Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Acceptable Ambiguity and Controlled Folly

At the core of existence is chaos. The things we see and know in our lives appear to be solid, they appear to be the way we perceive them to be. But a closer examination, at the quantum level, reveals what appears to be a chaotic situation. At the quantum level things are not at all as solid and as rational as we think they are. Even though we don't live at the quantum level, we can't deny what science has discovered. And we should assume there is even more yet to our world than we apparently know. A close examination of the writings of Eastern mystics and seers reveals an intrinsic understanding of many of these principles, and indeed some of what rational Western minds have written off in the past, are now understandable in light of quantum science. Ultimately we can surmise the world is not the way it appears. After spending a certain amount of time practicing mindfulness and considering existence from a different perspective, a certain amount of acceptable ambiguity sets in. Things just no longer make sense in the traditional way, via rational science or popular religion. We get to a point where things can't be rationalized and explicated verbally. The world doesn't totally make sense, and that is totally acceptable. At this point we see the interconnectedness and relative unimportance of everything. We also find that discussing it with those who don't understand is useless, and with those who do unnecessary. And we see the folly in the world around us.

In A Separate Reality, Don Juan tries to explain this to Carlos, who of course insists on understanding things verbally. When I first read this book over thirty years ago I was fascinated with almost everything about it, but could understand very little of it in concrete terms. I suspended understanding so I could move on. Of course I still have to do that with much of subject matter, because I am not a Yaqui Brujo. I have not experienced all of the things Don Juan is trying to teach Castaneda, so I can't really understand it all. However, I have grown in my own weird way over the last thirty years, so a lot of what is covered in Castaneda's writings is understandable to me. Perhaps not in the way Don Juan intended, but through my own universalist perspective it resonates. It most definitely means more to me now than it did thirty years ago. Through my practices I have come to understand consciousness, energy, the Universe, and the interconnectedness of everything in a much different way than I did before. Most of these understandings did not come through analytical thought, or rhetorical explication alone. Reason and rhetoric played a part, but the clincher, the real understanding part has come through doing--or not doing; through experience, whether that experience be sitting meditation or exchanging energy with a martial arts partner. I know I've had the experiences, I know they taught me, I know what they taught me, but I can never explain so that another gets it the same way I did. The only way to learn at that level is through experience.

Don Juan also introduces the concept of controlled folly in A Separate Reality. As this acceptable ambiguity sets in, we realize that things have changed for us. We can't go on living the way we have before. Our minds may struggle with the tension between the new understanding and the old comfort, but our bodies know. We can no longer be content pretending things matter that we know in our hearts do not. Chief among the things that don't matter is convincing others. We can reach a place of live and let live. But we still live in the world. We may act on unimportant things anyway. We may need to go through the motions of social life to move along and live our lives in a strategic manner. We do this through controlled folly. We know it's ultimately folly, but it serves our larger purpose. The thing that does matter is living an intentional life, in a purposeful and strategic manner.

I write. That is what I do. Granted, it may be controlled folly but it is ultimately a part of my strategic life because I learn through my writing just as I learn through my Taiji form. The more I learn the more I progress. Ultimately I am only progressing to my death, but the knowledge of my death, in a bow of respect to Don Juan, is what tempers my life. Knowing that death is just over my left shoulder stalking me always, is the impetus for impeccability, my reason for following the way of the warrior. And that is why it matters, even though it doesn't.

No comments: