Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Joe Omundson

Cause and effects

Sometimes a cause has multiple effects which are not obviously related to each other, yet one effect can be used to predict another.

For example, in town I tell my friends "I am going camping at the usual place, you are welcome to join me tonight." They say "OK, we're not sure but maybe we will see you there later."
So I drive to my campsite, I am relaxing, thinking about life and processing whatever comes up. Hours go by, the sun sets and I think: I could build a fire, that might be nice, but hmmm it sounds like a lot of work.

Another thought comes to mind: if I build a fire, my friends will come. If I don't, they won't.

Seems irrational. But, if I find the energy to build a fire, it might indicate a mental and emotional state of positive willingness to make things nice. If I was in that state when I invited my friends, then they probably picked up on that, and would likely be more attracted by my offer to hang out in the wilderness. Alternatively, if I've not found enough enthusiasm to build myself a fire, then maybe I was also in a low-energy state when I invited my friends, and they'll be thinking "an evening with that guy? Probably not tonight."

So it is not that my fire is a magic summoner. There's no way for them to know whether I have built a fire or not. It's just that the two decisions depend on the same variable to some extent, almost as though they were decided in the same moment, long before sundown.

I didn't build the fire. My friends didn't come.

Of course, this is a simplification, and there are other variables at play. It's possible that I had positive energy when I invited them, but in the following hours I became tired. Also, my friends' plans were influenced by personal circumstances unrelated to my invitation.

When one cause has multiple effects, the effects are related in a way that might not be obvious at first. If you can learn to see these connections in other people's lives you could seem to have psychic powers or great insight. And if you can learn to see them in your own life, you could seem to make great leaps of personal progress as you simultaneously solve multiple problems by addressing one root issue.

What if I'd meditated that morning, and it improved my mood for the day? My invitation might have been more joyous and sincere. Maybe I would have been more intentional about planning to make a fire and my friends would have felt more drawn to join me.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Joe Omundson

Good and evil, eternity and NOW

Are people good or evil?


We associate good and evil with certain qualities we have assigned to other words. Generosity; kindness; provision; pleasure; safety; health; growth; strength. Destruction; violence; negation; death; neglect; pain; suffering; terror. All of these things are contained in the natural world, simultaneously and overlapping, without distinction.

Some animals survive in good health and abundance while others starve. Some animals eat, others are eaten. There are no rules. Parasites drain life from their hosts and this is OK. Dead bodies nourish the living. Some species can only come to life after a devastating fire, or they lay their eggs inside another animal and poison that animal to death so their young may feed. Mass extinctions happen. Some animals kill their mates immediately after mating. Animals rape and fight and kill. And yet they are innocent, all of it is natural.

Nothing lasts, even the rocks crumble and turn into dust. Rivers dry out, continents are submerged, frozen, desertified. A water molecule can flow beautifully from a rain shower to a creek and a waterfall and a river and an ocean, or it can be frozen in a polar ice cap for 500,000 years. Mountaintops are eventually subducted and melted into magma once more.

Stars are born and they die. They go supernova, collapsing into neutron stars and black holes. They destroy their planets. They smash into each other, they feed off each other like parasites. Entire galaxies collide in chaos. In the end of time all will be dark.

Is all of this good, or is it evil? What an impossible question. The universe is neither tragic nor magical, and it's both. It works itself out as it can, as it must, as it will be.

And people are the same. Nothing anyone does is really surprising. It is a reaction of what they are, to what they are around. Some people demonstrate behavior that we associate with good, others with evil, but everyone is a wide enough spectrum to contain some of both. Some people think only of themselves and are rewarded with health and money. Others care immensely for others and they die in a damn fire. Some are born to loving parents, others to neglectful and fearful ones; some know only abundance, some starve to death as children. And some come to see life as good while others see it as evil. Each of us is a small piece of the mosaic, and each of us is a mosaic of our own.

What does any of this mean? Who knows. But it seems wiser to acknowledge and accept the full contradictory complexity of our situation, rather than cling desperately to one selective interpretation or another. We can comfortably blind ourselves to the parts we don't like but it only leads to pain and confusion when our illusions are shattered. The only guarantee is change and impermanence, uncertainty and lack of control. The way to find true peace as a part of this system is to develop a healthy, practical, accepting relationship with the transient nature itself of life and the universe. To give up on illusions of control and importance, superiority and morality, eternal life and knowledge beyond human limitations. To instead experience the eternity that is contained in each passing moment.

THIS IS IT. Life is now! This moment is what you have. Can you accept it? Can you appreciate the fact that you are sitting here aware of yourself right now? You, made out of all the same kinds of things as everything else in the universe. Do you know that someday THIS MOMENT that you are in will be your last? When you are in that last moment, will you think back to this moment? To yesterday, tomorrow? What will you wish that you could tell yourself now? If your deathbed self could go back to who you are right now, what would you do? How would you cherish the fact that this is not your last day and not your last breath? Would you go outside and look at the sky and breathe deeply and be still? Would you hug someone and say that you love them? Would you value your curiosity and explore everything you ever wished you could? Would you forgive, love, encourage? Would you laugh outrageously?

Think about it! Your life is nothing but a collection of NOW moments. If you never learn to embrace the craziness of NOW, how will the overall picture of your life ever add up to something you want to experience? The past is worth remembering, and the future is worth preparing for, but these cannot replace the importance of what is happening NOW. Sit with now. Accept now. Enjoy now. Value now. Everything else in life is secondary.

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