We are enslaved by our understanding of “I” – Maezumi Roshi
We are each imprisoned with an I. The I that you think you are, and the I that you think you’re not. The I that you like on good days, and more often the I that you don’t like. The I you interpret, analyze and diagnose. The I you want and wish for; the I that you want to become. The I in obsession, and the I in addiction. And so on and so on, a life sentence of solitary confinement without release. Four dank walls and a hard cot: call it your “comfort zone.”
Imprisonment begins with an I.
We are enslaved by our understanding of who and what we are. By our opinions and preferences. By our ruminations, fantasies, ideas and values. By our knowledge and understanding. Understanding is limited. But our true nature is boundless. How can we understand something without limits? We can’t even come close, but we keep banging our head away at it, like battering a tin cup against jail bars.
What has shot me off in this wretchedly abstract direction is something simple and concrete: our appetite for information, and the habitual way we confuse information with action. Many of us want to change the way we live, and we start by informing ourselves. I can see the point. It’s why, for instance, you might read this blog. Sorry to disappoint you, but other Buddhist bloggers shell out far more information and explanation than I do! Armed with a self-righteous view, they might even yell and fight! Prison riots are exhilarating in their way, but they always end up lengthening your sentence.
The Buddha Way lies outside thinking, analysis, prophesy, introspection, knowledge and wise explanation – Dogen Zenji
It’s tempting to think that the information we assemble will amount to something. But it doesn’t. You have a world of information at your fingertips and see? It hasn’t changed a thing about you or the world. You’re still looking for something more. No, these days we are swimming in an ocean of information and drowning in a neverending stream of goopy slop on top.
To put it another way, immersing yourself in information is like trying to learn to drive by studying the motor vehicle code.
This is the first in a series of posts about information, inspiration and initiative. It’s important to discern the difference between them. Imprisonment begins with an I, and so does independence. For a scent of open air, listen to this conversation recorded on Amy Tiemann’s podcast a few months ago. See if you can catch the drift of an unobstructed breeze. Then make your move through the wide open door.