Sunday, January 6, 2008

Lacuna: Ego & Flux

The second mind-fraction in the January Lacuna series, inspired by a discussion several months ago about the Buddhist concept of "antama," or "no-self" and how it might fit into a Cetic/Druidic worldview.

Eddy the Egoless Anatma

I have a friend who has this idea about "eddies." He explained, from a biological and chemical approach, that our bodies don't really have hard and fast boundaries as we normally think of them, but that chemicals, molecules and materials are constantly flowing in and out between "us" and the surrounding "outer" world--through our breath, what we eat, our skin, our senses, etc. This process of things flowing in, circulating "within" us and then being released again, creates a kind of eddy or whirlpool within the currents of energy and matter--not separate from the world but, just as you said, a concentration of it that gives rise to our notion of a physical self. I think the same idea extends in application beyond the physical.

Part of the idea of the eddy, though, is that we aren't just "part of the flow" but expressions of a concentration or movement counter to the "main" current. We don't simply allow everything to pass through us as if we weren't there at all. We are expressions of the processes by which the world meets and changes itself. We "take things in" and transform them--we breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, for instance--not because we are separate from the world or willfully making such changes, but because we are the very expressions of this moment of opposing currents meeting and interacting. The same is true of all expressions of existence--we experience them as wholes according to the realms of change and exchange that they embrace, and we can expand or narrow our understanding of these wholes through meditation on the relationships they involve (like the Buddhist puzzle, how many wheels and axles must you remove before a wagon ceases to be a wagon?).

I don't know enough about Buddhism to know if this is the same idea as "anatma." I have a feeling it's not... For one thing, my goal is not to overcome any notion of self and to "go with the flow" so completely that I might as well not-be at all; my goal is to continually evolve an understanding of the true relationships in nature and the various energies and manifestations of existence, so that my experience of "self" is precisely an experience of interconnection and union, rather than of separation. Does that make sense?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what an interesting post. There was a time I was curious about the practice of Buddhism and read a few texts on the subject. Part of what led to the beginning of my drift away from serious pursuit of Buddhism was this sort of seeming neutrality. Exactly this sort of anatma I found fascinating in a way, but in another way felt it almost too machine-like for my taste. After all, I was a rather impassioned teenager at the time so it was difficult to think through truly applying those concepts into my life. But I really enjoy reading about your interpretation of anatma paired with the idea of eddies. In many ways this view coincides with how I think of the role of writing in my life. I find that when I simply take things in – observe what is around me and try to be really present to where I am, it somehow doesn’t quite get sifted enough. I still have a few stones I need to dig out and some of the stones I chanced upon still need to be dusted. That is where my writing process picks up. I need writing in order to gather the riches and find the fakes from a moment. It’s my version of taking in oxygen and turning out carbon dioxide. Instead of lungs, I need paper and pen.