Circling Back

Attraction and aversion are two feelings
that keep people within the bondage
of ignorant repetitive behavior…
If people do not crave to be pleased,
they will not be displeased.
What causes mental suffering is not the environment
but the mind itself.

~ Muso Kokushi ~

The wisdom of simple thought is both straightforwardly plain and intricately complex. Wisdom arises from the intersection of deep knowledge and good judgment, both of which emerge from experience transformed into truth. But truth is a fleeting condition that changes with every change in the reality in which we find ourselves.  In other word, truth is contextual. And so, too, are knowledge and judgment and everything that springs from them. We live in an ever-changing universe which requires constant and instantaneous changes to our environment if we have any hope of surviving. But survival is not a synonym for happiness, so there must be something else that drives us toward contentment. Survival, alone, isn’t it. That argues for making survival a secondary objective of living. Maybe contentment should be the primary motive. Yet, following the argument in Kokusi’s assertion, if people do not crave to be content, they will not be discontented. Looking backward a bit, if people do not crave to survive, they will not…what? Survive? Care about survival? Wisdom sometimes requires abandoning mental gymnastics long enough to be carried on a stretcher to the finish line.


Why? That perpetual question that children ask is maddening. Why, indeed? Do we ever abandon that innate curiosity? Is our thirst for knowing the unknowable ever satisfied? The answer too many of us accept is, “just because.” That’s equivalent to “who knows?” or “it was meant to be.” There are answers to the question. We may not have the patience to learn what they are, but there are answers. We may not have the mental acuity to understand the answers, but that does not negate the fact that answers exist. We might give up on answers that can be measured against reality in favor of relying on the belief in magic, instead (church, anyone?). There are answers; legitimate answers. But we might not recognize them as answers. We might, instead, think they are questions. Why? For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton had the answer to why. We seem to have been unable to accept that realization, though. We can replace “action” with other things, realizing the truth that lies therein: For every emotion there is an equal and opposite emotion. For every truth there is an equal and opposite fiction. Or, put another way, For every truth, there is an equal and opposite lie. For every distance, there is an equal and opposite proximity. For every gentleness, there is an equal and opposite roughnessFor every love, there is an equal and opposite hatred. For every compassion, there is an equal and opposite cruelty.

In fact, the answers are clear and indisputable: answers to “why?” are abundant. And factual and truthful but utterly unsatisfactory because they are never complete. There’s always a follow-up; a second part to the question that circles back on the answer like a cougar on its prey.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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