• June 13, 2018

    One of the most powerful myths of our time is the myth of limitless potential. It seems that every commencement speech, every news story about young people, has this cliché…anything is possible, you can be anyone or anything you want, there is nothing impossible for those who hold on to their dream and strive to achieve it. In my view, there is no better foundation for sleep than this one.

    The class of child-like billionaires spawned by the technology revolution in places like Silicon Valley are planning and investing for a day when death will be no more, when science prolongs their life indefinitely and they will emigrate to Mars. They do not need to deal with the consequences of their actions, they just move on into a more wonderful future. The result is that they remain encased in their own self-importance, unable to penetrate the realm of feeling.

    It is my struggle with my limitations that enables me to observe self and achieve some measure of self-mastery. My failures enable me to feel compassion. My death, which every day grows closer, invokes sobriety and also, paradoxically, the qualities of passion and impersonal joy.

    The moth is attracted to the flame. The light is blinding. The flame is deadly. But where else can the moth experience such wild intensity. The moment of dancing its death is the summation of its life. So may it be for me.

    Searching for the limitless is complete nonsense. And it is very damaging, a fantasy that blocks our engagement with reality and the possibility of being human. Potential is never now. Something without limit never arrives. It’s a way to avoid the facts of our existence.

    This work leads not to the celebration of limitless possibilities but to the discovery of what is…the Terror of the Situation…and, with that, a possible awakening of conscience and compassion…qualities that are found in failure, suffering and the loss of illusion. Do you still hope that things will work out for you in the end, a comfortable conclusion, a Hollywood ending? If so, you still haven’t got the message. And despite the poor prospects, I am asked to do my best anyway, just for its own sake.

    Can I recognize that the limitations written into life have been imposed by the universe on itself? This world is not some cruel joke played on us. In this work, God is not thought of as some separate being untouched by the pain of His creation. Nor is the universe a dead material thing. As Mr. G noted, He has entered His world, crucified Himself in His own creation, become a full participant in the details, limited by the laws He has used to form this world*. There truly is no escape. Since we cannot get out, we must go farther in, accepting the flame, not seeking to avoid it.

    Last week, another person I know died from cancer. For years, he avoided his fate, convinced everything would be ok and his life would continue. At the very end, he discarded this view and in an act of great courage, he faced the end. This was a gift that may benefit others.

    * “In the beginning, I alone was. I had nothing but Myself with which to make the world; out of Myself the world was made.”  E.J. Gold, The Man on the Cross.

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  • October 23, 2016

    I remember that you said at one point that in this work you must abandon hope because it is contrary to making work efforts. Could you explain what you meant?

    My favourite vajrayana teacher convinced me of this many years ago but it has a specific meaning. Like all real insights, it cannot be reduced to a rule.

    What most of us mean by hope is a strange mix of wishful thinking and anxiety. We hope that things get better, we hope nothing bad happens and we hope that we, or those close to us, get what is wanted. These hopes are largely driven by fear and disagreement. We reject what we have, we do not like the current situation, so we pin our hopes on the imaginary appearance of something more pleasant in the future. The key is that these hopes are imaginary and future-oriented.

    Noticing this process in ourselves is a very important work exercise. The fact is that we often do not deal with the present, and we do not do the work we can do now, because we imagine that things will magically get better in the future. This is a major source of procrastination. In the future, we will have what we need to work, the situation will be more favourable than it is now, we will be less busy and stressed. The future becomes the enemy of the present.

    In business, the expression is: “Hope is not a strategy.” Conditions usually do not just get better. Problems and opportunities must be dealt with as they arise.

    Is this the only kind of hope there is?

    I don’t think so. What I have described is hope as a sensation-state. In my experience, there is also an objective feeling of hope. This quality has a strong degree of presentness; it is not only a projection into the future. It has threads running through it of trust and faith. This hope is not for tangible things or accomplishments. It is based on an experience of being and the confident expectation that being will continue to unfold.

    Hebrews 11:1 says: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen… Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. (New King James Version)

    I hope for a deeper relationship with ‘things not seen’. This hope, this expectation, is rooted in a relationship that exists now, that I wish to make more perfect. This expectation asks that I work towards it in the present, as often as I am able to remember. This kind of hope does not offer an escape but rather a promise of discovery.

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