Wednesday, May 6, 2015

cause and effect

Having been brought up, more or less, in the glory-hallelujah religion of the intellect, it took some doing to give over to the world of spiritual life, to be willing and even anxious to examine it closely, to expend the same time and energy and honesty I might bring to politics or psychology or other dissecting pastimes.

I suppose there must have been a tip-over point at which I did indeed become willing to lower myself into the deep end of the spiritual (read ineffable or unprovable) pool, at which I was no longer willing to take my intellectual word for things. And if there was one aspect that pushed me into that pool, it was probably Swami Vivekananda's perfectly reasonable suggestion that I investigate cause and effect.

Every event/thought/etc. had a cause -- this was an intellectually-persuasive argument. And that cause itself was the effect of some other cause that preceded it. Under examination, the trail of effects and causes led backwards further and further. This is not some intellectual club with which I wanted then or want now to beat anyone else into submission or agreement: All I mean is that it convinced me and inclined me to take a serious look that put intellectual smugness on the back burner.

Back and back and back until, like the old joke about the bird flying in ever-decreasing circles, I flew up my own asshole and disappeared. But what was it that disappeared? And what remained? If, like a good intellectual, I found some facile, meaningful, and well-confected explanation, that just meant I had not yet investigated far enough. If, on the other hand, I found no explanation, who was it who was confounded in this swooping vortex?

It was in this world that the question arose, "If I'm so smart, how come I'm not happy?"

Cause and effect seemed to set some hook in me. And now, 40-plus years after the fact, I'm glad that it did. The intellect is a wonderful tool, but it's cold incompleteness deserves attention. As Swami Vivekananda observed, "The mind [he meant intellect] is a good servant and a poor master." The longing to find a good master can lead anyone down a hundred dead-end roads, but for myself, I am glad to have walked on some of them.

The glory-hallelujah religion of the intellect is not for me.

Cause and effect helped.

1 comment:

  1. Taming an obviously monkey mind was the bait that i bit.