Monday, May 31, 2004

How to do not-doing

You have to try really hard. You have to make a not-to-do list of all the things that you are not going to do. Then you have to create a budget which itemizes the cost of not doing each thing. In the case of those things that it is especially difficult not to do, you may need to hire counselors, therapists, and coaches to help you not to do them. You may need to adopt a religion or follow a guru in order to gain the wisdom, equanimity, and compassion that will enable you to control yourself from inadvertently accomplishing these goals. You will spend long hours in meditation cultivating the state of not doing. Then, having achieved mastery over the art of doing nothing, you write a best-selling book of 101 things not to do, followed by its sequel containing 101 ways not to do them. And when, after many years, you become weary of explaining your non-philosophy on the talk shows and in the public forum, then and only then will you rest at last in the absolute fulfillment of doing nothing at all.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

The story of me

In the beginning—but there was no beginning because I cannot remember a time when I was not—I was born—which means I was carried, or borne, from somewhere to somewhere else. I went to school where I learned a few things and forgot many more. I loved and lost many times, and I moved from here to here. Finally I died, and returned whence I came. Which, I finally realized, was not really dying because I hadn’t gone anywhere. So what was the point of this story of me, anyway? Was it worth it, after all? The answer to that question from the vast assembly of gods who were watching my performance was a resounding, deafening silence.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Reductive spirituality

Monotheism is just one version of reductive spirituality. It is not the last word; ask the pantheists and pagans and skeptics of all stripes. What is more, any spiritual teaching that propounds an ultimate truth is in danger of becoming reductive. I have noticed that tendency, for instance, in advaita, where nothing equals everything equals nothing. Although promoting non-duality in pure consciousness as underlying everything, it’s a reduction to unity by dividing everything by itself. And that divisiveness makes this version on non-duality a self-contradiction. Belief systems of any sort are reductive. My gnostic impulse tries to throw a shadow wherever Unity asserts itself. But that shadow gives depth and dimension to the Unity experience. This is not merely the mind being contrary. It is the need of the original impulse that created mind and heart and body and world because IT wants to know more. And it will accept no answer as final.

Friday, May 28, 2004

What is enlightenment?

It's either a state of blindingly effulgent mystical unity with the godhead or a blessedly mundane being here now with a lot of chopping wood and carrying water. Whichever flavor is characteristic of the spiritual path we favor, the idea that this is a "state" is bound to find us still confined to our perceptual module, however exalted it may be. Even Dorothy found out that her state was Kansas all along. Not that I put down Kansas; I'm from there. But after I dropped off the map entirely, I don't think it exists anymore. Enlightenment, that is, not Kansas. Enlightenment is Oz. You can't step in the same river twice, and you can’t go home again.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The memory museum

Everybody is paranoid. Not just those who think there is a conspiracy afoot, such as a small group of men who are pulling the strings behind world events. No, we are all delusionally paranoid. We see a network of causes and effects around us without any evidence whatsoever that these are real. All that is propping them up is our belief in them. We think we are where we are today because of where we were yesterday. Nonsense. There is no evidence the past causes the future. If anything, the future causes the past. Remembering yesterday is an archaeological maneuver that results in an excavation which we put in a mental museum. The shards of memory exhibited there caused nothing. We caused them.


It is a fallacy to believe that anything is forgotten and remembered. Thoughts flash in and out of conscousness. We never put our foot in the same river twice. Nothing is ever remembered in the same way; it becomes a new experience at each recalling. When it is gone, it is really gone for good. Time is a slate perpetually erasing itself. All experience is a line written on water.

Loving the mystery

Life is all about translation and interpretation. The very act of perception is translation of an obscure reality into waves of light and sound and sensation that our sculptor minds shape into form, then, stepping back like a critic, interpret and create a web of references that we call meaning. We insist that life itself should have a meaning, and bemoan the fact that it does not yield up that meaning readily, and may not have one at all. We are all like the frustrated lover who wants nothing more than to plunge into a consummation with beauty, but is tantalizingly held at arm's length. Perpetually we are in love with the mystery, but we will never solve it.

Monday, May 24, 2004

The efficiency of nature

Nature is efficient. It doesn't need to bother with things like trees falling in forests where there is nobody to see or hear them fall. Just because you see a fallen tree does not mean it fell, not unless you actually saw it fall. Otherwise, at the moment you perceive the fallen tree, it is created instantaneously in a fallen state. The first step in getting over the hypnosis of objective reality is to stop thinking of it as something independent of the subject, which is you. By definition, every object has to have a subject. And the only subject here is you. Reality is quantum, and what there is, is what you know. If that seems too limited, then know more.

Sunday, May 23, 2004


Is anything happening? Is anything going on in the universe? Take a slice out of the movie that is life and you have a frozen moment, the hand with the pen poised eternally over the piece of paper, and nothing ever, ever gets written. The lovers' lips never quite meeting; the consummation never comes. Seems like Keats was talking about something like this in "Ode on a Grecian Urn." And from that he arrives at the equation of truth and beauty. Obviously he's talking about eternal beauty, not the passing kind that is written on the wind. Yet if we are to believe Blake, the only way to live in "eternity's sunrise" is to "kiss the joy as it flies." The two views of Keats and Blake are not as opposed as they might seem on the surface. Both refer to the immanent truth and beauty of the timeless state in which action is suspended. And from which one can only conclude that nothing, indeed, is happening.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Two gods talking

To truly encounter another being is like sitting upon a mountaintop, looking across a vast expanse of space, and seeing another being sitting on top of its mountain. Then, like two gods talking, a magical communion takes place in the momentary bridging of that impossible gap. The only real love and relationship are made possible in this existential encounter.

Friday, May 21, 2004

We assume too much

We assume that the world exists independently of us. It doesn't. We assume that the world was here before we were born. It wasn't. We assume that other people are as we see them. They aren't. But we also assume that they have hidden depths. They don't. We assume that there were and are great people in the world who know more than we do. There weren't and aren't. We assume that there is something waiting for us just around the corner. There is no corner. We assume that our words have meaning. They don't. We assume that there is a higher order, whether we call it God, science, or ethics. There isn't. We assume too much.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The collapsing universe

When we walk out of the doorways of perception we encounter infinity wherever we turn. And as soon as we look at it, it crystallizes. That's what they call the collapse of the waveform in quantum physics. Well, one way to keep the universe from collapsing is not to go out of the door, not to look. But with all the stars trying to burst into being at once, all the trees trying to touch the stars, all the seeds crying silently to be born, it is difficult to ignore the constant pressure of their desire. And so finally we peek out, and the multiplicity springs to birth in the womb of our eyes.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The man in the irony mask

The ironic attitude is easy to come by and is practically de rigeur for youth. As we get older, it becomes more of a luxury. Detachment is less of an option. Even when those of us wearing a little more age indulge in rampant ironizing, we know deep down that we are kidding ourselves. We can't easily separate ourselves from others. We can't lightly condemn another's foibles and overlook our own. Or, if we are politic enough to leaven our observations with self-irony, we compound the problem by separating ourselves from ourselves. We are quantumly complicit whenever we involve ourselves in an act of perception and judgment. We commit the original sin whenever we put on the mask of irony. And yet, life is intolerable without it.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Unsafe journey

Enlightenment is not safe. Why should it be? Surely to aspire after the highest knowledge is an inherently risky proposition. You might discover at the end of the journey that there is no God, there is no you. And that enlightenment consists only of the cold light of reality on a winter's day. And yet, because we must, we yearn for the ideal. Maybe it would be better named enheatenment. For light without heat does not satisfy the soul or the body.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The last word

Death is the trump card in the pack of lies we all carry around. Whatever highfalutin argument anyone is spouting, you can always say, "But what about DEATH?!" and that silences them. "What about the basic injustice of the universe in that we all are going to die like dogs? Even we, who are basically good people, must ultimately be consumed by the conqueror worm!" The introduction of this topic is supposed to reduce every other consideration to insignificance. It's a sad commentary on the intellectual level of our times that no one can make a comeback to this. It's like my saying a sentence and you saying "Period!" Yes, it brings the sentence to a stop, but what are you actually saying? Nada. And yet this passes for profundity.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Budding author

If by reason of presently unforeseen notoriety, a future academic should someday sift through the papers in my attic to glean clues to my biographical underpinnings, this person will find some pages copied out in a first-grade hand entitled "The Holy Bible, by Douglas Mackey." I wonder how many other people, in their childhood, claimed personal authorship of the sacred scriptures. I suspect not very many. This could tell someone a lot about why I am what I am today. You see, in some sense I still think I wrote the Bible. I mean, why not?

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Been here, done this

The present is overrated. The future and the past, on the other hand, are woefully neglected. Being here now is not nearly as memorable as having been there then. And if you consider that today is yesterday’s tomorrow, we are already living in the future. No, living in the now is not where it’s at. How twentieth century all that seems. Even Eckhart Tolle realizes that the future is the really happening thing. His next book will be titled, The Power of Later.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

We are perceptual modules

Each of us is a module of perception in which data is processed and from which a universe is created. There is no such thing as objective reality. Forget about it! As Wordsworth put it, we half perceive and half create our reality. Although our different realities may have an integrating factor, the first thing to realize is that they are quantum, or separate, and self-sufficient.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

We're living on a movie set

It is not necessary for anything to "be" there if it's not there for you, right now. That building over there that you're looking at? It's propped up like a Hollywood movie set. The entire universe consists in the moment of perception where your consciousness meets the object. That is all there is and all there ever is.

Readiness is all

Everything is real except what you think is real. Stop. Your identity is a total fantasy. You are not you. Stop. Everything is you except that voice in your head. Stop. This moment is the most important event in the history of the universe. Stop. If it be now, it's not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. Stop. If it be not now, yet it will come. End of story.