A Web of Obligations

by Antonio Dias

We tie ourselves within a web of obligations, forgetting that while these so-called acts of responsibility are meant to help us fulfill our lives, they actually keep us from it.

What struck me was the way we handle the mid-term. It’s not just in the short-term that we do everything twice. In the mid-term, in “projects” lasting weeks or months or years, we believe that without concocting an agenda and then serving its demands we are simply drifting without direction.

Sometimes, over the longest term, when we consider our life’s trajectory over decades, we do see the way, as John Lennon so aptly put it, “Life happens while we were busy making other plans.”

We do not consider the implications of this in how we deal with things as they are going on. We revert to believing that, “It’s the plan stupid!

When we consider the incoherence of thought this is one of the ways it affects us most directly. The illusion of an “I,” leads to illusions surrounding its agency. We then adhere to an allegiance to these illusions and then wonder why we are frustrated, why everything we do ends in unintended consequences. If we could dislodge some of our energy and attention from bolstering our own prison we might see that there are other ways to act. We trap our selves in an active allegiance to the drama which we then insist in characterizing as life itself. We insist that we’d rather destroy everything, our selves included, than admit that drama is not life, but a shadow occluding life’s presence and diminishing its fecundity.

What if we bring this other attitude, the one we glimpse as we look at the broader trajectory of our lives, to how we go about what we do every day?

To begin with, this presents us with an awesome responsibility. One we are too “busy” to recognize while we pretend to act “responsibly” meeting all our self-imposed obligations. This reaction is normal, and temporary. It is a confrontation with a direct connection. One outside the usual magical thinking we are accustomed to. As we allow our selves to inhabit this unaccustomed feeling we realize that it is a break from futility. And this energizes us and brings us into a relationship with joy. We are liberated. In the only way that can happen. We liberate ourselves. This occurs internally. There are no conditionalities we need to meet before this can happen. It is a form of recognition of proprioception. We discover where we have unencumbered agency. This is a gift of clarity. A gift of Grace.

An enduring legacy of practicing an Art is the repeated confrontation it affords us with the complete irrelevance of effort and intention when we look at whether we’ve achieved a result. What begins as a practical apprenticeship in humility becomes a lifelong confrontation with the limits of Ego within a dedication to creativity. Many destroy themselves in an effort to deny it. To insist that the self is identical to the Gift. Some are able to generate spectacle as they do this. We are captivated by the flash as they self destruct.

My abiding love for Vincent van Gogh grows from an appreciation of another possibility. He followed compassion and humility – and if recent theorizing on the situation that led to his death are true – his humility led him to accept the blame for his own death rather than be responsible for having hate ripple forward to destroy the lives of the youngsters who unwittingly shot him.

Bruised by Art’s intractability as it destroys our illusions we may reject it and its lessons. We cleave that much more closely to an internalized oppressor, demanding our obedience to its imposing authority. We treat our organism with contempt and as with any slave. We hate it as much as we rely on its chained efforts to maintain our way of life. We fall into the rationalizations of authority fearing all our shadows while insisting they are out there instead of merely projections of our own disintegration. No wonder we despair. There appears to be no way out but into fantasy, delusion, or complete and utter destruction. Seeking fantasy. Finding delusion. We grasp onto destruction as our deserving Fate in a hidden recognition of our guilt.

None of this leads anywhere but around in a circle, a death-spiral. This drama we call life is only a toxic simulacra. Grace, humility, compassion beginning with compassion for the organism we abuse with every breath, does break this cycle. In the death of Ego we are born.

Insight into the ways in which we can act without constructing these terrible webs illuminates a way to be. Not a way “forward.”

Each moment presents itself as a Gift. An opportunity for creation. No plan, no program, no project, will encompass its potential.

Do it once….

Take each moment as it comes and respond, don’t merely react.

Clarity is the  experience of this integration, this embodiment. Illumination and insight occur. They are not summoned. And that they are not subject to our wills is not a deprivation. It is in itself another aspect of Gift.

Paths back into Ego’s thrall are all around us, ready to draw us back into illusion and frustration and futility. Each moment of clarity, however hard won, is an act of experiencing an alternative to our prisons. Each moment we encounter as it happens, instead of hiding it behind the veils of our illusions of intention and expectation, is a moment lived.