“There is no way to be truly great in this world. We are all impaled on the crook of conditioning. “ ~James Dean
There’s a certain magic in that quote. It tells an entire story in two sentences. Even those few we cherish as “great” are only so because we allow a certain perspective to dictate to us who and what they are. Change your perspective and they cease to become “great”. George Washington and Gandhi were not “great” people to the British of their time. Mother Theresa was not “great” to the starving hordes in Northern Africa. Jesus was not “great” to the Sanhedrin or the Romans. Republicans are not great to Democrats and vice versa. It simply is a matter of how you choose to see something.
I often use the Hawking example of the “ping pong ball on a train” applied to my spiritual practice to understand perspective (a view by which we cast all judgment) so that I can extrapolate the effects of perspective, conditioning and attachment on our reality. Here’s
this analogy in all of its glory:
There is a ping pong ball sitting on a table on a train in a way that causes it to sit perfectly still. The train, however, is moving at 65 miles per hour.
To some people conditioned to be ON the train, the ball is not moving, never moves, and remains perfectly still.
To others conditioned to be on the side of the tracks, the ball is moving at 65 mph as it whizzes by.
Each has its own perspective because of its own conditioning. The ball is still a ball, but when we add ideas of conditioning to it we create a “moving ball” or a “ball sitting still”. If each is unwilling to waver from its perspective we have the conditions for war, violence or, at the very least, anger and fear.
Yet, each is right in their observation. Where they make a fundamental mistake is when they attach themselves to their idea of what they see or have learned and not what is REAL. The reality of this example is that there is a ball and an Observer, plain and simple. If they could agree that there is a ball then the BELIEF about the ball becomes MEANINGLESS! After all, all one has to do to change the way you see the ball is to change the view. (Change the world by changing the way you see the world.)
They would not have to add phrases from a book (in this case any religious text) that
proves they are right and the other is wrong. They would not have to create “wickedness” in others who see things differently. They could simply “allow” the description by simply not needing one in the first place. (Those who know do not speak and those who speak do not know.)
In this analogy, no one has actually seen the ball. These people have READ about the ball and what it is doing. For the purposes of this post, the book says that the ball is moving.
Now because these people (we will call them Xtians) have never seen the ball but only have a book to rely on describing what the ball is doing (or was doing), they have created “faith” to ensure that the countless generations of conditioning that taught about the moving ball remains intact. They can’t prove the ball is moving, or that the ball even exists, yet this faith allows them to not only believe in the ball and what it is doing, but also condemn those who either don’t believe in the ball’s existence or have different conditioned ideas about what the ball is (or was) doing. After all, their parents taught them it was moving because they themselves were handed down the countless generations of conditioning that have gone into creating this “faith”.
In this example, the Xtians not only have created an idea of right and wrong, but are using someone else’s idea to do so. They are taking someone else’s experience or inspiration and making it necessary for everyone to have it. It isn’t real, it’s an imagined idea of an experience someone else had thousands of years earlier MADE real in order to support their own conditioned thoughts.
They could point to verses in that book that allowed for the conclusion that “I am right, you are wrong, the ball is moving,” and “I will be saved and you won’t be because I believe the ball is moving”. I mean something supreme told them that the ball was moving (or is), right? The book said that anyone who said the ball was still was a false prophet!!! BEWARE but remain hopeful because a savior is coming to prove to everyone that the ball was, in fact, MOVING.
The faith in the book itself would keep you from experiencing the TRUTH about the ball. You would not be able to experience the ball as still because, frankly, you could not get out of your box long enough to have the experience. So, you could not say for sure if the ball was moving or not, you’d just have to have faith that it was. Experience would be secondary to the conditioning and the belief in you it created.
Silly, huh? When you achieve a level of consciousness that allows you to experience the ball as moving and still, either idea becomes equally meaningless and equally valid. Ultimately though, it is not as important as the experience itself. You die when you stop having the experience of existing, and strict adherence to any religion, dogma or belief (religious or otherwise) is a death experienced by those who have forgotten their own breath. Once we start honoring experience as the basis for our purpose, we not only live for the experience but also find a deep desire to let go or it in order to see the sunrise as if for the very first time. Experience is dynamic and ever-changing, religion is not.
There is MUCH value in religion. It removes people from horrible darkness and debilitating despair as well as providing the impetus for humans to come to a deeper understanding of who we are. However, religion seems to be the “puberty of spirituality”, that stage of development that allows us to learn about ourselves in tremendously unique ways while still only being one stage of many. Unfortunately, it has been our history that we stop developing at this pubescent stage. We find comfort in religion, particularly if our parents are the ones who indoctrinated us into it or if it has pulled us out of some deep abyss, and remain in this stage rather than mature beyond it.
Religion is nothing more than an experience. You have it, and then you should let it go. Or else you begin to have the experience of stagnation as you live like a veal-calf in a box. You soon forget how to walk, and become so soft as to be desired by wolves. It would be like finding comfort on the seat of a roller coaster and never getting off to experience the rest of the rides.
Now, before you decide that I am judging religion while demonizing judgment let me just suggest to you that I am offering a unique way to describe my experience of religion not only from the inside looking out but from the outside looking in. I am not JUDGING, I am DESCRIBING. I am describing the ball while I was standing by the tracks and now as I stand on the train. I am not saying I am right to you, I am simply describing what I have experienced which, of course, makes me right to me.
In my experience, religion gave me a grounded understanding of my society’s morality, or at least a rosy picture of it. It also seemed to create a lot of society’s inner turmoil. Because of that, it remained for me just a step toward higher levels of consciousness. There was no comfort in the religious stage, only questions that would force me upward and beyond the confines of a book that taught me that ball was moving. I needed to experience it, to know it, to feel it and to understand it and then fortunate was able to let it go. In doing so, I stepped out of its confines into an experience that hasn’t stopped pushing me into deeper and more meaningful levels of understanding. Religion was a gift for me, it got me to a point where I wanted something it could not offer. It has also been a curse because it has cost me friendships and countless hours of guilt and fear as I began growing away from it.
So when someone says to me “you are wrong, the ball is moving” while unfriending me on Facebook because of what I see (or how I describe what I see), I can simply say “yeah, I saw that once too and this is what I saw once I stepped onto the train.” I now focus only on the ball, and keep my “eyes” firmly fixed on it as I let go of all the ideas I have created about what it is, what it does and how it does it. I simply experience the entirety of the ball, and have found something very powerful in this focus.
The ball does not exist. But that’s for another story…