Thursday, March 24, 2016


You find yourself in a strange situation called "life." You think you've been here for decades, but it's impossible to know for sure. Maybe you were dropped here five seconds ago, and everything before that is a fake memory. Hell, maybe not even five seconds ago -- maybe only now.

So here you are, in a completely fresh -- not to mention outrageously surprising and wondrous -- situation called "life."

And it just keeps fucking happening. What's going on here? Isn't that the most pressing question of all? By far?

Okay, so you learned a bunch of stuff in school. The official story explains everything: quarks and photons and neurotransmitters, oh my! But you're not satisfied. You want to dig deeper, somehow. Where to dig?

Maybe you start by noticing that you've never actually experienced time.

Wait, what?

Well, from your perspective, it's always now. "The past" is an inference you make from a present experience called "memory." "The future" is just another label for "anticipation." You don't need to worry about whether these things "really exist" -- you just notice that the only versions of them you'll ever know about are mere inferences, and nothing more. No matter how good those inferences are, they're still just inferences. You feel compelled to dig deeper. Deeper!

Okay, what can we be totally damn sure about? That we don't have to infer?

Let's start simple: something is happening.

Whoa, hold on cowboy. You're moving too fast. Let's start simpler: something seems to be happening.

Close your eyes. Feel the feeling of your feet on the ground. You don't know whether there are really feet or really a ground, but there's for sure a seemingness you call feeling.

Open your eyes. From the void springs forth... colors! Holy shit. More seemingness, this time with a different name: vision.

Your whole world seems to be constructed of seemingness. You can't really get simpler than this seemingness, and everything else seems to reduce to it!

"I'm alive!" is nothing more than some fancy words meaning... "wow, seemingness!"

"Wow, a universe exists!" Just another cry expressing the sheer, surprising recognition: "seemingness!"

"I'm conscious!" Yet again: seemingness!

Life, the universe, existence, consciousness! All these mysteries, just different expressions of the one. Without seemingness, would you think (or even be able to think) "life?" With seemingness, don't you necessarily come to the conclusion "life?"

At last, the necessary and sufficient condition.

But is this the big prize we've been waiting for? It seems awfully trivial. I mean, what can you do with it? Philosophize about it? Gawk at it? In what way can this information possibly help you?

Well, if it's left as information, it can't. Instead, you might try to soak in it.

Of course, it being all there really "is" anyway, aren't you already doing that? Yes -- but are you doing it knowingly? Moreover, are you doing it without layering lots of philosophizing on top?

Maybe you don't think of yourself as a philosopher, but actually all of your moments are (typically) loaded with metaphysical assumptions. For example, you probably feel dead certain that time exists. What else?

When seemingness appears in the form of vision -- for example, as a red circle -- you infer the existence of an object causing the vision as well as a subject (you) viewing it. But if you could actually drop the inference for a second you might describe it as the circle being self-luminous: it's not that there's a you aware of it; but by its mere existence, it is "aware of itself." (You might be able to get a glimpse of it with a simple practice: close your eyes and feel the sensation of your feet on the floor. Can you see what might be being pointed at to call this sensation a self-aware or self-luminous blob?)

This structuring of seemingness into subject and object is so transparent to you that you may not even understand what I'm pointing at. Like with time, the inference is so deeply ingrained that you can't imagine what life might be like without it. Perhaps you can't even detect it.

But this post isn't meant to take you all the way to undermining your metaphysical assumptions. Nor can I claim that I've gotten underneath all of mine.

It's just to suggest: maybe, at last, we've found a good place to dig into The Question.

If you're into meditation, occasionally check if your meditation is "above" or "below" the layer of your metaphysical assumptions. Does it feel like there's a "you" doing a thing called "meditating" through time? If so, maybe discover techniques that allow you to cut through those layers, if only for a second here and there.
When you start to dream, the dream begins as a thought, like one you would have in the daytime. But you’re asleep, so the thought intensifies and becomes something like talk or gossip, and then the gossip intensifies or solidifies into images, and then you really think that you’re seeing people, seeing places, going places, and so on. And that is how it works with conventional appearances [i.e., seemingly physical reality] as well.
-- Thrangu Rinpoche
If this is true, and we're weaving a seeming physical reality, where would you find a thread to pull on and unravel it all?

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