I’ve had a rather strange realization recently, and it starts out with a mundane statement.
I am aware of all my thoughts, feelings, and sensations, of objects, other people, animals and the world.
Yet I am not any of those things myself.
The rationale follows from a continuous process of differentiation that we undergo from infancy, where we learn that we are not our parents, our siblings, our toys. We learn that we are not the sharp objects, the 2 foot drop off the chair, or the rock on the ground, that all things around us are not necessarily embrace-able out of our curiosity because they can hurt our fragile bodies back then. Through exploration and guidance, we differentiate ourselves from the objects around us, that we are not our mother, neither are we our father, our favorite pillow, and slowly we come to associate our-selves with the bodies that we inhabit, a habit that fleshes itself out when childhood comes rolling around.
Come the glorious teenage years, this habit of seeing things is shaken up as puberty takes place. Raging hormones, shifting forms, growth spurts, extra hair growth, sexual organ development, mood swings all come together to create this cocktail of a-billion-and-one changes on the inside, combined with an environment where our peers also go through the same thing, on top of social pressures, health and academic obligations from parents and teachers, its the perfect recipe for chaos. Almost like somebody went to a bar and ordered a beverage, except that the bartender mixes every conceivable liquid into that drink and they don’t have a choice but to chug it at gunpoint.
It definitely helps in knowing that all the cells in the body get replaced once every 11 months that makes this entire process interesting, for it makes even the body that we inhibit an ever-changing factor in our time here on earth. More often than not, many of us we go back to exclusively associating ourselves with the body, as if our teenage years were just a phase and that our adult bodies will remain healthy, capable, and strong into eternity. Some of us are changed by our teenage experience, and acknowledge that the body is what keeps us alive, yet do not exclusively derive our identity from it anymore, a step beyond a world that exclusively associates itself with form.
Inevitably, there comes a point where we are forced to accept the notion that the body is what keeps us alive, yet we are not this body. When the body starts to wither away, the thoughts that accompany this sense of self also start to change, and a myriad of questions appear.
“For what do I exist?”
“What is the purpose of life?”
“Why bother with anything at all, if everyone is going to die someday?”
“Why am I striving my ass off for something that will be forgotten next year?”
“I tried so hard, and get so far, but in the end, it doesn’t even matter.”
“(Insert more lyrics from ‘In The End’ by Linkin Park here.)”
At any point in one’s life this may occur, though it has a strong tendency to happen during times of great change, such as teenage-hood, where is expresses itself through hobbies or moods; in adulthood through the spontaneous activities that precipitate mid-life crises; in late adulthood it manifests as a loss of purpose, a failing body, a loss of interest for life in general. In times like these we turn to religion, philosophy, and spirituality for answers, for these burning questions about the ephemeral nature of our existence to be put to rest, that our lives were not lived in vain, that we can find reasons to justify happiness in our existence.
These are the questions hotly debated by philosophers for ages, yet the answers that we come up with always seem to lose their meaning when viewed from a different perspective. For if there is no real purpose to life, argues the nihilist, then everything should have no reason to exist, and the issue of a troubling life is easily solved with suicide. For if the purpose to life is to live for the benefit of our fellow humans, and abstractly humanity in general, then life itself would be lived in service to others, that all meaning would be derived strictly from others, and all efforts would be directed towards the glorious, noble quest for immortality or eternal happiness. Therein lies the greatest obsession that occupies the entirety of human civilization; a quest for lasting permanence and subsequently happiness in a (seemingly indifferent,) ever-changing universe, be it through copious amounts of money, advanced technology, indulgence in hedonism, or by throwing oneself at a religious creed/belief system, anything at all to quell the questions/fears/uncertainties that lie within themselves. If a solutions exists, it has been one in the works for centuries, and right now technology seems to be the most promising solution.
The beautiful thing is that the questions themselves focus on the things that truly matter, yet the closest answer to all of them is a non-existent one.
It began from differentiating oneself from the environment during infancy, to the knowledge that ‘I am the body’ that becomes the predominant focus for the most of life, only to be confronted by the realization that everything is subject to change, resulting in the questioning of one’s existence. When our quest to know ourselves is failed over and over again through shifting life circumstances, to be shown time and time again that we cannot possibly be our thoughts, feelings, emotions, hobbies, creeds, beliefs, culture, or whatever we have, what happens then? What happens when we can never find answers to what we truly are, how are we supposed to identify our purpose, to live in a way that maximizes love and joy?
Are we royally fucked?
These questions fall away when I’m enjoying a bowl of ramen, bantering with my friends, having sex with my girlfriend, crushing it in Starcraft, or enjoying my meditation. They all fall away when I’m happy, where all things fall away and die to the moment, where all my concerns are forgotten and I’m just doing things because I enjoy them and not because of some obligation to another thing.
I may be wrong on this, and my future self may possibly write something better-founded that may go completely against what I’m saying right now and have a good laugh doing so, but there is nothing to life other than the present moment. The shape that the present moment may take can vary in infinite ways, but to choose to live every moment in the spirit of love of, or if not possible, then acceptance of what is. To use thought and imagination where it’s needed, yet not over-reliant on them, to use my body fruitfully where I can, yet understand that my form is subject to change, to understand that all is ephemeral and that even an attempted description for living life such as this won’t ever fully cut it.
It goes beyond creed and belief, beyond culture or any kind of mind-made concept, yet manifests right here, right now. It takes on the shape and form of the present moment, and encourages us to be one with life in its infinitude of shapes and forms. It defies explanation or understanding because either would be attaching a definition on it, which limits the infinite through meaning that we can understand. It flexes and fluxes as life itself, as the eternal present and the timeless now, an infinitude of possibilities and a wonderful plethora of hidden beauty in the moment.
Beyond mind, body, and spirit, silence is what unveils the secret to life, that which has always been there.
Words don’t do it justice, but stillness does.