In The Shape Of A Self

“There was an interesting phrase you used in your last post. It was a biblical reference – “the lion lays down with the lamb”. I think everyone harbors a secret belief that such a utopia can exist. Every culture seems to have some version of this. New agers talk about a “consciousness shift” happening on the planet. Seems like given the current state of affairs we need it now more than ever. I’d like to get your take on this. Can such a utopia exist? Is a world possible in which all beings are enlightened?”


Yes, it’s possible. That’s the world I see.

Except my utopia is one in which the lion DEVOURS the lamb and in turn in devoured by the Earth. It’s a magical world in which life appears from the earth then feeds on the earth and is eventually fed TO the earth with not one single particle of matter or code of consciousness being destroyed in the process. And through these cycles of birthing, devouring and decaying, new forms emerge in an eternal creative play.

The kind of world in which the lion lays down with the lamb is a dystopian world to me. If both the lion and the lamb are peaceful and satiated, then at what or who’s cost? If they are simply content to take and sacrifice nothing of themselves in the process, then that kind of life is linear rather than cyclical. It means it starts and ends. It means it is finite. And if there are no cycles of learning and evolution, then the creative impulse is virtually non-existent. This sounds like a dead and barren world to me lacking any spark.

In the world I see, all beings are enlightened. How could it be any other way? When standing in the sun are you illuminated any less by it whether you are looking towards it or away? You are aware, I am aware, we are all aware. What we are aware of may differ. But we are all aware in equal measure. Our minds are illuminated by this awareness. Our minds are “enlightened” by it.

Yet, every person on whom the sunlight falls must cast a shadow. This shadow is simply the result of the physics of light. And it is similarly the physics of consciousness that determines that every being illuminated by awareness must cast a shadow. That shadow is a space of darkness. A space where the light doesn’t reach. And the shadow is the shape in which we ourselves exist. It takes the shape of the self.

A person staring at the shadow on the ground and perceiving only its unfathomable darkness may cry out, “Oh what a tragic state of affairs! I wish I could be enlightened!” And if by some fortunate event he were to turn around to face the sun and perceive its brilliant light, he may exclaim, “Oh glory be! I am finally enlightened!”

But what has really changed? Was he any less illuminated by the sun when he was staring at his shadow than when he turned to face it? His perspective has shifted yet the reality of his position has not. He was enlightened before, he is enlightened now. The only difference is he wasn’t aware of it before, he is aware of it now.

And further, now that he is facing towards the sun, does this mean that he will no longer cast a shadow? Does being aware of the sun’s rays allow him to orient himself in a way that exempts him from casting a shadow?

Fixated towards the light, he may forget that there is a darkness right behind him that continues to exist in the shape of his self. And as his eyes track the sun across the sky, unbeknownst to him, his shadow is growing in size. Yet, he may ignore it believing that what is behind him is of no consequence. But is this shadow not also a reality?

As with the human individual so with the collective.

As the Earth rotates on its axis and daylight dawns on one half of humanity, night falls on the other half. Just as those who seek progress, understanding and liberation appear to be making headway, new kinds of regress, ignorance and bondage emerge. Yet, this very regress, ignorance and bondage forms the context of a new kind of progress, understanding and liberation yet to come. It is only from the darkness of night that a new day can emerge.

Then how can one dispel ignorance altogether? Why would one even want to? Can the earth exist without one half being cast in shadow?

What we call ignorance is that shadow that is cast. Those who live in the darkness of ignorance exist in the shadow of those crowding for the light. We who consider ourselves awake, knowledgeable, progressive are unaware that there are others who live in the very shadow we have cast. And, when tired of living in those shadows, they finally mutiny and overwhelm us, it will be they who face the sunlight and we who are forced into their shadows. Glance back at the history of civilization and you will see this has always been so.

As horrific as this sounds, is this not simply the dynamic of the earth spinning on its axis; as one half of the world casts the other into darkness in order to face the light?

Now you may ask: “is this crowding for the light while casting others into shadow really necessary? Couldn’t we all just face the light together?”

If we did, who would ever tend to our shadows? If we ourselves are oblivious and there are no others forced to face and overcome them, then those shadows would grow unchecked. And further, what would be our impetus to grow and evolve?

The rainforest with its lofty canopy can only exist because of this very phenomenon of “crowding for the light”. As great trees aspire to face the sun, others unable to keep up are forced to adapt various other strategies to survive. And from this basic premise one of the world’s richest ecosystems with more than ten million unique life forms are born. Would I deny the very impetus that would drive such a creative effort?

You speak of utopia in terms of perfection but what does that “perfection” mean to you? Does it signify an ending where nothing more must change? Does it signify a completion? To me when something is completed, it has ended. That is death.

To me, perfection is not within the process but IS the process itself. There is only incompletion.

It is perfect, to me, that the lion would devour the lamb.

It is perfect, to me, that as society progresses in certain aspects it also regresses in others.

It is perfect, to me, that as we grow in scientific knowledge there is a growing resistance towards it.

It is perfect, to me, that as medicine evolves, strains of viruses and bacteria that threaten our well-being proliferate.

It is perfect, to me, that just as the liberal progressive view gains a firm foothold in world politics, conservative populist thinking resurges to shake that foothold.

It is perfect, to me, that great mystics and spiritual teachers turn out to be abusive and exploitative people and shake people’s faith in external authority figures.

It is perfect, to me, that the oppressed minorities of the past have shifted into the role of oppressing our freedoms in the name of tolerance.

It is perfect, to me, that every version of utopia man has ever created has eventually devolved into a dystopian reality.

To quote Alanis Morissette: “Isn’t it Ironic? Don’t ya think?”

To me the irony is proof of life’s impeccability. The paradox is evidence of its perfection.

All this is perfect to me because the process is flawless. And I know that it is flawless because when I open my eyes every morning the universe is still there. This incredible complexity with infinite moving parts and relationships exists without a glitch.

Yet, what we still haven’t figured out after all these years of civilization is that if shit isn’t broken then there is no need to fix it.

Placing ourselves at the center of the universe and at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of sentience we’ve come to believe that WE are the purpose for which life has come into existence. We believe WE are the chosen ones who must safeguard all of this bounty we see. And it is this self-fulfilling prophecy of our own extraordinariness as a species that causes us to resist the inevitable laws that govern the rest of life.

It is why we struggle against aging, struggle against disease, struggle against death. It’s why we refuse to accept that we are merely mortal like the other lesser creatures that inhabit the planet. It is why we are convinced of our own freedom of will. It is why we believe we possess an agency that can override that of Nature’s.

We assume that there is something broken. We believe that we have broken it. We believe that it now falls upon us to fix it. Because, from where we stand, it MUST be all about us.

Yet, in the world I see, there are no exceptions to the rule. Even aberrations and anomalies have a very precise design. Every disease, every virus or bacteria has a very specific role to play. And in that sense: humanity with our sentience, self-awareness, emotion and intellect are evolutions of nature designed to establish a certain outcome.

And perhaps the eventual purpose of this design is annihilation. Perhaps, nature seeks a clean slate and humanity is the eraser it has developed for that very purpose. Perhaps, instead of creating an algae that emits excessive methane and warms the planet, nature decided to create “humans” that would use industries to do it. “Algae”, “human” these are only words. One could very well conclude that “humans ARE that algae”. Plagues can exist in various forms.

Or perhaps there is some other utility we have. Regardless, for us to believe that we have the power or agency to choose the destiny of all life, is a bizarre illusion. And yet, even that illusion of agency is just another mechanism that nature has developed within us in order to motivate us towards achieving a specific outcome.

Amphibians were the first creatures to emerge from the ocean and bring sentient life to land. And even today every tadpole must make that ancient journey from water to land, that its ancestors first made, in order to emerge into their adult selves. The history of the universe exists within each and every one of us. The same cycles of creation, destruction and evolution play out on every scale of the universe from the subatomic to the galactic. Everything obeys the same impulse.

What could be more perfect?

But, this isn’t good enough for you.

You want a world which has no shadow. You want a world without darkness, without ignorance, without suffering. And feeling convinced of this, you have no choice but to try and eliminate that darkness and the suffering from the world.

But in the process you are really seeking to eliminate half the world.

And when each half of the world living in fear of darkness seeks to eliminate the other half, what we get is total erasure.

Perhaps, that is nature’s strategy after all.

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