It’s funny how, every once in a while, if you listen to the subtle messages unfolding around you on a constant basis, you pick up on a pattern of small bits of information that seem to build into something substantial. That happened to me recently on the general topic of effortlessness. Like many would-be adepts, I have a number of daily practices that I fit into various parts of the day. Sometimes they pay off with feelings of increased awareness or energy but, if I were being totally honest, most of the time they feel like drudge-work… a part of the day that occurs more out of habit than anything else… with the basic idea being one of consistency rather than joy.
I was listening to the latest Sam Harris podcast today and ran across an interesting take on something that should be familiar to most Western Ceremonial Magicians. Eric Weinstein was talking about finding meaning in license plate numbers as he drives around (don’t we all do that when we first start on the Path?) and the way he explained it was:
"...it's important to notice what it feels like to discern meaning where there is no meaning... it's important to get in touch with the "as if madness" experience in order to guard against madness; so I'm hoping to suspend my insistence on Truth for periods of time..."
I’m not sure about the connection with madness, per-se… and I’m wondering if that wasn’t just a ploy designed to wrap up the thought before getting interrupted. I realized when he said that that another good reason for discerning meaning where there is none is to prevent intellectual ossification (my term… it didn’t appear in the podcast, as far as I know). The belief that one particular way of looking at things must serve as the filter through which we see everything else from that point forward seems to be common in most philosophies and pretty much all religions. Adherence to a strict theology makes us less able to evaluate contrary ideas on their own merit. On the other hand, by constantly playing fast and loose with one’s synaptic network, so to speak, one might stand a chance of maintaining enough mental flexibility to recognize a true Epiphany when it finally does come.
It’s ironic that avoiding intellectual ossification was one of the main points that Sam was trying to convey just moments earlier… that there’s no logical reason to use one or more points-of-view which happen to have been elaborated thousands of years ago over new points-of-view developed by one’s own reason in the present time. Of course, that’s easier said than done and when most people start on any sort of Philosophical or Spiritual Path, they’re usually not capable of the kind of deep reasoning that would discern the “true meaning” of the Universe at first glance… so we may need to use ancient philosophy and religion as a crutch for a while… in order to bootstrap our thinking to the point where we can reason with some depth on the Universe and our purpose within it. But I expect that we all have to eventually drop the rhetoric and design our own systems based on First Principles.
I was listening to an interview with the authors of the new book The Distracted Mind on NPR this morning and they touched on a favorite pet peeve of mine that centers on a basic misunderstanding of the term multitasking. According to Wikipedia, the first published use of the term “multitask” appeared in an IBM paper describing the capabilities of the IBM System/360 in 1965. Is is only recently that the term has been used in the common vernacular to refer to the apparent ability of humans to “concentrate” on more than one task at a time.