Stop the Wheel

I love the message of this video.

It reminds me of a distinction that came out loud and clear the last time I re-read “Cosmic Trigger volume 1” by Robert Anton Wilson. It had to do with a personal tragedy Robert went through that taught him the true meaning of the Buddhist idea of stopping the wheel of karma.

Robert’s teenage daughter Luna suffered a beating at the hands of a group of other teenagers. On the day of the incident, she was understandably upset. By the next day, she had let it all go and harbored no ill will towards the other kids. Instead, she wished them well and hoped they could get over whatever hurt was causing them to act out. That was when Robert got what the idea of stopping the wheel of karma is all about. Luna did not simply let the attack fade from her history. Instead, she actively transmuted the energy into a positive outpouring of compassion and care for others.

This is what stopping the wheel of karma is all about. It’s not simply minding our own actions. The true practice is taking negative circumstances, refusing to pass their ripples on, and instead transforming them into positive actions and caring for others. From the few times I’ve actually been able to pull this off, I have a deep respect for the amount of mindfulness it takes.

When I was a young lad, I was the target of a fair amount of bullying. Unfortunately, my response was to become a bully myself for a few years. I regret that and wish I had learned the tools to return positivity for negativity at that time.

In the moment that we are receiving negative energy, it can be very difficult to not fire back, and we miss out on the immediate satisfaction provided by making a clever quip. However, if we hold out the long-term returns of not returning bad vibes are much more rewarding. To paraphrase Sean Stephenson, “Drinking a beer can feel refreshing, but finishing ‘War & Peace’ after years of saying we wanted to will provide a fulfillment that will last the rest of our lives.”

Building Pyramids With Buddha

Today I went to a job interview from a Craigslist listing that was a little bit misleading. The post was written as if the position was a conventional job, but once I got there I quickly realized it was in the multi-level marketing format. Better known as a pyramid scheme. Basically, a commissions only sales gig with a push to recruit others so that you became a “manager.” It’s the third MLM scheme I’ve been exposed to. I don’t mind MLM companies so much, but I did mind being lied to. I have also been involved with a couple of educational companies that use a similar model. I’ve learned valuable and powerful distinctions from them, but I have never cared for the push to bring others into the fold.

As I left the interview I realized there is a similarity between MLM companies and how spirituality and religion is sometimes propagated. Especially in online social media. I have often gone into a Facebook group for the first time and been assaulted with comments, and direct messages about what I should be reading, who I should be studying, and what practices I should be doing. Often, the first thing that strikes me as funny is that nearly 90% of the time these well-meaning strangers come at me with books I’ve already read, teachers I’ve already investigated, or practices I’ve already done (or am currently doing.) The second thing that becomes apparent is how convinced they are that they’ve found the best book, teacher, or practice, and how all others are inferior. They don’t usually come out and say that no other method actually works, but it’s fairly obvious between the lines that they believe that to be the case. Many of them also want to occupy the role of, if not a teacher, at least senior student. They offer to take you under their wing, and direct you in the correct way towards “enlightenment”, “liberation”, “realization”, or whatever. The idea that something else might work better for someone else often seems like a foreign concept.

Luckily for me, one of my favorite teachers is Robert Anton Wilson. He has schooled me well in the wisdom of model agnosticism. Of not cleaving blindly to one single model (of spirituality, of religion, of finance planning, or of whatever). There have been occasions where I have forgotten the lesson, and been that ass hat who insists there is a “one true way”, but Uncle Bob is always whispering in my ear and I get back on track eventually.

The best any of us can do is what works best for us. Assuming what works for us will necessarily work for someone else is not only foolhardy, it’s kind of insulting.

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Some But Not All

I have been a student of Robert Anton Wilson’s work for a couple of decades now. I have read all his work, watched all his videos, and listened to all his interviews, most of them more than once. I first came across him when I found the book, “Cosmic Trigger volume 1” on the shelf at Green Apple books in San Francisco. I’ve read that book 14 times now, and I always find some new nugget of wisdom that rocks my world. “Cosmic Trigger”, along with “Prometheus Rising”, form the core of the man’s thought and work. I have taken a great many of Robert’s distinctions and notions on in my life to great effect. I feel that I suffer less, and have more robust relationships with the people in my life than I would have had I not learned from Wilson.

Today I’d like to share a little gem that I got from Robert Anton Wilson which has kept my mind free of cultural boundaries and helps me avoid slipping back into the many mental traps and prisons that life gives us the opportunity to encounter. The gem I am speaking of is the word, “sombunall.” The word sombunall is a short version of the phrase, “Some, but not all.” Primarily this word helps us shield ourselves against becoming convinced of something about an entire class of things in the world without enough evidence. In life, we can often become convinced that we know something conclusively about a given thing in the world, and this colors our perceptions of said phenomenon leaving us blind to other possibilities.

As an example, let’s say you’ve had occasion to hire three plumbers in your life to come to your house on the weekend and fix an emergency issue. Twice they were an hour and a half late. All three charged what seemed to you like an excessive fee, which was mostly for their travel time since the time they spent actually fixing the problem was minimal, and one convinced you to replace your piping with copper tubing which a friend (who knows nothing about plumbing, by the way, later told you was a rip off). All of this combined to give you the opinion, “All plumbers are crooks!” Having met 3 out of all of the plumbers in the world, under conditions of duress, you now “know the truth” about all plumbers. Such a belief becomes a barrier between you and honest dealings with the portion of the world population who are plumbers. Under this habitual, unexamined thought you would react poorly indeed if your daughter brings home her new beau to meet the parents who just happens to be a plumber in training. This sort of situation would be fixed if you had initially thought, “Sombunall plumbers are crooks.” Then when your daughter brought home her fella instead of thinking of him as a crook by default, you could have asked questions about plumbers in general and perhaps discovered someone you could call on the weekend when your pipes burst again.

Think about how different the world might be if Hitler had not been able to sell his line of, “All Jews are evil” because his audience edited the incoming signal to, “Sombunall Jews are evil.” Imagine the difference in anxiety if you ran the internal script, “sombunall dentist visits are painful” instead of, “all dentist visits are painful.”

Sombunall is a more honest take on the world because, just like the simple fact that Hitler never came close to meeting all Jews, none of us get to assess a sample set of phenomenon that comes close to all. Sombunall armors our psyches against pre-judgment and knee-jerk prejudice.

The way to integrate this idea into your life is pretty simple. Say, “sumbunall” internally on occasions when you find yourself reaching for “all.” Also, you can edit any message you receive from the outside world that contains the assertion “all” to its “sombunall” equivalent. Over time this becomes second nature in the very same way that saying “all” became second nature (if, in fact, it did for you.)

The simple little word sombunall will not fix all your problems, but I bet it will fix sombunall.

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