Tuesday, December 4, 2018

An Epistemological Dialog on Awakening

Ralph: So, Ted, after doing all that meditation, are you enlightened?

Ted: What do you mean, Ralph?

Ralph: You know, Enlightenment! Nirvana! Spiritual realization!

Ted: So far as I understand, those terms all describe something inherently unknowable and undefinable. So you're asking whether some essentially random label applies. You may as well ask me whether I'm fzzzzzgppppp.

Ralph: Are you fzzzzzgppppp?

Ted: No idea. But whether I confirm or deny, if the question is unknowable, what difference does the answer make?

Ralph: But enlightenment isn't completely mysterious. It's the recognition that there's no separation. All is one, etc etc.

Ted: Well, if you know this, it means you're enlightened, no?

Ralph: I don't actually "know" it; I just know the gist.

Ted: It doesn't sound like something that could boil down to a gist. But, anyway, if someone recognized that he isn't separate, then he'd have to be nuts to then go ahead and affix a label like "enlightened" onto that non-existent separate self, right? Isn't that a complete contradiction?

Ralph: My head hurts.

Ted: I do view the world via a different perspective, but since perspective is inexpressible (we can describe objects but not framings), it's really not a useful question.

Ralph: So what's a more useful question?

Ted: "What have I forgotten?" You and I and all the rest of us are aware of the truth at some level, because it's the same truth for all of us. Even if we've mostly forgotten, it's still what we are, and can be related to - if only slightly.

Ralph: Ok: what have I forgotten?

Ted: That the stories of you, your life, and your world, are just stories. Everyone's pretending.

You surely recognize, for example, that you're the same child you always were, only now pretending to be an adult. Just like people caught up identifying with a movie plot or with being Yankees fans, you've convinced yourself it's all rock solid. Underneath, though, you know full well that you're playing. Pretending. You choose to forget in order to heighten the experience; an ongoing suspension of disbelief. Yet underpinning it all is a steady hum of awareness that's always been there and never wavered. That constant, unchanging hum is what you are. It's the part that chooses to do the pretending.

Even if you don't have it all worked out in your head, does this ring the least bit true for you?

Ralph: I guess I can kinda/sorta relate to what you're saying, a little.

Ted: Good! I'll take it! Let's say you 5% remember. That's pretty good!

Ralph: So are you saying you don't pretend? Or that you remember that you're pretending while you're pretending?

Ted: I pretend when I'm with other people, while 75% remembering. In other words, I pretend, but lightly. So I can easily snap out of the pretending.

The snapping-out is actually the hard part. I had to work hard just now to induce your 5% remembrance, and it's already fading. If I see you in Walgreens next week and ask whether you still remember, you might nod a hazy, tentative "yes", but you won't really remember. But if we meet and you looked at me expectantly, I'll nod my head with full bemused recognition...even if I'm in the middle of a screaming fight with the cashier, or picking up newly prescribed terminal cancer meds. I never completely forget. That's the difference. The only one.

Ralph: So how do I increase my remembering from 5%?

Ted: Remembering, like any faculty, can be developed. Again: meditation, etc. But I need to warn you that if you work at it for some time, and then slack off, you'll retain a false confidence. It's hard to distinguish between real remembering and the remembrance of remembering. You'll feel certain you still have "the gist" of it - a sort of mental snapshot - even though actual remembering is no longer available. The gist of remembering smoothly dissipates into the fog of forgetting. While remembering remembering, you can easily forget that you've forgotten.

Ralph: Kill me now.

Ted: I just did.

Further Reading:
Waking Up
Realized, Shmealized
Spirituality in 333 Words
Spirituality in 33 Words
Why God Lets Bad Things Happen
Soothing the Baby
All postings tagged "Spirituality"

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