How did I become this guy? The man whose words about transcendence you bought into with no proof that I know what I’m talking about? No evidence that I live the life I claim to live?
While residing in New York, NY I had a roommate with whom I carried on deep conversations about life, the universe, and almost everything. At least we thought they were deep at the time. On her recommendation I picked up Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything. Since we talked about almost everything, Ken, here, promised to fill in the gaps with everything else—and do it briefly. Who could resist?
Well, me. I had seen the book before her recommendation and not remembered until I went looking for it. Ken adorns the cover—this bald white man in glasses staring out at us. When I first saw it, I now recalled, my prejudices about white men and specifically bald white men kicked in and I never cracked a page. But now she was recommending him, so… okay. I took the bait. And man alive, am I glad I did. Ken Wilber, it turns out, is a genius. He’s both engaging and difficult to read. He uses words I’d never heard before and yet somehow breaks down reality in a way that makes sense of the crazy mess called “religion.” He brings forth the spirit and the purposes flowering in each path be it a religious tradition I’d heard of or an obscure spiritual path I hadn’t. And he speaks truth to New Age nonsense, which New Agers find hypocritical. My kinda guy.
I digested as many Wilber books as I could stomach. I wondered how he wasn’t the biggest name out there. How had Oprah Winfrey not plucked him from obscurity to hoist him on a pedestal, but there sat Eckhart Tolle? There are still wonders in this world.
One fine day I read a passage (can’t remember which book, or perhaps article) wherein Ken said that he cut his teeth on Jiddu Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti? Is that like Hare Krishna, I wondered?
I hesitated on looking for Krishnamurti’s books based on, again, my ignorance. I didn’t want to find out that Ken Wilber’s heroes were all nutty culty people who handed out flowers in airports in the 1970s. Allow me to pause here to forgive you if you assumed I write and speak of Spirit the way I do because I am well-read. I am better-read now, certainly, but I’m actually more clueless to what’s out there than I let on. Further evidence that you don’t need to know anything to understand everything—in fact knowledge gets in the way, but we need to understand what that actually means before we say it, then we never have to actually say it.
Sorry. That’s riddle-riffic. I digress….
One fine day, whilst strolling through the East Village, I happened upon a book vendor carrying Krishnamurti’s works. I was excited by this synchronicity and assumed the universe was nudging me to read his stuff. More likely, having read that Wilber cut his teeth on Krishnamurti, his name caught my eye from the periphery and I zeroed in on the books that were there every other day, because that book vendor didn’t just pop into existence right then for my benefit. I’m pretty sure. Either way I bought a few books—I think they were On Fear, On God, and This Light In Oneself, but don’t quote me on that. Quote me on this: What I read really pissed me off.
Hope is the enemy of man? Psychological time does not exist? Truth is a pathless land? Stop seeking? What, say what?
His words on the page read very judgmental to my eyes and the stuff he was saying was antithetical to all that I was. It sounded stupid, frankly. And angry. And the people asking him questions in his books weren’t getting it, it seemed to me, because they were trying to figure out the ramblings of a madman. Still, I kept reading. I kept reading because Ken Wilber cut his teeth on these words and Ken Wilber was a genius. If Ken Wilber was a genius and this was his mentor then I must be wrong. I must be not getting it. I must be the dumb guy in the room loudly proclaiming everyone else is stupid because I don’t get it.
I knew I was Homer Simpson, I just didn’t know how. How was that possible? Was I not fairly intelligent? Was I not open to new ideas? How was this material flying over my head?
Yes, for the sin of pride, I stuck with it. But also because I trusted Wilber. But even more also, this: because his words actually angered me, there was a seedling in there of recognition. I was lashing out against what I feared. I feared that what he was saying was true precisely because it was true—all that he was relaying. And all that he was relaying was that I (and we) have reality exactly backwards, that everything I’d been taught about life, the universe, and almost everything did not apply to this discussion of the ultimate reveal behind all of our spiritual thirsts and the ultimate is us when we die to it.
I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live. I wanted to seek and explore and discover and I wanted to add that discovery onto me, whichever form it took—as knowledge or as a mutation. This is how we treat enlightenment, right? Like a cyborg treats robot parts: twist off the old arm, plug in the new one, good to go. Except what Krishnamurti said was, “Truth is a pathless land.” So much for the journey is the thing. So much for the hero’s journey. So much for the mythology that shaped my generation’s childhood. The mythology poised to influence a whole new generation. So much for Star Wars.
Krishnamurti as Death Star
Star Wars is a movie saga all about doing, striving, reading the signs, and acting with innocence and wisdom in the flow. It is a story of rebellion against dark authority run on hope. David and Goliath. The have-nots overthrowing the haves. The choreography between free will and fate in the dance of Light and Dark Force. It sounds right and good and true. It feels right and good and true. And for a time, when I needed it to be, it was. But like all constructs, this one needed a wrecking ball to get past and that’s what Krishnamurti was. Jiddu Krishnamurti: Destroyer of Worlds. And would he were alive today he would kind-heartedly laugh at that while pointing out it’s nonsense, for all that can be destroyed is the false.
I stuck with it, read every Krishnamurti book I could get my greedy hands on. Most of them were transcripts of talks he had given, including question and answer programs. Some of the folks asking questions were as clueless as I was, but some were well-known religious figures and scientists. Turns out, they were as clueless as I, too. Yes, even the Buddhists.
Reading Krishnamurti in dialogue with Buddhists is like reading a transcript of a conversation with robots who are stuck on a loop of “Does not compute.” They keep comparing his words to the words of the Buddha unaware that this constant comparison is keeping them from hearing him and engaging with him in the moment. This is one of the ways we keep ourselves trapped in psychological time. It is how the self stays alive in the face of one who says the self must die for Truth to reveal.
One way, but not the only way. We have many. Some individual, some collective. Some include both. Hope is one of the latter. Hope is an emotional placeholder for procrastination. For us, hope is a maybe that leaves the problem for the next person to solve. Hopefully.
Hope is also the precursor to a rallying cry. It gives people the strength to act on behalf of a future goal. All of this is an avoidance of the present moment. It is both a product of and furtherance of conflict. We are at war within ourselves and outwardly with each other. Hope puts distance between me and the conflict, which keeps it going in perpetuity.
And so it is with the Star Wars saga. No longer a tidy 3-part space opera, it is an unwieldy story of good and evil braided together with strands of hope and hubris. It is being told in eleven parts and counting. This, because the hero’s journey never ends. The goal post gets moved and the hero fights on, as he or she must, with hope for creating a better tomorrow.
Truth has no goalpost. Truth has no field of battle. Truth is pathless because Truth is not found in time.
Truth is the revelation beyond all sagas.