The Movement of Participation

woman-holding-mirror-on-grass-reflection by LAURA WILLIAMS

Reality is participatory in nature… just look at breathing: you take a breath – receive the air, you transform the air in your body, and you give back what you have transformed. Receive > transform > give, that seems to be the general dynamics of a humanimal’s participation in reality.

The same goes for our mind: Take in a concept, transform it into an understanding, and give that back in any form you like. And with every participatory transformation cycle our reality grows more diverse: out of one concept a never ending number of other, and very different concepts can and do arise. Our nature is participatory: no wonder that many of us feel such elation when we have authentic conversations in which we creatively play with our mutual concepts.

Participation is most intense when it is in the mode of transformation. This is why detachment via the cognitive self, the mind, by saying for instance, “I am not this body, not these feelings, not this mind” etc., feels so at odds with our nature. It is a process of singling yourself out until there is nothing left but the Self. And the Self is an emptiness, a void in which all in all plays. Yet, the Self is neither in it nor of it. For sure, this method will, if followed radically enough, land you in some non-duality that reveals the interdependence of all beings and becomings – or so I’m told – but there is a basic bias towards self and awareness that is almost imperialist; it claims “Tat Tvam Asi”, thou art that, meaning that the Self is supreme and that you are aware of that, and this very awareness enlightens you.

Maybe you think I’m picking on that path; if so then because while on that path it causes an amazing amount of suffering, even though I’m told that the result, finally, is utterly supreme. But maybe that’s a justification, and I’m so picky because this path has disappointed me in every way possible. It first dawned on me when it became clear that the “Witness”, the detached neutral observer of reality is a construction that puts a distance between witness-me and everything else, a distance that aggravates the dreadful consumerist, media-guided situation we find ourselves in. Exercising witness-consciousness turns us into a spectator of life making it harder and harder to just be the feeling, breathing, engaged and involved participator of reality that we always also are. It blinds us to what we always do, even in death.

Exercising ourselves in this or similar transcending ways will surely confuse us enough to actually think that we are an independent agent, an essentially disembodied awareness that is not of this endless and boundlessly deep world. And also, and paradoxically, whatever detaches us or moves us into avoidant and evasive spaces, what numbs us…  is still a way to participate in it all, only very confusedly and chaotically so.

We’re one in the beginning, and ever since we differentiate, diversify and become more and more unique. And the primordial unity is not broken; it just manifests as participation of everything/one with everyone/thing. Our differences are real, are authentic. Glossing it over in a civilized manner won’t help. Pretending that we’re one won’t help. Trying to make it go away won’t help. Trying to transcend it won’t help. Actually there is nothing that can be done about it: the chaos we live in is authentic, it’s real and it is the ground out of which we weave the story of life and civilizations. But maybe for the first time in history actually being able to radically accept this chaos, opens up the possibility for something new to emerge. May it help us through the next phase of our development.

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