For 26 years I have tried to answer the question, Is there morality? Why do people hurt one another? What is the purpose of life? And dozens of other spiritual, moral and philosophical questions that tried to help me understand why and how things functioned in this world. Until recently, when I found out I had been asking all the wrong questions.
I had been trying to make logical sense of our world and our society. My best conclusion was that our society was nihilistic. I eventually took this on for myself having been an atheist anthropology major trying to find themselves it only seemed logical to become a nihilist. But since meditating I have let go of nihilism and found it returned to me as I see all of the existential nihilism teachings that are found in Buddhism. And suddenly I realized I had simply been asking all the wrong questions.
I was trying to understand the world and spirituality not within myself but a much more difficult medium to comprehend, the external world. I was trying to logically understand everything. There are too many variables for me to understand myself to fully explain this system so you can only attempt to imagine the number of variables and structures preventing my understanding of the outside world. Explaining this outside world was my attempt at defining my own inner world. I was trying to make logically sense of the illogical and I got caught up every time.
Our society is nihilistic, it is the antithesis of a meaningful, spiritual world. So the goal shouldn’t be to comprehend it this is irrelevant to the real goal. The real goal is to act in complete ignorance of society. To act in ignorance as we establish ourselves as spiritual beings in an aspiritual(or anti-spiritual) space.
This answers so many questions I’ve had before but believed I had already answered. Like the simple and huge question, “How can I work to change the world for the better?” My new simple and difficult to accept answer: change myself. While I will never discount the activism I did I am realizing the importance of doing the personal work. The importance of another quote I am quite fond of:
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
While I have the feeling of having answered the questions I was truly seeking to answer I am left looking at my journey as a frantic search to answer the wrong question. Essentially my higher self sent me on a quest to find out the answer to this problem. I had come back to my higher self numerous time saying, I know the answer! And my higher self said, “great you’ve figured it all out then?” And I kept working to make sure I did figure it all out. Until the most recent time when I realized the quest I was on was to find out I needn’t go on a quest. I needn’t run all over the place to find the answer. Instead I needed to sit and to meditate, I needed to realize the answer within myself.
I am reminded of a story from a book I’ve been reading, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. In the story a guru sends a student to do numerous ridiculous tasks thinking this will get him to enlightenment the student dutifully completes the tasks without question. The ridiculous of this is seen when he is asked to bring back the scalps of 20 individuals to prove that he has killed this people. As usual he does what he is told. Not thinking about it or feeling about it, just doing it. He’s not present he is thinking of his future enlightenment.
But enlightenment isn’t a quest or a challenge it’s something much more complex. It not something you can really measure or truly see, it’s not something external. Instead it’s internal it’s understanding yourself, truly understanding yourself, the same thing I was trying to do to the external world – understand it. And not in a logical way that you can grasp, to truly grasp yourself. To feel your anger in your arms and chest, your love in how open and warm you feel.
The most difficult part of this challenge is being spiritual being within this aspiritual world. This is an important part of many spiritual practices now a days, especially in Shambhala Buddhism. No more going off into the woods or far away mountain to practice. Instead people are starting to stay put. This quest is, as my therapist’s spiritual teacher put it, “harder than meditating in frozen snow for 4 days.” This is a hard quest but the one that needs to be taken. To live in an aspiritual world but remain spiritual. To keep yourself present, true, happy and healthy spiritually despite the draining aspirituality surround you.