Bogged down by the instant reel of entertainment and stimulation given to me by the modern world, I notice a sentence, a paragraph on a social media post. A piece of lyrics, albeit unintentional, from a song decades old, sung even by my grandparents and preserved till modern time in memory and melody.
It is a song of nostalgia with an air of sadness and regret, a poem in which the passing of old and forgotten paths in the country is lamented, being overgrown by bushes and grass. The lyric becomes a window for me, a window into a world of emotion that I have barred myself entry from, one of nostalgia and sadness at the ever passing and changing arena of life. Sadness overwhelms me and I allow myself to cry. For all that I’ve lost and for all of those things which the river of life will inevitably take away from me.
When we live our lives, full of frivolousness, do we realize, do we ever understand how transient they are? It is in our youth that we believe our bodies, our families, our friends, our world will remain the same. Yet age gradually erodes that illusion. It so brutally and completely shows us how impossible it is to hold on to anything, without our hearts being torn to pieces at its loss. We make connections and lose them, our loved ones pass on, our lives change and so does the very world around us. The old never to be seen again.
We erroneously believe that what is now will be forever, yet this is not so. We fill our lives with inanities, argue over small differences of opinion and become upset with the weather. We work soul-destroying jobs, then try to complete ourselves with entertainment and drama in a world that has so much more to offer than the latest gossip or daily news cycle.
Through all of this, we neglect what really matters to us. The people, the connections, the creative endeavors, our heart’s desires, the adventures, the little things that bring life together like an imperfect, yet mesmerizing jigsaw puzzle – those aspects of life that mirror the immortal qualities and Spirit within us and within the world.
We live in a society that distracts us from what truly matters to us, making us believe that the values and desires of others are more important, more relevant, more impressive than our own.
Thus we miss everything that matters, because we have no real idea what actually matters to us. Rarely do we take the time to contemplate and see that many ideas and beliefs, stories of success, values and propositions laid out by our world are not what we truly care about, not what make us tick, not something that makes our heart jump with love and joy.
How do we come about to true meaning and purpose? Dig to our own roots, beyond that which society has superimposed on our consciousness?
Through the realization of transience.
All that life has given us, it will eventually take away. The people in our lives passing on ; the bodies given to us growing old and dying ; the connections we have made shifting and changing, sometimes lasting, many times disappearing in their physical form ; the very world and society we live in shifting completely, never remaining the same as it once was, the memories of our elders being relegated to unseen corners of our attics and the wisdom of old falling onto deaf ears.
What once was is gone and it will never return in the same manner that we have experienced it then. This realization overcomes us with grief and despair. For what is the point of this sorry game of life if nothing permanent can be found, no bedrock on which we can sit on, no soil stable enough to erect our own house on? Yet beneath the sadness realizations await for us, if we do not lose ourselves in the emotions.
Truly, the transient nature of the world is ultimately not a curse from evil gods, it is a prod, a gentle nudge or at time hard push towards the realization of all that in fact, does not change.
For if we look at the world, all we see is change. There is creation and destruction, the ever-lasting flow of experience, both inner and outer, thoughts and emotions passing by, apathy overcoming us at dusk, dissolved by joy at a new dawn. In the world of manifestation nothing can be truly held on to, for it is all a river that never ceases to flow, regardless of how much we may want it to stop when things are good, or how much we want to escape it when things do not go our way.
But if we learn to observe this change, first internally, then externally, with a calm consciousness, deeper truths are revealed to us. We see that as our emotions and thoughts may come and go, there is something deeper there that does not change. We observe that both our bodies and minds may be subject to change, large and small, there are deeper aspects of our own unique individuality that are not so. Even deeper than that, there is something completely transcending both time and space, a silent watchful stillness, a presence, that always remains. Many will simply call it consciousness or being, yet even those are just words to describe that which simply is and survives all the rough waters of manifested life.
The more this is realized within, the more it is seen outside as well. We may intuitively feel that every being has at their core something that is uniquely them, that does not change with the passing of time, or the shifting of their form. It is their immortal nature, as it is ours – something which will always remain and we cannot ever fear to lose. In this way our connections can gain a sense of something deeper that we cannot lose. We may also witness how the entire play of beings is founded on a ground of oneness, a soil of being that defies our notions of time and space. We can begin to experience that immortal quality of Spirit, something many of us already experience daily in our moments of peace and joy, in a more expansive manner, now truly being aware of its meaning, source and significance.
In knowing this, we can come to a deeper appreciation of the game of life, without becoming too attached to the forms around us or within us. There is a rediscovery of our deeper values, purpose and meaning, all imbued with new insights that have come with this contemplation. We live life fully, being present, experiencing everything and thus attaching ourselves less, for there are less emotional remnants in a full experience, as well as less attachment when we realize that the surface appearance of the others and the world is not their deepest nature.
It is thus through spiritual realization, the realization of Spirit, that which is immanent in all and yet paradoxically also transcendent to all, that brings us closer to a deeper sense of reality. A reality in which there is less attachment to that which is transient, while a deeper bedrock of knowing of self and other gradually erodes the prior superficial experience. Sadness and nostalgia, fear and anger will also still come, yet our perspective on them is different. For now we have seen the depths, we have, as Jesus has said, erected our houses on a foundation of rock, instead of the sand of the mere manifested domain. Now, the qualities and desires that are deeper and more permanent within us can be known and followed, while that which is more superficial matters less to our activity in the world.
Doing so, we may also realize that there is an inherent evolution to the Cosmos, a gradual and ever more complex unfolding of Spirit in the material domain, as philosopher Ken Wilber would put it. It is not so much that Being or Spirit evolves, it is that its unfolding into the complexities of life, its gradual realization in the gross and subtle dimensions of manifestation requires time, for time is the cornerstone on which the manifested dimension stands. We can see this evolution biologically on our planet, yet we can also see it through the development of culture, reason and wider consciousness even more directly in humanity. Thus both individually and collectively, we evolve with all of life – and thus no past experience, success or failure, creative endeavor, connection, beauty or ugliness, joy or suffering, is ever in vain. It collectively builds and evolves the morphogenetic field of the Cosmos and thus fosters intelligence and evolution. It is the grand game through which the Cosmos understand itself and ultimately realizes itself as the One, behind the Many.