Yet ask: if the stories we tell ourselves matter – and they do – then don’t the distinctions we draw (constructivist/realist, believer/atheist, Christian/Buddhist) somehow also matter? After all, they are part of – influential parts of – our stories.
Distinctions are inevitable. A human observer cannot help but make distinctions. When we become aware of a distinction, it has already been made at levels of which we are not aware.
Thus, the issue is not ridding ourselves of distinctions – which we cannot do – but rather noticing the way in which we relate to distinctions. How do we order them? How do we name them? Who helped us develop this way of thinking about distinctions? Are there other ways? Who might help us find them?
Perhaps most significantly is the importance of noticing how it feels to make the distinction that we made. That is, in conjunction with thinking about distinction – this distinction in particular and the process of distinguishing in general – we want to explore how it feels to live the distinction being distinguished.
To be a human observer is to be observing. Observing is a process. We do not recall its beginnings (because of the way human observers evolve in time) and we will not experience its conclusion (because of the way human observers end in time). We do not control it though the process does provide a sense of being this entity in charge of this process.
When we use a term like “self,” we are applying it to that part of a process that feels most intimate and clear to us. It is what is always there, no matter what is going on externally – when we are buying ice cream, when we are making love, when we are studying, when we are arguing, when we are lost in a strange city.
There is a always a sense of that-which-never-leaves.
That sense is the tip of the process of being a human observer. It is akin to a surfer riding vast waves. The surfer is in relationship to the ocean and to this wave, but has no control over what the ocean does or the wave does. The surfer’s control really only applies to the balancing act, which is to say, the experience of experiencing riding the waves.
That balancing act is important to the surfer! Thus, doing it skillfully and efficiently matters. But it matters to the surfer – not the ocean, not the waves, not the weather system that creates waves, nor to the moon that creates tides, nor to . . .
Part of our balancing act includes becoming knowledgeable about it. This, in turn, can mean studying any number of belief systems, self-improvement strategies, philosophies and so forth. There is nothing wrong with any of this – and a lot helpful – so long as we understand that the limited nature of its application.
Thus, we want to give attention to the distinctions that appear. Do they nudge us in the direction of happiness? Creativity? Service? Sustainability? If yes, how can we nurture them? How can we open yet more interior space for their flourishing?
If no, how can we discover alternatives? Who or what can help us do that? What impedes us from seeking or embracing these alternatives?
Thus, our focus is on the coherence of the process of human observing because that, more than what is observed, is what we are in truth. As Francisco Varela pointed out, “everything that works is true.”
Absolute reality, in my eyes, does not dictate the laws we have to obey. It is the patriarchal perspective to proclaim the truth and to decree absolutely valid rules that constrain, limit, and eradicate opportunities. What might be called absolute reality tends to appear to me as a feminine matrix, whose fundamental quality is the opening up of possibilities.
He added later in the same interview
. . . what is not prohibited is permitted. There are natural limits but there is no densely woven, blocking, and stifling system of rules. This is the soft and space-creating quality of a feminine matrix.
So we give attention to the narratives and to the distinctions that underlie them. Our giving attention is akin to surfing a vast ocean. Our awareness does not reach the whole, even as it participates – is in relation with – the system that is the whole. Our balancing is the closest we come to oneness, and it shows up as sustainable happiness and helpfulness.