Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Everything That Happens Teaches You Precisely What You Need to Learn in This Moment

I've had the distinct impression since childhood that the universe is trying to teach me things. In fact, that's what This All is. Especially the friction; the "bad" stuff.

It's not that I was putting some positive light on it - Mr. Optimist constructively framing the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. It's not a "spin" I chose to impart. I truly, viscerally, had this impression. And my conviction rested on two elements:

First, I intuited intention. Not "dude-on-a-cloud whispering in my ear 'cuz I'm so special." Something much more tectonic...yet unmistakably intelligent.

Second: the timing wasn't random. Everything that ever happened seemed to teach me precisely what I needed to learn in that moment. Not supernatural orchestration; more like being caught in an inexplicable machine, challenged to reverse-engineer its nature and operating principles - and, more mysteriously, my own nature and operating principles. Gradually, both objectives merged.

The lessons learned were never complicated. Just basic, remedial stuff. The sort of stuff that easily boils down to banality. I've previously noted that even the most profound epiphanies easily congeal into cheesy cliché. Gems soon turn to dust.

So: it's all teaching us; and the lessons, which arrive as ecstatic epiphany, turn out to be ludicrously banal. That's my 18-word summation of life on Earth.

I've learned more than my share of lessons, because I've experienced more than my share of friction, which created more than my share of confusion, compelling more than my share of pondering. So every once in a while, a light bulb goes off and I grok what the universe has been trying to teach me. Grabbing these brass rings never feels triumphant, because it's always something obvious which only an idiot would fail to grasp. Never anything fancy. Just basic stuff. I'm an ape delighted by the revelation that a stick helps knock bananas from high branches. Big whoop.

However, I'm also (fairly recently) aware that the lessons I've learned are uncommon. Am I simply a very slightly less blinkered ape? Few humans seem to learn lessons. Like, ever. It's so strange! I don't denigrate them. I want to understand. It's been yet another puzzle to be pondered.

This Slog is a compendium of lessons recently learned. I'd be happy if I’d restated widely acknowledged truisms, revealing me as the slow learner I know I am. But no. What I’ve presented here has turned out to be so strange and counterintuitive and seemingly "opaque" that people run away screaming. Which is weird.

I've finally pinned down the disjoint. As usual, the grand epiphany is bluntly obvious, despite the struggle endured to reap it:

Almost no one frames this worldly adventure as lessons being taught. Instead, they frame it as persecutory. Aggravation! Headwind! Frustration! An obstructive universe keeps getting in their way as they try to do what they'd set out to do.

I once wrote a poem, "The Reed". If you click back to its original post, you'll enjoy a cool accompanying photo, but I'll repost the poem below:
The reed,

unendingly assaulted by violent wind,

never suffers.

It never occurred to the reed

that the wind was a separate, external thing.

Insofar as the reed thinks at all,

it thinks it's dancing.

I confess that I haven't been 100% reed-like. I've felt persecuted and obstructed aplenty. Yet, in my immense curiosity, I've always kept one foot firmly planted in the recognition that it's always - without exception! - lessons being taught. And it took me the longest time to realize that this is a highly unusual framing.

It makes a huge difference, because you can't learn lessons until you recognize that you're being taught, not harassed. You need to be receptive! You have to taste for it! The answer is indeed blowing in the wind, but the first step is to welcome it, rather than bitch about the damned wind. "Bitching about the damned wind" and "receptivity" are two vastly different mindsets/framings. It's almost like two different species.

Some people around me, who I referenced in the postscript of last week's posting, have bitched loudly about the damned wind for many decades. I've bitched some, too (quietly to myself, though, rather than spitefully wailing to a seemingly uncaring world). But while I haven't kept up any other element of my life with much solid consistency, I've never once lost touch with the certainty that I'm being taught. Not even when it's been brutish. This one recognition has endured. The lesson of lesson-learning seems to have fully penetrated, leaving me extraordinarily receptive.

I worry that this posting was too casually digestible.

Read allegorically, it's just the old "Learn your lessons!" "Take your lumps!" stoic shtick. Once you've make that association, you might suppose you've already got this and turn your attention elsewhere.

If you can find the humility to receive this insight without imagining you'd pre-owned it, it could be your miracle box. But first you must concede that you hadn't fully, viscerally, experienced the universe as an epiphany provocateur. This is, I swear to you, a fresh perspective/framing.

How can I be so certain? It's taken me 60 years to discover that I'm the only one in this movie who frames it this way. This explains the loneliness, alienation, and disorientation. I've heard a few people mumble vaguely similar platitudes. But it's not real. Not visceral. No actual foot is planted in the recognition. Trust me, I've watched closely. If someone were framing this way, I'd have noticed. One instinctively seeks one's kindred.

Please consider trying it on for size. Just a bit of earnest sustained effort will be rewarded with cascading epiphanies once you recognize that this, indeed, is what the world really is. And perhaps you can embrace that recognition while remaining more reed-like than I've been. More delighted by it all. Less alienated and dissociated and embarrassed by the realization. In with both feet!

I am an ape who picked up a stupid stick to do the obvious thing with the banana. Scant triumph. You can take it further, embody it more whole-heartedly, and explain it more relatably, helping our fellow apes transcend our grubby primatology. Or at least enjoy this learning experience more comfortably than I have.

Beware of this pitfall, though.


Anonymous said...

Consider Tom Campbell's Big TOE.

Jim Leff said...

That's a popular way of discussing it, and it's got some truth to it, but the shading's not quite right.

When you start talking about "simulations", it implies a bedrock reality somewhere. There's no reality *and* no simulation, just projection, hinged on framing of attention (framing, which I talk about a lot here, is a human faculty we all viscerally recognize yet curiously never seem to examine).

It's all not real, yet also not unreal. Reality/simulation is an irrelevant axis.



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