I was impressed that the "Collective Intelligence Wall" (butcher paper covering a portion of the wall) at the Accelerating Change 2005 conference was mostly plastered with the graffiti of open-ended questions, not edicts.
Questions peppered the board such as: What is the Matrix? The answer, of course, is in the script itself:
Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. - The Matrix
Morpheus: Neo, sooner or later you're going to realize, just as I did, there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path...
The Matrix was a very influential movie in my life. I didn't see it when it first came out because I knew everything. It was science fiction, and I don't do science fiction. It was a blockbuster, and I didn't do anything everyone else is doing. It seemed to be a shoot-and-up guy-movie, and I don't do that either.
Eventually I saw The Matrix on video and was blown away.
I used to ask a lot of questions when I was a kid. I don't know when that stopped. I suppose when my brain was bursting full of clutched opinions, viewpoints, beliefs. It was in 2002 that I decided to take the red pill myself. I didn't care what the answer was, I just wanted to know what was true, what was the point, what was the purpose of all this, and my purpose. In February 24, 2004, I wrote:
I decided the biggest limiting belief I could have is believing that I was right and I had any answers at all. I would just be curious. I would assume I had blind spots -- how could I know what I didn't know. That's still my philosophy. Whatever I read, whatever I see, whatever I hear, I don't necessarily accept as true. Whatever I read, whatever I see, whatever I hear, I don't reject as false. I keep an open mind. I am not ready to judge it, label it, and drop it into a container by whether it fits into my preconceived concept of truth or my world view. Even my identity is more fluid. I allow my mind to remain available for answers in a state of inquiry: "Is this really true?" versus "This can't be true!" which shuts off possibility. In due time -- sometimes immediately -- my mind separates out the wheat from the chaff but I don't try to control or force the process.
I told several acquaintences and friends of late about a yet-unveiled venture. I used the word "spiritual" in my description. You'd think I was offering to host UFO abductions or past life time travel (sorry to disappoint, I'm not) from the reactions, of which common ones include:
- "It's an overloaded term. Like 'liberal' it just has too many [negative obviously] connotations. Perhaps you can use 'meaning' or 'fulfillment' instead."
- Another when I ask about the market in NYC (uh, it's a hyperlocal idea): "The east coast demographic is not nearly as 'new agey' as our west coast brethren, if you can provide a slightly more pragmatic or concrete rationale you will find New Yorkers willing to be enlightened."
I realize that many people shut down when they hear certain words. But they're probably not asking context-expanding questions either. My favorite living (gasp I'll use that word again) spiritual teacher, Adyashanti, tells us that religion is the willingness to believe. And spirituality is the willingness to question.
"Question a single thought to see if it's true. Question your existence. Let the question open the mind," Adyashanti invites. The difficulty is we often open the mind to stuff it fast with a replacement belief. What, he asks, if we keep it open?
While I asked questions galore in 2002 and 2003 - heck I'd read about UFO abductions and past life time travel too - I'd slowly began built up a new belief system and plateaued. In the Dwelve retreat earlier this year, we each pulled a random number. That number linked to a chapter in a book. My selection was apropos: "Not-knowing is true knowledge", begins the 71st chapter in the Tao Te Ching. "Presuming to know is a disease. First realize that you are sick; then you can move toward health. The Master is her own physician. She has healed herself of all knowing. Thus she is truly whole."
One of the many new beliefs stuffed far in the mental file was that the spiritual path is hard and serious. In comments the other day, I said: "I think the nondualists and Pastafarians might have much in common...at least in terms of having a sense of humor. I used to think this was very serious stuff, you know. But having of late met nondualist teachers that are very joyful and very funny - it's really been 'enlightening.'"
There's a huge fuss around the story of Ramana Maharshi's enlightenment at 16 or 17 years of age. Yet he simply asked, "What is it that dies?" Ahhhh, perhaps not so simple: "He really wanted to know," says Adyashanti.
Do you no-holds-barred really want to know anything? Or are you seeking evidence that you're already right?
I've been long done with dry, dead, dusty dogma. "The Taoist way is living life, not thinking about living life, or reading about living life, or talking about living life." - Relax, You're Already Home: Everyday Taoist Habits for a Richer Life, by Raymond Barnett, Ph.D.
Bonus: Former PepsiCo CEO Roger Enrico sums it up pretty well: "You can't learn a damn thing if you spend all day in your own chair." (via Buzzmarketing by Mark Hughes)
"Spirituality, according to true mystics of all ages, is an experiential science, one which demands not blind faith and belief, but rigorous practice and application," says The Wanderling in his guide to choosing a teacher.
[One of my favorite quotes ever]: I have many friends from scientific backgrounds who accept me with amused toleration. They like me despite my views. But I have learned not to debate with them any more. Unless you are willing to experience these things yourself, even so mundane a phenomenon as meditation sounds fanciful and absurd. From my point of view, these scientists are exactly like the New Guinea tribesmen who refuse to believe the metal birds in the sky contain people. How can you argue with them? Unless they're willing to go to the airport and see for themselves, no discussion is really possible.
And, of course, if they do go to the airport, no discussion is necessary.
So, in the end, find out for yourself. - Travels, popular science fiction writer Michael Crichton's memoir
p.s. Ohhhhh, The Matrix is ripe with nondualistic references...
A modern concept that illustrates Maya / Illusion wonderfully is the Sci-Fi Movie "The Matrix". Everything in The Matrix is believed to be real, until the character Neo wakes up, and sees that its just a dream world. One who is asleep never knows he is until he wakes up. - Wikipedia entry
Boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Boy: Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.
Trinity: I know why you're here, Neo. I know what you've been doing. I know why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night you sit at your computer. You're looking for him. I know, because I was once looking for the same thing. And when he found me, he told me I wasn't really looking for him. I was looking for an answer. It's the question that drives us, Neo. It's the question that brought you here. You know the question just as I did.
Neo: What is the Matrix?
Trinity: The answer is out there, Neo. It's looking for you. And it will find you, if you want it to.