Beyond Reason: Thoughts on The Rational and The Illusion of Life

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Recently I’ve had the thought that rationality or even science is not “objective” but is its own worldview. It may have more “plausibility,” but nevertheless it is still a point of view or a way to see the world. That worldview implicitly states that the natural world is understandable through repeated testing of hypotheses and experimentation aka the scientific method. This worldview has lots of merits obviously. Think of the COVID-19 vaccine for example, which is a modern miracle. Somehow in less than a year, a vaccine was produced to help stop a deadly disease, all of this courtesy of the scientific method. 

But rationality and the scientific method have their drawbacks, especially with the individual human being. On a rational level, we can learn all about anatomy and how everything in the human body works together. And we can maybe learn something “objective’ about how humans function psychologically in the tradition of B.F. Skinner, using the scientific method to view rationally how humans behave. (Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” comes from this tradition. It is a wonderful book if you want to tackle it.)

But in the world of spirituality, this line of inquiry misses the forest for the trees as they say. No amount of rationality or scientific study can explore the subjectivity of being a human being. No amount of rationality can explain fully what it is to be alive. It is why I think art is maybe the most important aspect of humanity. What can fully explain human subjectivity better than art? Think of a great novel or painting or movie or song. All of these things can move us and help us understand ourselves just a little bit better. 

The spiritual is beyond reason. It is intuitive. It is a felt sense. It is trusting in things that cannot be seen. From a rational point of view, it can be seen as an act of madness like Carl Jung’s “The Red Book. And for many with a rational point of view, it is silly and maddening. I think of materialists and Marxists when I say this. (To be perfectly clear, I am very much a socialist with regard to my politics, but I realize all political leanings have limitations. Marxism focuses on materialism but ignores the spiritual. As a result, Marxism often turns into a state-run religion of its own.) But in the modern world, the spiritual and intuitive are not given as much weight. From my therapist point of view, I believe this is a mistake. 

***

The sense that life is a dream has been crawling around my unconscious brain in recent days. I think of the Vedic word, “Maya,” which can be translated into “illusion.” The folly of everyday human life has never been more apparent to me. This morning I laughed at my own absurdity. All my life I wanted to be Important. I wanted to be Someone. I wanted to be a Writer. 

And I have written. I wrote a piece a few weeks for Tricycle that was well-received. And for some reason this morning, I laughed at myself for my desires. I have a thought that I want to write many books and articles in the future, but I also have the thought that it’s so silly and I want to laugh at myself for even thinking for a moment that it is in any way Important. 

Human reason tells me I need to keep accomplishing and doing and being Someone. But as I trust my intuition more and more, I realize that is nonsense. My desires are absurd. But I still have them. I want to write. And it means nothing. That’s ok. Maybe the point isn’t recognition. 

The part I have missed in the grand equation of human life is the dance of it all. Life is a dance. You can be in rhythm or you cannot. Most of us are out of rhythm. Maybe the trick is to learn how to get in rhythm to the movement of it all. 

The vicissitudes are inevitable. The waves are crashing all around us, and we refuse to learn how to swim or if you’re really ambitious learn how to surf. I was drowning for a long time. My teens, 20s, and some of my 30s were just spent trying to stay afloat. I didn’t know who I was, even though I assure you I would have said I did know who I was at 25. But I’ve learned how to swim a little better in recent years. I don’t know if I can fully explain in words. There’s a sense of trust in myself. There’s a sense of following not the rational, but the intuitive. There is a sense the “I” I’ve been trying to be is so absurd, but still so present. I am somehow both big mind and small mind at once.

But the thing is I don’t know who I am. But I also do. It’s a felt sense. But I also am scared all the time. But I am also filled with love for all humanity. But I am also angry and vindictive and want the worst for people. I feel more certain that I am all darkness but all life. That I am living in hell, but also can reach heaven at a moment’s notice.  

But I am freer, and daresay happier and lighter. The happiness comes not from accomplishments. But from just being. Who would have thought that so much of life was being ok with just being here?  

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