Random Renaissance Person


Today I am pondering “Random Renaissance Person.” You can ponder with me.

Let me first explain that Random Renaissance Person is just that: any random person who lived during the Renaissance period (almost any other period will also work, too, if you happen to have some aversion to pondering people from the Renaissance). Simply imagine a single person who could have lived during that time period. Make the person as average as possible – no kings or queens or dignitaries. Just your average Renaissance villager person.

It’s best not to give Random Renaissance Person a name – we don’t want to get too close to them – but you can imagine things like their work and family situation. Go ahead and I magine all of the events in Random Renaissance Person’s life: being born, interacting with family, working in the garden, being educated, attending religious ceremonies, hanging out with friends, having a first kiss, playing sports, etc. Most people didn’t have a very long lifespan during that time so maybe Random Renaissance Person was stricken with disease or experienced complications in childbirth or was injured in battle. Feel free to design their story.

Of course, there were no photographers at this time, so we can never know what Random Renaissance Person looked like. It’s doubtful they had their portrait painted or if one would have even survived to now. There is a very good chance that nothing at all exists to document that Random Renaissance Person ever even lived. But we know they did and we know that millions just like them have lived all over the Earth since the beginning of time.

We can imagine Random Renaissance Person, lived a full life just like you and I. Every moment of their life consisted of experiencing life events the same way you and I do. Some of those events were minor incidents. Many were major milestones. But to Random Renaissance Person, all were the content of their life and whether they were experiencing seasonal sniffles or adopting a dog or watching a parent die, these were the things that Random Renaissance Person called their life. The struggles and triumphs that shaped who they knew themselves to be. Again, just like you and I.

Now fast forward to the contemporary time you and I are currently living. Look around your household or work environment or just your life in general. In what way is your life affected by the life of Random Renaissance Person? Can you find one single thing anywhere in your surroundings that would have been impacted by the existence of Random Renaissance Person?

Consider that all of those monumental life events that meant everything to Random Renaissance Person are now completely gone. Literally, as if they never happened. The events that kept Random Renaissance Person awake at night with anxiety or that they anticipated with excitement for weeks are now nowhere to be found. In fact, our good friend Random Renaissance Person also has no existence, nor is there proof they ever did. We can imagine Random Renaissance Person may have had children, who had children, who had children, whose descendants may have somehow affected us. Quite possible. But when we look only at the personal life of Random Renaissance Person, it makes little difference to our world whether they lived or not.

It’s fascinating. An entire life rendered completely useless by time and distance. It’s easy to convince ourselves this is bound to happen to people who lived so long ago but have you ever found yourself wandering in an antique shop and found a stack of photos of random, unknown people? People and families from the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, sometimes doing seemingly important things – graduating, marrying, opening Christmas presents, enjoying dinners – now completely unknown, unidentified and unimportant.

Of course, this will never happen to you or I, our lives are way too important and we’ve participated in far too many memorable life events for those things to just disappear. Our thoughts, opinions and beliefs are not only vital to us but also of great significance to humanity. Not to mention, we have many friends and family members who will remember us and all of the important things in our lives for eternity. We’ll never be forgotten like those other people. Right?

The world of form is not as significant as we try to convince ourselves it is. It never has been. It doesn’t have any permanence to it. We try to hang on to this identity in our changing, disposable bodies and pretend we are as important as we believe we are. One day these bodies and all we consider important will fade away faster than a stream of smoke, just like the life of Random Renaissance Person did. What’s left when it’s all gone? Does everything just dissolve and go back to the Earth or can it be that there is actually some sort of permanence behind appearances? Something that remains when all appearances change and pass away? Does it make sense to actually “be” at one point in this life and then “not be” at another point? Is “being” so disposable and finite?

Is it?

Beyond Appearances

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

“Do not judge by the outward appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” – John 7:24 [New American Standard Bible]

In spiritual work, there is regular need for “translation” of appearances into reality. Often those translations meet resistance from the mind, which constantly seeks tradition, reason and logic. While those are useful features in the so-called physical world, the human mind is not always the best interpreter of reason for the spiritual domain.

I consider spiritual study to be the study of the “essence” of reality. Some people, understandably, don’t care for the word “spiritual” because of its religious connotation and while they may argue we have no spirit, most would agree all life has an essence. We all have noticed at some point there seems to be more than just appearances to this world. We can both see and touch a rhinoceros but we can also think of a rhinoceros which has no appearance at all to anyone but our own inner mind.

Spiritual translation is usually more complicated that that, however. Think about getting a gift from a four year old which, from appearances, looks like a beaten down lump of clay. “It’s you, Daddy!” they tell you. And, while you have probably spent more than a few days in your life feeling a bit like a beaten down lump of clay, you know this gift is more than what it looks like. You easily look past the outward appearance of the gift and you are able to see its essence, which is pure love. It’s why you hang on to that seemingly horrid lump of clay for the rest of your life. Seeing love in a broken down lump of clay is what “judging by right judgement” means. It’s spiritual translation. Appearances are usually the worst way to judge reality.

Don’t be too concerned when your mind starts giving you crap about what you are experiencing spiritually. One eventually learns to ignore what the mind says. The mind only knows about appearances so in spiritual study it isn’t often of much use. Still, a good portion of spiritually translating appearances is coming to some sort of agreement with the mind. “Yes, it certainly does appear that way, mind, I can see your point.” Your mind will argue forever that a lump of clay can be nothing more than a lump of clay and, seriously, how can you be anything other than a body I see right before me?? Yes, it certainly does appear that way, I can see your point.

Simply stay aware that the reality of a situation is almost always beyond the appearance. Like desert mirages or train tracks that come together at a point or an Earth that is a flat disc. Look beyond the picture. It’s where the Truth is. Mind and every appearance it is responsible for will have you believe life is a multiplicity of individuals, objects, thoughts and events happening during several points of time in many locations.

The simple reality is, it is all only Awareness being Aware of Itself. 

There Are No Choices. There Is Only Doing.

Choices

Image by PixxlTeufel from Pixabay

The duality of the mind imagines that there are choices to be made between two or more options. Since the mind likes to believe it is always the one in control, it will tell us we can choose this or that or go here or there. But is this really what is happening in our experience?

We usually think of our lives as if they are a linear-existing, fully-scripted, “Life-Movie,” complete with props, sets, and characters already in place, waiting for us to act out the consequences of every single choice we make. We see life as already having a planned beginning and end and we must make vital choices to maneuver our way through it. However, life is not this way, nor is it like a “choose your own adventure” comic book. Life constantly unfolds in the present moment, it does not follow a predetermined plot. Even when there are the appearances of choices to be made in life, the reality is, there are no choices. There is only doing.

I know, I know, I can hear you now. “What the heck does that even mean? I make choices all day long, every single day!” OK, so let’s imagine a few scenarios. First, think of yourself as an old-time traveler on a horse, riding along a dirt trail. You come to a fork in the road. “Do I choose right or left?” you think to yourself. You imagine one choice may involve a longer, more difficult path to navigate. Perhaps one path involves a potential encounter with thieves. One choice may bring you to a town where you can rest or sell your wares. What’s a traveler to do?

Honestly, you could sit at the fork for days listening to your mind tell you about “this or that” choices. Because of the way the human mind works, you will be convinced that each side of the fork contains its own fully scripted Life-Movie with you as the main character. Depending upon the choice you make, you will either act out this scene or that scene. The choice to make, your mind will tell you, is in which scene will be the best for you to act out?

The reality is, your mind has created an illusion and is trying to convince you to believe this illusion is real. There is no Life-Movie and there are no Life-Movie scenes already set up, waiting for you to enter. There is only life unfolding now. When we begin entertaining ideas such as choice, purpose, and destiny, we assume life is an already constructed map, complete with preferred choices already planned and laid out for us. We think of ourselves as needing to align ourselves with those predestined choices and paths in order for everything in life to go perfectly.

Another scenario. Imagine you must decide if you are going to marry Terry or Alex. You can imagine what life would be like with either of them. Would you have kids? How would the relationship with your in-laws be? Where would you live? What would your financial situation be like? Your mind can (and will) design complete scenarios of life with either partner. It would be tempting to believe either choice comes with its own scripted Life-Movie plot, waiting for you to jump into as a character. But does that Life-Movie exist? It does not. It may appear Alex has more money and life will go a certain way as a result, but Alex could lose it all. Maybe Terry wants several kids as you do, but perhaps you both later discover physical issues prevent that. All of the reasons for making a choice between Terry and Alex are just as illusionary as the actual “choice” of who you will marry. The truth is, you simply marry Alex. That is what you do and, therefore, it is all that is or can be done. There are no alternative paths on a predestined life map to go unfulfilled. You married Alex because that is what happened. The “choice” was only an illusion. Yes, you may divorce Alex and marry Terry, but you can never examine an actual scenario where you marry Terry first because that didn’t happen. Speculation would just be imagination and fantasy. Any idea that it “could” have happened is only based upon the idea of the “Life-Movie.”

Let’s consider one more scenario. You are at a coffee shop and you are asked if you would like coffee or tea. You say “coffee.” Could you have requested “tea”? No, you can only order coffee because that is what you ordered and there is not an alternative existence where you order tea. To order coffee makes it impossible that you “could” have ordered tea because you didn’t. What is real is only what exists, not what you imagine exists. “Could” only exists in the mind. What “is” exists in reality. In this case, coffee is reality and tea is mind. There are no choices. There is only doing. While it may appear we are making a choice between two things, the reality is, we are simply doing a single thing. The appearance of “choosing” is only mind-stuff based upon more imaginary mind-stuff. We may believe we choose coffee because we prefer the taste but perhaps the coffee is spoiled and the mind-stuff would then prove to be a lie. Reality is, we order coffee and that is our only option because it happened. It unfolded in the now with the rest of our life experience, none of which we chose.

As long as we live as human beings, we will be confronted with the illusion we are making choices. It is a part of the human condition and it cannot be avoided. On the spiritual path, we play along with appearances while remaining aware that all of our life is simply doing and it is that doing that unfolds from our highest awareness of what is right. We do not constantly make choices to not steal or not kill. At times it may appear to be so. Perhaps a voice in our head says to take something that does not belong to us or to harm another. But that is never a choice for us. We only do what we know to be right. As our awareness becomes more transparent, our doing incorporates less thought and mind activity, and our doing results in a greater harmony than any choice could have arranged for us, or any mind could understand or have imagined.