In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.– John 1:1, KJV
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; the name that can be named is not the eternal name.– Tao Te Ching
When I was little I would sit in bed with my dad before sleep at night and he would start saying “the word”, as we called it. It was a routine we had on many nights, he would just start talking, rambling, creatively; one thing to the next – weaving an improv poetry of sorts with both of us adding in as needed. Every night something different, unexpected. We both enjoyed it immensely. But the years went by, I became a serious man. Who has time for such nonsense? Sometimes we’d reflect on it. What was the word? What were we talking about? What was it?? I had lost it, I couldn’t remember..
But now I remember – it was the stuff life is made of. The unannounced, the spontaneous, the unfiltered.
My mother is relentless, my father is a perfectionist – two admirable qualities with some unique challenges if taken to the extreme. It seems I was destined for the extreme, a relentless pursuit of perfection. I went around and chased, felt, loved, hurt, explored everything I could find in this human experience to the degree I could bear it, “good” and “bad”. Years and years I wandered, driven on by some inexplicable force. And the game no longer satisfies.
I was searching for some kind of truth or peace or god unknowingly; passionately, desperately, headlong – but searching in all the wrong directions. I was trying to add or subtract from myself in the hopes of becoming perfect or becoming worthless, not realizing all the while that both extremes are meaningless. I (we) have never not been god (for lack of a better word), there is no possibility of not being god, of not being perfectly imperfect. I had just gradually and systematically tried to cover it up with a false identity that is anxious, afraid, and insatiable. A dog chasing its tail.
But then I stopped, the obviousness of this foolish pursuit finally becoming clear. All I had to do was stop, and do nothing. What a preposterous idea for the mind, that only knows how to keep going and find a new toy to play with. Do nothing? How is that going to get me anywhere in this world? But truth doesn’t need to be found, in fact cannot be found, for the obvious reason that it is the truth, which means it is already the case. It’s already here, so who would be searching for it, and where would it be hidden? The search and the seeking itself obscures the simplicity and purity of this moment.
Time and time again in my life I was able to keep going and survive by the love and support of my mother and father. A love that reaches the deepest depths of the ocean, patient and overflowing. Inexhaustible and unconditional (trust me, I made sure), what can be said about it? This compassion is what can bring peace into the world, the love that lasts forever. And nothing, as they say, lasts forever. So love must just be nothing, the base case for all that springs forth in this world. No thing lasts forever, true. But the nothing that animates all of life does in fact last forever. Nothing, Love, the Tao, God, the Word – is everlasting. The benign, open space which holds and allows all that can be.
Scientists say that 99.99% of the world is made up of empty space. And the first law of thermodynamics says that energy is never created or destroyed, it only changes form from one thing (or no-thing) to another. So from a scientific standpoint, what we are and what we see is basically an ineffable emptiness in motion, love in motion, a gentle dance of light and dark, life and death, form and void. A paintbrush leaving no trace extending in all eternity – somehow nowhere and everywhere at once.
This is the scientific equivalent of the eastern spiritual philosophy of impermanence, and the conclusion of meditation in general. There is no separation – no this or that, life is continual change, continual uncertainty and free-fall – raindrops etching and meandering their way down the windowpane. Nothing to hold on to, no destination to be reached. It is poetry in motion, an effortless and timeless energy beginning and headed nowhere in particular. What’s the rush?
That is the essence of love and meditation, the challenge to live in nothingness, a surrender to unknowing spontaneity. It is the word, that has been here from the beginning. And it cannot be named, one thing or another. Not this, nor that. Yet somehow, all-encompassing. Eternity’s sunrise, as William Blake put it. It’s all been set in motion, utterly out of our control. All we have to do is get out of the way, relax and enjoy.
But we spend our lives walking around the edges of the danger, of certain doom, carefully avoiding falling into the void. We think if we just stand on the edge of it and look away for long enough, we can escape. It is the cumulative karma of all the biological tendencies towards flight in the fight or flight game.
But we know death, unlike any other animal, so with that comes fear. You’ve got to hide your love away, as the Beatles song goes. And that was necessary for a time as the human race evolved, but now it has gone too far. The flight has gone on long enough, it is time for a fight, time to get messy. Not a physical fight, we’ve exhausted that routine.. but a spiritual one. A mutual battle of exposure and relinquishment of this outdated, messy mental machinery that has brought us to the brink of self-destruction. And we are well into the early innings of that ballgame.
To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.– Winston Churchill