Monday, October 18, 2010

The Power of...

Overly Abstract Loaded Language.

Recently, a facebook friend posted this:

"The past has no power over the present moment"
Eckhart Tolle

I was inspired to comment and then edit and expand that comment as follows:

My problem with "spirit speak", as I call it, is that it doesn't hold up to any kind of rational inquiry. All the words are so loaded with special meanings that they can defy any kind of meaningful discourse. Words like "We are all one" or "We are the silence" or "We are love" are abstracted to the point of near uselessness.

As for the Tool comment above, uh...I mean Tolle...first of all, there is no such thing as "the present moment". It is an illusion created by our brains to make some sense out to the swirling sea of chaos around us. Relativity shows this pretty clearly I believe.

Secondly, even if we discount all that bothersome quantum physics and stuff and accept a sort of conventional, every day meaning of "the present moment", it is self-evidently obvious that the past has near total power over "the present moment" in all kinds of arenas.

For instance: Cue ball hits 8 ball. 8 ball travels towards side pocket. 8 ball cannot decide to have a different past. It's past determines in a huge way what will happen to it next. The family, culture, and society you grow up on has a huge "power" over you. The language you grow up speaking has a huge effect on not only your mind but the very structure of your facial muscles.

The way I see it, statements, like Tolle's have a target audience who already speak "spirit speak" who know what he's talking about.

I would translate it thus:

"I am so certain of the following that I state it as Truth, based solely on my authority as "one who knows". Your mental conception of what the past is, including your personal biography, does not have to determine or interfere with your experience of your current moment and it's possibilities. You can let go of our past and be present with what is happening now."

I don't agree with this statement myself, even though, in my opinion, it's a bit more honest and clearly stated. I don't believe he or anyone else has any idea what Truth or the Ultimate Nature of anything is. I don't believe that it's possible to let go of one's history and experience nothing but the present moment happening now. I don't believe that "now" exists. Even the screen you are looking at "now" is actually the past. The light takes a fraction of a second to get from the screen to your eye and brain. I don't even believe that living in the present is a good idea, even if it is possible. Nature sure doesn't. Every species on Earth seems to be the result of past events shaping flexible DNA molecules in the interest of survival. Without a past you would not be a human being. In addition, I believe that anyone who claims to be "enlightened" or to have transcended self-interest is lying, either to themselves, to you, or both.

I would also posit that the "you" that is selecting which memories to hold or let go, the one selecting Heaven or Hell from the existential juke box is itself a product of the past. I believe we are all infinitely less powerful than we think we are. (This is the opposite of most New Age thinking which tends to posit the opposite.) I believe we exist for a little while in a swirl of mysterious stuff, we tell ourselves the stories we need to hear to fulfill an agenda, mostly biological, but also partly psychological and partly spiritual, and I believe that agenda comes from the past. (Every human being has an "ego" right? A sense of separate identity. It's not a choice. It's built into our DNA to have this thing. Our DNA might be a "point" in the present moment, but it seems to be a point with a direction that was plotted a long time ago.)

I think we are wrong about just about everything, we mostly miss the mark, we are pieces of sentient space junk who think we are the center of the Universe. I also think that point of view is damn near everything; "Truth" is something we made up to establish identity, to comfort ourselves, and kill each other over; "Now" is something we made up to make sense of the world; "Free Will" is an illusion and so is its lack. (Whether the Universe is absolutely pre-determined, or the product of chaos interacting with free will, or some combination of the two, it would look and feel exactly as it does now.) I also believe like any good surfer, that our sphere of apparent control, if it exists at all, is pretty small, but hey, it's what we've got, or think we have, this wave is awesome, surfing is more fun than drowning, so what the Hell?...Choose a point of view, or pretend to choose one, and... Kowabunga!

I believe that everything is ultimately an unknowable mystery. Balance, kindness, friendship, music, and awe are worth cultivating.

And we're all gonna die.

And I would give up my best 10 songs to have written this line:

"Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." from Anthem by Leonard Cohen


  1. I posted this on Oct. 24th. For some reason the date listed is the date I drafted it, not the date I posted it...

  2. Yeah, you're right. And if you don't think so, you're wrong!

    I'm glad I finally won this argument, by the way.

    One might argue that in the physical world, there is only a stream of "present moments," no past, no future. That seems basically wrong, however. For one thing, you can't "slice" anything into the "present moment." (How long is the "present"?).

    It would be interesting to speculate on the motive or wish to escape both past and future, idolized in newagey thinking as "Be Here Now." Is the past so terrible? Is the future so threatening? I would imagine that it stems from a chronic (so to speak) experience of thoughts as interfering with sensual pleasure, in particular. Guilt and regret, and worry and obligation, in brief, interfering with enjoyment. I can certainly "relate to that," as they say.