“In the age when life on earth was full, no one paid any special attention to worthy men, nor did they single out the man of ability. Rulers were simply the highest branches on the tree, and the people were like deer in the woods. They were honest and righteous without realizing that they were “doing their duty.” They loved each other and did not know that this was “love of neighbour.” They deceived no one yet they did not know that they were “men to be trusted.” They were reliable and did not know that this was “good faith.” They lived freely together giving and taking, and did not know that they were generous. For this reason their deeds have not been narrated. They made no history.” -Chuang Tzu
At some point - every civilization gets the urge. The urge to look back at the past longingly. And in looking back, often imagining a time when virtue was spontaneous - and thus, nothing was ever written (Have you ever seen a movie without a conflict)? We are forever on the brink of an archaic revival. Verily, we can never go back to how it was. We can never go back to how we really want to be - which Terrence McKenna postulates is:
Naked, singing in the rainforest, stoned and exalted. One with the souls of the ancestors” Terrence McKenna
While we cannot go back, we can bring the past into the present - and integrate the spirit of the archaic human into ourselves. Why is this important? Because presently - we are perpetually running away from ourselves. We are running away from being itself. This manifests in a simple observation: We can never sit still. We lack the bravery to face what once made us human: Discomfort and Confusion.
“Buddha nature can be summed up in a single word: courage. Specifically the courage to be, just as we are, right here, right now, with all our doubts and uncertainties” Mingyur Rinpoche
We have lost track of our inner compass. That which points us from inside to outside and back again. It calls us towards the great journey of our lives - the courageous task of getting rid of the separation between who we are and who we were. Carl Jung writes:
“We will become our opposite if we do not learn to accommodate the opposition within us”
Chuang Tzu writes that the 'men of old’ did this in the following way:
Easy come, easy go.
They did not forget where from, Nor ask where to,
Nor drive grimly forward
Fighting their way through life. They took life as it came, gladly.
They remained integrated and kept moving forward. Whereas now, we risk becoming the opposite of all that made us human. The path, however, is simple. We needn’t compensate by seeking out confusion and discomfort - but we can’t lose the capacity to endure them. We ought to live as if we weren’t afraid of encountering them. And this starts with trust.
“Trust is the active engagement with the unknown” -Esther Perel
We all have it within us - this impulse to trust. It can be nurtured by trusting our bodies, our mind and our senses. But it can also be nurtured by trusting the other. The 17th Karmapa writes of a study he once encountered.
“I have heard of a study…an adult human was told to take the elevator to the ground floor. On their way down, the elevator stopped on an intervening floor and another person stepped in and pressed the button for another intervening floor. The person in the elevator first often displayed agitation and certainly had no smile or word of greeting to spare for the person slowing them down in this way. Yet when the experiment was done with two chimpanzees, when the chimpanzees suddenly found themselves in the same elevator, they expressed delight at meeting another of their kind and joyfully embraced one another.”
Remember what it was like to see a friend when you were a child? Remember what it was like when the world was novel? Remember when things didn’t have to be perfect for them to be perfect? This moment can be that moment if only we’d stop remembering it…and start living it. All it takes is the courage to be here now.
It is as it is.
To the primal (Building a cabin in the woods)
To the contemplative (Music to think to)
To the curious (An audio illusion)