Author: Douglas Wilton

Since viewing the photographs from Auschwitz in his youth, D. B. Wilton has pursued a lifelong quest to discover the roots of human conflict and foster a more enlightened world. To that end he has trained with both Tibetan and Zen teachers and has been both an activist for nuclear disarmament and a fund-raiser for environmental causes. He has also written and edited several lit mags, hosted durable reading series and is currently working on his fourth novel. He lives in Nelson, B.C. where he conspires with kindred souls to embody our global visions of peace on the ground of identification with all life.

inconceivability

My best guess is that I have as much chance of conceiving totality as my cat does.

Totality is what’s everywhere, including all that is here, so everything that’s here is also fundamentally inconceivable, including me and you and my cat.

So?  What earthly use comes of this view?

uses of inconceivability the view

— Deflating the importance of the human animal. All beings are equally inconceivable, including presidents, poets, popes and their gods.

— A cure for intellectual complacency and sloth, as in—

I have it all figured out. My guru, religion, favourite website has it all figured out. Scientists or someone has it all figured out,  so I don’t have to make any effort to understand what they know.

“He was starving in some deep mystery

like a man who is sure what is true.”

—Suspension of belief, disbelief and judgement

— inconceivability fosters openness to people and situations, expects the unexpected. We face reality without preconceptions.

Few people are totally ignorant, selfish and unfeeling tho they tend to get more media space than the rest of us.

Few authorities are as wise and compassionate at they are made out to be.

Few are as weak and poor in resources as they may think they are.

Few authoritarians are totally invulnerable.

Few prisons are inescapable.

The approaching global meltdown is not yet irreversible

And even if it is not reversed some humans, mice and insects will survive, evolve and hopefully learn from studying the disastrous consequences of terminal corporate capitalism.

And perhaps find a different way to destroy the biosphere.

That nothing can ever be fully known means there is no end to learning,

No end to the periodic gifts of new understandings about how some parts of reality work, no end to the rivers of insight and the epiphanies that bloom on the fields and hills of wisdom.

inconceivability and emptiness

Buddhist philosophers rattle on about emptiness, the theory that each and every form is void of self-existence but interexists with all other forms. Hence there is no permanent self in any person, plant or stone. In the Buddha’s time the impermanent self was the primary point of disagreement between Buddhists and adherents of other paths and thousands of scholars have wasted their lives attempting to show by logic alone that a permanent something cannot exist anywhere above or under heaven. Subtler minds have insisted that a permanent something cannot even be imagined while others simply accept the theory on faith because the Buddha said so.

I think emptiness is a good working theory of how things generally are.  Quite compatible with Darwin’s theory too but the only thing I can say about Reality at Large is that from here it looks like the room in which I now rest, in an empty tub, typing these words on an iPad.

The best definition of emptiness I ever read was Chogyam Trungpa’s terse: “Existence is empty of our preconceptions.” A conclusion that naturally flows from seeing that Totality is ultimately inconceivable

but here it is

radiant with possibility.

 

a green immensity

I early learned that the world is a shadowy place. My mom was my best friend but when I tried her patience she ratted me out to my dad when he came home from work then he would take me to the woodshed where he hung his razor strap and instruct me to raise my arms so that the strap would not injure my hands, then slash me with the strap until I was seized by uncontrollable sobbing. My mom may have thought this was good for me because she and her two sisters used to slash each other with willow switches to prove they were stronger than the devil.

Ontario towns were full of tough kids who wore steel clickers under their boot soles and would elbow you off the sidewalk if you dared to walk on the curb edge which for some mysterious reason belonged to them. I soon learned to take refuge in solitary walks and reading. Fairy tales opened doors to other worlds where normal rules did not apply. These were followed by comic books, science fantasy fiction and a growing curiosity about the cosmos beyond my dream-filled days and nights. 

Three revelations guided my early teens and they were all delivered by the printed word. One was Darwin’s Origin of Species which details his discovery of the process called natural selection whereby genetic mutations that are better adapted to environmental change tend to persist whilst mutations that are less well adapted do not. I delighted in the elegant simplicity of Darwin’s logic and the breadth of his vision.

A second book was Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman’s exuberant celebration of the sacred mystery that is embodied by each individual being, including himself and possibly me. Leaves was a deep, sweet shock. I had never before encountered such sonorous, evocations of the beauty of nature and language and such a large view of what a man might be or a boy might become.

The third publication was a magazine article about the holocaust, featuring photographs of naked, emaciated corpses in mass graves and body parts used in the sick experiments of Josef Mendele who evaded capture for the next thirty years until he drowned while swimming off the coast of Brazil.

Darwin gave me a sense of the interconnected wholeness and mindless creativity of nature. Whitman gave me an example of the sensual wholeness of sanity and wisdom to which I might aspire and led me to seek their seeds and find out how to grow them. Mengele showed me the active and latent evil of human nature and I began to search for the basis of that evil so that I could liberate myself and others from its power.