If you run in certain circles, and if you spend enough time around a certain kind of person (or if you live within hitchhiking distance of Crestone, CO), you will eventually find yourself in the company of a person who has convinced themselves that they are “enlightened.” For me, I don’t know why, but it happens a lot. I know a lot of enlightened people. I know so many enlightened people I’m almost surprised that their enlightenment hasn’t somehow rubbed off on me through a spiritual osmosis of some kind. WHAT THE FUCK, UNIVERSE?!!!
In reality, though, it’s a good thing that their enlightenment has never infected me. At least, I think it’s a good thing. Most of these enlightened people are fucking incorrigible. They’re stuffy, haughty, self-serious asswipes who are always trying to point out that you suck because you don’t behave in an enlightened way. For example, I was dumb enough to talk meditation practices with a guy I knew. I told him that I meditate until I don’t feel like meditating anymore and then I go and, like, make a peanut butter sandwich and watch TV or something. I told him sometimes I might meditate for 5 minutes or sometimes for close to an hour, or sometimes not at all if I don’t feel like it. And he was like (in an overly soft, condescending voice, of course), “Hmmm. I feel like you’re not good at being in the moment. What is it you’re running from in the meditation? Why do you feel the need to be somewhere else?”
“Because I’m a fucking human being and sometimes Black-ish is on and I want to watch it because I feel sort of brown-ish and it helps me relate,” I said.
“Oh,” he replied. “I tried watching that show once. The neuroses of the characters was too taxing for me. I still find it difficult to believe that anyone would willingly put themselves through the nonessential stress that the characters do. Especially the wife. How awful. I think you should force yourself to meditate more and learn to be with those negative emotions that are the source of all of your suffering”
“The meditation is the source of my suffering sometimes and then I go make a peanut butter sandwich and then I feel better.”
“Hmm…” he droned dismissively, turning to walk away and thereby ending the conversation. If I had anything resembling testicular fortitude, I would’ve told him that he should be using his meditation time to work on not being such a dipshit. But I didn’t. And here I am passive-aggressively dealing with the whole thing in some essay few people will read.
Anyhow, if that’s enlightenment, all of you motherfuckers can EAT IT. I’ll be just fine eating my sandwich.
• • •
This is the thing with the whole “new-age” movement or anyone who starts practicing a non-western philosophy or religion. It all becomes just another ego stroke. “Enlightenment” is just another goal to accomplish so we can all pretend like there’s anything more to life than being alive.
This tendency is most evident in those “enlightened” people who think Enlightenment means being a robot. One of the really cool things about being a human being with a functioning human brain is that you end up going on all kinds of wonderfully fucked up adventures. When we think of having adventures we tend to think of things like Indiana Jones or James Bond, travelling the world, laying the pipe to European chicks, and punching problems in the face. But the true adventure is of everyday living. Of the constant vacillation between the emotional highs and lows. The adventure lies in getting up every morning and not only figuring out a way to get out of bed and dealing with all the oppressive daily minutia, but in succeeding and in being triumphant and still finding room to love, care, and suffer for other people. To enjoy such true-blue miracles as the cherry and plum blossoms sprouting every spring, the mosquitoes flying into your ear, the peanut butter sandwiches with a little honey and sliced bananas is true enlightenment. Why do you think all of the really smart, spiritual poets write about everyday things? Basho wrote about frogs, snowy mornings, and a monk drinking tea. Issa wrote about spiders, idiot poets who write about snow, and flies making love. Po Chi I wrote about laziness. Li Po wrote about getting drunk and looking at the moon. Ikkyu wrote about jacking off and performing cunnilingus. Bukowski wrote about fighting bullies on the playground. The GZA wrote about Larry’s Bird flying out of Nicholas Cage. Lao Tzu wrote,
These are the adventures.
But not to an enlightened person. To an enlightened person in 21st century America, to be enlightened means to yoke yourself to a perverse kind of stoicism, and to do so under the guise of “equanimity.”
Let’s talk about equanimity.
I prefer to call it Apathy. I prefer to call it Apathy because promoting an apathetic philosophy, in theory, attracts more attention than promoting a philosophy of Equanimity. And my delusional hope is that somebody, somewhere, someday will walk up to me and say, “Hey, you’re the idiot-asshole who wants everyone to be apathetic. Here’s a $30,000 advance. Go write a book about it.” (Yes. I come cheap, or I don’t come at all…) But, really, the gist of the Apathetic worldview I promote is simply — as legendary Disinfonaut BuzzCoastin pointed out — basically a form of equanimity. It’s just acknowledging that life is often sort of shitty, but, you know, the less you give a shit about the shittyness, the less you suffer. I mean, I suppose (and hope) there’s more nuance to my philosophy, but that’s sort of what it boils down to.
The point isn’t to be a robot. The point is to allow yourself, for example, to feel your emotions, be “mindful” of them (such a loaded term these days: “mindful”) and accept them. I was going to write that we just needn’t be controlled by our feelings, but that’s sort of impossible, right? To some extent we’re always going to be controlled by our feelings. Even if I cultivate a highly effective form of apathy, feelings of apathy are going to impact how I respond to things. So maybe it’s more accurate to suggest the point of such a worldview is to not unnecessarily exacerbate or aggravate our emotions. The point is that we shouldn’t worry about being depressed or sad or angry or excited or joyful because such states are natural, they exist for a reason, and, if not taken too seriously, all of them are sort of healthy and necessary. And they all go away, unless you feed into them.
But I’m not Enlightened. So what the fuck do I know? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m doomed to burn eternally in the fiery hells of Karma.
But I do wonder: where does this idea come from? Why must one be non-human (because it’s our emotions and feelings and thoughts that make us human) to be “Enlightened?”
There are number of variables that I consider. There’s a weird sort of entitlement that a lot of these people have. That because they’ve forced themselves to meditate, and because meditation is essentially the same as magic to these people, they’ve earned the right to be enlightened. Furthermore, all of these weird language delusions that people fall for get them interested in pursuing such practices in the first place. They hear about “being in the moment” and “being present” and “penetrating through the illusion of Samsara” or any other myriad bullshit phrases that don’t really mean anything unless you already know what they mean. What these phrases do is impose expectations upon those who meditate. The problem, though, is that, as I’ve stated, most people don’t really know what the phrases mean. So they imagine what they mean and then it is those ideas — and they are only ideas — that people start shooting for when they begin meditative practices.
(On a quick tangent: this is precisely what made Lin-Chi such a successful and genius master. When his students asked meaningless questions or seemed to get bogged down in abstract ideas of “The Way,” he hit them hard with a stick. Many people who read about this are repelled by the violence. But the genius of Lin Chi was in trying to get the point across to his students that the pain and suffering of getting hit with a stick was much more useful and less painful than pursuing meaningless, abstract, metaphysical concepts. And even then, he was already making fun of “Bald headed idiots” who couldn’t seem to get beyond all the verbal mucketymuck.)
But I think what it all really boils down to is a form of puritanism (which also explains why so many of these people don’t have a tangible, unforced sense of humor — puritans rarely do). Which is ironic, because many of the people who pursue meditative practices despise western religions for being so puritanical and judgmental. However, many of these bald-headed idiots have traded one form of puritanism for another. The only difference is that in, say, Christianity or Islam, the puritanism is related to pleasures of the flesh, while in the meditative traditions, the puritanism is related to the pleasures of the mind. Meditative “Gurus” are often quite ok with, say, the sexual experience (often times to a fault) but instead of saying, “You shouldn’t fuck,” they say “You shouldn’t worry.” And, in the end, all “shoulds” and “should nots” exist only to be slayed. It’s ok to worry. It’s ok to feel depressed. It’s ok to be scared. It’s ok to be unsure about things.
I end by asserting that we can look at our emotions as if they are a group of horses. There’s the horse of fear, there’s the horse of worry, there’s the horse of joy, there’s the horse of ambition, and so on and so forth. And when we look at our emotions in this way, I think it’s easy to see that we can’t just get rid of our horses. They don’t just die. If they did, we’d be screwed, because feelings of, say, fear and worry tell us that something is wrong. We need to address that which is wrong. If we lose those horses, we’ll never know if we’re in danger of some kind. But the question, and only question in this regard, is whether the horses are running wild or whether I have some ability to guide them, so that they take me to places I want to go.
And right now, I’m thinking I want my horses to start guiding me into situations where I run across bald-headed idiot-assholes a little less often.
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