Standing Out In A World Of Stand-ins.

Via Benjamin Riggs
on Mar 29, 2011
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Leo Tolstoy and Alan Ginsberg: Beatniks of past and present. (Ginsberg image provided by MDCarchives)

~via The Web Of Enlightenment

Going With The Flow,Goes Against The Grain.

When we read stories of the great meditation masters we find that a great many of them participated in a lifestyle that went against the grain. Popular lifestyle is often a fad. We buy into trends and popular notions established by media and culture. There is nothing wrong with skinny jeans, dread locks, or tattoos, per se. Rather, whats being pointed out is our materialistic tendency to compete in a silent popularity contest. We identify with the current trends in pop culture, without any genuine consent, and judge our self worth on the basis of how well we are able to fill this role. We simply see it on TV or in a magazine and try to become it…

This is a tragic and violent suppression of creative freedom. Our capacity to express ourselves is muffled by our incessant need for validation from those around us. Of course, this neurotic need for confirmation has a deep seated internal origin, which is connected with our own fragmented self-image. We self consciously experience ourselves as though we are apart from life; doing life, and as a result, we feel lifeless… Without meaning or content— discontented. We believe we are somehow how broken or incomplete, and our search for the perfect body or wardrobe is nothing more than a search for the right answer or missing ingredient to this pervasive problem.

Hermits are not people who have rejected society. They are people who have resolved this pervasive misunderstanding, and therefore have no need to identify with the common trend. Thus, they appear odd or out of place. This is of no concern to them because of the simplicity that pervades their lifestyle. By simplicity I mean, the lack of complexity involved in their relationship with the environment. They are straight forward… Honest. Complexity, in this case, refers to the deceptive tendency to identify with a whole host of fantasized and unnecessary reference points. Complexity is psychological clutter. We use what we think others are thinking about us as variables in calculating our own self-worth. This is sideways and neurotic…

The hermits or as we call them, beatniks, have a simpler relationship with the world they live in. They identify with the present moment— reality. They are people who through introspection and insight have re-solved the fundamental misunderstanding. They have discovered that they are in no way separate or apart from the world they live in, and as a result, they are revealed to be whole or complete— in need of no-thing! They just put on a pair of blue jeans, and go about their business…

Trying to act like a beatnik is no less materialistic than trying to act like a movie star. A hermit or beatnik is an organic manifestation of intelligence. It is a spontaneous response to the present moment. Whimsical! There is no pattern to it because it is in no way premeditated. It is freedom.

We are all beatniks… We have just misplaced our freedom. Spirituality is about rediscovering this natural spontaneity!

Alan Watts on beatniks…

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About Benjamin Riggs

Ben Riggs is the author of Finding God in the Body: A Spiritual Path for the Modern West. He is also the director of the Refuge Meditation Group in Shreveport, LA and a teacher at Explore Yoga. Ben writes extensively about Buddhist and Christian spirituality on Elephant Journal, and his blog. Click here to listen to the Finding God in the Body Podcast. To keep up with all of his work follow him on Facebook or Twitter.


One Response to “Standing Out In A World Of Stand-ins.”

  1. Eric says:

    if you're working 2 jobs to pay your rent and school loans, it's hard to drop out and be a hermit. mostly, we have two choices: wage slavery and/or debt slavery. unless you get off the grid and have the guts to go it alone–but as Watts pointed out, our society isn't very supportive of this choice. Clare, you're already in the world and interacting tangibly with all beings on levels that are not perceptible , but this is not a view that is espoused or accepted by our culture. like Watts said, they need you in the "game" so it works (for them).

    and yet, today, "the game" jeopardizes the planet and ALL beings upon it. now, more than ever, we have a very insecure society that will not tolerate dissension even though our way of living is very sick. there is a Krishnamurti quote: "learning to adjust to a sick society doesn't mean you are healthy" (paraphrased). so, when someone comes down off the mountain and says, "hey, I love you all but the game doesn't work anymore", they will be targeted.

    for now, I pray and meditate and go to my slave wage job, but I try to remain present and aware and to help other beings whenever I can. change is happening rapidly–we can't even comprehend it–and the adjustment in the next decade(s) will be painful for everyone. we are all supporting one another, sometimes skillfully, sometimes not. so hold your seat, upright, with an open and loving heart, and try to remain positive so you may meet these challenges without fear and delusion.