Kitchen table philosopher JOSEPH RAFFA contemplates the ways of the mind.
Life has its demands. These cannot be ignored. The body has its needs. These must be met. In living the human expression many pathways beckon. People do their best to travel those that seemingly offer the best returns. The mind is the determinant, the decider of where to go and what to do.
If the mind is happy, at ease with what is done, all is well and life moves smoothly. But if uncertainty, resistance and compulsion settle in then the results are not very pleasant at all.
Not many live from moment to moment with a happy heart. Contradiction and choice are the bugbears that unsettle our movement through life, particularly when inner and outer security control the choices we make. The mind urges for self protection. The self is a complex mix of arising desires and demands. So many influences and attitudes have lodged in the mind. The past clouds its judgement.
The expression of choice is influenced by the past, by thinking, which is an attempt to lock the unknown of what to do for the best into a present frame of reference that is agreeable to the mind. The constant exercise of choice, to do what pleases, what is agreeable or profitable, is what makes living so difficult. Life refuses to be put 100 percent into a personal framework of this kind.
There are always challenges arising that we shy away from and, if face them we must, there is anxiety at the outcome. So, we venture through life with confidence at times, like timid mice at others. This cannot change while the self with its complex background is at the helm of human affairs. The insistence for the demands of the self to be met in every way leads to conflict. To have them denied by others also leads to conflict.
Life has become a push/pull affair, a constant attempt to satisfy and please the self. There is a persistence in this that is powerful. It can be held back for a time by discipline, channelled into organised courses for mutual benefit, welded into states, nations or movements to serve greater self interests, but unless every vestige is dug out of the human expression by a faultless understanding, trouble will follow in almost every human endeavour that the mind sets into motion.
The pressures within the self are like a ball held deep under the water. Relax the hold and it rushes to the surface and goes on its merry way creating mischief wherever it travels. Mind you,it has a high opinion of its own value. And it tenaciously clings to everything it has inwardly accumulated – agreeable memories, so many influences that have been absorbed in its journey through life. These shape its progress and its choices. Accustomed to being how it is, the self is very difficult to deal with. Being in control of its life, certainly having little understanding of its inner content, of what motivates its actions, it is not in a position to objectively investigate and evaluate its own behaviour. Nor can it easily clarify its relationship to others, to the outer world, to the society it lives in.
This does not matter if it is not interested in an exploration of the self. But it sometimes happens that the self sets to and decides to undertake an inner journey through its own nature. Itwants to understand what is going on beyond its surface extent, beyond the reasons, beyond the beliefs it holds. And, if it is stubbornly inclined in this direction it begins a learning that continues for as long as it functions in time in the way it knows. This journey, if it comes to fruition, takes it step by step from the outer it knows, from what it appears to be, through unknown levels that it was not aware of until it lodges without form, substance or illusion, in the heart of the strange Universal nature that is the essence of all things.
In this, it abides with the Eternal. The little self has come to rest in something vaster and grander. Now, a new rhythm controls its movement through life. Choice is exercised in little things, but in living the things that matter choice doesn’t come into it at all.
And the way of it is locked in the hearts and minds of those who travel this way – who make it to the Silent Strangeness. They are the happy, go lightly people who know what it is to sing thesong of the real and dance in time to heavenly music. What happens in time merely ruffles the surface. Their inner serenity remains undisturbed.
The little self that began the journey has come to the end of the line. And the end of the line is home.
- Joseph’s collected spiritual writing is now available as The Kitchen Table Philosopher series. It is available in print and digital formats from Amazon.com and other online retailers.