What’s Really Going On, and Why You’ll Never Know

Some say that Discordianism (the worship Eris, the Goddess of chaos, discord, confusion, bureaucracy, and international relations) is a joke disguised as a religion. Some say it is a religion disguised as a joke. Discordians say it’s both, as the mood suits, and that may be one of the key stones to the freedom it provides. Be that as it may (or may not) I’d like to share another little gem from Eris’ treasure chest.

Reality is… something, or other. When we try to say more about it, we run into problems. Whatever is going on, we don’t have the sensory equipment to perceive all of it. Our eyes only perceive a small portion of the light spectrum. Our ears have a limited range. It’s the same with all of our senses. On top of that, of the millions of signals per hour that arrive at our sensory apparatus, only a very small portion of these signals make it into our awareness. The nervous system in general and our brains are built to sort out signals that might be superfluous, or not urgently important. What we call reality, and the only thing we can call reality is a pared down version of actual reality. This reality then gets assigned meaning, and relation, according to the distinctions we’ve been conditioned with via culture and education.

In Discordianism, we use the metaphor of windows. It’s as if there is a permanent window in front of us, through which we view reality. Of course, since the window is always there, it’s not possible to know how it may be tinted. Onto that window is painted a grid. This grid is made of the rules, beliefs, ethics, and habits that we carry with us. These, of course can be modified. We can always learn new lessons, question old beliefs, or suffer head trauma. In fact, a lot of what we spend our time doing is just that. We change our grid as life demands, limited by how attached we are too particular portions of our grid, and/or how deeply the grid is ingrained.

All of this creates what we see of reality, and how we label reality. We never see reality as it actually is. We can accept this, or we can fight against it. The extent to which we fight against it is the extent to which we are being dishonest with ourselves. If we can accept this notion, then we get the chance to recognize our grids as grids, and that means we get the chance to adjust them.

In case you feel some struggle in coming to terms with this notion (which I know I have!), there is a helpful little teaching from the Principia Discordia for keeping this notion fresh. It’s a little mantra, “All statements are true in some sense, false in some sense, meaningless in some sense, true and false in some sense, true and meaningless in some sense, false and meaningless in some sense, and true and false and meaningless in some sense.”

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Don’t Make It Mean Something That It’s Meaningless

I’ve been re-reading, “F*ck It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way” and it’s got me thinking about things.

One of the common distinctions in spiritual traditions to address the subject excess of human suffering is the issue of attachment. “F*ck It” covers this issue in good detail. We attach to things that are important to us. Things gain their importance from the meaning we hold for them. Hence, meaning causes suffering. One thing we can do about that is we can question the meaning we give to things. Is the meaning appropriate? Is the meaning serving us? Does the meaning still apply, or have things changed and we have just not bothered to update our meaning? All of these questions are good ways for us to see if we should hold on to some of the meanings we maintain.

A deeper look into meaning gives rise to the question of where meaning comes from. Basically, all meaning is assigned. Our brains are built to find patterns and meanings to make sense of our world. Whenever life presents us with some thing, or some situation, our brains jump to and either dig up the meanings we already have or struggle to find a meaning to assign. This can be seen when we encounter some thing, or some situation we have never come across before. For just a moment there is no meaning that shows up. We just stare and go, “What?”

As the Buddha said, “Things don’t hold meaning. Meaning is held in words and sentences.”

Things don’t mean anything. We decide what they mean. That gives us the opportunity to discard the meaning if we need to. We can drop a meaning that no longer serves us, or we can set a meaning aside for long enough to get a breather. Things are inherently meaningless, and that means they need not have a hold on us.

There are plenty of traditions and groups that really get into this meaninglessness thing. Here’s the thing though, they sometimes take it too far. I once took a course called, “The Forum” put on by Landmark Education. I can’t recommend Landmark too much because I didn’t care for their hard sale techniques, but I did pick up several good distinctions that have served me well. One of these distinctions happens to concern meaning. They used the phrase, “X is empty and meaningless …” and then they would add, “… and, it’s empty and meaningless that it’s empty and meaningless.” That last bit is what is missing from some of these spiritual groups.

Assigning meaning to things being meaningless defeats all the relief we can get from recognizing that things are inherently meaningless. So, play with meaninglessness and see if it helps, but don’t get too attached to it.

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Make Practices Your Own

We all know that the “one size fits all” myth is a myth. It is never true in clothing or shoes. It’s even more true when it comes to practices we use to work on ourselves. From what I have seen, this fact is robustly ignored by most people. They dive into meditation practice, twisting their legs just so, lighting the prescribed incense, and wonder why their efforts seem frustrated. The same is true with yoga, bowling, psychoanalysis, and depression medication. People dogmatically stick to doing things the “right way”, for a long time before trying to figure out if the right way for them may not be the way they were told.

The thing about a practice is that it’s like anything you might take to fix an issue. Like aspirin for a headache. No two people react in exactly the same way to aspirin. For some it works, for some it doesn’t. Some are allergic. For some continued use is fatal. Aspirin is a general enough treatment that the differences are normally not that pronounced. The more specific a treatment gets, the more likely that the differences in people will show up.

The thing about most spiritual practices is they tend to be pretty specific. They also seem to have more of a capacity to being affected by differences between users. From what I can see this gets at one of the core distinctions that leaps out after you look at you for any length of time. Each view on reality is utterly unique, if only because one of the components that makes that tunnel is the view itself, and one view is not another view. Because of that, any practice that gets close to the core truth of what you are must, necessarily, be more vulnerable to differences in effect.

I think that it’s vitally important that this specificity be taken into account. The more the practitioner drills in, the more their unique nature gets revealed, and the more the “effects” of the practices become specific to them. To try and stick adamantly to the way these practices are “supposed” to unfold based on the reports of others who have used the practices before, is to pull away from one’s unique nature. That makes the practices increasingly less effective, and more superficial. One may still gain the surface and most common benefits, but one will no longer reveal new insights. Nor will they advance the development of that particular practice. If meditation students stick only to relaxation, all the states of mind explored and mapped by the Tibetan Buddhists (as only one example) would never become known.

When working on yourself it’s important to take you into account. Find what works for you and adapt as needed. There no carbon copying a one of a kind. Do you.

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