Nobody strolls along the hiking/bicycle path near my house at four o’clock in the morning in the dead of winter. At least this was true after the latest light overnight snowfall. On a whim, I decided to walk on the wide concrete path near my house for a few hundred feet. I packed my phone and a powerful flashlight then headed to the trail-head.
The only sounds to hear were my crunchy footsteps upon the thin dusting of snowflakes on the pavement. There were no footprints nor other clues of animal or human presence upon the trail yet. The absence of even a slight breeze, meant there was no windchill factor. The overcast sky reflected the bluish orange of the city’s streetlights.
The neutral, very early morning December atmosphere brought a peculiar sense of joy but tinged with existential sadness about humanity. I suspect that that type of joy is universally felt at times when people are alone, gazing at sunsets, wild landscapes, beautiful city skylines, or thinking of loved ones. It seems to mostly happen when a person experiences the unspeakable stillness.
Unlike other creatures, we humans forget the essential simplicity of life. We complicate it with political, religious, and philosophical concepts and thoughts. Our human narcissism dulls perception. Data and experience chain us to beliefs. Meantime the stream of life flows endlessly on.
The popular songs imply that all we need is love. Yet we humans are stingy in the sharing of it. We insist that others must be deserving of it by conforming to certain opinions about life, beliefs, norms, physical appearance, expressions, and so on. A person “identifies” with their subculture, group, or tribe. Perhaps this is how we evolved. Then again, our brains also evolved the capacity for critical reasoning.
It doesn’t require a rocket scientist to understand that love is not complex, nor that it does not require conformity to special requirements. Yet we humans remain trapped in our mental boxes. We over-think and discriminate. We flatter ourselves by believing we have found the ultimate answer to overcoming life’s suffering.
We find ourselves caught up in fear, power-plays, domination, drama, and greed. Sometimes we see the vanity of our thoughts and actions, then turn away and deny their personal impact. After all, we must conform to certain social norms in order to survive or to get ahead. Many people resort to personal will and power. These are ultimately destructive. Will and power consume the spirit when used in pursuit of personal ends. When mindfully applied towards the benefit of all, will and power can be beneficial.
Compassionately applied will, power, and concepts provide constructive, auspicious action. This basic truth is what all of the wisdom traditions teach. Even without exclusive, special learning, we understand this truth when we experience the stillness.
Our concepts of infinity are finite. Pure, unadulterated love eludes us even though we may have seen the glimmer of universal love within our hearts. We limit it, by defining it. We largely ignore the ultimate stillness of the Universe.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders something from the late public intellectual and writer, Gore Vidal. “Many writers who choose to be active in the world lose not virtue but time, and that stillness without which literature cannot be made.”