … mak[ing] the problem itself part of the solution” (italics omitted).

I don’t see God devising such a plan, I see our recognition that the pieces fit together like that.  I think the reality of living in a dualistic world is that there is pain and there is beauty, and if there’s one, there is also the other.

We humans seem to spend most of our time trying to collect as much beauty as we can for ourselves and shift the pain part to someone else (including to other species, and by exploiting natural resources on the planet, as well).

God isn’t doing this for me in the audience, I am in my spot viewing the cosmos and thinking it is being done for me, because, let’s face it, I have an ego; once I get that ego out of the way sufficiently, what I am viewing just “is,” it just exists, and intention on the part of God is just an artifact of my processing of the situation.

Some of this difference in interpretation may be a difference in semantics or a difference in one’s taxonomy of the spiritual world, but I do see the ultimate force in the universe as impersonal.

On the other hand, I agree that “problems” should not be dismissed as not being an integral part of the whole.

New occasions for communication

March 7, 2015

There’s the Tower of Babel and there’s the blind men feeling the parts of the elephant, and with respect to both parables, I take it that we’re supposed to communicate with each other.  I’d go further and suggest that this communication leads to greater empathy, and hence compassion, through getting to know the other better and taking a look at things from their perspective.

This morning I got an email from the current accountant’s office letting me know that an email I had sent (with material from the prior accountant’s office — why the two offices, one in NYC and the other in MA, could not communicate directly with each other is beyond me) had not been received.  Said email was in my “sent” box, I had not received an “undeliverable” message indicating that the email would not be received, but I also wasn’t entirely surprised it hadn’t been received since I was aware that the file I had attached to the email was big.  I had marked a second email as transmitting Part 2 of 2 of the document, which the person in the accounting office had received, so they were able to realize that they were missing Part 1 of 2, which, apparently, had been too big.  And they really wanted the entire document, so they were motivated to figure things out and get back to me.

We were into “Part x of y [parts]” because the original file had produced undeliverable and failure messages at the outset when I tried to send it as one, unified attachment.

So this morning I subdivided Part 1 of the document into subsections (a) and (b) — and felt like I was getting experience in binary or dualistic thinking — and sent each of those in separate emails.  Those went through.  Bingo.

I have had the opposite experience, in fact with a professional who shares the same suite of offices with the accounting firm (although I don’t know that they share computer systems or service providers).  There, I had sent a large file (of something else) and gotten a failure notice, but the recipient told me they had in fact received it.  They went on further to say that they have learned not to assume a failure notice is accurate because it has happened to them so frequently that they get such a notice but their recipient actually receives the email.

So I am left with not being able to assume I know what has happened to an email — “undelivered” ones delivered, “sent” ones undelivered.

Tony-my-computer-guy happened to call this morning about something else, and when we got to discussing this, he confirmed the reality of what I experience and he offered some technical information to explain the gaps in the system(s).  We agreed that what’s needed, if something is important, is corroboration through a separate communication about whether the original message was received.

Later on, on my own, I reflected further on this need for further communication and it got me thinking that it could be seen as another version of the situation in which we humans are being prompted to communicate more closely with one another, like the Tower of Babel and the Blind Men and the Elephant.  We’ve developed email, and we can use it pretty impersonally and just send each other stuff, but this hasn’t meant that we don’t also have to check-in with each other if we want to make sure the message has been received and our intentions have been fulfilled.  This need for confirmation gives us another chance at communication that might lead to greater empathy and compassion.  We try to pull away and separate into respective silos of existence, but something pulls us back together and encourages us to interact, share, and engage in a flow.




Dualism about dualism

March 18, 2014

How can it be that it’s either dualistic thinking or non-dualistic thinking?  Isn’t that thinking dualistically to put it that way?

I think there are different varieties of connections we may have to Source, to God, to the universe, to the divinity within us.  Very young children have it in a different way from the way adult mystics have it, and people somewhere else on the continuum I think can have varying levels of conscious connection to the spiritual realm.  Adversity is a factor, I agree, and I think it is especially so in reestablishing the connection after we have developed our personal identity in this world, but different people, as they say, have different gifts — and I think there’s a nature/nurture aspect to how we experience the spiritual, too.  Some people will find their connection through music, some people will be able to translate a spiritual experience into pattern recognition of a different sort when they relate the experience to their worldly lives, as the result of both a predilection for that mode and some training in that direction.  Some people will not translate the experience very consciously — or self-consciously — at all, but live out the results, I think.

We need all the sections of the orchestra to play the symphony of collective life on earth.  Just because we’re not woodwinds doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  Just because we know how to coach playing the brass instruments doesn’t mean there aren’t others who can coach the strings.  I am wary of trying to replace one exclusive way of looking at spirituality with another, and wary of ways that involve too much emphasis on the coach.  What I think is true is that some levels of connection to the spiritual realm seem to need the person who connects to have developed enough of an emotional or cognitive structure in the other parts of their mental processing in order to handle the spiritual experience safely as a human being — without such a developed structure, a person can have the spiritual equivalent of a “bad trip.”  But I think there are a multiplicity of roads — and air routes and water passages — that lead to Rome, and I think people may be having slightly different experiences of Rome depending on how they got there and how unimpeded their perceptual and processing equipment are.

Compare and contrast

March 17, 2014

I made a quip the other day in a reply to what I think was somebody complimenting my ability to distinguish different situations accurately according to what makes them the same or different.  I said something to the effect that sometimes having been trained to think like a lawyer comes in handy.

In law school students learn to distinguish a case from precedents and to try to harmonize seemingly disparate cases.  I think it is probably just a more intensive form of “compare and contrast,” which I think we all learn to do at some level.

It’s not as simplistic as dualism — in which there are only two categories.  With compare & contrast there can be many categories and gradations, there can be a continuum, there can be multiple axes and dimensions along which things are evaluated.

Compare & contrast I think is one skill involved in finding patterns.  It is probably related to metaphorical thinking, as it involves the use of analogies often.  Maybe it’s a bridge between dualism and unitary thinking, I don’t know, but I have thought that my learning to think like a lawyer, in the Anglo-American tradition and Roman law traditions, is not irrelevant to where I’ve ended up, although I think my first choice was learning such techniques through the study of Jewish law.


November 26, 2013

I don’t get it.  I’m reading Father Rohr on discerning good from evil, and vice versa, and yet he’s also talking about becoming liberated from dualistic thinking.

I tend to see “evil” in terms of damaging behavior.  Behavior has impact.  Damage is just one kind of impact.

Focus on the primary goal

November 2, 2013

I get taken in by a group’s claims about what they are doing, just as, apparently, many other people do, at least in the contexts of charitable giving and health insurance.  In the latter two situations, we as an even larger group are willing to talk about a norm that requires a certain percent of the money taken in from donations or premiums to go to charitable works or health care, and not be diverted to the more private benefit of those administering the enterprises.  We can see that money diverted for salaries or travel is not going to building schools or paying providers.

I think we see that less well in other contexts.  I think group formation is so important to most of us that we don’t even realize when we are putting our need for exclusive social ties and positive emotional reinforcement above the purported goal of the group, its reason for existing.  I see that in the context of government, I see that in the context of the media.  “Insiders/outsiders” becomes the paramount driving force of behavior (which, of course, is a very dualistic way of seeing things).

Now, of course, some amount of social cohesion is necessary for a group if it is to persist and be able to continue in its work at all.  But that’s also true in the charity and insurance cases:  some amount of administrative expense is needed and appropriate.  It’s when that gets out of balance that we call foul, and I think we don’t even see the fouls in groups we are less suspicious about or in forms that are more difficult to see.

What I see often when a group is not meeting its goals is that they are pouring too much of their collective energy into strengthening their personal ties and benefits (could be benefits to their careers or social status or sense of self-worth and not to their bank accounts) and not enough into the goal of the organization, like governing on behalf of the common good or publishing on behalf of the audience.

Well, they can do that, it’s their choice, and maybe it serves a need that is more important in some way than the avowed, wider and more public goal of the group, in the great scheme of things.  Maybe their development as human beings is more important, maybe they need to go through this kind of behavior in order to learn something, maybe our world is more like a classroom.

We can damage the environment.  We can damage the economy.  We can cause a lot of damage for a lot of selfish reasons, including reasons driving us of which we are unaware.  We can have insufficient willingness to put our own benefit aside and see what serves.  I think people with more understanding than I, like Socrates and Jesus, got too caught up in trying to change people and keep them from this dynamic.  I think that narrowed their own options.  I think sometimes the better option is detachment.  If people want to soil their nests, and it’s the best they can do, maybe, in fact, that’s what serves the greatest good and all we can do is watch at this point.

There is a concept of attracting people to a new approach to life rather than recruiting them to it.  That orientation, among other things, assures that the people are ready and willing when they come to it.  Spending time on unwilling people is not helpful, and when we do, our own energy is diverted in just the same way as it is in the cases I mentioned earlier — it goes for someone’s personal pleasure, and that just doesn’t serve the greater good, their greater good, or mine, from what I can see.

Why is there suffering?

October 18, 2013

Some Mormon Elders who used to visit me asked me to answer that question after reading one of their texts and praying on it (or some sort of equivalent).  Being a cooperative person, I undertook the task.  I would not have on my own initiative taken on the issue.

So what I came up with, which probably is not very satisfying (win lose or draw on whether it is not wrong), is that we have suffering inasmuch as we have beauty, that we live in a dualistic world.

The world must be a certain way for there to be “God”

August 7, 2013

I was reading opinion pieces and comments on prayer on the NYTimes website the other day, and there was the usual dismissal with certainty of what many people with faith believe and do.  It occurred to me some time after that that it’s not just about rejecting the straw man or red herring of God conceptualized as a cranky parent, it’s got something, I think, to do with reacting to a notion that God’s existence should mean that the world is perfect or on balance pleasant.

But I don’t think that thinking about the “existence of God” as an all or nothing proposition is all that helpful.  Lots of believers experience God as a force who strengthens and comforts and imparts flexibility and resilience for life’s difficulties.  God doesn’t even have to be a “who,” God can be much more impersonal than that and still be the source of the kind of energy that guides us and gets us through.  It’s a matter of accessing that guidance and help, the strength, flexibility, and resiliency — it is such a matter for believers, and I don’t see why “non-believers” wouldn’t be able to seek things like strength, flexibility, and resilience through a process of their own.  I don’t think it’s necessary to “go through” “God” to access those things, in the sense of believing in a particular concept of a divinity.  I think the idea of asking God helps some people focus and open themselves up to accessing these resources (strength, flexibility —  which I mean in the sense of not being brittle and breaking —  etc.) — but I think they are accessible without traditional belief in a traditional God.

I think theism vs. atheism is one of our dualistic pieces of human nonsense.  There’s no reason for us to form up into two such teams.  Once the world is allowed to be as it is, and a more perfect world is not the objective of belief in God — the controversy stops being about whether there is a happily-ever-after — and then maybe more people can entertain that there is more to the world than what is visible and material.

This is a version of what I had written this afternoon, and I’m too tired now to do much more with it tonight, but I wanted to try to post something on it before I head south to New Jersey tomorrow and probably become even further removed from my original thoughts on the topic.

[God is part of creation, we are in a sense inside the belly of God — God is not outside of creation. — This is a note leftover from before, I’ll leave it here as an afterthought.]

Who reaches out

December 17, 2012

I was going to write a post about “Fear, pain, and damage” and what seems to me to be going on when people perceive “evil.” I would have talked about how it’s all perfectly fine energy, it’s just that some of it is difficult to process if a person has not sanded down enough of their “flaws,” enough of their humanness.  I would have tried to show how we can get rid of the dualism of “good” and “evil” by realizing that evil is in the eye of the beholder and by subsuming both under “energy.”  I might have talked about destruction being part of the cycle of creation, and that we are better off seeing destruction as just that, and shy away from distinctions like accident, tort, and crime.  I was going to talk about including everybody in our community, and finding a way to mourn for Nancy Lanza and Adam Lanza, too.  (I think, almost paradoxically, that until we maintain a compassionate connection to everybody, we will not resolve the problem of our safety.)  I was going to talk about attachments getting in the way of our clearer perception, about my reaction to watching President Obama reflect his strong attachment to his children in his remarks in Newtown last night.  I was thinking of making the case for celibacy in leadership positions.

And then, as I was crossing the street, I was reminded (because I suspect I’ve had this understanding before) that we need to reach out to God affirmatively because that is the posture in which we are open to receiving God.  Without our having that posture, nothing terribly helpful will happen even if God reaches out to us.  And I thought, trying to communicate that message is probably a more constructive thing to do, rather than trying to get people to see what I see.

Because part of what I see is that we’re not going to reduce the problem of gun massacres by the “mentally ill” by demonizing them, their caretakers, the people who love them (who are able to love them because they connect with something not diseased within them).  We’re not going to resolve the problem by doubling down on our attachment to our children.  I think we need, rather, to spread out more evenly our love and caring to all.  Gun control is fine with me, but I think if we improve our mental hygiene, people’s desire for guns may decrease, so I would include coaching people in general to improved mental hygiene (through teaching coping skills and how to become more self-aware, for example), so I would include that in a broad effort to reduce the presence of guns in our society.

I think I see myself a little like a bleating sheep, or maybe like that cow in the Richard Shindell song “Stray Cow Blues”  — I keep repeating what I perceive and hope it helps.  If people don’t want to hear, I accept that, even if I’m disappointed or frustrated.  I can see my reaction as a form of impatience, maybe even with a little fear mixed in (fear that not enough people will ever perceive clearly), and those are things I can work on.  I think I’ve developed enough detachment to keep doing what I do regardless of its reception.

Difficult forces

November 18, 2012

I thought I’d write a shout-out to “Difficult Forces.”  They feel misunderstood.  They need a PR firm or something, I guess, but for now maybe I can express a little that might rehabilitate their reputation.

They’re what allow me to think these thoughts and for people who read them in this post to process them.  They give us our self-consciousness, I think.  That “knowledge of good and evil” maybe is really that ability we have to perceive deeply — we recognize our place in the world both from within ourselves and as an observer of ourselves, we are aware of our awareness, and these are skills that allow us not only to think in terms of opposing categories but ultimately to transcend them.

I do think we access this ability through an interaction with Difficult Forces.  They are the kind of forces that if we want to interact with them without being overcome, we must pull aside the part of ourselves that harbors our fears and desires (what I call our ego).  Why that is I think has to do with how they themselves are structured — they don’t have a part that corresponds to our ego, I think, and so when we match up in an interaction, if our ego is present, it gets matched up with something against which it cannot maintain its integrity — and we experience that as complete despair, if not worse.  But if we can keep our egos safe (leave them at home, so to speak) and interact with the difficult forces, we gain some very positive things — kind of like having to engage in a quest that includes great difficulties, in order to gain that holy grail of self-perception and hence transcendental perception.