Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The illusion of choice

 In my ordinary state, I think that I choose things. I see this go on all day long; in an effective division of Self from self, the two inner states assume independent existences, joined by what sees, and one begins to acquire an awareness of how "I" think, act, and feel, and how automatic these things are — how definitely unconnected from the living quality of Self that lives, but does not invest itself in life.

There is investment, and then there is investment. To be invested means to be clothed within; and the Self is not clothed within life, it is clothed within Being. Being then encounters life.  Unlike self, Being is capable of inhabiting life. Self – the small, the ordinary self — can do no more than identify with it. So when there's a part that is not identified with what is taking place, already, this is quite different. This is on the order of Being, not just existing.

 So the self thinks that it can choose things; but in fact, no choices are made. Everything just happens; objects, events, circumstances, and conditions assume their inexorable march forward through time, and extract the inevitable results from self as it moves forward. This can't be avoided; when Krishna tried to explain to Arjuna that he had to go to battle, it was a metaphor for everything in life, not just killing your relatives. (And, in a sense, his relatives were his own inner "I's," which inevitably fall to one another right and left as the inner parts of our ordinary self combat one another.)

 One can't escape this fate. There is no choice in it. The choice lies within the living inhabitation of a Self that arises within essence, that grows from a seed that is divine, not connected to the ordinary events of life in the same way. That Self, undefinable, existing without words, is nonetheless an alternative — an inexorable truth, one that stands and exists independent of the machine that produces everything called the self within ordinary society, psychology, religion, and the world. This Self is in itself a choice, and it is the only choice that a man can actually make: the choice of consciousness.

If consciousness arises in me — and this is, indeed, possible, despite the apparent impossibility — it must still inhabit exactly the same conditions that unconsciousness inhabits. Do I really think anything can change? It's a ridiculous proposition. Conditions are conditions; they cannot be escaped, only included. So the effort is not one of freedom in the sense of getting rid of conditions; it is freedom within conditions. The choice is made to inhabit the conditions — not manipulate them, not second-guess them, and not even take rational or logical steps to lay out a game plan about how conditions ought to be handled. It's true, there are parts that do all of that; and they must be allowed to act. But there is also a part that stands aside. And it just standing aside — in making that choice to see – there is a subtle influence on all the other parts.

 A living quality can arise. Work for it; see it. It's quite different, really. It's nothing like all those things I feel in meditation or all the largely imaginary ideas I have about compassion and love and so on.

It's active.

So the choice is never an external choice. It has nothing to do with choosing to go to a particular movie, or choosing to switch jobs. The movies will be made and seen and the jobs will exist and be attended to regardless of my inner position. Things will continue to happen, inexorably, because the flow of time moves them forward objectively, without regard for the opinions, wishes, or imaginary forces that I believe I exert on them.

The choice is always an inner choice.  I think it's important that I understand the distinction between these two kinds of choice, because one is illusory, and the other one is real. Martin Luther observed: since we must sin, sin boldly; and within the realm of outer choice, this holds true in all instances.

 The inner life is quite different. There is an opportunity, within the inner life, to choose not to sin. That is where our choice must be exercised.

 May your soul be filled with light.

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