Perspectives

  • Issue 99 / May - June 2014



    A Personal Journey: Read as You Sail!

    Ethan Johnson

    Facts and knowledge, truth and belief, philosophy and faith, science and religion - these are all about guiding others into what one enjoys oneself. Some are more successful than others in this guidance and, hence, have been known throughout human existence, such as Plato; others are just bound by their beholder, such as in my case. Experiencing someone else finding the meaning of life through knowledge but not facts, or finding belief but not truth, leads to bondage rather than liberation from all the veils surrounding us. Going from one's own castle into one another's castle only helps if along the way, one discovers life outside bondage.

    Knowing oneself is a good starting point. But what does it mean, after all? Is it possible to know yourself at all, particularly with all the tools we are presented with or forced to acquire throughout our lives? Tools, after all, are all limited in nature, presented to you by others, such as language skills, thought processes, and cognitive abilities. Then, do you think you can know yourself, let alone develop your own philosophy of life? With all these difficulties, you set out on one of two differing paths, either one where you become a thinker yourself and be a lighthouse yourself, or another, where you just drift around another lighthouse. Anything beyond could be darkness. The difference between these two seems to lie in asking, seeking, and questioning; that is, in having an inquisitive mind versus embracing, accepting, and believing - in other words, having a submissive mind. It becomes more like choosing a blue pill versus a red one, as is depicted in a recent film, which is a rather successful strategy for guiding the submissive in searching for meaning.

    With all these thoughts, let me begin to talk about my journey of seeking the meaning of life - well, in particular my life. With all the boundaries and veils around me set by education and indoctrination, I set sail into different waters, far away. I enjoyed being myself as a subject rather than an object. I freed myself of some knowledge without any facts and was bound by other knowledge. This painstaking unweaving and weaving of myself led me to being who I am now, with numerous toolsets of scientific facts and knowledge, of faith and truths, with numerous veils, some old and some new. And I am somewhat content with what I have now, albeit at times I fear missing the whole point that is the meaning of life. Then, I revert to my comfort zone and feel safer for the moment.

    Again, with all the new adventures and relearning of myself, I find myself mostly looking for contentment with life - both my life and others. Contentment, superficially a head-to-toe feeling, gives me a sense of safety and the courage to seek more facts and knowledge in science and faith. Confusion, on the other hand, is my fear. The difference is like having 20/20 vision versus having serious cataracts. In my journey, the beam of a lighthouse illuminated me and made me feel that I have 20/20 vision, by which I can potentially see and get to know everything and be contented with everything, most importantly with myself. But was this just due to this lighthouse or had I developed the tools to be my own lighthouse? With the comfort of not having to probe this question, I preferred to drift near this lighthouse all the time.

    Reaching a comfort zone around this luminous lighthouse, and in my contentment, I stalled in searching myself for a while. Each and every time I attempted to sail a little further, I quit, fearful that I could go no further. I then realized that there were many more artifacts around this lighthouse that could help me develop my own tools for my journey. They were quite marvelous and beautiful artifacts. They were also quite handy, as if they were made for my use. I tremendously enjoyed collecting these objects, and sort of built my own little ship under a little projector. And, as if there must always be a catch, some of these artifacts were reflective in nature, and when I looked at them, I saw my own dark side. This soured my enjoyment for seeking and collecting ornaments. As if this was not enough of a sore point in my journey, I got to see others' dark sides as well, which caused me even further pain. A dualism of saying and doing in many led me to become more cautious, as I tried to shed light into my dark sides. After all, terrible things could happen in the dark. As I enjoyed the moments under the lighthouse, despite the possibility of darkness, I learned that there were also other artifacts that could help me with my dark side and my dealing with others' darkness. Through formulating and solving these problems, I was delighted to find that these artifacts were even more beautiful than when I thought when I saw them for the first time. Along with these ornaments, I also got to meet some great adventurers just like me, with the same hopes and problems and also with helping hands. I became even more content with what I had at the time.

    As time passed, I encountered another obstacle in my journey; I lost my passion for the search. I felt too overwhelmed with the almost constant dualism of saying and doing and tended to lose my patience with the darkness in others and partly in myself. This was too much to take. Was there another artifact around to help me through this obstacle? In search of this "yet to be found" artifact, I again partly got into the process of unweaving and weaving myself. While moving through this stage, I got to see that finding more and more objects could cause someone to become quite pretentious and full of false hope. This newly found "fact" saddened me quite deeply.

    Not to be trapped in these obstacles, I needed to put more effort into finding more around me to help me proceed. But it was not easier. On the contrary, it was a lot more difficult. This led me to another "fact": whatever I was searching for could be only found by someone who persists. I got to see that knowing and doing are quite different, just as saying and doing are different from each other. Nevertheless, I grew more curious about what might come, let it be other precise substances or quasi-unyielding obstacles. Maybe this seek, jump, and find makes the trip joyful and worthwhile.

    Where am I right now? With more artifacts and greater contentment with what I have and who I am, I am now more eager to set sail further under the luminous light of this breathtaking lighthouse, full of passion and joy, seeking to see what is to come. Have I developed any sense of knowledge or belief, or a motto for my life? Well, I am at a point right now where I know by heart that there are beautiful objects and ornaments and flowers in the Garden of Eden. They are only visible in the light, and I am much contented that I found a beautiful lighthouse that continuously sheds light on the Garden. I am undecided yet whether I can sail further or stay around in my current contentment.

    When I look back, I see that throughout my joyful journey, I tried to keep an inquisitive mind and learn about my dark side while discovering that there are more things waiting to be found and healed. I also learned that being pretentious and contentious is a big obstacle to gaining consciousness in finding the good in life. I also got to see that while seeking, finding, being helped and helping others - sailing, in other words - the whole journey is full of action and reading. Reading myself, others, and all these artifacts, reading the beautiful writing on this beautiful lighthouse was what I was doing all along. This reading and doing made the journey of life actually very rewarding in itself. I now treasure the artifact I get to develop throughout my journey - sometimes alone, but mostly under the light of the lighthouse I came across. I have a strong knowledge of and belief in this artifact. It gives me passion and conscience throughout my journey of life, through which I sometimes walk alone, but mostly with others. It sheds light when I see darkness in myself and in others. It helps me find more precious artifacts and develop even more of them along the way. It helps me find joy even among obstacles. It gives me passion and hope for getting ready to sail away into unseen waters that will take me among the endless artifacts under the light without any darkness. Then, I will say I am more than content and thankful for this great fulfilling journey.

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