It drives me nuts when people ‘disagree’ with a statement that is meant to be explored, tasted, digested — rather than merely understood. They want to politicise every metaphysic, find a side or cheering position, something ‘popular’ that everyone can ‘like’ and get behind. It’s so dammed boring.
At the back of our minds is always the query: ‘Is this true?’—perhaps the primordial human question. But what kind of truth are we really interested in? There are facts and there are numbers, but they are only one kind of truth. We too often answer certain questions before we have truly posed them: in a mechanical, either/or, type of way, to bolster an already-formed opinion. In fact, the internet encourages this kind of binary thinking to the extreme.
The deeper the question, the more profound the answer that arises. But as long as we are still interested in ready-made opinions, we aren’t really thinking, we are only making ‘word noise’. Opinions are usually recycled; real thought is fresh and shows an angle of reality that has not be yet viewed. True though is about revealing reality, not in repeating truisms, reifying our opinions, politicising, or remaining within the safe world we already ‘know’ or ‘believe in’. I think it was Zen master Hakuin who entreated us to have the courage to: ‘Think a thought as big as Mt. Fuji’.
In our time of ‘world management’ we make a diabolical assumption: that everything can be measured, and that the complex tissue of reality always has some kind of quantifiable value. Our measuring obsession applied to to scientific endeavour is fine, but measurement in all areas of life indicates how fragmented and removed we are from the vastness reality. There is a manic predatory instinct these days to obsessively break down reality into fragmented pieces, then tag and number those pieces. When reality is broken it can be bought or sold — it has lost intrinsic value. A ‘unit’ has become an abstraction rather than a living entity — ‘money’ rather than flesh and spirit. Or not even real money but ‘virtual money’.
Today we are busy measuring everything, mapping the brain, the genome, God particle — we say there is nothing but a sequence of atoms there. Rationality is our greatest gift we keep repeating to ourselves, to be reassured that we are on the road to enlightenment. But we don’t often consider that to ‘ration’ reality also means to break it down, to reduce it. And of course there is another kind of reason: call it holistic or metaphysical reason if you like. It involves a much more complex and subtle way of knowing. And it is so taboo in modern society that it can’t be spoken of, except by people who are not taken seriously in mainstream society.
Is not a world made entirely of numbers and facts, without shadows, without mystery —with nothing but ‘exploitable resources’ — actually a hell on earth? In the book 1984, the protagonist Winston finds that the ‘place with no darkness’ is actually torture chamber, not a land of ‘enlightenment’.
The beauty of human experience is not to answer the ‘big question’ but to reveal more depth and meaning. There is no final answer, no final statement of truth.
Yes, this is dizzying and presents an abyss — for once you don’t have the answer. So if I were you I’d keep being categorical, having safe opinions. Keep defining and delineating your point of view. There is a point where it becomes so narrow that it seems to be the whole world. But at least you will feel safe there.