Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Simple Talk for Complicated Times

From time to time I will print excerpts from a piece of work I call Simple Talk for Complicated Times. Don't you  feel that life is too complicated? Yet we can't simplify things too much. Einstein advised that we should try to make things as simple as possible, but no simpler. These excerpts are reflections on that advice. Hope you enjoy them.

The Lesson of the River

          A broad, deep river seems able to solve the paradox of simultaneous stillness and motion. The surface of the water is still, calm, seemingly unmoving. Yet the current of the river pulses under this stillness, moving the water according to gravity, towards the sea. Does the river show us that we can get around the paradox? No, the river is always moving. Although the surface seems still to our casual glance, a closer look will reveal small sticks, and other flotsam moving with the current. At times, parts of the river move more swiftly; eddies swirl, deeper sections seem still – but the water always moves. It can do nothing else.

What lesson does this present to us? The notion of stillness, emotional and intellectual calm in the midst of the constant movement around us, is an ideal -  never to be achieved, yet always yearned for. The paradox remains. Buddhist thought introduces the concept of Nirvana as the  achievement of this stillness; it can be achieved only at the moment of departure from the material world.

What we can do is to develop our awareness of how our energy in motion  relates to the energy in motion of others and of the material world around us. If we become more aware of our motion relative to the external world, we have the opportunity to adjust so that we are aligned in harmonious ways with what flows  around us.

Awareness leads to understanding, then compassion, then acceptance. This is the path to harmony and peace. It is difficult, but achievable.

Although the paradox of stillness and movement remains, we can teach ourselves to come as close as we can to the ideal, as close as we  can in the material world to which we are chained and bound.

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