It’s a common expression. We consider the two must go together, “How can we feel good if we’re not secure?”
Tony, I have read and re-read your original posting, and I think I have a better grip on where you are going with it. Qualitative v.s. quantitative differences are different as night and day. They are tangible v.s. intangible. Rational v.s. irrational.
I have long been involved in the study of animal behavior. As so, I look for and am guilty of studying them from within an overlay of parameters, based on the need for nourishment, safe resting places, territorial breeding areas, etc. This is only the basic needs parameters. Quality isn’t as easy to incorporate into this model. It is less than nuanced. Most of the time species tends to work in a usual default mode. What may seem an aberration to this default may well be due to quality issues. Poor quality, or higher quality, and the sense of either, may be perceived in times where all is well and basic survival is not an issue. In stressful or less optimum times the default mode kicks in to survival mode, and patterns become very obvious.
Maybe that’s what is wrong with the human species? Maybe we have made our lives so stressful that we no longer find our lives out of the stress mode. We are so busy trying to survive, or worse, seeking perceived power, that we have lost or nearly lost the ability to recognize the nuances between the adequate, and survival ability, and that which is subtly of higher quality.
We might never get it all back if we continue to make everything rational. Rationality keeps us from looking for the intangible qualities that actually glues it all together. The emotional stuff, the spiritual stuff, the sense of place, and a oneness within the universe of our minds. “Wholeness.”
He states the question as it has connected with his own experience and then verbalizes it in a way so we are able to grasp how it all coheres.
He brings us to the edge of questions that have been just out of my reach for a while. They have to do with how we’re conditioned to expect certain families of pattern as “ordered” and others as chaotic. And how these differences have to do – not with some abstract “human condition,” but with a particular pattern of behavior, a pattern of thought, that has arisen in our past and that has become almost impossible to distinguish from, “Just the way we are.”
I also look to other creatures as sources for insights into these questions. There continues to be – even as we rush to destroy it – vestiges and remnants of other forms of order. As we destroy them we are also just beginning to be able to recognize them. This is part of the paradox of our moment. Loss at a certain grand scale can initiate a wake-up call.
There is another relationship to certainty. My first glimmer of this was in Mourning for the World. The sense that the way other intelligent living creatures respond to our depredations in ways we misunderstand as “dumb and brutish.” A refusal to let our insanity infect their lives even as the results of our insanity is killing them.
There is a different approach to questions of life and death going on. There is another understanding of what we call “security.” There is also a different understanding of well-being.
What appears to be going on, and what has long been just out of reach is an understanding of integrity and wholeness that puts questions of safety into a different light. It’s not that “Life is a game” to them. It is taken seriously at all times, though held onto much more lightly. Self-preservation is one part of a response but not the be-all and end-all we so often claim.
There is a different relationship with grief. Who and what has been lost is valued, but never becomes a block.
The theme running through these differences of understanding comes into focus as a difference in the relationship of ego with the individual and how the individual feels placed in their totality.
In a way we could say that what John is pointing out is how our own relationship with ego is in large part the product of trauma. How chronic stress eroded and then blocked any return to a state of integrity, of integration.
A recognition of quality and the development of a relationship with quality is the only way we can address our condition.
What non-human life – and the patterns it recognizes, celebrates, and lives within – values above all is quality. Quality is the life-blood, the life-force, pulsing through every interaction.
The patterns we recognize provide us a simulacrum of quality. An ersatz quality, abstracted and therefore stripped of its context. Ego builds elaborate scaffolds to legitimize these forms of order. It imposes them on our lives as necessities. Necessities that fall into the category collected under this broad term, security.
We are surrounded by suffering. We can find ourselves lost in it. Suffering is triggered by and brings forth its own misery. Yet, misery does not have to lead to suffering.
The path unfolding in this direction returns us to a relationship with quality. The integrity, integration, this relationship fosters breaks down the waste-products of stress and promotes the development of connections that restore our connection with this life-blood, life-force.
In this, our awareness of futility is not a source of despair. It is a healthy response to that which not only does not work, but dominates our attention so that we have no resources to address what is lacking.
This sense of futility as the condition for an affirmative act is what we respond to as “freedom” in the “wild.” It’s not a lack of constraints that provides the trigger we respond to. It’s a relationship with constraints that drops what is beyond our capacities – and therefore best left to some other power whose ways and reasons are beyond us – and refocuses us on what will bring us back into alignment with quality.
Abstraction, all manner of reductive strategies are ready to siphon off this direct relationship into channels ego can continue to dominate. This is why it’s essential to enter into practices that hold us in direct relationship with quality through time.
Actual time, not “psychological time.” Duration and repetition and the effects of plasticity working on the underlying framework of habit without which no organism can live requires that we dedicate time over the course of our lives to what we might call ritual actions as well as within channels of creative action that keep us engaged with quality in all its particularity.
Ritual, creative action, both “for its own sake” and within the meeting of true necessity, exist throughout all living creatures.
There is a matter-of-factness to non-human life, to human life lived outside the prison of ego, that we recognize whenever we encounter it. This is evidence of the grounding that both provides a foundation for living and is a well-spring of energy and access to Joy. We access this same matter-of-fact quality when we give ourselves to a ritual action and enter into relationship with its limits and constraints.
In this we not only practice dealing with the facts-of-life; we celebrate them; and we inhabit them.
Well-being has nothing to do with chasing after security. It’s only when we are able to find the strength to unravel the binds of ego and trauma that we can engage in life through our relationships with quality. In this, in practices that hone and celebrate our connections, we contact well-being in its true form. We are no more or no less vulnerable to misery, but we are free of suffering.