Kitchen table philosopher Joseph Raffa asks if we can set words aside and let the heart lead.
Do people ever tire of words and complex descriptions? Listen to the flow, to the accumulation, as it issues forth. We draw on it to explain, to communicate, to support our actions and standing in life. It pours out, an energetic stream of words, expertly put together in convincing and logical sequence. Very impressive, depending on the eloquence and education of the person expounding on issues of interest. Every person has learnt something of the art of verbal expression, has passed a period of apprenticeship in which the use of language has been mastered. Then, when the need arises or a challenge, so the outpouring begins.
The Christian is programmed with the Bible and all else that is relevant to such a background. Buddhism comes in with its own particular influences. The Chinese with opposing yin and yang concepts. Science adds to the score with increasingly complex symbols and explanations. A wide variety of contributions, many intricate and difficult to understand.
What has happened to simplicity and directness? Why do humans travel a tortuous pathway of expression abounding in verbal complexities that surge into action like a dazzling fireworks display? Every social establishment has its collected lore, its authoritative reference library. This, the mind absorbs, every word digested then filed away as a basis for action when the need arises.
Plants grow, seasons change, the universe goes through its movements without a word being involved.
How did life ever manage to be what it is – plants grow, seasons change, the universe go through its movements without a word being involved? Yet humans can’t seem to do without them. Fascinating, the movement of words out of the human expression. And often very wearing, whether its talk-talk or thought-thought. So much so, that when we’ve had enough of chatter talk, of the mind and its intellectual expression, we head for quiet places of natural beauty, maybe down to the beach to let a fresh breeze offer some relief, or into the quiet of meditation to escape from the buzz bee of chattering talk.
And even there, although we may be quiet outwardly, inwardly, so accustomed is the medium of language, that thinking stirs, regardless of need and we chatter to ourselves, verbalising what we observe. It functions like breathing, has become second nature, this business of language and thinking. We rely on it for communication, to make things clear, as guidelines for ideas and actions. Without it we would be lost, unable to function as we do. Not only without words but also without the special techniques the mind invents to regulate its approach to life.
Much of learning is the learning of technique. So now we have the how mind, the what, where, why and when mind, the cause and effect mind. Not the mind of love, of simplicity and directness, but the complicated mind, the problem mind. Through the mind, we take care, explore the options, exercise choice to advantage, count the cost before we proceed in matters considered important. We are more concerned with the ways and the means, with the outer show and organisation, with preparation, methods and techniques, with protection before we move. We want maps detailing the dangers ahead, the obstacles, the possible returns. Not for the mind an expression that does not take care of the self in every way – that does not meet with self-approval or accord with the self’s inclinations and desires.
Trust, to the mind, needs help; faith needs its support. So the mind sets to and provides its own protection, its own support base. And words and reasons are the background basis of this support. Blithely we move along a trail of words, reassuring ourselves with the accumulated knowledge that we are doing very well, thank you. The mind knows it all, about life, the universe, how to do this and that. Complex modern living reduced to learnable techniques. No need to be crippled. We can learn to be masters of ourselves, of our surroundings and fashion our lives as we will.
In the process, we’ve created experts for every social activity. Our accumulated background of techniques, of information and know-how goes back a long, long way and is now very complex. So too, is the spin off in relationship problems and behaviour – the dark side of the human expression that will not fade away in spite of our expanding intellectual development.
And, when we move to consider the disturbing aspects, of what disrupts harmony, so we collect the available data, bring the experts in, determine conclusions, directives and future courses of action to resolve the unwanted situations. And somehow miss out, for difficulties follow us wherever we go, whatever we do and not yet do we blithely move down life’s highway without disturbing and distressing things happening. Or without feeling threatened by events or other people at times.
Could it be that mind is too overloaded with complicated ways now so that it cannot clearly see how to proceed – too concerned with looking after the self, with the how and the preparation which have become more important than spontaneous, integrated action? Should we bypass the mind in our deliberations because it is too busy looking after its own little concerns, too busy protecting its standpoint and is not aware how to proceed from a universal standing?
Do we have to move slowly, a step at a time, each carefully considered while the mind determines how its position will be affected? Will we ever break free of the restraints, imposed by the mind from its background accumulation, and head in a new direction, making a completely new beginning and forge a new approach to life in the process? We have the means within. This is natural, not acquired, not gained through experience. It is something that has always been there within the human expression.
Call it what you will, the spiritual, God, the Universal, but please, put names and words aside and also the complicated mind of time and discover directly what it is we are writing about. Just be with it. Let the Sunshine of Life come through. Don’t worry about the how, nor ask for the way. Let the heart lead. Move as one with the heart. Don’t be seduced by the mind into staying with the ways, means and explanations.
Move – fellow humans – move. The Sunshine is waiting.
* Joseph’s collected spiritual writings are now available in the Kitchen Table Philosopher series. Available in print and digital versions from Amazon.com and other online retailers.