Have you considered the possibility
that everything you believe is wrong,
not merely off a bit, but totally wrong,
nothing like things as they really are?
If you’ve done this, you know how durably fragile
those phantoms we hold in our heads are,
those wisps of thought that people die and kill for,
betray lovers for, give up lifelong friendships for.
If you’ve not done this, you probably don’t understand this poem,
or think it’s not even a poem, but a bit of opaque nonsense,
occupying too much of your day’s time,
so you probably should stop reading it here, now.
But if you’ve arrived at this line,
maybe, just maybe, you’re open to that possibility,
the possibility of being absolutely completely wrong,
about everything that matters.
How different the world seems then:
everyone who was your enemy is your friend,
everything you hated, you now love,
and everything you love slips through your fingers like sand.
(Thanks to Andy at Pilgrimpace for introducing me to this poem.)
|The creation of the universe (Wikimedia Commons)|
The reasons for things and the results of things can be simple or complicated: 'A' followed by 'B' prompts 'C'; we predict the sun will rise each morning because of the earth's self-rotation and orbit round the sun; we throw stones into a pond and watch the ripples; the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil may set off a tornado in Texas. All our motions — even the most routine duty or automatic gesture — have causes, many of which are hard to trace unless we involve ourselves in continual self-analysis. All our stirrings — even the tiniest movement or most insignificant thought — have consequences, many of which we will never be aware of.
Despite post-Einsteinian and modern speculative physics, most of us believe that life is a temporal progression, a linear track through space forged by cause and effect, action and result. But supposing it isn't always like that? Supposing there's a different way of seeing things? Supposing everything you believe is wrong, / not merely off a bit, but totally wrong, / nothing like things as they really are?
|Cambodian buddha (Wikimedia Commons)|
My point here is that it is in our power to change the cycle of desire (cause) - suffering (effect) - further desire (an abortive attempt to escape suffering) - further suffering if we break the connection between desire and suffering by eliminating desire. In other words, rather than accepting the inevitability of long-established chains of cause and effect, we can disrupt them — break the links. In this and similar acts we assert individual choice and freedom, free will if you like: things don't have to be this way! (I suppose you could argue philosophically that by asserting this free will you are still using the cause and effect principle, i.e. your free will causes your new state of being, but can you go along with me and just call this semantics? I think you understand the gist of what I'm trying to argue.)