The Middle Way

There was a crazy-wisdom teacher in India named Saraha. He said that those who believe that everything is solid and real are stupid, like cattle, but that those who believe that everything is empty are even more stupid.
-Pema Chodron from Start Where You Are

Is the mind meant to swing like a pendulum from one extreme to the other? If it truly was, then destroying in the name of God would be the pinnacle of existence. We would take on the burden of defending Him as if He needed a feeble human to do so. We would supplant Him. We would worship the same gods we’ve always had: money, power, status, sex, and self-glory. Even the ones who realize the absurdity of condensing the world into two choices ensnare themselves into the same trap. Which is it? Good or evil? Love or hate? Mercy or severity? Apparently we’ve gotten carried away with Zoroastrianism. “Since I’ve been awake,” they would smugly say. Declaring that they possess the gift of sight is ultimately a declaration of blindness. This behavior parallels the way the masses don’t even bother to examine the world in which they live. They reach a consensus that life is more important than objects and yet, brands, franchises, and corporate tribes still rake in millions and billions. Will we then avoid brands at all costs, even refuse to wear a t-shirt that’s violated with a huge logo but was given away for free? Do we see the trap for what it is?

Try to shut out the frivolous brands entirely, and we prove that we’re still attached to them. The brands disenfranchised the people, but avoiding the big game altogether, even taking out our frustration on the mass produced products and destroying them is worse than participating religiously in the tribal, brand conscious behavior. As I have stressed ambiguity before, the big game doesn’t have to be football. The game can be the web of lies we cocoon ourselves with or more concretely, a business meeting or customer service. See the heaps of sterile, good-natured tones, words, and gestures that make up the plastic, phony facade? You are not the person who enters the office building, nor do you really care how someone you’ve never seen before in your life is doing. Caring about the fluctuation of emotions in strangers is about as absurd as mourning someone you’ve never known. The game itself wreaks of putrid aroma, because as you’re playing your character in your own personal tragic comedy, you don’t realize the seductive perfume you’ve drenched yourself with is actually the stench of death.

If we let it, the game unfolds the tapestry of cotton candy clouds and carbonated corn syrup seas right before our eyes. New Age philosophy built its reputation around giving us a false sense of security. Despite the lies, the truth still awaits discovery. This world is not just. The world never has been just and yet, spiritual gurus such as Annie Besant, claim otherwise. In her book, The Ancient Wisdom, she describes a cartoon caricature of karma. She denies the existence of chance by stating, “Nothing can strike a man that he has not deserved,” and supports this claim with even more outrageous claims. She attributes narrow escapes from terrible accidents to the quality of your character instead of the multitude of other variables including happenstance, mood, diet, immediate past behaviors, how people tend to treat you, etcetera. By intentionally blinding herself to the reality of dangerous entropy and its infinite variables, she shares sentiments with the charlatans of the New Age Movement. These gurus misidentify stress or friction as the enemy. They propagate ridiculous ideas that blind us to the dangerous truth. Being sick, poor, and marginalized isn’t karmic justice for past reprehensible behavior, although that particular behavior can contribute to a miserable existence. No living being continuously and perfectly receives what it deserves.

Providence comes to the corrupt and virtuous alike, with no particular preference for either. The same principle applies to misfortune. If we seek truth in earnest, we cannot project our desire for security onto reality. The real world cannot be reduced to a simplistic fantasy where all rulers are noble, righteous Philosopher Kings and all the ruled are licentious, compulsive peasants. Assuming reincarnation exists, if the corrupt rulers will tread hardship in the next life, wouldn’t power itself disappear, fall out of grasp from us all? Humankind has been, up to this point, mostly an unraveling of failed, self-righteous, sociopathic leaders and the sycophantic followers who chose a piece of luxury over bettering themselves and the world at large. If nearly all leaders fail in their undertaking, did they all supposedly deserve to lead? If karma supposedly rewards a righteous, selfless monk with an opportunity to rule in the next life, why has leadership involved murder, betrayal, vice, and perversion nearly every single time? The answer is in the insanity of the question. It’s up to us to make the world just the best we can. So far we have failed that mission but even if we complete that task, entropy still factors in. No matter how pure our souls become, the world cannot be reduced to a cartoon intended to make us feel safe and justify our habits. Stress and pain are messengers. Why not listen?