A Theory of Water - Religion, Enlightenment, and non-causal Reality
Be water, my friend
– Bruce Lee (Youtube video)
What you’re about to read, if you’re religious, atheist, or agnostic, may trigger something in you. It certainly has for me. It might be positive; it might be negative. I cannot say. What I can say, and what I hope you receive as my intention, is that the source of this very writing is love. A love driven by a desire for awareness and wisdom for this earth.
I was raised by two very different belief systems. My father, in his brilliance, taught me the values of science, rationality and reason, relentless discovery, and above all, the aspiration to intelligence. My mother instilled qualities that took many years for me to understand and manifest. She showed a path for creation, art, peace, oneness, and a fickle description of love that always seems to elude us.
Yeah, childhood was interesting.
On the one hand, my mother introduced me to many non-religious (and religious) interpretations of the word “God,” while my dad questioned how such a concept could even exist. Circular arguments, re-writing of the Bible and other scriptures for the benefit of nation-states, and sheer ignorance. Not to mention a petty, narcissistic invisible force that would drown the world if it didn’t worship him (or so his interpretation was/is).
He had a point, and as a child/teenager, followed this line of thinking dogmatically. My mother’s views seemed “airy-fairy,” not based on any truth I could perceive, and some were pretty wacky. But as I grew older, I relaxed my absolutistic thinking, looked past the hatred and claims of “truth” on all sides, and tried to understand where everyone was coming from.
For the overwhelming majority of us, life is linear or “causal”. A causes B, then C. I got the promotion because I worked hard. He left me because he couldn’t deal with me standing up for myself. World War 2 started because Hitler invaded Poland.
For our brains to cope with reality, we need simple explanations to deal with the messy soup of what is going on around us. If we didn’t have clear, simple reasons for things, it would be immeasurably confronting to recognize patterns, make predictions, plan for the future, or explain to children why they shouldn’t hit their siblings. We need to draw lines from event to event to explain the very existence in which we live. Or so we think.
When one begins to truly peel back the layers of our world, and seek to understand what’s going on under the surface, something very dramatic changes. Causes, as you would imagine, become very complex.
Did you get the promotion because you worked hard? Or was it also because the person above you was fired, the company had a good year with extra revenue, and they needed someone to expand into a new market? Did he really leave because you stood up for yourself? Or was it also the fact that you have no job, and his grandfather just died, and he was too emotionally insecure to talk about it with you, so decided it was best to just be with his family? Casual perception is an easy scapegoat in hindsight because it’s simpler.
As we seek to improve our awareness of ourselves, others, and the world, we see the nuances. It becomes challenging to pinpoint exactly what caused some thing (though not always). We begin to see everything as a dense, highly-interconnected web of people, animals, objects, emotions, beliefs, “isms”, technologies, “energies” and perspectives. It becomes impossible to separate one’s Self from this networked mess we call reality.
This awareness can emerge from meditation or psychedelics, religious experiences, spiritual awakenings, study of the sciences, deepening of empathy, and many other things. They all share one thing common. They loosen our absolutistic, causal view on reality. We see the world as fluid.
Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, and Einstein
There are many individuals throughout humanity’s rich and colored history who have, through some means or another, discovered this beautiful perspective. There are many today, and there will be many more.
To be a “Buddha”, literally translates to “Enlightened One”. It’s not a person. The Christians sometimes refer to this concept as “Christ Consciousness”. There are many others. Each faith, culture, and system has its own word for it, and a collection of practices, understandings or truths about it. They’re all equally beautiful, and they each lead, when taken from a place of love and intelligence to a place in which one sees the world as fluid.
Einstein himself subscribed to the idea of Spinoza’s “God”, a strange and perplexing notion that every thing and one of us is a derivation of an infinite “organism”. There is good reason to look into the merger of scientific thought and the idea of “oneness”. Not from a suspension of logic, but a leaning into chaos, awareness, and love.
Water to Ice
In Dharmic tradition, there is a phrase, “Once one has tasted the fruits of enlightenment, one feels instantly compelled to share it with others.”
There’s a beauty and power we receive from viewing the world as water. Conversations have more angles in which we could interpret them. People may be seen in different lights. Ideas take on new forms, and our creativity emerges boundless. These are all things best enjoyed with others.
And herein lies the problem of water. It’s next to impossible to translate, illustrate, or convince others of this wondrous perspective and the fruits it bears. Many have tried. Perhaps the most recent rendition of this is “A New Earth” by Ekart Tole. It is almost as if we try to take a 4K 60fps YouTube video and convert it to a cassette tape. It might get some of the audio across, but we lose the visual, much of the definition of its sound, and the very essence of what made that video special. We lose information.
To extend our metaphor of water, we might say that things become more “static” the more we digress in explanation, that these descriptions become ice. While the intention is often that of love, wisdom, purity, and awareness, these are drastically difficult perspectives to elucidate in others, especially those of a closed mind, or who have not experienced such states. Our water becomes frozen. Our fluid understanding becomes causal again.
Often, the way many teachers attempt to explain these “truths”, “paths” and “perspectives” is through stories and metaphor. For those who are well on their way to letting go of the egoic Self, union with God, or profound conceptualization of metaphysical reality – these stories may serve as inspiring lampposts up a winding mountain road. For those who are absolutistic in their thinking, less empathetic, driven by a base fear, or through just plain misinterpretation, these stories become “truth”. They become literal.
Battle of the Ice Sculptures
There are a near-infinite number of ways one could try to describe “oneness”/non-causality/enlightenment/holiness. And there are a near-infinite number of ways these ideas could be misinterpreted.
When we forget that all these roads lead back to the same place, and especially when we feel the road is THE only Road, we grow protective of our perspective. We seek to defend our water that subsequently froze, fighting others over which way the ice should have formed.
The problem is, it will freeze differently each time. One teacher may say that God is in us all, and we must explore our relationship with Him through ourselves (a very Islamic idea in which there is no entity between you and God). Others claim that God is distinct from us, infinitely more powerful than us, and we must live in service to Him. Others say there is no god, and that life is just energy and matter. Or a deterministic, mathematical equation of incomprehensible complexity, creating the illusion of free will and perceived reality.
My fellow humans, why do we fight so? Can we not melt our ice? We are all saying the same thing deep down. Treat others how you would like to be treated (The Golden Rule). Be inquisitive and curious, driven by intellect and knowledge and wisdom. Spread love and inspiration to all and every thing we interact with.
Followers of religion, atheists, and scientists alike do agree on one thing. Our knowledge of this reality is infinitesimally minute, and that we are all a part of it. We are all more connected than we could possibly imagine. We are all humans, seeking truth and a better life. There is more than one way to see things.
If you are holding ice, in whatever shape or form, see how it drips around the edges. It wants to be fluid and free. It wants to join the rivers and the oceans, merging itself with everything else there is.
Dear human, you are precisely that. A beautiful, intelligent, marvelous being of this world that is designed and destined to connect your mind, body, and soul to this world.
Be water, my friend.