There is a saying in Spanish: “Hilar fino.” I am not sure how it translates in English, but it means to weave with a very fine thread or in a more popular way: “Splitting Hairs”. We use it when we are talking about something into which we need to go deeper than it appears on the surface. This is almost always true when we are talking about the Principles (of valid action) and the Message.
In one of our weekly meetings we discussed the principle of the factions and the discussion somehow ended up in the sentence from the book “Cruelty horrifies me, but in itself it is not better or worse than kindness.”
This is a monumental sentence, at least for me, especially considering the context. It appears in the third chapter of the book, “The Non-meaning”. The apparent affirmation of two known values that are opposed to each other, in which that opposition disappears or is questioned in its fundamental validity, is not made lightly. On the contrary, I believe it is a serious and profound statement and requires us to use a “fine thread,” and here is the beginning of a very fine tapestry in need of study and reflection.
In my opinion, when someone affirms “there is no meaning in life if everything ends in death” and writes extensively on the subject, the reader needs to exercise due diligence in trying to understand where this statement comes from, because this is the most important issue in our human existence. We can ignore this sentence, we can dismiss it, we can affirm it, or we can deny it internally and externally, but the truth of the matter remains: if death erases everything we know and experience, why, then, do we live? It obviously makes no sense to live unless that is not the case, and there is a meaning in life, despite the apparent absurdity that we humans experience from the moment we are born until we die. The absurdity of death is an important issue, probably the most important in our fleeting existence, and it is no surprise that the effort to find an answer to it has given rise to religions, philosophies, occultism, morals, beliefs, etc, etc.
A question without an answer is extremely unsatisfactory, especially in the type of society that we, accidentally, did not choose to be born into, a random and unfair event that, unfortunately or not, we have no option of changing. We have only two options: either to ignore the question, or to dive into it. In the process we may find something that illuminates this absurdity and perhaps goes a little further…
But I am not fond of false expectations, so we can basically concentrate on the “non-meaning of life” concept, and if something else is revealed, we can welcome that as well.
In this state of “absurdity,” what is most obvious is the fusion of the body with the “being”. In other words, we say “we are” or “we exist” because we recognize ourselves with a body, a face, a beating heart, a name that was given to us, and a lot of other “concrete” ways of identifying ourselves with our existence. It is very hard to separate these realities from other more subtle phenomena such as feelings, intuitions and thoughts, even though we also recognize those as part of our identity.
This capacity to recognize who we are and where we are gives us a unique perspective. We become aware of time and space, and we also become aware that the physical part, at least, is temporal, that it exists in a given space for a period of time.
This basic conditioning is such only because we are “aware” of it. We really don’t have any idea whether other species have this seemingly absurd recognition that no matter what we do, we end up dying, so I will only talk about what we know. Confronted with this inescapable fact, this predictable future, this essentially contradictory state in which every cell of our being fights to stay alive forever or at least for “as long as possible,” we experience an existential anguish that develops with the passage of time. But eventually, no matter what we do, death arrives, and we cease to exist.
This is our human condition, like it or not. This very uncomfortable but absolute reality is part of our very essence. It doesn’t really matter in “objective” terms how we deal with it. We can accept it or deny it; we can try to forget about it; we can do all sorts of things to deal with it and in the “big scheme of things” it is hard to see whether or not that changes the reality. We can throw beliefs of all sorts at it, we can stoically accept it, we can imagine whatever we want about it, but nothing seems to change the facts.
This is my own version of the “non-meaning”. I am sure that there is one for every individual on the planet. The recognition of our own mortality is a common human experience independently of the way we structure it and respond to it. This recognition is as important as recognizing the blue of the sky or a beautiful melody or the fragrance of the spring flowers or the taste of love and passion. It is also the recognition of brutality, cruelty, injustice and darkness. It is in the structure of our beings to be able to “differentiate,” to know an object by “what it is not.” We know kindness because we know cruelty. We know high because of low, or dark because of bright, and so on and so forth. We structure our vision of the world in this fashion because it is the way our consciousness works. Life and death, meaning and non-meaning…
Without cognition and recognition we can’t really understand external reality, nor can we understand much of anything.
Every human being is born in this situation, therefore it is important to address it in a way that is devoid of guilt, fear, and false expectations. In other words, as a fact.
It is equally important to continue to read what the author explains in the book about “Dependence” and the “Intimation of the Meaning.”
I have come to see that it is not in the so-called “facts” that the understanding of something grows, but rather in the understanding of the structure of the facts. I do not understand a car because of how it looks or how it performs. I understand it when I see an entire structure at work in which the engine, the wheels, the transmission, the gas, the ignition, etc. make the car move. This amazing ability of the consciousness to integrate information is what allows us to go further in understanding ourselves and the world in which we live.
When we see that the “cart of desire,” as Laura pointed out during the meeting, moves thanks to the wheels of pleasure and pain, because they are connected by the same axle, then we begin to understand how opposites are really structured into one. Going beyond the opposites and seeing them as an inseparable structure allows us a comprehension that is absolutely necessary if we wish to go beyond non-meaning in life. We don’t advance much when we simply give “values” to phenomena – good and bad, nice and ugly, etc. etc. We go farther when we see beyond values as part of our comprehension of a phenomenon. After all, we really know all these “valued objects” because we can recognize them in ourselves. We are capable of cruelty and kindness, and if we are, we’d better try to understand how that is possible. Otherwise we simply deny the undeniable, and that is a poor error of judgement, not in itself but because in general it leads to hypocrisy or fanaticism.
The author dedicates an entire chapter to the notion that opposites are in essence irrelevant when confronting a lack of meaning. He does so precisely because in general we do not think in structural terms. We simply emphasize one perspective, and the opposite is by default the “wrong” one. This dual way of thinking is not what is needed when we are trying to understand what is being said in the Inner Look.
It is relevant to note that when working with opposites that are integrated into a structure, a void is generated, a void that will tend to fill up sooner or later. This void may cause our thinking to stretch and allow us to understand that the opposites of anything simply reveal a complete structure with positive and negative values, but still one current, one object. This effort to think structurally is what is needed if we wish to understand what it is proposed in this chapter. It allows us, in a way, to “weave with a fine thread.”
November 16, 2020
These images / drawings are from a collection called “Weekly Reflection”. Most of the time the text is related to the photo or the drawing and is a “poetic” interpretation of the image. All the images and drawings are made by Rafael Edwards, all the texts are created by Fernando Aránguiz and all the English translations by Trudi Richards.
If you want to be part of this project, send me an email.