Thursday, November 15, 2012

Self awarenss and our "spider jar"

Margit Hesthammer writes a lovely piece for the opinionator section of the NYTimes that has me thinking "I wish I had written that." It is consonant with the same core of ideas that runs through my web lectures shown in the left column of this blog, such as the "I Illusion" and "Mindstuff - a user's guide," but presented in a much more congenial and approachable fashion. (I frequently use "pandora's box" as a metaphor similar to the "spiders in a jar" used in the essay). I strongly urge you to read the whole piece, but here I excerpt a series of clips:
...behind all the containers I pour myself into from moment to moment, is my awareness of the boundless ocean of awareness itself…an unruly sea of infinite possibility, lurking in the back room…It conjures up the image Jonathan Franzen uses in his novel "The Corrections" of an impending thunderstorm: "big spiders in a little jar." Only the jar in this case is infinitely vast, the spiders correspondingly enormous. They huddle in the back room, waiting for the lid to come off...waiting to leak or seep or sneak through some hidden cat-door and flood the room I live in…With it is the chronic background anxiety that if I don't pour myself into this or that (read my book, clean the house, or at the very least think a bunch of thoughts), I'll fall into this ocean of shapelessness and lose all sense of definition. I'll be ejected from the safe confines of my predictable foreground world, where all the familiar experiences live: the sensations and tastes and textures that confirm my sense of who I am.
…when I do stray, accidentally or intentionally, into this formless background, I recall all too quickly what the foreground commotion is doing for me….It's protecting me from the intolerable experience of being a personality: a rabid consumer of ego-supplies with a curiously cruel capacity for self-awareness. A capacity that leads perversely to the realization that despite my hard-won knowledge that all my yearnings are ultimately doomed, still there will never be an end to yearning…It's protecting me from the unbearable taste of my separateness, my chronic disconnection from life, within and without. It's creating the wall of white noise that distracts me from my deep sense of meaninglessness, my feeling of being locked in and locked out at the same time - trapped on the surface of my life, nose against the glass, dimly aware that somewhere a feast is going on. Somewhere I'm not…
At some point it occurs to me that circling my jar of spiders is quite possibly the worst of it. It's so neither here nor there. I give up. Out of sheer exhaustion, I take off the lid and slide in. What else is there to do? I tell them to go ahead, eat me alive…They're only too happy to oblige. The white noise gradually subsides and they set to work, sucking the sweet, juicy marrow of hope from the bones of all my constructions. (Somewhere a feast is going on )…One after another the buildings collapse, until all hope is gone and I'm alone in the rubble….I know this place. It's flat and empty and dead. There's nowhere left to run and nothing left to hide. After a long while, I notice the quiet: bleak, but oddly relaxing. No straining, nothing to hold up. There seems to be something left of me as well, though I'd be hard pressed to give it a name. It finally dawns on me that I've made it through the switcheroo. Background has become foreground. I'm now the thing I was running from - the formless ocean of awareness itself.
My sense of an impending thunderstorm has dissolved. It was apparently a feature of life on the run. Now the spiders are all over there, where the foreground used to be. They look small and hectic from here, more like ants. Noisily milling about…Me, I'm the emptiness inside the jar, though the jar itself has vanished. I'm spacious and peaceful and vast…I like this place. As always, I resolve to remember what a relief this is…I vow to bring myself to the feast more often…As usual, I forget and get trapped outside again. Circling the jar.

1 comment:

  1. Quote: "I pour myself into from moment to moment, is my awareness of the boundless ocean of awareness itself…"

    This is precisely what the ancient Indian Philosophy "Advaita" tells us. This "Awareness" is truly what we are. The ego-self we assume ourselves to be is only a dream-like unreal entity and such an assumption of who we are is a mis-identification of ourself. "Self-realization" is abiding oneself as Awareness.