you are a river. seek the ocean.
two ways of being and how to choose between them
Who are we really here to be?
I think there are two broad ways of being.
In the first, the mind is the master of the spirit. Compassion, forgiveness, grace, rebellion, creativity, and so on, the products of the spirit, are yoked to the mind. The mind calculates the advantage in them. The mind is the end, and the spirit is the means.
This is the Western way, or just the modern way. It produces material abundance, for a few. But it also creates tremendous, needless suffering. Perhaps more than the abundance it also produces. For every winner of this game is also a loser. Abundance is predicated on envy, greed, fear, anger, is it not? Whether towards the earth, the neighbor, the self. Fear, anxiety, greed, are natural products of the mind. The mind is ego. It calculates, separates, turns everything into an object. So it is always looking to see who has more, who has less, and abscribing to us our own sense of self-worth and status thereby.
We feel a great emptiness in this way of life, do we not? We try to plug this emptiness with things, possessions, entertainment. But it never really disappears. The only salve for a disappearing spirit is love, right? But if the mind is the master of the spirit, who will love? That is the central question facing us today, is it not? From the rise of demagogues to the implosion of the middle class, we can see now the consequences of putting mind over spirit. A way of life in which there is too little love, and too much calculation, objectification, fear, anxiety, mind.
The second way is where the spirit is the master of the mind. It is the old way, the timeless way, the ageless way. The Greeks at their highest understood it, Buddha sitting beneath the tree discovered it, Jesus on the cross died for it. Here, the spirit is the end, and the mind is a means. Calculation, categorization, and so on, are just tools with which to expand compassion, forgiveness, truth, love. That is their true aim. When we meditate, and pray, and give, and serve, when we walk away from careers and relationships and jobs we know are wrong, even when we are just kind, true, forgiving, grateful, then we are in this way of being.
The first way is an acquisitive way of being. What are we really doing by putting mind over spirit? We are trying to acquire. Not just stuff, but emotions. The sports car might give us exhilaration, or esteem, the lover might give us superiority, or gratification, and so on. The objects are just way to feel. But should they be? Can they be?
The second way is a giving way of being. What are we really doing by putting spirit over mind? We are giving, right? The spirit is something that must be shared to come alive. So the whole point and purpose of the second way is to share the human spirit. When I act with humility, compassion, justice, and so on, I am simply sharing my spirit, opening myself, revealing myself, to you, am I not? The Greeks called this arete, Christ called this virtue, Buddha rightness, and so on.
We have to choose between these two ways in our own lives, too, right? Acquisition or giving, as ways of being in this world, right here and now. Either our minds are masters of our spirits, or vice versa. So which one should we choose?
I’ll these the false way, and the true way. Not in the sense of judgment. But just in a descriptive sense.
The first way is false. In a simple logical sense. Ultimately, we are acquiring things to find fulfillment, right? But we can never have it that way. The most we will ever gain is pleasure. Why? Because the spirit has already withered away. It has been underdeveloped, undernourished, and so left stunted. But the spirit is what must be fulfilled, is it not? So we are trying to fulfill a thing by stifling it in the first place.
It is in this sense that the first way is false. It can yield us a little bit of pleasure. But pleasure dulls us, because the more we have of it, the less we feel in it. Fulfillment is the opposite. The more we have of it, the more we feel in it. Pleasure is playing a video game. But fulfillment is becoming an ocean.
The second way is true. Again, in a simple logical sense, not a judgmental one. Now we are harnessing the little capacities of the mind, calculation, conceptualization, and so forth, not to limit, but to produce compassion, forgiveness, understanding, defiance, grace, truth. And where they don’t, we discard them, because they have no real use at all. Now we can be fulfilled, right? Because we finally understand what fulfillment is.
When I share my spirit with you, when I open myself to you, then I grow fulfilled. I am not myself anymore. I am something greater than me or you. What am I? I am just love, acting through being. Now I am free, and in that freedom is what I have been seeking all along. Liberation from the illusion I call myself. I am not a drop in the ocean. The whole ocean is in me.
Every small act of love brings us closer to the ocean. That ocean is what we really are. And that is all fulfillment really is. Coming home.
Should we trade pleasure for the fulfillment of knowing what we really are? That is the same thing as saying: should we choose the false path, or the true path?
You already know the answer. You always have. And that is the answer to the last question. You are just a river, seeking the ocean. How could you already know the answer any other way?