Arson, Oscar Wilde, and the Uncertainty Principle

I’d expand the word romance to include love generally, or just life itself. What is it without uncertainty, without risk or danger? Is it still life, or is it just a dead thing? Zombie-like, robotic, calculated, dull. The mind attempts to reduce everything into the known, into measurable and certain outcomes. Risk-management has come to dominate everything in our culture and economy, from finance to sports to law to healthcare. We are trying with everything we’ve got to nail down this uncertainty of life into something we can wrap our heads around, reducing a set of variables into concrete data that can be commodified, financialized, etc.

But we are- at long last – banging our heads against the limits of the material and egoistic mind, thinking that it can somehow beat out nature and squash the uncertainty of life once and for all. The COVID-1984 experience of the last year or two encapsulates this struggle perfectly, and is in essence the pinnacle of the human mind’s fight for the illusion of control over the inevitable. We will go to seemingly any lengths to try and subdue our fear of uncertainty, even if those lengths far outweigh any reasonable danger posed by the perceived threat.

This is not a war that humanity can win, no matter how long we want to hide inside and no matter how sophisticated our medical technology may seem to be. Uncertainty is written into the fabric of the very particles that make up our existence, as quantum mechanics has clearly proven. You can fight against life, or you can surrender to it. Those are the options available. And the longer you fight, the more difficult it is to surrender. You’ve invested too much, the pride becomes too great.

And the human mind is capable of fighting like no other, it is the most advanced tool around.. so we assume it can be used to conquer nature and remove this mortality we can’t bear to face. In a way that is true, we can become immortal – but we are confused on the procedure.

We are attempting to use the limited to reach the unlimited. The very tool that has created the illusion of separation and mortality to begin with – the brain (more specifically, the DMN) – is attempting to break the illusion with more of its own activity. This is like calling the arsonist to put out the fire. We’ve got the wrong tool for the job, but at least we are increasingly in agreement that there is a job that needs to be done.

The art of zen, the science of enlightenment, is in total acceptance of the inevitable – a total embrace of the inherent uncertainty which makes life worth living to begin with. The requirements, which seem untenable and brutal to the mind, are nonetheless the only way out of this mess. The machine of the separate self has to be brought to an end, dissolved entirely in the fire of meditation. Sometimes this can happen all at once, if the system is given a big enough shock. But for the most part we must sit with this conditioning day by day, allowing the arsonist to keep lighting whatever fires he can.

The secret is removing the supply of fuel. Over time, without getting any attention for his misdeeds, the arsonist loses interest in setting fires. He needs an audience or at least some flashy headlines to keep his occupation going. He even falls into cycles of depression as he is gradually no longer needed, and plots ways to start new fires to keep the game going.

Finally, however, the horror and inevitability of his own demise comes front and center. Surrounded, caught red-handed, and with no fuel remaining, the illusive arsonist disappears into the oblivion.

No fire, no arsonist.

No thought, no self.

No problem.

If you stay as the ‘I’,

your being alone,

without thought,

the I-thought will disappear

and the delusion will vanish forever.

– Ramana Maharshi

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s