Monday, May 17, 2021

Confessions of an Explorer, Part Two - As Above, So Below

 

Prelude to a Prelude

You may be wondering at the title of my last posting - Vocatus atque non vocatus, deus aderit.  It's an inscription in Latin on the tomb of the psychologist Carl Jung, and means "Called or not called, the gods rise".  I hadn't thought of that inscription for years until just recently I noticed it while scrolling through some of my very old postings.  It seems quite appropriate now in relation to my Kundalini experiences, appropriate in ways I hadn't considered many years ago when I first ran across this phrase.

But before I continue with my conceptual exploration of Kundalini I want to keep you up to date and share with you some of the more recent observations I have made in the development (there's that word!) of the Kundalini process I've been engaged in for these many years.  About two years ago I began noticing a new direction the energies seemed to be taking within my body.  Previous to that the sensations tended to start at the base of the spine, or sometimes the heart region,  and move up into my cranial region.  Then out of nowhere I began to sense a movement downward along the inside of my legs culminating in, of all places, my big toes.  The sensations were not strong, but definitely pleasurable.  It was like little mini-orgasms in my big toes - you might imagine my amusement!  This was not something I directed or willed, it just started happening.  Interestingly, I've seen no reference to this phenomenon in any Kundalini discussion, traditional or contemporary.  Slowly over time this has branched out into all of my toes and increased in intensity.  I can now, while engaging in what I call a Kundalini session, begin the most exquisite flow of sensations upward through the base of the spine, then the heart, then into the head, by simply wiggling my toes!

You probably think this is weird; I can't blame you, I think it's weird myself.  But there is more.

There has been a new and subtle change in my visual field of perception, a change that began perhaps about the time of the toe tingles.  One of my studio rituals while  in 'little jeffy' mode is to take a break during the day, turn down the lights and do a series of Pilates and yoga exercises on a low assembly worktable covered with a packing blanket.  It's an age thing - as I get older little aches and pains seem to persist and grow, and these exercises are a great way to minimize them.  As I'm doing these exercises I'm facing an old peeling painted brick wall displaying a soothing and quite beautiful texture in the dim light.  At some point, I can't pinpoint when, I began noting very subtle movement in the texture of the brick, as if little lights were dancing and flickering over the surfaces.  At first I assumed it was just a trick of the eye and thought little of it, but over time it has increased in intensity, and now at times when I'm looking at that wall it's not even a bit static visually, but a whirling kaleidoscope of light particles, sometimes so intense I can barely recognize the old wall textures.  Curiously, this light show disappears under normal illumination. 

Weird, I know.  Darker than any mystery...


Prelude

As above, so below.  Or put another way, as in the macrocosm, so the microcosm.  Almost a cliche, yet there is a kernel of truth there, a seed we might germinate to grow a new seedling of perspective.  The particular little seedling I have in mind is none other than the euphemistic term I used in the last posting when discussing early life on our planet - "whoopee".  So let's make a little whoopee here (figuratively speaking) and tease this thing out.

We'll start with the microcosm - little you, little me, little doggie, little birdy.  One thing everyone and every living thing in their holonic microcosm has been through (and probably remembers nothing of) is birth .  We generally take it for granted, but it's actually quite an astonishing thing on all levels.  For instance (speaking of seedlings), with the arrival of spring I've begun my annual attempt at growing potted tomato plants at my studio building.  I take these little tiny dried up tomato seeds and stick them into some wet dirt, then watch for days as the wet dirt just sits there, being wet dirt.  Then one day I check it out and there is this little stalk poking its head up out of the dirt.  Miraculous!  Yet, kind of ordinary, usually just taken for granted.  And that stalk grows and grows and grows, till one day it flowers, and out of the flowers tiny green spherical objects emerge, and they grow and grow and grow, then turn red, at which point I cut them up and  eat them....and experience an explosion of flavor in my mouth that makes me cry out WHOOPEE!!!

How all of this happens is simple.  Whoopee.  OK, the tomato form of whoopee is a little different than the average human  form, but whoopee nonetheless.  And it's that whoopee that paves the way to the astonishing miracle of birth.  From little mice to massive elephants, ants to anteaters, fungus to redwood trees; it's whoopee all the way up, all the way down.  You might say, the Biosphere is saturated with whoopee!

But what about the physiosphere, the sphere of rocks and moons and suns and galaxies?  Dead planets drifting through a vacuum; asteroids being pulled around willy nilly by the nearest gravity field; stones falling mindlessly down a mountain side during an avalanche, only to sit right where they stop for the next ten thousand years.  Where's the whoopee in that?

Well.......let's go back to the beginning, to that moment when time and space began and the cosmos was simply a massive burst of undifferentiated, incomprehensible energy.  Eventually, out of that ocean of fire emerged relatively little fireballs we now know as suns, and out of groupings of suns emerged galaxies, and within galaxies from individual suns emerged solar systems with planets.  Or to use another term rather than emerged, let's call it birthed.  How did all that happen?  Was it planned, orchestrated, guided?  I don't think so.  I THINK IT WAS WHOOPEE!!!  I mean, look at this image from the Hubble space telescope -

 

Dumb, purposeless accident?  No way.  That's pure, unadulterated whoopee at work.  You might say, the Physiosphere is also saturated with whoopee!

Which leaves us - if we're to consider not just the Cosmos but the entire Kosmos - with the Noosphere. the sphere of mind and culture.  Of course, lots of whoopee going on in most people's imaginations, but not much of consequence is usually birthed of that.  But if we think of mind, then think of the meeting of minds, we find ourselves in the sphere of culture.  Does culture somehow become the grounds for whoopee?

To be continued...


 



 

 






 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

My Significant Other is the Kosmos: Confessions of an Explorer Part One - Vocatus Atque Non Vocatus, Deus Aderit

Prelude

I just re-read my most recent posting on this blog site, and the incident it details was indeed a remarkable series of events.  But now I'm going to shift gears just a bit and go into a broader exploration of what overall has occurred in the last twelve plus years since my world was upended by that energetic opening in the body which took me, and its subsequent unfoldment.  This potentially could involve some difficult reading for followers of this blog (and difficult writing for myself), so I'll try to keep it as simple and entertaining as I can for both of our sake.  My intent is simply to arrive at some clarity by laying out a framework with which we can all look at and make some sense of this unusual phenomenon sometimes labeled 'Kundalini Awakening'.

But to do that I'll have to first clarify where I'm coming from.  Though Kundalini is often spoken of within a spiritual context (and I'll use the term 'spiritual' in the most open, generic sense for now), I myself am not a spiritual seeker, nor have I ever been.  I've never followed any sort of spiritual/religious dogma or practice, nor sought a spiritual teacher or guru.  Even in art school I never had a particular mentor (I like to say I spent seven years in art school, then spent the next seven years forgetting everything I learned there; that's when the real work began).  I'm not looking for God in any way, shape or form - for that matter, not even in formlessness.  Though not a seeker, I will split some hairs here and describe myself as an explorer; perhaps, one could say, an explorer without a destination, but still guided by principles inherent in three questions I've mentioned in the past - what are we; why are we here; what are we doing here?

The vehicles of that journey have varied, though prominently centered around three activities - creative visual practice; philosophical speculation, both through deep readings and deep conversations with fellow explorers; and of course writing, such as in this blog.  All the while through these activities I've carried with me - sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously - that faith that I spoke of in the last posting, that yearning to know that this exploration of mine into our sometimes painful, often wacky, occasionally awe inspiring Earthbound life is, in fact, not only a worthwhile venture, but is exactly what I, at least, need to be doing.  A Buddhist might call it my dharma. 

Where that dharma is leading me I have no clue, but along the way in my journey I stumbled upon something entirely unexpected and astonishing; or perhaps it stumbled upon me.  That discovery, of course, was the Kundalini I've been speaking of.  For twelve years now it has stuck with me, seemingly working me over through both body and mind.  And yet, I can even now borrow the title of my last group of postings and simply say "it is darker than any mystery".

But it just so happens I have a little flashlight...

 

Fugue

...and that flashlight's name is evolution.  Another name is creativity.  Another name is development.

Evolution, creativity, development - three words that in many ways are interchangeable.  If we think of the term evolution as we typically do, we usually picture the evolution of the Cosmos.  Consisting of the physiosphere and the biosphere, there is a traceable  movement through time from the Big Bang to the emergence of life on this apparently lonely (for the moment at least) ball of rock we call our Planet Earth. 

It's really astonishing to flesh out this picture.  From - so far as we know - nothing, came an immense and unfathomable release of pure energy, followed by the gradual condensation of that pure energy into fireballs of matter, then further into stars and solar systems and galaxies on an unbelievable scale (it's been recently estimated that there are on average 2.25 billion stars per galaxy, and possibly a mind-bending 2 trillion galaxies!!!).  Then, 10 billion or so years later on our little, lonely planet, somehow someway life emerges within the primordial swamp in the form of tiny, squiggly one-celled creatures who could actually make choices (imagine the little fella swimming along without a care in the world, then sensing a strong glucose current and thinking "hmm, I think I better hang a left here" - OK, single celled creatures don't think in words, but you get my drift).  Not only that, they eventually discovered that by making a little whoopee they could produce new versions of themselves (contemplate that - the evolutionary emergence of whoopee!).

From there time starts to compress as multi-cell creatures appear, then complex organisms leading to the underwater plant world, followed by the underwater animal world, and on to dry land.  Species after species after species appearing then disappearing for billions of years, until 100 million years ago dinosaurs ruled the lands, only to be interrupted by the explosion of a large meteor strike in the Gulf of Mexico and the subsequent nuclear winter which wiped out everything on Earth bigger than a chicken.  And that opened the door for the mammals - at the time no more than small underground dwelling rodents who managed to survive the calamity of the meteor strike, suddenly having the freedom to roam on the surface.

And after 100 million years more of mammalian species endlessly appearing then disappearing, the human species emerges 100-150 thousand years ago.  And that species would eventually be able to discover and comprehend something astonishing - evolution itself!  And write about it on glowing instruments that make letters and words and sentences appear and disappear with the touch of a finger...

If you don't look at that big picture and see boundless creativity, then, well... maybe I need to work on my communication skills!

So in my view, one could well say evolution is, for all intents and purposes, creativity itself.  It's also development - like I said, big bang to physiosphere to biosphere, and with our arrival on the scene , to noosphere.  Clearly a line of development.  And to quote a well used phrase from many religious traditions, "As above, so below", the below being little you and little me, tiny blips on the immense cosmic scene...or perhaps, if we forget quantity and focus on quality, not so tiny?

To be continued...


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

My Significant Other is the Kosmos: Darker Than Any Mystery - Part 8, Third Movement

I want to quickly clarify something here.  This blog is not about politics, nor will it ever be.  However, to keep the sense of the little tale I'm telling I need to make a quasi-political statement.  This is from little jeffy's world - it's there that politics sometimes rears its muddled head, and little jeffy has to deal with it on some level.  Comes with the territory of the common, mundane world.  I'll keep it as simple as possible:

As I mentioned earlier, I believe we have a unique opportunity in this time of personal, societal and cultural unmooring to remake ourselves.  This is always available to us on the personal level, but on the societal and cultural level it's a much tougher lift, so this opportunity is important.  To put it bluntly, the biggest impediment to achieving this in the political arena is Donald Trump and his gang.  If he is re-elected it will be a huge setback and a much, much tougher row to hoe, which would be a real shame.

That's it, that's my orientation.  Back to my tale...

You might now be guessing what that lunch conversation turned into.  My three comrades spun off into a 45 minute mutually supporting tirade that could have come right out of the Fox News playbook - Black Lives Matter being a Marxist trained organization; COVID as a Chinese conspiracy, mask wearing a fraudulent fix; Joe Biden going senile; rioters at demonstrations as leftist provocateurs organized by radical socialists.  On and on and on it went like a feed-back loop building to a crescendo.  I was stunned into silence as they peppered me with one conspiracy theory after another.

I'd heard all of this before of course, but it surprised me and I was unprepared.  Besides, if I had answered back it would have provoked them more, and I just wanted lunch to end!  So I held my tongue and breathed a sigh of relief when we returned to work.

I was troubled by the incident, and it followed me into the next day.  Upon analyzing my reaction I could see it was not the arguments that bothered me, not even the fervor and the gloating.  It was the emotions that lay just underneath the surface of the tirade - anger, resentment, hatred.  And underneath all of that, a real, palpable fear.  And these were guys I had considered decent fellows.

Little jeffy was shook up.  His faith , his yearning for the possibilities in front of us to remake ourselves had taken a blow.  With all that anger and resentment and fear dominating so many, what chance was there?  And of course, his concerns for the common, mundane world followed him into the studio, and he couldn't shake it.  Big Jeff observed his rattled studio assistant and could only shake his head.  The trials and tribulations of the common, mundane world do not directly affect him - he's too busy probing the mystery dimensions and working his magic; and besides, he at most holds opinions very, very lightly.  But little jeffy's agitation was getting to be distracting, even to the point that The Unborn was kicking a little harder in the womb, probably sensing the agitation himself.  That would just not do!

So in my mode as Big Jeff I took action.  I went to the singing bowl altar, ritually acknowledging the three holons and the holarchy.  When done I took an extra step, one I save for only the most important occasions.  I asked for help.  I didn't direct this request anywhere in particular; no deity, no beloved saint, no angels or Earth spirits.  I guess you might say, since my Significant Other is the Kosmos, I directed it to the Kosmos.  Knowing that little jeffy's faith was teetering, was on the line and under assault, I simply asked for a message, or better yet a sign to help restore his battered faith.  I struck the bowl and sent the request out into the Kosmos.

Later that day I was thinking intently about signs from the Kosmos, wondering what form they might take - an inner voice, what Teresa of Avila called locutions?  A random but relevant message from someone I know, or someone I  don't know?  A dream perhaps?  I was thinking "Signs, signs, signs, what would a sign actually look like?"  And then a film I had once seen popped into my mind, "Signs" by M. Night Shyamalon, starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.  It had been awhile since I'd seen it and details of the story eluded me, but I remembered that the signs the title alluded to were crop circles that Mel Gibson, playing a farmer/ex-minister, found in his fields and which portended an alien invasion.  I got a chuckle out of that - no crop fields in my world, so I could cross that one off of my list! Nonetheless the film kept popping into my consciousness, the title so intriguing under the circumstances.  Ultimately I decided I would have to adopt beginner's mind and remain open for anything, without preconceptions.  

By evening I had forgotten the whole thing, busy cooking for the week's lunches and catching snippets of news on TV.  It was a warm, pleasant evening and as dark approached I strolled out to my favorite spot in the local park to  watch the sunset.  When I returned I  decided to flip through the 7 or 8 movie channels I have on the TV, looking for something entertaining to help wind down the day.  The very first channel I flipped  to was showing "Signs", starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix!!!

I kid you not.  Believe me, I could not have made this up.  The little jeffy in me was flabbergasted.  "This is impossible!  What are the odds?!  How could this just be a coincidence?!"  The Big Jeff in me simply smiled.  "Of course".  

It was just 5 minutes into the film, and as I find M. Night Shyamalon films mysteriously eerie and filled with surprises I settled in to watch, looking forward to re-acquainting myself with the story. 

 (As an aside, I imagine most of you have seen this film; it was quite popular.  I'm going to recount some of the action to refresh your memory, but if you haven't seen it I hope I don't ruin it for you.  In any case it's worth seeing either again or for the first time.)

In the beginning we get a flashback to a time when the Mel Gibson character was a minister.  His wife is killed in a horrendous accident while jogging, pinned to a tree by a pick-up truck driven by a neighbor who had fallen asleep at the wheel.  The minister is able to get to her before she dies, and her last words to him seem to be nothing but gibberish.  

As the film proceeds we return to the present.  The minister has dropped his vestment and collar, having lost all faith in his religion and quitting his ministry after the senselessly random and brutal death of his wife.  He has returned to his farming, and this is when the crop circles begin appearing in his fields, the signs portending an alien invasion.  As I watched I noticed something I don't remember taking strong note of at first viewing - a running theme throughout the story is the issue of faith.  We hear it in the conversations the minister has with his brother and two children as the ominous events unfold.  You get a real sense of how bitter and disenchanted he is, how the universe seems to him senseless and barren.  He's in a black void, as if floating on a vast ocean with no land on the horizon in any direction.

I mentioned the crop circles.  Certainly they were one of the signs referred to in the title; menacing signs, we find out, as the aliens begin to appear and threaten the family.  But other signs show up, signs that are not at all obvious as they appear in the narrative.  Simple things, so simple we barely take notice of them as we watch - the young daughter leaving half empty water glasses all over the house; the young son suffering asthma attacks as the fear builds; the brother's trophy baseball bat hung above the fireplace mantel. These all become highly significant as the alien threat builds.  And of course, it turns out the gibberish spoken by the dying wife seconds before her death was not gibberish at all, but prophetic advice.

On the surface this is a science-fiction movie about an alien invasion, but the real message is about signs, and about faith.  The subtle signs save the family, and the minister wins back his faith, is redeemed by the signs.  And guess what?  Little jeffy had gotten his sign - the movie, with its themes of signs and faith, appearing in my mind that afternoon and then at exactly the time I would turn on the TV that evening.  It was the Kosmos responding almost immediately to my request in the most unexpected way possible, against astronomical odds.  Little jeffy got his "Signs", and got his faith back.




   

Friday, August 7, 2020

My Significant Other is the Kosmos - Darker Than Any Mystery, Part 8: Ya Gotta Have... 2nd Movement

2nd Movement

Over a long period of time I've noticed an interesting aspect of my art practice that has progressively seeped into the day-to-day work in the studio.  To put it simply, ritual has come to increasingly define how I approach even the simplest of activities.  This hasn't come about by conscious intention; rather, it seems to have gradually grown into the fabric of my activities without my noticing, until one day it dawned on me what had happened.

To illustrate what I mean by this I'll need to reintroduce a couple of characters I've labeled as holons, the ones that help to make up the holarchy that binds together my particular self-sense.  As you may remember, the world of my art practice, the creative alchemical world, is the world of Big Jeff.  He's the intuitive magician who somehow reaches into mysterious realms and pulls out dazzling and completely unexpected objects of wonder.  Little jeffy, inhabitant of the common, mundane world, has no idea how he does it, but the little guy is along for the ride.  You might call him the studio assistant.  He has the physical skills, the rational problem solving strengths, the sheer determination and willpower to get Big Jeff to the studio every day.  He also sweeps the floors.

In my particular practice these two characters work hand-in-hand; it's a nice symbiotic relationship.  Much of the work they do in the actual production of artworks is, as it turns out, rather mundane and tedious.  For instance, while working with spools of thread on painted board there is a tendency for the threads to slide uncontrollably down the side when placed at a steep angle to the edge.  To solve this problem the first solution was to rough the edges of the board with 40 grit sandpaper, creating a tooth to hold the threads in place.  This worked to some degree, but was ultimately inadequate and so a new solution had to be found.  What was finally arrived at was the use of a very small, thin-bladed wood saw to cut tiny slits into the edges of the board, slits no more than 1/16 of an inch apart.  The threads slip into the slits, holding them in place.

As you might imagine this can be very monotonous work.  At 16 cuts per inch the average artwork of 200 inch circumference requires 3200 tiny cuts.  Very carefully placed.  Guess who does that work?  Of course, that's little jeffy's job, the studio assistant.  Little jeffy was not happy with that job in the beginning - tedious, repetitive work requiring intense concentration.  To make matters worse, little jeffy's mind tends to wander as he worries about common mundane things like paying the rent, or what groceries to buy, or whether lentil soup is best with or without tomato sauce.   In other words, the common, mundane world tends to follow him around, even in the studio.

But little jeffy is the problem solver, and solve it he did.  The solution came in the form of an audio CD called 'Shamanic Drumming', which consists of two tracks, the first a recording of one drummer on an indigenous drum of some sort pounding out a steady, flat rhythm - dum dum dum dum dum dum - for 30 minutes, much like one would hear in a shamanic ritual performed by an indigenous tribe.  The second track is two drums, same flat rhythm at a similar speed of about 120 beats per minute, which apparently is the range used by indigenous tribes around the globe.  The idea is to induce a kind of concentrated trance.  Little jeffy turns on the CD, takes to his little saw and cuts the tiny slits in pace with the drumming, about one cut per 2 beats.  In a few minutes he's in a trance, and Voila!  We have a ritual.

Big Jeff has his own rituals, though they are oriented toward aiding him in reaching dimensions of mystery where he plays his creative alchemy.  One of the rituals I've developed for him consists of a small altar just inside the door of my working studio.  Central to the altar is a Tibetan singing bowl, one with a rich sound  and long period of resonance.  Next to it is a hand-wrought wooden handle wrapped at the end with fabric, for the purpose of striking the bowl.  Arranged in front of the bowl are three images on postcards of artworks of mine, each image representing for me one of the three holons that make up the holarchy of my self-sense - little jeffy; Big Jeff; The Unborn.  When I've settled into my studio for a day of work, before any creative activity begins, I perform a benediction of sorts - I first place a hand on the image representing little jeffy, acknowledge his place in the holarchy and the value he brings, then I strike the bowl, focusing intently on the reverberating sound as it slowly fades.  Then I follow suit with Big Jeff, and follow that with The Unborn.  Finally I strike the bowl and stretch both hands over all of the images, acknowledging the holarchy of my self-sense and its structure that holds it all together.  All of this is a very centering, very calming ritualistic start to my creative day.

I recently found a new use for my singing bowl altar, and here is where my tale begins:

Lately, in my guise as little jeffy, I have been going through a tough period in the common, mundane world - several rejections for possible exhibitions; a big art installation job vanishing with no explanation; a colleague getting extremely upset with me over an imagined insult; and on, and on, and on.  One of those periods we all go through from time to time when it seems the universe is piling it on.  Mostly we just tough it out and things pass, but one incident got to me, the proverbial straw on the camel's back.

I was working on an art installation job in a new apartment complex with 3 other fellows.  I've worked with these guys in the past and we've gotten along fine together.  I don't know them real well but I've considered them decent folk and good workers, which I respect, though they are not the types I would likely befriend outside work.  As is usual out in the field we went to lunch together, and while sitting at the restaurant the talk turned to politics and recent events.  And that's when the camel's back broke.  But that will have to wait till next time.

To be continued...

Monday, August 3, 2020

My Significant Other is the Kosmos - Darker Than Any Mystery, Part 8: Ya Gotta Have... First Movement


First Movement

When the COVID lock-down descended upon us I had a curious reaction bubble up into my consciousness - it occurred to me that this was an excellent opportunity for introspection, and I welcomed it.  Suddenly there was nowhere I had to be, nothing I had to do, and for an indefinite period of time.  So I simply watched as automobile traffic went away, heavily polluted cites world wide became sparkling gems in the clearing air, and the biggest hole ever in the ozone layer completely vanished within thirty days.  I simply watched all of this, and as I turned inward I found myself in a profound state of prolonged relaxation.

Eventually it dawned on me that another opportunity was being presented to all of us.  We had entered, as it came to be said, the 'new normal', which really meant 'normal' had been completely jettisoned.  Many of our notions of what defined our lives went out the window.  Solid pillars that had propped up our habitual day-to-day functions and expectations now lay around in crumbled heaps at our feet.  And I welcomed it.  This was an opportunity being presented to us, an opportunity to look at everything with fresh eyes, unmuddied by both conscious and subconscious assumptions and habits.

This new situation had an eerily familiar feel for me.  You might remember my writing in a previous posting of the existential crisis I passed through when my own personal self-construction collapsed like so many propped up domino pieces.  It wasn't pleasant.  In fact, it was downright painful, and it left me in a rather terrifying void, unanchored and with nothing visible on the horizon.  It could be said that this current COVID crisis is a macro-cosmic reflection of that personal micro-cosmic situation I found myself in years ago.  And you might remember that something astonishing and completely unexpected rushed into this void I had been thrust into, something which over time has remade me.  This suggests to me that there is an opportunity here and now for something equally astonishing to fill our mutual void which has been presented to us on the macro level of society and culture by the COVID crisis.  We can remake ourselves in ways big and small.

But ya gotta have faith...

I have a tale to tell, and I want to anticipate it by making a distinction between two commonly used terms: belief and faith.  In my dictionary at home there is essentially no distinction made; the terms are, generally speaking, interchangeable. But I do want to clarify a distinction in my own mind because I think it's important, and because it is a more subtle approach than the typical use of those terms.  You can take it or leave it, of course. 

I see belief as the acceptance of a truth without proof or direct experience.  This truth usually comes from an exterior source, say our parents, or an authority figure outside the family.  It can be based on religious texts such as the Bible or Koran; Buddhism's Four Noble Truths; the Sutras of Patanjali.  These truths, greater or lesser, are simply accepted, simply believed without question.  I used to see here and there a bumper sticker that read "The Bible says so, I believe it, and that's that!"  Pretty much sums up what I mean by belief.

Faith is a little different in my book.  I was surprised several years ago, while exploring the ins and outs of Buddhism through various readings, to find more than one source stating that a fundamental tenet of Buddhism was the necessity of faith.  At that time I equated faith with belief, and was intrigued to see this emphasis on faith/belief, especially since I didn't interpret Buddhism as being an especially dogmatic orientation - it has always seemed to me more open-ended, less rigid, less insistent on belief than most of the major religious doctrines around the world.  And so I asked "What does a Buddhist have faith in?"  An answer might be Enlightenment, or Buddha Nature, or simply the end of suffering.  But these are rather vague, ambiguously fuzzy terms to those of us who have not achieved these states, whatever they be.  Which is to say, fuzzy to most of us.  Including most Buddhists.

So what does Buddhist philosophy mean by faith?  They don't say belief;  in fact, the Buddha himself flatly stated one should believe nothing - as the saying goes, if you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.  Here's where I think faith is different from belief.  Belief is a statement.  Belief is solid.  Belief is defining.  Faith, on the other hand, is a feeling.  Faith is a quality.  Faith is a yearning.  You don't believe in Buddha Nature, you don't even really know exactly what it is.  But you yearn for it, you desire it, you have eros for it.  You can't state it, you can't define it, you can't picture it.  But you want it.  Faith is, quite simply, yearning itself.

And that is what I mean when I suggest that there's an opportunity for us amid this COVID crisis to remake ourselves, and to do that you gotta have faith, you gotta have a yearning.  Ya gotta want it.  It's in that context that I will spin for you my little tale...but not now.  Still some groundwork to lay out.

To be continued...