Taken for Granted

I’ve writ­ten about this before and I’ll write about it again I’m sure but since it is so mind-bend­ing I’m going to write about it now. The prob­lem is that I can’t ever explain it to anysort of sat­is­fac­tion because the state of mind you have to be in is so strange. I’ve done a bit of glos­sary on Zen Bud­dhism and I’ve got Zen Mind; Beginner’s Mind, on my read­ing list. Although I haven’t read it, I think Beginner’s Mind is a good con­cept to use in my own con­text.

So I’m lay­ing in bed, just got done read­ing about Bud­dhist breath­ing exer­cis­es, so I’m lis­ten­ing to myself breathe. Not think­ing about it, or con­trol­ling it, just observ­ing it. This is a hard thing to start con­scious­ly and thank­ful­ly I man­aged to do it uncon­scious­ly and then real­ized what I was doing. So I start­ed think­ing about how frig­gin com­plex the sim­ple, auto­mat­ic and tak­en for grant­ed act of breath­ing is. The diaphragm changes the air pres­sure in our lungs which caus­es exha­la­tion and inhala­tion. Alve­oli in the lungs help trans­fer car­bon diox­ide and oxy­gen between the blood­stream and the lungs and then the lit­tle blue RBCs get all red with their load of oxy­gen and truck around my body deliv­er­ing it to var­i­ous things. And I nev­er think about it. It just hap­pens, tak­en for grant­ed.

Then I zoomed out just a tad. I’m in this huge galaxy that is just one of a huge num­ber of oth­er galax­ies that all do their things with grav­i­ty and light in vol­umes and dis­tances so huge that only a con­cert­ed effort will let you com­pre­hend them. And I take all that for grant­ed as well.

But the tak­en-for-grant­ed­ness is one step too far. I only got to that after pro­ceed­ing through a stage of joy­ous won­der which is my ver­sion of Beginner’s Mind. Since I was a child I’ve told myself I wasn’t going to lose my sense of won­der and so far I have suc­ceed­ed. All of these things and innu­mer­able threads of oth­ers are all hap­pen­ing in con­cert and I’m a part of it. The won­der comes from not tak­ing things for grant­ed, and until that won­der comes when you regard a cer­tain thing, you are tak­ing it for grant­ed. The obvi­ous next response to this is grat­i­tude for being a part of it. My grat­i­tude is direct­ed into my faith, but even if some­one doesn’t have a faith, this sense of grat­i­tude is still legit­i­mate and should be present, I hope.

My ver­sion of Beginner’s Mind is also hum­bling, because won­der and grat­i­tude have humil­i­ty as a pre­req­ui­site. I’m being this spe­cif­ic so that the state of mind I am talk­ing about can be iden­ti­fied and sep­a­rat­ed from oth­er ones. The mind is cun­ning, and mem­o­ry and tak­ing things for grant­ed are two ways it uses to assure us of our own pow­er and impor­tance. By tak­ing things for grant­ed and using mem­o­ries to tell sto­ries about our past we keep our egos healthy.

I’m not say­ing that one should live in either state all the time. I’m say­ing the oppo­site. Every­one should be able to engage and act and focus on a spe­cif­ic point in the world and take things for grant­ed in order to accom­plish what­ev­er needs done. This would be the enthalpic dri­ve, our God-like abil­i­ties yearn­ing for use. But we should also be able to put our­selves in uni­ver­sal con­text, real­ize our rel­a­tive insignif­i­cance, cast even that aside and just sit in obser­va­tion­al won­der at exis­tence.

There is a nec­es­sary ten­sion between these two things, and when their use is out of bal­ance [if some­one has for­got­ten won­der, for instance] then the oth­er side gets twist­ed by its own weight. Strive for Bal­ance.

Here endeth the les­son. I hope I learned some­thing.