The love of life
What do we mean when we talk about life? Life has given us food, shelter, beautiful mountains and animals, as well as our many pleasurable or painful experiences. In life, there is the technology which occupies us, the sorrow of losing one's parent or child, the pain of facing loneliness, the daily boredom and routine, of going to work day after week after month after year. Then at the end of this life, we must face death. So this business of death is also part of life. We see the flowers die after a storm. We see the monkeys die after the wildfire burns through a forest. We also see our own cells die, shedded from our skin. And those we know die, due to disease, accident, and war fought on religious or political ideals. At the end of this journey we call life, we must also face death. We might believe in heaven, in the afterlife, or that our soul lives on in some other world, but this death is still coming, and if we are totally honest, we do not know what would happen. There are those who come back from what is called a near-death experience, and they claim they know what happens after death. Yet they have not died, for if they did they could not return to tell us all about it. Why are we so concerned about what happens after? What exactly is happening before death? Which also means, what is this life that we lead?
Isn't our life divided? Isn't it divided into nations and races, genders and cultures? And we see this play out. One identify with a group. It could be a nation or a culture, or a tradition, and it does not matter what kind. Essentially, it is a group. And one receives a sense of belonging and solidarity within that group. Yet, the group fights with the other group. The Israeli and the Palestinian, China and America, the Christian and the Muslim. This is the pattern of our life. Religiously, nationally, culturally, we have divided ourselves into so many groups. And with the Internet, we invent ever more groups online. People with similar illnesses, fears, desires, either sexual or material or spiritual desires, gather into groups and talk in order to escape our loneliness. These are what is factually happening, our divisive lifestyle. Our life is fragmentation, division. And in this life, we say we love. We tell each other how much we love. And we also say we love the flowers, our hobbies, a celebrity, or a book. We convince ourselves how much we love our job, our spouses, our life. Yet, can love ever be born from a life which is divisive? Is love the movement of dividing human beings into petty little groups? Is love merely a verbal expression? And why do we express our love so much? Is it because our life is filled with love, or is it because actually we have no love in life, therefore compensating with just a lot of words?
What is love? And what is life? These are very important questions. And if we could, as human beings living on this earth, who are terribly worried and concerned about one thing or another, if we could understand love and life, then we might be able to live a life without division. This is a very important thing, a life without division, because only in such a life can love be. But to understand all this, which is very complex and deep, we must begin to see what our life actually is. As it stands, our life is division. Not only outside our body, as it were, but also inside. We are divided in our heart and mind. In our mind we are in constant struggle and conflict. We consider how to outrun our competitor, either in business or in military. We invent ever more ways of destruction, as the world is heading more and more into international tension. We protests the government, the oppressor, the rich, the powerful, thinking that somehow they will change the world into a better place. We are caught in this conflict. There is the fight between citizens and police, between the left or the right political party, between the different religious zealousy. There is the fight between children and parents, between spouses, between the leader and the people, between men and women, and it goes on and on. This conflict manifests in a million different forms. And if one is familiar with history, another million different forms in the past. This is our life. So how are we to end this conflict? Because if there is no ending of conflict, either politically, socially, religiously, or psychologically, there is no peace, no space for love and a life that is good and whole.
So, seeing our life is the conflict, is the breeding ground of contradiction, what do we do? Isn't that the question? But are we asking this question at all? Or are we just letting all this by, tolerating the conflict and suffering, and going on our merry ways? If we do not care, are not concerned about the ending of conflict, then we continue it, we let it grow and fester until one day we must face its destruction. The world, as it is now, is heading toward destruction. If we are at all sensitive to what is going on around us, to our zealous ideals and cruel opinions, to our violence which seems to burst out of nowhere, then we see that this conflict, which is a human crisis, is extremely urgent. So, facing this crisis, which is the crisis of conflict, what shall we do? Now that we ask this question, and do not escape from the question, what do we do?
This is when some say, the only hope for peace is in a utopia, in another political system, in reformation, in revolution which results in bloodshed, or in some wisdom contained in a book. Or some say, follow Jesus, or believe in Allah, or a priest, a person standing on a podium or wearing some religious garment. Marxism is used as one of the many ways to dissolve this human conflict. Many religions have been used as the solutions. If we have searched, dug into this problem of conflict, then we see that we are faced with a marketplace of solutions. Technology, veganism, yoga, or some cult which sucks your money and energy dry. What we see is, essentially, that people offer solutions, and they say, do this and conflict will end. So this has been our pattern also. Historically, the priests and the religious teachers offered a great many solutions, yet human conflict continued. We might go to church every Sunday, read the Bible and pray to God and what have you, but from Monday to Friday we are still competitive, aggressive, willing to kill for more money or fame or spiritual enlightenment. So we must ask, are these solutions practical? Do they solve the problem of conflict at all? Or are they simply another way of exploitation, and therefore they are actually the breeding ground of conflict?
This game of the teacher offering the student some miraculous teaching so that the student can end conflict in life is a very old game. It existed since we invented religion and God, since we prayed and worshiped to images on a wall or a book in our hands. So, is there a new solution? Or are all solutions old? Therefore, we must observe these solutions being offered. We must see them for what they are, without prejudice, without our hope and attachment to them, for if we are attached to these solutions, either the Quran or a teacher, we cannot see them objectively. When we are attached to them, we defend them, we want them to survive or continue, or to be right and virtuous. So, if we could, just for this moment, without any sense of attachment to these solutions, look at them. What are these solutions? Don't they all prescribe some form of action? Read this book. Follow this teacher in the forests. Abide by these principles. Study this yoga system. Vote for this politician. Establish this utopia. And so on. So these solutions all tell us to do something. Yet can any form of action dissolve conflict?
Action implies, does it not, the doer and the thing being done. There is always the division between someone who acts and the thing acted upon. Now, when we observe our life, can peace be brought about through acting on something, or is that very action the beginning of conflict? This is a very important point, that most of us might be unwilling to accept. We don't have to accept anything, only seeing the fact as is. So, can conflict be ended through action?
To end conflict with action means, doesn't it, to bring about order in the disorder. This order is always presupposed. The preacher might say that order is to have little desires, to love your neighbor, to pray each night and so on. The revolutionary might say that order is to have a perfect system, is to eradicate money or prejudice, is to have a reformed law or better politicians. So there is always a plan, a blueprint. This blueprint is to be imposed on our life, which is the fact, the real, and then order shall prevail. The guru might tell you to meditate for thirty minutes every day. Again, this is order, presupposed, planned, and being imposed on life. So we might get up early in the morning, and meditate on one thing or another for a month and so on. But can this bring about peace, order? Or is the very imposition of order the cause of further conflict and pain?
So, you see, this goes very deeply into the very foundation of our life. Our life is lived through this process of the ideal and reality. We conform our life to this ideal, either the political or religious, and we hope to bring about peace and love. There is always the image of a good life, a loving life, an orderly life in our mind, and we then impose this image onto our actual life, which is not good, with hatred and disorder and so on. This is our pattern. No matter it is in business, agriculture, or intimate relationships, we do this. We always have the hope. We hope our spouse can be more supportive. We hope our politicians have more backbone. We hope no one will take our land and resources. We hope the disaster won't come because of the brewing war and hatred. Through this hope, we make up the ideal society, the ideal relationship, and we then conform our life to it. We say, do yoga every day so you can feel peaceful. We say, as long as there is capitalism we cannot have peace, so we must abolish it all. Our life is to be manipulated, controlled, handled in a thousand ways until we can have peace. Yet this has been our pattern. The oldest priests in the ancient times did exactly this trick. The countless revolutionaries with their blueprints and utopias did exactly this trick. But what have we got in the end? Are we peaceful? Is our life finally without conflict? Unfortunately, our life is still conflict.
Isn't this imposition of the ideal the source of conflict? The husband wants the wife to be more supportive. The parent wants the child to succeed. The zealots want life lived exactly according to a book. We conform to an ideal body image, to an examplar person, to the wise or the knowledgeable. We are all the time wanting to be better, more money and power, more ways to satisfy ourselves, more positions and people to have sex with, more toys and entertainments, more flavors, more drugs and experiences, more divine visions. So we are not only all the time in conflict with each other, but also in conflict with ourselves. This conflict is the division between life and the ideal. Whereas, without the ideal, is life caught in this perpetual conflict?
You might say that someone might still come up and try to beat you or destroy you. That is true. But how do we handle this event? Do we handle it with the ways of conflict, or do we face it with peace? And to face it with peace isn't to let the other beat you, which is unintelligent. It also does not mean to beat back, to reduce the other into ashes. To face any challenge without the ideal means to observe, simply observe, because there is no longer what should be done and only what is, and action will come out of that observation. Therefore, this question of what if someone comes out of nowhere with violence has no meaning, because we are only talking about hypothetical situations. Whereas to face life factually can only happen in this moment. So are we facing life? Do we observe life without any ideal? Are we doing this now? It does not matter what event or incident we face, but is there this observation without action? When we so observe, without trying to transform the observed, is there conflict?
So the ending of conflict is this act of observation, and this observation is love. There isn't the choice to observe one instead of the other. One observes both the violence and the gentleness of the world. One observes both the good and the evil in oneself. So love is in another dimension as the observed, yet it can see life, the whole of life, exactly and sanely. The love of life is the ending of division. To love life is to love the birds, the burning forests, the graves, the enormous human violence and suffering. Love does not choose. Love is the action of unconditional perception. You love the mountains and the pollution, the filth in the city and the clear sky in the countryside. You love the smoke and the noise as well as the sound of magpies and crows. You love the temples, the mosques, the wars and bigotry. To love is not to partake in anything, only to see. And out of this seeing, this sensitivity, action will operate intelligently. And only if each human being can live from this love, this perception without conflict, can there be a total transformation of our society.
What's on your mind? Discuss...