I had just finished the morning meditation. It was time to sip some coffee and allow the openness of mind to continue a few minutes longer. At times like these, the fact of the interconnectedness of everything may sometimes enter my thoughts. This meditative afterglow is one of the sweet rewards of life. These moments are when I effortlessly live outside the box of conventional experience.
Moments later, the very instant my lower lip touched the coffee mug the natural gas furnace burners fired up down in the basement. Small coincidences like these help me smile at life. The coincidence ignited an ad hoc analysis.
Why do we compartmentalize so many aspects of living? There is a mental compartment for our work life. There is a compartment for our social life. There is a compartment for our pasttimes or entertainments. We have a compartment for our political beliefs. There is the compartment for our intimate relationships. I guess that 99.9% of us automatically pigeonhole our lives this way.
Compartmentalizing thoughts and beliefs might be why some highly rational scientists can also be superstitious. The tendency to divide our lives is probably the reason that many devoutly religious people are capable of immense jealousy, hate, and oppression.
Only very seldom do we ask ourselves why we divide our lives in this manner. Isn’t the act of bringing together, not dividing up our lives, the very definition of integrity?
There are Internet memes that address similar questions. Even though I don’t pattern my life around Facebook “wisdom”, sometimes a captioned photo triggers thoughts of quality of life. Why do we think of people as certain nationalities, members of religions, political persuasions, sexualities, economic classes, generations, and so forth? In our hearts we know that sorting people into various categories breeds conflict, competition, and war. Instead of giving us a sense of security, division into categories of us and others actually makes us feel threatened.
We frequently find ourselves sorting concepts, things, and people into boxes called good and evil. We insist upon what should be and deride what is actual. Who do we love and who do we hate. Of course we place ourselves and people like us into the “good” box. Righteousness is so tempting and delicious. This is how most of us actually analyze.
A person can hear about the tensions of the world. Isis and other terrorist groups wreak death and destruction whereever they go. There’s the problem of police attacks on members of minority groups. Political strife rages between right and left. Religions fight other religions. We feel smug because we are aligned and affiliated with the “right” way of thinking.
Most of the time, we believe that conventional morality is the way to go. When we divide our thinking and actions into categories it is easier to dismiss our own competitiveness, hunger, and envy. We justify our actions by aligning ourselves with hierarchial institutions and structures. If people, who are like us, think and act as we do, we must be OK. We’re the good guys, right?
Then there is that tiny voice that tries to remind you about integrity. It’s not the abstract, moralistic “integrity” that is boasted about, publicly. It’s the actual, state of being, the integrated human being who is struggling to come out.
Maybe, if people who say they love children were really sincere, do you think they would also advocate war? If all the folks who say they love humanity actually followed their hearts, would we have the boxes and categories that there are now?
My college philosophy professor once alluded to the slippery nature of morality and integrity. He said that we can clear away the inner confusion that all of us endure.
You can imagine a woman who has been blind from birth asking the question, “What is light?” You can then try to describe photons, reflection, the mental reaction the brain produces, and so forth. The sightless woman will interpret your description according to her blindness. She will relate it to her darkness. If surgeons figure out how to repair that woman’s optical nerves, the moment she sees light for the first time, she won’t ever need to ask what light is. She will simply know.
Likewise, we can ask ourselves, “What is a quality way of life?” If we sit quietly and unsort concepts and beliefs, then ponder actual, inner integrity, we will not need to ever wonder what a quality life can be. We will simply know.
What we learn becomes the way to nurture a high quality of life.