Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Returning to the Emptiness of Truth

The modern world has become obsessed with accumulating stuff. It should come as no surprise that we are this way. Evolving through long periods of not having enough, early humans would hoard food and other resources as a matter of continued survival as they wandered day after day across sparse environments. In a modern world of abundance and managed resources most of us no longer need to lay away stores against a possible future of want, but we still do. Today we go far beyond merely saving food and firewood, however. We accumulate an endless variety of stuff.

Stuff originated with the creation of idols created from wood, earth, and metals that held great spiritual significance for their owners and the community. In time these revered objects became more important than the energy they represented. Dreaming took on a morbid obsession with creating. Whatever we dreamed, we demanded to create by our own ingenuity to enjoy in our everyday reality. Great cities arose out of dreams. Magnificent structures, alters, and temples were dreamed up and constructed to honor the gods. Before this obsession with manifesting our dreams into physical reality the ancients understood the mystery and that which is unknown without a need for words or structures of idolatry. Instead of humbly honoring the creator as the mother of all life, the builders of dreams became obsessed with the technology of spirit and representations of the unknown instead of the mystery itself. The creative energy behind it all was there before the first holy edifice or church was ever built in its honor, and remains ever there to celebrate without words or sacraments.

The infinite mystery of our ancestors was replaced by the hero, the gods and goddesses, and the creative representations that came to be idolized. The greater the number of statues and idols, the greater the need to defend them against outsiders. As the need for defense grew, so did the increased need for defenders and a power structure to lead and direct the armies. As power structures grew in their influence, more demand was placed upon the people to support the few in power with increased wealth. Ultimately, the power mongers became associated with the gods our ancestors had only ever seen in dreams before.

Laws became the only way to control tyrannical despots. While tyrants have always been among us, the limits of law have afforded the people certain freedoms to create on their own and possess the things of their dreams. And so innovation and technology blossomed and proliferated. Petty tyranny spread down through society in the form of mercantilism. What a man could create he could own, but he could sell or trade his creation to another man if he chose, under the terms of the petty tyrant. "Mine" became the new mantra as tyranny spread throughout society from the corporate gods to the home owner behind locked doors. Whether a bank mogul or a small business owner, all began to act out of the same obsession with the original model of eternal control over the most sacred of things - stuff.

We have forgotten the distant sacred past, hidden under a pile of objects we convince ourselves that we really need. Our ancient connection to and celebration of the infinite has become lost in our reverence for the gods of stuff that leave us with a wondering emptiness. Consider what we would be and we could do without all the stuff. What could we really do, create, and be?

 Look at a favorite cup that you drink your coffee from. You probably have a whole kitchen cabinet full of cups - some hand crafted, most probably mass manufactured. Cups line the shelves at the thrift store, from beautiful to ugly, and may be had for pennies. Once pottery was a very sacred act of creation, at the level of the gods. So much so that to place anything into a cup and smash the cup was a gift to spirit itself because the creation of it was alignment with the very gods themselves. Smashing is no longer sacred, and now we hold onto our favorite cups with a obsessive possessiveness. Cups are but one thing we accumulate. Consider all the rest of the stuff we collect.

Art, like any creativity, is a dance with the sacred. We have become obsessed with the production of our stuff, over our perception of what is behind all of creation. Art can point the way to the wordless truth. Even words themselves, when aligned with silence, can hint at the mystery behind it all. But we must be willing to destroy before we can create, empty the cup before we can fill it again, point to the moon without getting lost in the finger, leave the temple and seek out the emptiness of truth.

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