Empathy & Existence
I listened to an amazing song today called “Dreams” by Nuages. In the song, Nuages samples a speech from philosopher and writer Alan Watts called “The Dream of Life”.
If you awaken from this illusion and you understand that black implies white, self implies other, life implies death, you can feel yourself — not as a stranger in the world, not as something here unprobational, not as something that has arrived here by fluke — but you can begin to feel your own existence as absolutely fundamental.
Watts elaborates on this further by proposing a theoretical dream world in which you have the liberty to do and experience anything you can imagine or desire, for as long as you want but condensed into a single night of sleep.
He says that after the first few nights of being able to do whatever you could possibly wish for, you would grow numb to the self-directed stimuli that you have under your control.
To change it up a little bit, you decide to dream a dream that isn’t under your control.
And you would dig that and would come out of that and you would say “Wow that was a close shave, wasn’t it?”. Then you would get more and more adventurous and you would make further- and further-out gambles what you would dream. And finally, you would dream where you are now. You would dream the dream of living the life that you are actually living today.
In the second passage, a small child asks Zen Master Seung Sahn what the purpose of life is in a series of inquisitive questions, “Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why did my cat die? Where did he go?”, each time the Zen Master tells the child, “KATZ!”. When the child asks his last question, “What will happen when I die?”, he stops himself and tells the Zen Master that he understands and then he shouts “KATZ!”.
At the end of the day what Watts, Zen Master Seung Sahn, and presence tells us (at least in my interpretation) is that existence is universal in all elements. This involves the acceptance of all perspectives whether good or bad both in the world and in our own lives. Of course it’s a lot easier said than done with people dedicating their lives to reach a state like that.
In a perfect world we could all walk around feeling totally okay even when something bad happens because we’re all flawlessly zenned out, but we don’t live in a perfect world.
If I were to boil it down to an interpretation that’s more pragmatic: understand that every individual is living through their own unique recipe of existence.
Try to approach life in all forms whether it’s others, the self, or physical space with true empathy. You can never live their life through their eyes but as Watts says, “…black implies white, self implies other, life implies death…”