Notitie 3: De Onderzoeker
Spanje – twee jaar geleden
Ze gaf me het boekje.
‘The way to love’, las ik op de voorkant.
‘Vertrouw me…’ zei ze; ‘als je dit gelezen hebt, dan kun je het nooit meer anders zien’.
Dezelfde dag nog begon ik met lezen.
En ik ben niet meer opgehouden.
Met zijn ezelsoren, kromgetrokken kaftje en beduimelde pagina’s neem ik mijn eigen versie tegenwoordig bijna overal naartoe.
Ik lees het op elk ‘verloren’ moment. In de trein, in mijn bed als ik niet kan slapen wegens onrust, pijn in het hart… of op andere momenten dat ik door mijn eigen gedachten het bos niet meer zie.
Als een bijbel.
Hoe leef je?
Hoe lief je?
Ik wil graag één hoofdstuk uit dit mooie boekje met jullie delen, omdat ik hierin iets herkende – het niet klakkeloos aannemen van alles in je omgeving, van onderwijs tot opvoeders tot vrienden tot media…, maar onderzoeken.
Het is de reden waarom ik begon met schilderen, en waarom ik voornamelijk begón met het schilderen van kinderen…:
No Stone Will Be Left
When his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple, he answered them “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.” Matthew 24:1-2
Think of a flabby person covered with layers of fat. That is what your mind can become–flabby, covered with layers of fat till it becomes too dull and lazy to think, to observe, to explore, to discover. It loses its alertness, its aliveness, its flexibility and goes to sleep. Look around you and you will see almost everyone with minds like that: dull, asleep, protected by layers of fat, not wanting to be disturbed or questioned into wakefulness.
What are these layers? Every belief that you hold, every conclusion you have reached about persons and things, every habit and every attachment. In your formative years you should have been helped to scrape off these layers and liberate your mind. Instead your society, your culture, which put these layers on your mind in the first place, has educated you to not even notice them, to go to sleep and let other people–the experts: your politicians, your cultural and religious leaders–do your thinking for you. So you are weighed down with the load of unexamined unquestioned authority and tradition.
Let us examine these layers one at a time. First your beliefs. If you experience life as a communist or a capitalist, as a Moslem or a Jew, you are experiencing life in a prejudiced, slanted way; there is a barrier, a layer of fat between Reality and you because you no longer see and touch it directly.
Second layer: you ideas. If you hold on to an idea about someone, then you no longer love that person but your idea of that person. You see him/her do or say something or behave in a certain kind of way and you slap a label on: She is sill or he is dull or he is cruel or she is very sweet, etc. So now you have a screen, a layer of fat between you and this person because when you next meet him/her you will experience them in terms of that idea of yours even though they have changed. Observe how you have done this with almost everyone you know.
Third layer: habits. A habit is essential to human living. How would we ever walk or speak or drive a car unless we relied on habit? But habits must be limited to things mechanical-not to love or to sight. Who wants to be loved from habit? Have you ever sat on a seashore spellbound by the majesty and the mystery of the ocean? A fisherman looks at the ocean daily and does not notice its grandeur. Why? The dulling effect of a layer of fat called habit. You have formed fixed ideas of all the things you see and, when encountering them, it is not them you see in all their changing freshness, but the same dull, thick, boring idea acquired through habit. And that is how you deal with people and with things, how you relate to them: no freshness, no newness, but the same dull, routine (boring) ways produced by habit. You are incapable of looking in other, more creative ways, for, having developed a habit for dealing with the world and with people, you can put your mind on automatic pilot and go to sleep.
Fourth layer: your attachments and your fears. This layer is the easiest to see. Put a thick coating of attachment, of fear (and therefore dislike) on to anything or anyone-in the very instant you cease to see that person or thing as it really is. Just recall some of the persons you dislike or fear or are attached to and you will see how true this is.
Do you see now how you are in a prison created by the beliefs and traditions of your society and culture and by the ideas, prejudices, attachments and fears of your past experiences? Wall upon wall surrounds your prison cell so that it seems almost impossible that you will ever break out and make contact with the richness of life and love and freedom that lies beyond your prison fortress. And yet the task, far from being impossible, is actually easy and delightful.
What can you do to break out?
Four things: First, realize that you are surrounded by prison walls, that your mind has gone to sleep. It does not even occur to most people to see this, so they live and die as prison inmates. Most people end up being conformists; they adapt to prison life. A few become reformers; they fight for better living conditions in the prison, better lighting, better ventilation. Hardly anyone becomes a rebel, a revolutionary who breaks down the prison walls. You can only be a revolutionary when you see the prison walls in the first place.
Second, contemplate the walls, spend hours just observing your ideas, your habits, your attachments and your fears without any judgement and condemnation. Look at them and they will crumble.
Third, spend some time observing the things and people around you. Look, but really look, as if for the very first time, at the face of a friend, a leaf, a tree, a bird in flight, the behavior and mannerisms of the people around you. Really see them and hopefully you will see them afresh as they are in themselves without dulling, stupefying effect of your ideas and habits.
The fourth and most important step: Sit down quietly and observe how your mind functions. There is a steady flow of thoughts and feelings and reactions there. Watch the whole of it for long stretches of time the way you watch a river or a movie. You will soon find it so much more absorbing than any river or movie. And so much more life-giving and liberating. After all can you even be said to be alive if you are not even conscious of your own thoughts and reactions? The unaware life, it is said, is not worth living. It cannot even be called life; it is a mechanical, robot existence; a sleep, an unconsciousness, a death; and yet this is what people call human life!
So watch, observe, question, explore and your mind will come alive and shed its fat and become keen and alert and active. Your prison walls will come tumbling down till not one stone of the Temple will be left upon another, and you will be blessed with the unimpeded vision of things as they are, the direct experience of Reality.
Uit: ‘The way to Love’ by Anthony de Mello
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