ILLUSIONEERING: Inventing our problems
We live in a kind of ‘underlife’ in the shadows of what neuroscience recognizes as six basic emotions: anger, disgust, fear, sadness, surprise. Oh yes, and joy! That’s the one that keeps the other five from totally overwhelming us! It makes for an occasionally agreeable deception, doesn’t it? But not often, and never for long. As Wendell Berry puts it in his “The Unsettling of America”:
“An American is probably the most unhappy citizen in the history of the world…he suspects that his love life is not as fulfilling as other people’s. He wishes that he’d been born sooner, or later. He does not know why his children are the way they are…he does not care much and does not know why he does not care. He does not know what his wife wants or what he wants. Certain advertisements and pictures in magazines make him suspect that he is basically unattractive. He feels that all his possessions are under threat of pillage…And for these anxieties, of course, he consults certified experts who, in turn, consult certified experts about their anxieties.”
Now here’s the rub: there is only happiness! What you are is nothing that you think you are, nothing that you feel is true. From early childhood, we are transfixed by our own mind, by our own opinions, by our own imagination, by our own knowledge of an agreed and interpreted reality. In short, “you” and “me” and all the individual and collective mind/culture/conditioning we experience and call our “own”, is the product of what we’ll label, to use a cool high tech term, Illusioneering.
The hook about Illusioneering is that, one way or another, in some form or another, our concepts of our self (good or bad, right or wrong) seem to be real and they gain that reality from virtually everyone and everything that we accept as influences around us. We perceive only what we are programmed to perceive; we think exclusively from what our mind tells us is true and false. We laugh, cry, get angry or disgusted, afraid, saddened, surprised and even joyful because our conditioned emotions dictate what is funny and not so funny! The cause of it all – and the Cosmic Joke of it all – is that, from birth to death, all we want to do is be happy. By “happy” I do not mean anything other than simply “content”. Content like a child is. For truly, a child is contentment non-personified. There is no person who is content; there is purely “contentment with content” i.e. Selfness.
So instead of a childs’ me-less state of awareness, there appears, as Stephen Jourdain puts it: “Our usual state of consciousness: me degrading into a thought of me”. And the thought of me is contained in what Eckhart Tolle calls “the pain body”, that limited, sensual and conceptual burden we call our self.
The hard–drive for all this Illusioneering is Memory. It stores, sorts data in binary “this or that” files, and determines our personal “reality”. Of course, the thoughts about me don’t seem all that personal, but in truth, they are as much an image of what is real as these words are representations of what is real. All thought is virtual. Thought is a reflection of what appears true –not truth itself. So if some of all this rings true to you, if in fact, all you want really is to be happy, to be free, the question naturally arises: “ What should I do?” It ‘s not a question of doing, but seeing. I’m going to quote Jean Klein here, as one of the best summations of our human condition:
“We are in constant search for freedom…to transcend insecurity. This feeling of fear is itself the motive to go beyond it…Note that in attaining a desired object, there may be a momentary freedom from fear, but the desired object is not really the cause of this. The security experienced at such times has no place for an image of an object or a someone who obtains it. There is only happiness.
“After you leave this happiness, the ego wants to attribute it to some cause. “I was happy because..I met this person…because I heard that music…etc.” When you investigate, you discover, in the end, you are this happiness. In reality, there is no cause and effect, for happiness is cause-less.”
So there’s nothing to do, but be. Allow. Allow that awareness that you are to see what is always true. That
Awareness of the mind-dream state called “me” means awareness has something to be aware of. And that something is itself. From this Self, which is what you are, you will recognize, gradually or in a flash, all that you are not. And you will come to rest in the vastness of the unknown, unborn and undying “I am.”
In sum, in looking for meaning, aka contentment, reality, truth, happiness, we may be graced to learn not to learn, so to speak; to not react from accumulated ‘knowledge’ that habitually turns to fragmented memories of yesterday. In real learning, there’s a turning of clear-eyed attention (beyond conditioned reactions) to fully meet the facts of this living moment, as it is, now; to acting appropriately, compassionately – from not knowing but simply being. Anything less, anything else, is illusion yes 🙂