Guest Blogger, David Lintner.
David, is an extraordinary man. I LOVE his philosphy of life.
For years, I asked the question, “Who am I?” For years, I got arbitrary, dissatisfying answers. Where do they come from, these answers? They come from a mind that thinks who has meaning, as if who were real.
Who gets caught in the illusion of a name, as if “David” were something attached to me like an arm or a leg. But it isn’t. It’s just a puff of air, or a word in print. “Oh, you look like a David,” someone says. What if the people I thought were my parents had looked at me and said, “Radish?”
I am not David.
David is just an idea people associate with my body when they see me or think of me, if they think of me at all. Say the word and watch me salivate in expectation. It is a signal that directs my attention toward those who speak it or print it on an envelope, a name tag, a roster. It conveys the deception of identity, if I allow it.
I am not what I do. I am not what I think. I am not what I feel. I am not my body. Who I am is subject to interpretation and debate, a matter of illusion and meanings.
Then, one day, I understood. It is not about who I am but that I am.
I can lose myself in the endless round of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, but what of it? Pleasure and pain, my body’s sensations, are designed to help this poor, blind corpse navigate through the roiling sea of change . . .
Blind, in the sense that I cannot possibly perceive all that is with my typical state of conscious awareness; corpse, in the sense that my life is over in the blink of an eye, compared with eons of existence; poor, in the sense that ownership is simply an illusion of thought, based on mutual agreements.
Yet I am not blind—all my perceptual abilities flood me with stimulation, not to mention the possibility of receiving information transfer at the atomic and subatomic levels. I am alive—nothing I am made of ceases to exist. I am wealthy—the universe is mine to live in, an emperor’s banquet until I change states and my atoms disperse.
This ongoing now constantly changes. Perhaps the moment itself does not change and is constant; only its content changes, continually. But, I rarely see the change. And when I do, often times it seems catastrophic. Earthquakes, tornadoes, storms, floods, freezes, droughts—each of them viewed from the limited perspective of an interrupted individual life. And yet everything is constantly changing.
The Sun expends its fuel. The Earth’s tectonic plates grind together or dive into the mantle’s depths. Mountains melt before our eyes and we do not see it. Comets and asteroids slingshot through the solar system. Stars collapse and explode. The galaxy ages and falls imperceptibly inward toward the gaping maw its central black hole. The universe expands. Heat dissipates. Bodies procreate, live and die. The speed of change is relative. From a human perspective, it is measured in terms of its effects on the self, the “me.” And so I live as if I were the only important organism on the planet or in the universe. My DNA acts as if it is. Isn’t that life’s struggle—to survive, against all odds, against all comers?
In one moment, I can experience the joy of hope, and in the next, the pain of separation or any other feeling on the spectrum of emotions, all created within the theater of my mind, all the result of personal meanings.
Through it all, something in me seeks to pierce the membrane of ignorance that buries me in personal meanings within the narrow confines of my perceptions. Too many times the narrowness of my awareness separates me from fleeting flashes of greater awareness and connection with all creatures, all creation.
All creatures? Again, how limiting to identify with “life,” whatever that is.
When I was a vegetarian, some fellow non-meat eaters talked about the morality of their position. They didn’t believe in taking life. But what is a turnip? Well, sentient life, they replied, as if vegetable life did not have the intelligence of the universe coursing through every molecule. But when I stop myself and think about my limited perception of what life is, I can recognize that everything is alive.
I am rock and tree; I am the wood in my desk. I am the sculptor who shapes himself. I am the clay, and the hands that shape the clay, and the mind that directs the hands that shape the clay. I am all things.
And yet I slip into unconsciousness, and believe that the dream I am dreaming is the only reality there is, thinking I am awake.
But then, what a marvelous thing it is to be alive, and aware in any way that I can be. What an awesome experience to watch the Sun set, and to experience changes in my brain as it creates the experience of colors, as it creates the illusion of a world outside itself, as it projects a three dimensional picture onto the world through the firing of neurons. And in the next moment I can be swearing as I stub my toe and shift my attention away from the wonder of color to colorful language.
But I am alive!
For the time being.