The more one hears about all the things one's ancestors believed in, the more one can be inclined to distrust much of what is said that is not backed by hard evidence. And yet, even many former "facts" of the world that have been backed by what was deemed in other times as hard-enough evidence are now seen a laughable light. The sun is no longer popularly perceived to revolve around the Earth; the world is understood to be (mostly) round, etc. But how do we know what we take as evidence for showing us the way things are and how they work is indeed enough? How close are we to the truth concerning our existence and purpose, or what everything else has to do with us (i.e., our surroundings, or our co-inhabitants of this planet whether living or inert)? Perhaps this is such a big question that many people have simply put it on hold in the recesses of their minds, or else throwing it completely from the mind so as to concentrate on the day-today tasks at hand. Perhaps it is long past the time when we should consider such things with renewed interest and contemplation.
The problem is that in looking at our human nature, we can be quite blinded by ourselves, to the extent that the results we find in our studies can be very biased, often without our being able to see exactly how. Perhaps the most logical way of dealing with this dilemma is also claimed by mystics to be the oldest: to strive with much will and discipline to shed oneself of all that might cloud our perception, effectively becoming a person who in some way has transcended beyond a state of being that is constantly worrying about the self, its image, its survival, its transgressions. If it sounds difficult, that is because it is, at least for those who have already picked up the excess baggage of culture from society. Moreover, those who have managed to break through all self delusions do not necessarily become recognizable as having done such a thing. It would be their veil that is lifted, not that of their observer. One could possibly walk down the street right past someone who sees things in an entirely different way and not know it. Things are not as they seem, and this applies to everything. Often complex mysteries are bafflingly simple once certain key elements are understood and known. Or, more often, simple explanations and statements have far more substance and portent than their image of simplicity would allow. That is why if some of the views to be explained below are found to be either too narrow or too all-encompassing, too simple or too complicated, it is the responsibility of the reader to find out more, and understand why that is so.
In the books Ishmael (by Daniel Quinn) and The Te of Piglet (by Benjamin Hoff), the authors have tried to make available a view of the world that is not often understood, or at least publicly embraced, by modern peoples. Each book offers an insight into why we humans seem to encounter so many problems in our lives in comparison to other living beings on this planet. More than just mere survival, we worry about countless things and seem to function on a variety of different levels of emotion as well as logic. Humans can be so complicated, they are confusing even to themselves. And yet, there seems to be one particular way of looking at the world that has manifested itself throughout time in many different cultures and peoples across the world. It is the one that declares the root of all our troubles (as well as many of our vices) to be deeply connected to one thing: the deluded self that craves. Whether it craves for life out of the delusion of superiority as is the heavy case made in Ishmael or the myriad selfish tendencies that create discord in life as viewed by Taoists according to Hoff, the central issue is largely one that derives from human delusions of knowledge and responsibility.
We think we know what is right, but somehow we feel somewhat bad when the unintended consequences rear their ugly head. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we seem to carry the responsibility of the world on our shoulders. This is manifested in the clamors of people demanding that we stop polluting the world, stop the wars we are prone to waging, stop treating everything with disrespect. But is the responsibility really ours? Some of them may well seem to be, but the responsibility to stop the juggernaut of human movement that pushes all toward the uncertain future, to stop all the destruction that it leaves in its wake, that sounds rather like too much for any one person to accomplish. Did the many species of animals that have gone extinct because of our careless actions deserve their erasure? That is very hard to say, but most are inclined to say no. What this implies is that whatever the mess that humans are struggling with amongst themselves, it is certainly dragging a lot of others into ruin with them. The only way to stop the momentum of this is to open ones eyes to see things in different lights.
last updated 5/24/03webmaster