Existential Reverie

June 18, 2009 by  
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I offer no excuse nor any title for this existential reverie

Saw a play by the playwright Eugene Ionesco a few days ago. I guess he is considered to be an existentialist, absurdist, intentionally enigmatic and paradoxical, not for the sake of cultivating an air of mystery, but because those are the tricks that he needed to employ in order to burrow more deeply into life, to get beneath the surface of routines and facades, the way things appear in the light of day. For Ionesco, paradox and enigma were part of a language designed to convey a more accurate representation of the state of affairs man finds himself in. Maybe they are the most accurate means by which to depict human experience, the very points of contact between mystified human consciousness and a fundamentally inexplicable universe. Anyway it seems to ring true. Not that this is an inherently negative, necessarily depressing state we find ourselves stuck in. The willingness to acknowledge the uncertainty that permeates life is conducive to wellbeing simply because it accords with the way things are. The recognition of limits in our own understanding of the world spurs us to investigate, to head out for deeper waters of meaning. There is a saying in Zen Buddhism:

Small doubt, small enlightenment / Great doubt, great enlightenment.

This saying describes a state of mind that is vigilant and engaged, that has confronted the paradoxes and enigmas that characterize existence. Simply being is an inescapable and fundamentally mysterious set of circumstances although we have gotten quite used to it so it seems normal, ordinary, neatly tied up by the big bang on one end and mortality on the other. Well those ends of the known universe seem a bit frayed to me when I manage to bring them into focus. The uncreated creator and his creation are one giant Koan that looms all over the waking world. But rather than casting a shadow, it imparts a fascinating and lovely glow. Paradox has not departed the earth, sealed in the tombs of the old existentialists. It is a reality that is still in vogue, it is here to stay (at least as long as we are). Might as well keep a keen eye on it, revel in it even, and see what emerges when mysteries cleave and bear fruit.

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