*Brian Wilcox. 'Colorful Androscoggin (no. 2)'. Flickr
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A continuance of encounters with a sage who did not see himself as a sage, but others did; from Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
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We live stories, stories in our heads, in our bodies, and the stories are never reality, never the truth. Stories are approximations. The question is whether or not you are aware of the stories, not to rid oneself of them. With awareness of the stories, we can better choose which ones to embrace, which to disown, and we can learn how to live with stories serving us as means of Grace, not our being servants of stories. Even stories seen to be secular or mundane, can be filled with sacred meaning and holy inspiration, simply by seeing the stories differently.
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Said the sage...
When an early teen, my cousin, Gary, who liked to tell falsehoods, told me a scary tale. The tale was about Bloody Fingers. As he and I lay beside each other on his single bed that dark night, he shared of a diabolic creature, having fingers dripping blood from past prey and waiting under beds to capture new victims, pulling them under with him. How did Bloody Fingers do this? When someone allowed, in the darkness of night, his or her arms to hang over the side of the bed, this merciless monster would seize the arm and pull the victim under the bed to be enjoyed as a meal. The story and the way Gary told it, left me frightened, and for many years, though I knew it was merely a story from the first, a pure fantasy told by someone who enjoyed fantasies, I refused to let my arm relax over the side of a bed. I would try, but that story lived, so to speak, in my bones, and it had more power than common sense. Finally, many years later, I chose to relax my arm over the side of the bed, and, of course, there was no Bloody Fingers to take me as his own.
Such, continued the sage, is the power of belief. So, in the silence, and outside your times set aside for quiet, see your stories as stories ~ this is wisdom ~, feel how powerful a fantasy can be, how truth can be clouded over by a lie; this, not for you believe always the untruth in your head to be true, but that you feel the untruth as truth in your body, even though it is not true. See the stories as stories, regardless of how well they may correspond with truth, for each is a story, regardless.
Truth and belief aren't the same, yes?
Belief is a representation, at best, of truth, never an exact representation, often simply a misrepresentation, an illusion.
You said seeing this is wisdom?
Yes, wisdom is one with the insight, wisdom is insight. Wisdom penetrates the fantasy, or untruth, exposing it. Wisdom is like a sword, both a metaphor for wisdom found in the Buddhist and Christian traditions. In Mahayana Buddhism, Manjushri is a male bodhisattva with a flaming sword representing wisdom, or prajna, that cuts through ignorance, or the illusion of the true nature of reality. In the Christian New Testament, we read, "God's Word is living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword. The Word cuts all the way through to where soul and spirit meet, joints and marrow join. This Word discerns the desires and thoughts of the heart."
Is this why you often refer to the spiritual path as a wisdom path?
Yes. Wisdom is not mainly about information or even practice, but insight; wisdom teaching is not first about adding to our knowledge, but providing guidance that helps expose and dissolve the unwise ideas and fantasies that cloud our minds from enjoying the Light.
So, seeing it, means insight, and this leads to it losing its power?
Yes, but the power of the fabrication is related to how soon it is dissolved in the light of Truth. As in my case, I could conceptually see that there was no Bloody Fingers under my bed, but that was not believed with the body, only was known conceptually. The conceptual discernment is first, the integration into the body awareness comes after. Seeing is the beginning, the integrating of the insight is a process, as the conceptual fantasy losing its power, slowing dissolving in the Light of Being.
Why not just live with a fantasy, if one is comfortable with it? Sometimes, reality is rather painful.
If you wish to live comfortably with deceit, with living and dying in a slumber, rather than awake to truth, please do so. Yet, then you are more dead than alive; if you choose this, you are already in the graveyard. As says a Christian Scripture, "Awake you sleeping, arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." "Sleep" in that culture was used of death; so, it could read, "Wake up you dead, resurrect from among the world of the dead (i.e., Hades), ..." It takes courage to wake up, if it did not, many more persons would be living awake to truth, rather than letting others decide their beliefs and viewpoints for them. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, as to truth, "Truth is too simple for us: we do not like those who unmask our illusions."
What's the best thing we can do with these falsehoods, once we see but seem unable to free ourselves from their power?
Welcome them, befriend them. Resisting them strengthens the power of the falsehood. To think that you must be free from the delusion and now, that you are not spiritual or enlightened or a good person for being in the grips of it, those are mere misleading beliefs. Yet, know that untruth is always limiting, for it does not correspond to reality, however convenient the fantasy may appear; such falsity may not be wrong, but such constricts the boundaries in which we live and limits our capacity to love others gracefully. Truth frees us to love, even truth that is not initially pleasing to us.
You have spoken of love beyond beliefs. Please share.
Yes, this is vital for us. This "love beyond beliefs," including misleading beliefs, is not the absence of beliefs, but present with beliefs. We cannot live without beliefs. However, beliefs, in time and through the working of wisdom, become secondary to the primacy of love. Then, beliefs are seen as, at best, relative signposts that assist us amid the chaos of apparently divergent, oft-contradictory experience. A belief is a sign, insubstantial in itself. And belief is not always consciously present. More than not, what persons believe is unconsciously present, and often, when one claims life-affirming convictions, has no influence on action, for one is not yet aligned with what he or she says is true. In fact, often what we say we do not believe is more influential in our lives than what we say we do believe. Additionally, many cling to unbelieved beliefs, for they have been told that is the truth, the only truth, but the heart knows otherwise. Regardless, an honest insight into such duplicity, even before the delusion loses its power of hold on one, is a beginning.
*Brian Wilcox. 'Swinging over the River (no. 2)'. Flickr
(C)Brian K. Wilcox, 2019
*The theme of "Lotus of the Heart" is 'Living in Love beyond Beliefs.' This work is presented by Brian K. Wilcox, of Maine, USA. You can order Brian's book An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, through major online booksellers.
*Quote of Emerson: Ralph Waldo Emerson. The Later Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1843-1871.