My Uncertainty Principle: A Modernist, Or, Perhaps Its a Post Post Modernist Zen Buddhist Priest Reflects on What’s What

ChristmasStory-SoapMouth
Early morning thoughts…

I find my heart and mind wandering to the thought of axioms. By axiom I’m thinking of an assertion that a person thinks is self-evidently true. And by a person, I’m thinking me.

What are those things that are the foundations of my conscious life? For the most part they’re derived from my Zen and Buddhist experiences wandering through the depths of my heart and mind. There is a rationalist and broadly humanistic sense as well, which has led me to align with the American semi-post Christian religion Unitarian Universalism. This hopeless stew of views are then washed through a mess of perspectives derived from what I understand of psychology, anthropology, religion, biology, particularly evolutionary biology, and what I’m told of physics, and particular astro-physics. So, a terrible mess. No doubt a hopeless mess.

I have little interest in the biggest picture except as it has consequences to our life on this planet, and especially about being human. As I look at it, I find my interests are almost exclusively concerned with what it means to be a human being.

I am driven by what appears to be a pretty basic human urge that manifests as three questions. Why am I here? What is going to happen to me? And, how do I live? This last part has two aspects of its own. How do I live into what I’ve come to call wisdom? And how do I respond to the world as I encounter it?

So, first, my global view. Those axioms that drive pretty much everything I think and do. I believe that there are no “essences” separate from the phenomenal universe. I believe this universe is, in a sense “what you see is what you get,” although by “see,” I simply mean there is no substance that is not part of the universe and which floats in and out. That is I do not see a God separate from what is, nor souls that are only passing trough the universe. Rather I see that every “thing” is created through conditions coming together, exists for a time, and then break up into the creation of new momentary things.

I believe consciousness is a mysterious thing that births out of many conditions absolutely rooted in biology, and so in one sense can be said to be epiphenomenal to brain function. However, I notice this “mind” that emerges has some kind of quasi independence. And here’s the mystery, some kind of ability to “see” that comes with this mind. Why I am unclear. But, as a matter of reality, we are able to see and to reflect and out of that to alter our actions. To some degree. How much, I am unclear. But I believe we have freedom to move, at least to some degree.

So, these descriptions provide answers, or point to answers for my questions. As to the first two: I am here because of the confluence of conditions. My existence is temporary. When the parts that make me “fall apart,” that is the conditions which are all dynamic move on, there will be a disruption of that quasi independent consciousness. And with that the thing that calls itself James, will cease to be.

Although as it seems time itself is something of a mystery having to do with relationships, there appears to b a sense in which this thing I call me continues in some sense, as all things continue, and as all things at the very same time have never existed. Strange and mysterious and kind of beautiful. But, in the sense of from birth to death, that existence has both a beginning and an ending. And with this, the very terms “meaning” and “meaningless” cease to compute. Rather there is some great “is” of which we are a part.

So, how do I live?

The first part is that continuing looking. I find I am drawn into the interior life, to witnessing the unfolding, and understanding both a global experience of connection to the whole glorious mess, and to unfolding the connections that in their patterns create the dynamic I call me. So, both a “spiritual” and a “psychological” project.

For me the psychological is my concerned with acting in a more healthful way. That is acting in ways that make my life happier, and as I feel deeply connected, makes other lives happier. Which is more about the second project of acting in the world. But, the “spiritual” part, that actual pursuit of what I guess I have to call the nondual, the “isness” thing, this apparent ability to see, and when seeing without grasping one idea or another, but rather just witnessing, I find what almost seems the purpose of life – to know. Although the function of this knowing is a kind of unknowing. It is an opening, rather than a closing. The why of this eludes me. But, it seems the point. It feels the point.

And tied up with this is how to live into the world. I notice what I think of as two contending biological urges that make up our consciousnesses as human beings in relationship. One is a need for harmony, for the “fair.” And, the other is an urge to “cheat.” That is to gain an edge for myself and my closest. This creates a creative tension that births human society.

Out of this I find myself more interested in the fair, and to be of use in the creation of fairer conditions for us all. Here at this “level” of things is where words like meaning and meaninglessness speak to realities. In practice this has led me to identify more with the leftward expressions of our contemporary North American political lives. Although with some cautions driven by my sense of uncertainty.

And that’s the last part of all this, for me. I am driven by what I call the uncertainty principal. Here I find an attempt to never know with absolute certainty. I strive with uneven results to hold everything as a working hypothesis. This is not an excuse to not be involved. But it is a small hesitation about every thought I have, and every action I undertake. I think of this as my primary spiritual discipline.

As I said, early morning thoughts…