One hundred years ago my generation’s grandparents woke to the news that the world was at war. Many of them, and their own children – our parents – perished in that conflict (the one that was meant to be “the war to end all wars” – remember?) Many more perished in the second, perhaps deadlier version, and there’s no end in sight to the many current conflicts that plague peace on our beautiful planet.
One hundred and one years ago today, my dad was born. It hadn’t happened yet, but Hiroshima Day would become a grisly marker for his birthday. When I asked him how it felt to share his birthday with the remembrance of that atrocity he was uncharacteristically quiet. He said, “It was the war, dear.” His tone implied that it was something I wouldn’t ever properly understand, not having lived through such times, and he was right. But the sense of his resignation fuelled my lifelong inquiry into the nature and causes of human conflict.
Today I want to take some quiet time to honour my dad, to thank him for all the ways he (usually unintentionally) helped to pave my path. I also want to honour the countless souls who perished in those global conflicts, and those who continue to be caught up in the outrageous and totally avoidable conflicts that are occurring right now, as I type…
I haven’t a magic wand that I can wave over the mayhem to restore sanity to a species gone mad, but I do have a question. To answer this age-old question for oneself takes courage; to live the truth of what is discovered is not an option but an imperative. It just might be the only chance we have – as a species – to survive the old story of separation that drives the war machine. And to change the course of history.
Who is this moment that is morphing, with every thought, into a ‘me’ with its skeleton of opinions, certitude and self-righteousness? This ‘me’ who is so programmed by received ideology that it would make of its siblings, parents or neighbours an enemy; that it would exterminate innocents intentionally or unintentionally? Who is this ‘me’-moment that believes itself to be separate from others, who can look into their eyes and fail to see its own Beingness looking back?
There is no one else, nothing else. There is nothing to be found outside yourself.
When the ego is dead, a new kind of life begins. This is why it is said that when you see the true nature of yourself, there is no way that you can live your life in the old way. It may take a long time to actualize it, but once you see it, it is like an itch that needs to be attended to.
Once we see what is real, it’s very difficult to hide from reality. Before we see it, we can plead ignorance and kind of bungle along, deluding ourselves about our existence. We can blame it on our parents or the president or any number of people, places, and things in order to avoid our responsibility. We can always be a victim, like the unfortunate soul caught in the “winds of circumstances.”
When you realize yourself, all of that self-deception is ended because you find out who is really responsible. It is you. You are the responsible party. There is no one else, nothing else. There is nothing to be found outside yourself.
At first, it is an awesome realization to be responsible, to have no one to blame anymore. It sounds silly if you try and say, “He made me angry,” or “He made me do it,” or “It’s her fault.” It sounds ridiculous, once you have realized yourself, to make the statement “I’m just a victim of circumstances.”
You realize that you are the circumstances, that you create what you experience, that what you do and what happens to you are identical. You realize that cause and effect are immediate and instantaneous; cause doesn’t precede effect, nor does effect follow cause.
If you want to know the past, look at this moment. If you want to know the future, look at this moment. This moment is the future and the past. Where will you find this moment? Who is this moment? What is this moment?
– John Diado Loori, in Mountain Record of Zen Talks
Calligraphy by Seiko Morningstar – the quote is from the Zenrin Kushu.
“You realize that you are the circumstances, that you create what you experience, that what you do and what happens to you are identical. You realize that cause and effect are immediate and instantaneous; cause doesn’t precede effect, nor does effect follow cause.” This one just stops me in my tracks…
That’s understandable dear Tiramit! To say one is stopped in one’s tracks is very apt, because it’s impossible to separate the sense of ‘me’ from time – the track-maker. The naked, thought-free moment knows nothing of the burden of cause and effect. Only the ‘me’ has a past, a future and an in-built movement of ‘becoming’ that keeps the purveyors of ‘spiritual’ practices in business.
Thank you for reading, and leaving a comment. I hope you’re feeling settled again in India?
Thanks Miriam, more and more I’m coming to see how much I don’t really know (or I really don’t know) and this is coming to be more like an open curiosity full of awe. Your posts are always helpful in this way. I’m allright here, thanks for asking, surroundings are different, situation is the same…
you are in the company of the ghosts of D.T. Suzuki, Alan Watts, J. Krishnamurti, and me…
Hey Bob – that’s a pretty august list of ghosts, but surely you’re still here irt? 🙂
just bending time a bit…
Great post Miriam.
I am aware more than ever of the emotional tendency in times of international crisis that intentional misrepresentation (via picture or status update) can be designed to pander to people’s fears and trigger their confirmation bias and brand a whole ethnic group under an unhelpful religious or political labels. Maybe it is time we stop pandering to our fears and trajectories of hate and start loving those who are different.
Thank you Steve. I hear what you say about the misrepresentation of stories and the framing of the news in order to inflame or scare people. The old word was propaganda, yes?
It takes some seeing-through our fears and convictions. Unless the core source is uncovered we just carry on, business as usual. Is it possible to just tell ourselves to stop hating and start loving? I doubt it. But when the illusion of separation ends, love and awe and respect are simply there by default, no intention necessary. (I know you know this!)
Thanks MIriam! So beautifully written by no-one. xoxox
Thanks Miriam! Beautifully, truthfully written by no-one. xoxoxo
Dear Kai – you are doubly generous! Thank you for your comments. I love that you see (and through) the paradox!
‘. . . those who continue to be caught up in the outrageous and totally avoidable conflicts that are occurring right now.’
I wouldn’t normally impose a 3rd. party view on another’s site Miriam; though if you or any of your readers want an insight into the situation in Gaza, then this piece by Noam Chomsky is excellent and takes the story much deeper than the mainstream media:
It is quite lengthy I’m afraid, but then the situation is complex of course.
With gratitude and respect Miriam.
Thank you Hariod – this is a valuable contribution. I deeply appreciate Chomsky’s overview – and also Michael Albert’s piece. By the time I reached the end my body was one sad sigh.
The disease of ideology is a global epidemic – this morning’s news from Iraq signals another outbreak. The possibility of even a glimmer of interest in the root causes of this human-devouring disease seems remote. Let alone any interest in the possibility of an antidote.
“And then I learned that the training that produces soldiers, and to only a slightly lesser extent the education that produces adults, is precisely about obliterating human judgment and sentiment. And that many succumb.” – Michael Albert.
Training. Education. Brainwashing. Conditioning. Call it what we will, the grand exercise of manipulating minds and ensuring they conform to mainstream consciousness while avoiding life’s big, deep, juicy questions, is chugging along in fine form. Few are those with the wisdom to understand the nature of these dynamics, and who act in their own quiet ways to help point it out to others.
I am eternally grateful for those few…
A deep bow to you Hariod.
Loved your reply to Hariod above (and thank you Hariod)
Phew! Thank you Miriam and thank you Steve. I wondered if I might have overstepped the mark and gone too tangentially political, which terrain is not my main sphere of interest.
With gratitude and respect to you both.