By Jose Andres Arvide
Nov 30, 2014
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
- Lao Tzu.
There is a severe misunderstanding in life. Maybe, misunderstanding is not the accurate word to name the false belief and the erroneous way of living we conduct in our modern age. It is a false belief which essentially we didn’t chose to belief. It was rather inserted into our process of growth and experimentation during our early stage of life. It is our way of living, which we certainly did not chose, even though we feel in a subtle way that this is not the way we should live.
Life is here to exist, and existing is not restrained. If it is not restrained it is made to flow. Something that flows might encounter obstructions, but it always finds its soft way to go through it or around it. Just as water.
“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”
- Margaret Atwood.
Life is not explosive and instantaneous; it is rather delicate and progressive. Life builds momentum, takes us to a climax and then decreases just to start building momentum once more. Think about it as a wave.
Fig 1. Life’s Flow, Arvide, 2014
It is like an athlete, who trains progressively to reach ultimate conditions for an important event. Then he takes some time of to let his body rest. After some time off, he goes back to training progressively. We can say this example does not apply to all, for it takes to be an athlete to really comprehend this. Take for example a young child. His/her process of education starts softly, leaning to paint and cut in shapes. He moves progressively to more complicate subjects and tasks, until he is a graduate. Once he graduates he takes some time off and has the option to start learning something new, as all, he starts softly and progressively.
“Patience, grasshopper,” said Maia. “Good things come to those who wait.”
“I always thought that was ‘Good things come to those who do the wave,'” said Simon. “No wonder I’ve been so confused all my life.”
- Cassandra Clare, City of Glass.
So we know that life is progressive, but where is the false belief and erroneous way of living that has been pointed out in the beginning? We know that we have to warm up to work hard, and then cool off to go back to the normal state. We know that we can´t run if we don´t know how to walk. We know that if we eat all at once we will get sick. We know that if we start right away with something, violently without acknowledging it, it will cause a negative reaction; it will cause a violent reaction as well. We know the principle of Progressiveness, yet we live as if it was pure nonsense and a waste of time. We live as if time is limited and it is obligatory to arrive somewhere now. Certainly in the real now we can only be in the process, the process of progressing, building momentum and afterwards, reaching a climax, the climax that we erroneously wanted since the beginning. It is Monday and we are already thinking on the weekend. It is the weekend and we are already thinking about Monday. We are learning to do cartwheels and we already want to do backflips. We read a book and we already want to know the ending, or read the next book. We end wanting the climax so much that we end up never obtaining it. We find the process long and uncomfortable. We want the result in the progress, this being impossible leads us to high amounts of stress or simple abandon. If it is not stress or abandon, we live with anxiety and impatience, never enjoying the process, the now, and the reality. We end up in a constant race for achievements and climaxes, but when the arrive to them we don’t enjoy them, for we are already thinking about what is next.
“Tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live. There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly.”
- Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity.
We want the sensations, the achievements, and the results. What we want, we want it now. It sounds bizarre to say that we want the process, it sounds effective to say that we want the result. For effective means as found in The Oxford Dictionaries: “Successful in producing a desired or intended results”. We don’t care how we find “x”, we just care about what the value of “x” is. We don’t care about the link and difference between desires and needs, we just care about what our needs and desires are. This is why math and philosophy are two of the subjects that cause the most problems to students and are depicted as the least attractive, yet they are two of the most recognized. These two subjects are more about where things come from and how this developed to give one result. We find this process, of understanding and connecting with the processes, very uncomfortable and unnatural.
“Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.”
- Albert Camus.
But what is unnatural and what is natural to us? What is our nature? If we are a specie of the animal kingdom, we certainly are part of the biological world. We are integrated to it. We are natural to it just as the plants and the animals. Therefore it is proper to use the rest of the natural world as a guide to find our nature and what is unnatural to us. More than our nature, for our nature can be different to that of a jellyfish, eagle or tree, we look for a common essence. The nature of a jellyfish is being underwater, whereas our nature is not close to theirs. By a common essence we don’t refer to neither a creator nor a substance, but something that we all can’t run away. An essence that, just as sensations, no living organism can change. It is certain to say that we are beings of sensations and that our essence is being sensitive. We don’t consider rocks as living organisms because they can’t sense, but we consider a plant as victus (living), because it responds to stimuli. To simplify the idea we could apply the same scheme to desserts. Their essence is the sweetness we find in all of them, if they had no sweetness they would be rather entrances. If we were not beings of sensations, our lack of sensitivity would mean our lack live. Therefore we would not be living organisms.
“There is no way in which to understand the world without first detecting it through the radar-net of our senses.”
- Diane Ackerman.
So what is the essence that all living organisms from the biological world can´t escape from? Just as sensations in all of us and sweetness in all desserts? Can it be the principle of Progressiveness? If for us, the process of the progressiveness is unnatural, but the rest of living things and the natural order (flow) of life works by progressiveness and processing, then, does it means that we live contrary to our nature and the essence of all living things? Plants grow from a seed, breaks through it, small and delicate. Starts to grow against gravity, progressively, without rush. It reaches its natural size; it reaches its astonishing vigor. Then it ages, it starts to dry, and then it dies; just as any other living organism. Rain comes gradually. Clouds build up; water builds and puts weight in them until these break. It rains until water in the clouds is depleted. The water cycle continues. An eagle gives birth, gives its babies their food, teaches them the necessary and then lets them fly away. They become independent and start to live. Afterwards they teach their own children, age and die. Happiness comes gradually, with time and momentum. We find our flow, we enter into our zone. We have great climax and pleasure, to then go back to normal and search for more. Just as the beautiful act of lovemaking. It starts with a burst, builds up to climax and momentum to descend back to normal. Seasons cycle progressively, from Summer to Fall, and so on. The earth cycles the sun, the sun cycles the universe. All nature works as a cycle, in a wave like motion. The order of nature and the universe is perfectly preserved thanks to its cycles and patience.
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson.
It is true that clouds, happiness, sex, or seasons are not essentially living organisms, but just as plants, eagles and all the living organisms we know, anything that is organic from this universe lives by this principle.
As we said in the beginning of this article: “There is a severe misunderstanding of life. Maybe, misunderstanding is not the accurate word to name the false belief and the erroneous way of living we conduct in our modern age.” The misunderstanding is not only that we live contrary to all living organisms, but that we live contrary to the behavior of life, nature and the universe. We created fast food so we could eat quickly and violently during our similarly violent way of living. We have all the possible applications to entertain us during our free time, to run away from ourselves. We want action, results and stimulation. We search for the 10-minute workout, 5-minute meditation, 1 minute waiting line, fast effect pill. We look for the most advanced automobile, the fastest and the “coolest”. We look for “heat for 3 minutes” pre-cooked food. We need the fastest computer, fastest cell phone, fastest email response, fastest decision, fastest education. We want things now. We struggle to make the clock run faster yet when we know we have not enough time. It is a vicious circle. While we try to distract ourselves we try to get results. While we try to get results we speed up things but our self-made distractions impedes us from advancing. We search for distractions, for free time is just a waste of time. Without free time we try to speed up the already altered states and things so these accommodate to our humanly-unbalanced lifestyle.
We forget what is important. We forget that we are not like this. We are conscious about the relationship between stress and cancer, anxiety and depression, rushing and instability. We see that our lifestyle, of abuse, rushing and occupying is just destroying our surroundings and us. We don’t notice that our need of results, effectiveness and quickness is turning us into senseless machines, automatic bombs set to explode, only to realize that life is progressive rather than unconsciously and violently rushed. We are conscious of all these things but it seems that we can’t see clearly why we can’t change. It seems like if it had to be like this, and it is then, when what we first said on this article comes into importance: “It is a false belief which essentially we didn’t chose to belief. It was rather inserted into our process of growth and experimentation during our early stage of life. It is our way of living, which we certainly did not chose, even though we feel in a subtle way that this is not the way we should live.”
“A scholar tries to learn something everyday; a student of Buddhism tries to unlearn something daily.”
- Alan W. Watts.
Industrial revolution, imperialism, globalization… We were born in an age where society is already structured in a certain way. It demands certain things. By consequence, we are thought, influenced and shaped as the society wants and needs. If society needs machines to continue making money it will demand that. If society needs idioticied people to follow the elite it will make that happen. Whatever society needs at a given point, the generation of the moment will be shaped and grown according to the needs. This is what happened to us. We grew in a generation where everything moves to the speed of light. Where material things are overvalued and money is the final destination. Patience does not exist, and because of this, quickness and effectiveness have to be guaranteed. We are demanded to learn fast, work hard and be efficient. We give more time to all the external demands and none to our internal needs. Eating delightfully is almost a luxury, and exercising is only for the elite. Introspection, reading, any kind of self-meditation are a joke to our current society. All we are asked for is to be efficient, mistake-less, fast, and obedient. We ignore our nature. We ignore the nature of life, the universe and all living organisms. We confuse ourselves with the machines we have created. We are not machines. We are conscious, powerful, divine beings. We live in a divine universe where all we have to do is to exist with the whole. Think about it. Existence is never restrained; it just flows, happens, and cycles. The universe as a whole was never obligated to exist, yet it exists, and it exists in a divine and in-credible way. Everything seems to fit in perfectly, except us. There has to be a mistake.
“Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes – men who despise you – enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think and what to feel! Who drill you – diet you – treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!”
- Charles Chaplin, The Great Dictator’s Speech.
But haven’t we debunked the misunderstanding, the mistake? Haven’t we, in this humble article, discovered that life is not about rushing and running in circles for material, and external things? Things that only carry us away from our Tao, our way (path), our nature. Once we notice the problem, we are aware of it. When we are aware of it, we have the power to solve it. Just as conspiracy theorists that try to find and become aware of things that are hidden from us. By being aware of these secrets we have the power to influence and demand honesty. We are now aware that we need to live fully and progressively. We know that learning is a process, which takes as much as it has to take. We know that happiness is not found in material things. The quick solutions for happiness are misleading and sedative. We know that loving somebody requires time and attention. Why are there so many divorces now-a-day? There is no time to be together! Time is a luxury! We know that eating takes time and it is not healthy to eat fast. We know that health is found by dedicating time to our bodies and minds and that there is no quick way out. We know that body pains may come from emotions, stress, anxiety, and that ignoring them with “fast result pills” is just like calming a baby who aches by giving him milk to put him to sleep. We know that living life is an art, a fine art, a process, and that there is no need of speeding the clock. We know that the future is future; there is no need to run for it.
We know that, as anything in life and nature, going from A to B is much more than a step, and it is that which is beautiful. It is the process that is beautiful. It is by admiring life where we can find beauty. It is by having patience where we find results. It is by letting go where we find fulfillment. It is in those actions that are instinctively in the process where we find completeness and flow. When we acknowledge this, and decide to stop living for a future and for a result, we will start to see a smile in our faces and have perpetual serenity. And finally when we have that natural smile in our faces, we will know that we are present in the process, enjoying, living, and experiencing life as it has to be; just as nature does without end.
The misunderstanding of life is no more a misunderstanding!
“Therefore I am going to finish this essay by saying what I myself want, and which, to a satisfactory degree, I already have. I want to spend time sitting still, or walking slowly, wondering at and feel in the basic sense of existence, of being alive-dead, of watching my breath, of hearing all sounds in the air, and of letting clouds and stars caress my eyes. I want to let go anxiety and turn it into laughter, and realize absolutely that life and death are two sides of the same coin. I want a female companion who will, alternatively, melt into me and wrestle with me, obey me and object me, admire me and then suddenly show that she can do so many things much better than I. I want to write and talk for interested audiences, to charm them, and to play with their questions, but also listen to people who can tell me things I don’t know without being bores. I want to watch water which reflects many changing qualities of light and wind, and is visited by seagulls, pelicans, terns, grebes, and wild duck. I want to sit on some far-out rock or a lonely beach and listen to the waves and look at the western sky at down. I want to shoot arrows so high into the sky that they seem to turn into birds. I want to see mountains and prowl through their foothills and forests, listening, at dusk, to unseen waterfalls…”
- Alan Watts, Cloud-Hidden Whereabouts Unknown, A Mountain Journal.