And what if I have no valuable words? A powerful and concise permutation of words does not always evolve from what seems a potent thought. Sometimes the thought exists, persists, leads you to change your actions greatly; but it never gets delivered to others. Writing can sometimes just be meandering, but meandering around any sort of place can allow you to notice new things. When I am without purpose, my gaze is not confined to the spotlight of conscious attention. What have you noticed without attention? What ideas and feelings have flowed into your melting brain tissues, and perhaps, flowed right out? I think the things that come easiest to us may be of higher value than we really believe them to be.
Now I am not saying that things will always come easy to us, or that things that come easy to us are inherently more valuable than things we must work for. Often times the best things in life, the things that we want to make better, keep healthy, and grow need quite a lot of work. Our bodies, our relationships, our careers, all these things require a great deal of effort on our parts. But what do all these things have in common? All of these things, if deserving of our effort to maintain and grow them, first started from an effortless seed, a natural arisal of form and interest. From nothing came something. Although many of the good things in life require effort, it seems that when at a crossroad, the least amount of effort will lead us to the most natural and fruitful path.
This is not a case for complacency, a case for the road more traveled due to a lack of prideful decision making. It is a case for relinquishing yourself of trying so hard to make the right decision, the decision that you are frantically trying to forecast all possible outcomes of. As we will find out, this cannot be reasonably done by any human brain because only the universe, the ether, the void, the Tao, God or whatever you want to call it, can hold and unfold the outcomes. Just as Robert M. Pirsig wrote, “for every fact there is an infinity of hypotheses.”
This is what we use experiments for (whether scientific or not), for asking the universe, nature: “is this how this works?” And the universe responds: “Yes” or “No” or “Maybe”. We can think of a hypothesis and test it, but we can not think of all possible outcomes that could arise, we can only listen to what nature has to say. In our attempts to make the correct decision we often try to predict what will happen as a result of our decision, and honestly, a lot of times, we are fairly good at it. As humans, we can notice patterns and forecast events with our knowledge and well kept records of these patterns. But this attempt at forecasting, of forcing a decision based on what we think will happen can backlash with unexpected results: we did not think that would happen. This is simply because we do not have and can not hold all the information and the complex evolution of time and events to know how things will go down. At every point in time an infinite number of events could unfold, and if this point is “happening” constantly, well, you get the idea.
We can make pretty good guesses, but at the end of the day, we still are imposing a structured prediction on a dynamic and beyond-our-brains entity. So much of our pain and pitfalls can be traced back to imposing our own idea of structure on a world that is largely beyond our comprehension, and forgetting that we imposed this structure in the first place.
So I have proposed that life is a mix of effortless and effortful processes, or perhaps better put: mindless and mindful. It seems that an allocation of mindful and mindless efforts in the domains of life that call for them may be the best chance we have to enhance our experience. Let’s consider the three examples mentioned earlier: body, relationships and career.
Many will agree that relationships that deserve the sustained work and effort put into them arose spontaneously. Perhaps the lowest hanging fruit is romantic relationships and friendships. These relationships can be difficult to maintain (sometimes, not all the time), but the interest in one another seems to be the most natural, effortless and mindless thing ever. To many, attraction is this mix of forces: primitive, intellectual, spiritual amongst other things; and in all worthwhile relationships these connections arise naturally and easily, requiring little effort. Now, maintaining relationships through the ups-and-downs of life may require a lot of effort: missing out on things you like to meet in the middle, meeting parents, helping others when you barely have enough time to help yourself, etc. etc. but the interest in that person arises so easily and naturally from a place inside us that did not exist before we met that person. Each person is unique, and thus each interest in a person is unique. This means that interests must arise from scratch, every time. The fact that an interest in a person would not have existed before you met, and that each interest is unique, means that it was not made from other interests; it arose, out of nowhere. This can work in the opposite direction, interest itself can fade into nothing, just as it was grown out of nothing. This can be sad and difficult to swallow, leading us to try to maintain a relationship without that “effortless seed” anymore.
The arising of bodies into being is also an effortless and mindless endeavour. Certainly the act of sex and procreation does not require conscious attention. Some of our most effortless and mindless moments can produce infants without any foresight! New bodies can arise from an idea and an action, or without any idea at all. So where did these babies come from? Sperm and egg of course, but further? An idea seems a good answer. And what about this idea? Did it arise from an interest in another person? This loops us back to the interest argument. To contrast this spontaneous arisal of interest is the high level of conscious attention and effort required to maintain a body throughout a long life. This requires a great deal of eating, drinking water, moving, sleeping. Something that arose so effortlessly suddenly requires a lot of effort.
This same concept applies to careers. We all want to do what we love (yes some love solely the action of ‘making money’), or help people, or the world, or all three. The goal to do what we love and spend our life doing it requires the same no-effort, then high-effort sequence. We all know crafting a worthwhile career requires a great deal of effort, but interest in that career comes easy.
Perhaps if we let ourselves be mindless for a little while, out very natural interests will arise and become more and more clear. It appears that a little patience in letting interests naturally arises within us can go a long way in guiding us when we are at a metaphorical crossroad.
The thing is, we are always at a metaphorical crossroad because life can proliferate in an infinite number of ways from any point in time. So how do we consider the mindless aspects and the mindful aspects of our life simultaneously? I’m afraid I have no good answer. Although, I do think that in the same way a baseball player will practice their swing of the bat for hours on end only to then mindlessly swing the bat in the moment of a high-stakes game, we too can put in a great deal of effort into crafting our careers, maintain our bodies, and pouring ourselves into our relationships to then, in the moment, mindlessly let things arise and happen as natural as it will always happen. But in life, this moment of the “game” in which the baseball player is making his swing is happening constantly.