Consciousness & happiness

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Search

You have invested everything in one basket, self-
realization, and, in the end, suddenly you discover that
there is no self to discover, no self to realize. And you say
to yourself, “What the hell have I been doing all my life.”


U.G. Krishnamurti (no relation to Jiddu K.)


Years ago, soon after Louisa and I stumbled into each
other, literally (we were at a sensory-awareness workshop,
aka touchy-feely group, getting to know each other by
touch alone, since our eyes were closed), she interviewed
me. The idea was to create a tape recording to send to her
family members, to introduce her new beau to them.

“Who are you?” she asked me (this was the 70’s, when
such questions were just coming into vogue). “A seeker,” I
responded, very seriously. Well, in retrospect, pompously.
Probably trying to impress her sibs.

At some level, I was a seeker, though. My journals and
letter of that era rumble with wanting—enlightenment,
self-awareness, peace, silence, contentment—even as I
paid lip service to, for instance, Ram Dass plea to “Be Here
Now.” I tried, I really tried, to be here and now, somehow
seduced into believing this was the key to happiness: once
I reached the here-and-now state, all craving for something
else would be over, I’d have arrived.

I never did.

Sure, I had some wonderful ‘bells and
whistles’ experiences, each one simultaneously a gold star
for how far I’d come, and a reminder for how far I had yet
to go. I’m not sure when it finally dawned on me (although
I must have read and heard it dozens of times) that doing
something to be present was, as Buddhist Bon Ryun puts it,
akin to trying to make muddy water clear by stirring it.

Writer-philospher Steven Harrison’s first book was,
“Doing Nothing.” The title says it all. For Harrison, it’s the
very act of doing something—searching, meditating,
studying—with the goal of achieving some better state of
mind—that keeps us from appreciating just this. This
unimproved, unchanged, messy, klutzy, needy, screwed-up
self/no-self (whatever!). It’s the search that’s the problem:
“There is no technique, philosophy, instruction or religion
that will help us experience silence. Everything that we
acquire is in the way because the inquirer is in the way.”

Here’s how Lawrence Shainberg puts it in Ambivalent Zen
(for his reference to Zen, you can subsititute almost any
‘spiritual’ practice): “Everything we do in Zen is based on
the belief that we can free ourselves of desire. Isn't that the
greatest desire of all?...Is any desire more virulent than the
dream of no desire at all?”

Not that any of this is likely to make a scrap of difference.
We’re designed, from our brains on down, to want more.
It’s in our genes, we’re stuck with desire. Fame, fortune,
contentment, sex, understanding, enlightenment, no-self,
the state of desireless: we’re built to want one or more.

We’re supposed to desire! That’s the hand we were dealt
with at birth.

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