“man in white shirt and gray jeans” by Joseph Gruenthal on Unsplash

The Freedom of Uncertainty

In the last few weeks, maybe months, everything I thought I knew has been turned on its head. Actually, it’s worse than that; it’s become clear to me that I can’t truly know anything.

All the concepts I carried around, such as who I am, where I am, what is happening, and my purpose, have all been revealed to be like a security blanket that I’ve been holding onto tightly just in case an asteroid hits me. These hollow concepts offer no real security, and, in fact, are a distraction from the only true security, which is the reality of what’s actually happening.

It has been said that mental health is the extent to which you don’t take your thoughts seriously. This resonates with what I’ve been experiencing. Even though what I’m saying can sound crazy, it’s only because reality cannot be properly explained using concepts.

Psychosis seems to occur when what is imagined is believed to be a truthful reference to reality: it’s believed that a thought somehow represents reality directly. For example, when there is paranoia, there is a thought that other people are against you, and you believe that thought as being rooted in reality. This leads to fear of something that is not real.

It’s becoming clear to me that most of us humans spend most of the time in a form of group psychosis, centered around concepts that don’t seem to be based in reality, such as an experiencer (or self), the past and the future, free will, and cause and effect.

I know it sounds crazy, but when I actually look for these concepts in what is obviously here, they’re clearly not present in any real sense. Yes, we can reify these concepts into an apparently self-consistent conceptual structure by referencing other concepts, but what any of these concepts seem to actually try to reference cannot be found in what’s obvious. It seems that we have been living in a fearful trance, believing in imaginary things.

Show me time. Show me space. Show me self. Show me past. Show me future. Show me now. Show me here. It’s impossible to point to what these concepts apparently refer to in this reality. Any attempt to point to these things always devolves into a story of concepts. All of these things are clearly illusions.

But what’s left when there are no concepts? What’s left is this, which is all there is. Look around, listen, feel, smell, taste, think, remember, imagine. It’s so obvious that this is all there is. There is seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting, thinking, remembering, imagining, and concepting. That’s all. There is nothing apart from what’s happening.

This can seem radical and bizarre, but it’s just obvious. What is happening is the only thing I can know. What can be known is those things themselves, what those concepts point to. For example, seeing is happening, but I have no way of truly describing seeing. As soon as I start labeling it and creating a structure of knowing on top of it, seeing is not really happening anymore. Then concepting is happening.

We spend most of our time in a trance of concepting. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just that we’re concepting when we believe that we’re seeing. This is true of everything that’s happening: concepting is happening when we think hearing is happening, so hearing is missed. So we end up believing that reality is just concepts, mostly concepts about what is not real, which is deeply unsatisfying. Reality is not a bag of concepts; reality is clearly what’s obvious.

Anyway, I’ve been noticing this normal onslaught of concepts, and somehow I’ve been not taking them seriously. As I do this it feels like I’m falling. I’m falling into what is happening, allowing that to be what it is. It can be scary, but what else am I going to do? I can’t pretend anymore that all these concepts are real.

In that falling, that allowing reality to be as it is—unknowable, unpredictable, uncontrollable—I am beginning to recognize that there is freedom. There is freedom from an imaginary struggle. There is freedom from the bracing against all there is. There is freedom from running around endlessly in the imaginary hall of mirrors trying to avoid facing that there is only this. There is freedom in accepting that I am absolutely trapped in reality. This is the freedom of no escape.

There is only the uncomfortable feeling in my abdomen. There is only the cold sensation on my back. There is only the pressure under my forearms. There is only the thoughts of what I should do today. Yes, there are the concepts that I just used to write about that experiencing, but there is also the underlying experiencing that those concepts are pointing to. These are not pointers to something special, esoteric, or mystical; these are pointers to what is obvious, but which keeps, somehow, being missed again and again.

I seem to be allowing myself to fall backwards into reality, letting go totally and sinking back into what is happening, allowing it to wash over me, to flood through me, to flush out the layers of concepts and beliefs, to wash me clean of knowing, of understanding, of certainty. Reality (what is obvious), the ultimate bleach, seems to be washing me clean of any stain of specialness, washing me so clean that nothing is left.

All that is left is everything, this right now, what is obvious to us. Not hidden. Not special. Not in the future. Not hard to attain. Not reachable. Not something to be earned. Not something to get. Requiring no realization. This freedom is letting go into uncertainty.