An Uncle with little to no sense of his audience / ability to read the room addresses his nephew:
I guess you’re aware that for the last decade I’ve been spending quite a bit of time with the fictional characters Bartleby Willard and Amble Whistletown; and that part of what we’ve been up to is saving our own souls (as in: finding a way to live that we can live with), everyone else’s souls (as in: how to make things better for everyone, but no!, actually this time!), and democracy (most specifically our democratic republic, but also democracy in general) with Pure Love, Something Deeperism, and the Wisdom Meme.
Here is a quick summary of these three relentlessly helpful dogmas:
Pure Love is God is Light is the infinite eternal kind joy that creates, sustains, shines through, and ultimately is everything. Any given human love is actually-loving only to the degree it partakes of Pure Love. Pure Love does not push-away or pull-towards, but explodes supportively and joyously through all — gently guiding, accepting, rejoicing in, love-lifting, and salvationating us all.
Pure Love is God is the True Good is What Is.
But What Is is both (1) all particular things running together without any separations (meaning there aren’t really separate things) and (2) the formless perfection that creates, sustains, shines through, and love-lifts all.
Pure Love (at least in sense #2) shines through everything, including each conscious moment. And Pure Love (again, at least in sense #2) alone Knows that and in what way it is True to say, “We are all in this together” (there’s usually a gap between observer and observed, into which any amount of mistake and confusion may seep; but Pure Love is both Knowledge and Reality: no gap, no error).
[I suppose since all runs together, then even in sense #1, there’s no gap between the Truth and the observer of the Truth. However, the ability of our minds to observe all of what we observe must be very limited — since no matter how wise we are, our minds/emotions do not perceive Reality directly, but Reality must be shining through all things, including each conscious moment. (This difficulty needs more work to work-through.)]
Something Deeperism is the notion that one can grow more and more meaningful-to-oneself (more and more able to understand one’s own feelings, thoughts, and actions) by better and better organizing one’s feeling/thinking/acting around Pure Love — a process that involves better and better poetically (not literally, definitively, or 1:1; but still meaningfully) translating Pure Love into feelings, thoughts, and actions.
Pure Love is prior to our ideas and feelings; and confusing our ideas and feelings about Pure Love for Pure Love can actually shift our focus away from Pure Love (because these confusions tempt us to focus more on our own ideas and feelings than on the process of turning towards, syncing up with, and flowing along with Pure Love).
So what we aim for is NOT literal, definitive, or exclusive insight into Pure Love (such daydreams about perfect insight into Reality distract us from the work of meaningfully engaging in Reality). What we aim for is the only possible human wisdom: A self-observing/-critiquing/-adjusting whole-being organization around Pure Love — relating our ideas, feelings, words and deeds poetically to Pure Love (our feeling/thinking/acting imperfectly but still-meaningfully flowing along with, experiencing, and pointing-towards Pure Love — rather than trying to capture the Pure Love (aka: the Truth) literally and/or emotionally).
The Wisdom Meme is a koan so perfect that once you hear it, you are captured and must consider it over and over again, growing wiser and wiser until you explode with life-overflowing — explode with the Love that alone Knows what’s really going on, what’s really best, and what love is really for.
Not only that!
The wisdom meme will also win over everyone else, thereby providing us all with a shared spiritual language (i.e., a language about what actually matters — as opposed to what we just imagine, hypothesize, and/or wish matters), and thus a tool for sharing meaning, and thus a way to better evolve our shared cultures, communities, and governments. The wisdom meme is good for both individuals and groups. It provides salvation for you, me, and democracy.
How does it work?
The meme needs to go in easy and then hook you and call you further and further into a contemplation that leads to wisdom. We’ve long thought that the most important commandment (such a hit in First Century Judaism, and continuing to resonate with people across various faith traditions for the last two millennia) is a good wisdom meme:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.
This meme sends one both inward ever deeper into the Love shining from your core out, and outward to recognize and move with the Love shining out everyone else’s core.
Many good wisdom memes are built around the Buddhist concept of Śūnyatā, which is usually translated as “emptiness”, “devoidness”, “hollowness”.
From the Suñña Sutta:
It is said that the world is empty, the world is empty, sir. In what respect is it said that the world is empty?” The Buddha replied, “In so far as it is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self: Thus it is said, Ānanda, that the world is empty.
Here is an explanation of emptiness from Thanissaro Bhikku:
Emptiness as a quality of dharmas (or doctrines), in the early canons (early Buddhist literature), means simply that one cannot identify them as one’s own self or having anything pertaining to one’s own self … Emptiness as a mental state, in the early canons, means a mode of perception in which one neither adds anything to nor takes anything away from what is present, noting simply, “There is this.” This mode is achieved through a process of intense concentration, coupled with the insight that notes more and more subtle levels of the presence and absence of disturbance.
[All of this was from the Wikipedia entry on Emptiness]
If you think of emptiness as a state of mind, it is when you stop capturing and organizing conscious experience into notions. It makes me think of the Ancient Greek skeptics who suspended all judgement (refused to say anything was true or false) to avoid philosophical error, and were pleasantly surprised to find themselves “free of all disturbances”.
If you think of emptiness as a description of reality, it is in the sense of impermanence and interdependence: everything is changing, and everything is dependent upon everything else, and there are not distinct beginnings and endings: all flows along together, free of separate self-entities. You might say, “all is one”, but Buddhists often balk at that because in that “one” you are perhaps picturing something akin to a giant self-entity (a giant one-thing, which sounds suspiciously not-empty-of-separate-self-entities).
What wisdom meme is the most effective?
One that starts from the Pure Love beyond being and non-being?
Or one that starts from a compassionate (for yourself and everyone) meditation on impermanence and interdependence — a meditation that should lead to an experience beyond being and non-being, and thus to an infinite outpouring of Pure Love?
What wisdom meme is the most irresistible? Like a song you can’t get out of your head, or a joke that you remember throughout the day and laugh at each time, surprised again by its hilarious perfection?
I’ve been interested in this bit from Sinead O’Connor for a while:
U stand tall and you be strong
U have ruthless compassion
For yourself and everyone
Yeah, it’s hard, but it can be done.
It rhymes, and is otherwise catchy.
And it creates a sensory-/emotional-/intellectual-/moral-/spiritual-image of the listener growing in wisdom.
And “ruthless” coupled with “compassion” is a little jarring, which causes one to consider the pairing, and ultimately to enter more fully into the sense of a compassion that refuses to compromise itself, that refuses to sacrifice loving-kindness for anything.
And the line before that call to radical (that is to say: full and real) compassion for self and other conveys the sense of standing up within yourself with all your might; while the line after the call to compassion is the understanding that this path is neither easy nor impossible.
It’s a really good wisdom meme because in a few lyrical lines, it hooks you, compels you to contemplate the path that leads to wisdom, and flanks the contemplation with both the proper stance and the proper understanding of the complexities of the path.
I haven’t been able to come up with a better wisdom meme.
Stand up within yourself and push out from within.
Organize yourself around the Pure Love shining within you and everyone,
Translating that Love into feeling, thinking, and acting.
We’ll never get it exactly right, but we can keep growing in the Love that alone Knows that and in what sense it is True to say, “We are all in this together”.
The above is a little bit like a translation of Sinead’s wisdom meme into the standard language of Something Deeeperism. But it isn’t nearly as good as a wisdom meme. It is luggy and maybe a little confusing.
We love the Pure Love shining through everything
with every bit of our conscious space
And we love ourselves and our neighbors
As equals —
all of us being neither more nor less than the beloved of Love.
The above is a riff on the most important commandment.
We stand up in the Light,
Pause the wrongs, the rights.
Letting Love be All,
That none may fall.
Hmmm. It rhymes. And it connects emptiness to Love. But I am not sure that it calls us to a very fruitful meditation.
The wisdom meme has not yet been found. Otherwise, we’d all be blessedly wise and could together steer this ship gently into safer, more charmingly interesting seas.
I guess it’s just a daydream, or a game, this search for a koan so addictive and fruitful that once you hear it, you cannot resist the great enlightenment and see things as they really are, which can only make you wise (John Stewart line from “Cannons in the Rain”).
Sorry for all the mix-ups.
Please empty us of all our feelings and ideas
So that for a moment we might stand fully in your Light:
An infinite eternal Love prior to being and non-being,
The Love that Knows that and in what way it is True to say,
We are all in this together.
Ah but dear God,
What is going on?
Or what about this:
None of our worldviews make sense to any of us except to the degree they help us to abide by the universal values (aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, compassionate, kind, joyfully-sharing), and grow active insight into a Reality that is Love.
But such a Reality would be prior to all our ideas and feelings; and so we could relate to It only poetically (pointing-towards It, rather than capturing It literally or definitively).
And demanding doctrinal purity tempts everyone to lie to themselves and others about their own spiritual understandings.
Therefore, let us prioritize the universal values and the freedoms required for each of us to find our own way to Reality = Love and contribute wisely to our communities, governments, and world (freedoms like freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and the ability to share power and responsibility through democratic representation).
There is a minimal dogmatism required to grow and share wisdom; and too much dogmatism encourages us to focus more on the dogmas than on the actual process of growing and sharing wisdom.
That is to say: Let us prioritize the values we all know we must follow (to be meaningful to ourselves) and the freedoms we all know we need to grow and share wisdom; rather than demanding leaders or citizens sign onto specific religious, philosophical, and/or political dogmas.
Let’s relax, admit that we are all in this together, that we all share the universal values, that we all love ourselves and each other, and that we all know we need to prioritize the universal values and representative democracy (tools for growing wisdom and for meaningfully sharing ideas, power, and responsibility).
And then, with fists unclenched and shoulders down, we citizens of democratic republics can together fulfill our shared responsibility of gently nudging our shared government towards the better and away from the worse, while acting most fundamentally as checks on madness and corruption (more madness/corruption is when it is easier for worse ideas, attitudes, and behaviors to get and maintain power and prestige than it is for better ideas, attitudes, and behaviors).
What a strange arc we’ve traced:
We need salvation, but confusing ideas and feelings about salvation for salvation is the root of all evil.
(Even when we don’t call label a desired thing/outcome “salvation”; we deep inside feel that if we could just get this nice thing or for the world to change in this way or etc, then everything would finally be completely OK. And it is this underlying thirst for salvation that drives us on and on, never quite satisfied.)
So, in response to this conundrum, we create a set of ideas for organizing ideas and feelings in such a way as to get as close to “salvation” as possible — including the constant reminder that ideas and feelings about salvation are not the same as salvation.
But then we’re still worried that things are not going well-enough for ourselves and/or for us all together bundled up in our little homes, communities, and nation states.
So then we search desperately for some words that will magically spark ideas and feelings that will lead us all as individuals and together to salvation.
But how to deal with this fundamental difficulty in the human experience:
We are only fully ourselves to the degree we connect the mundane (ideas, feelings, words, deeds, relationships, organizations) to the divine (the Love that alone Knows what’s really what); but imaging our ideas and feelings about what really matters are identical with what really matters is both counterproductive and to some degree (we being but humans) inevitable. How does one deal with this within one’s own self? And then how do we deal with this in groups?
Copyright: AM Watson