Theater Without Curtains

There is no different between art and real life. We interact in a drama where everything matters, our thoughts and feelings being no exceptions, without distance. Our role is not the identity we fabricate mentally, who we wish to be. I am my changing relationship with the rest of creation, effected by my aspirations, but including my many imperfections as well. Plenty of distractions can obscure one’s true impact. That is why making the identification process conscious is wise, rather than scorning it, or trying to avoid it altogether, as many people who consider themselves spiritual do. My identity, not a fixed vain version, but my actual causal, fluid, relational sense of self as perceived by others, is a creative agent, giving and receiving with Source, rippling “in and out,” hence a work of art.

To be an artist, one must get out of the way. So, the work, what is valuable, can speak for itself. Our role in the play is a mixture of the causes we devote our time and energy to serve. What is worthy of art? Who is the audience? What does the set say about the surrounding culture? What style to work in? What materials are available? An artist must know the laws of their materials, and understand the subject. Creating a character is not a haphazard matter of preference. It is born out of context and skill. Can the process of learning be considered art as well? That question is as silly as asking whether inanimate objects are beings. Both, of course, and absolutely not. My soul will not last long into the future, nor does the future exist.

Our characters are important, paradoxically. If this art of identification were to have a name it could be personalization. Caring, taking experience seriously, is paramount, because inherent within the mundane stuff of life, something sacred is at stake. Everything beyond the fourth dimension is qualitative. That’s not to say time and space are a curtain. They are perfectly clear. We are not determined by physics. We are simply indebted to them, like a student who heeds the elders. Humans innately know how to fathom quality beyond quantity, and that capacity is precisely what is at stake. On the qualitative plane, the body perceives time, space and matter as ultimate reality. The spirit then feels as if acting behind a curtain, a veil of ignorance, imprisoning us, apparently all that exists. Beyond this illusion, the quality of our inner life is being watched, though we may know not by whom. We are transparent, yet hypnotized by forms, extremely impressionable. It is easy to manipulate how identification happens by default, as we see in politics and advertising. Let us write a happy ending by attending to how sensitive we are and reclaiming our senses, both our physical ones and our spiritual faculties. We must not allow our sense of self to be co-opted by forces we wish to be free from. There is something much greater going on here. Honesty is the play. Sensitivity is the theater. Personalization, freeing ourselves, happens by discovering what causes move us and devoting the senses to them.

The creativity of everyday life, the free cultivation of inner qualities amidst the jungle of cause and effect, is not just art for art’s sake. Learning to be responsible for our actions, valuing conscience is deliberately aligned with higher laws. Fortunately, intuiting how we alter the big picture in ways we are intellectually blind to, comes naturally with aging. We don’t choose the plot, the audience, the traps, the themes of our life story, no matter how much we may long to be the hero. We are improvising on a stage without end, not knowing our lines, the moral nor who is in charge. There is nothing wrong with art for art’s sake, but who are we to try and add or subtract something from what is given? I may feel I have something to contribute when someone else is performing, like snow falling, birds alighting, an injustice or some good news not being reported. What good can I offer to the moment unfolding, anew, right now? It’s incredible how much creative license we have and how delicately we must use it to personify inner peace.

Imagine actors dressed up backstage and the intricate bonds between them. Are their lives ‘outide’ or ‘inside’ the play more real? What about their relationship with the audience, the play write, crew, the theme, strangers they pass walking to work between the theater and their home? For the many spiritual adepts who experience this solitary and all-pervading question, life becomes like theater. We play our roles, not because we identify with them, but to be reliable to others, knowing we could behave differently every corner we turn like madmen. When we discover how powerful it is to serve a cause, we can truly become mad and abandon our personal self. To have happy relationships, we must surrender to our small part. We feel defeated if we long for more power, and victorious if we devote ourselves in service and faith that there are causes far wiser and more complex than the ones our ego compulsively resonates with.

What cannot be done alone emerges in social situations. Communities of people appreciating conditions as condition together provide a context for recognizing the individuality of each actor. The basic goodness of each mysterious, incorrigible, often humorous unique being is reflected by one another in the challenges which arise. Living (aging) in community reveals the body as belonging to nature and the spirit as free. It is discerning that indeed we are part of community which makes the drama of life meaningful. Without acknowledging karma, commonality, there would be no point to the drama. Existence, nature alone, has no meaning. This simple, redundant script, the alchemy of instinct evolving into kindness, is never boring, since everyone is invited to be transfigured themselves until they understand who we all are. Sadly, there is an adversarial impulse aimed at preventing people from discovering ordinary theater, which I write about in many of my posts.

One does not need a subscription to partake in the mythology of culture, not to be confused with pop culture. Culture spontaneously arises among groups of people invested in place and taking responsibility for perceived changes in their environment, ie: rituals, practicality, conversation. We perceive conditions inside and outside of our bodies, and create stories about them. Humans continuously spin creation myths, imagining the world is the way we believe it to be and behaving in ways which produce such effects. The ego casts itself as the hero of the story, however, pure perception, free from preconceived notions, shows that the true hero is kindness. Depending on the higher needs of the moment, one’s part changes from playing a pawn, a troll, an angel, a witch, a faceless shift of weather, the drink of water out back, the dressing room mirror. This kind of change is different than volitional change. Change that is given is karma teaching us. As we age, life unfolds differently than we imagined. From the deciding factors, nothing is excluded, nothing crossed out or left backstage. The play is backstage, where our hearts converge. We all witness and broadcast raw energy. The art is learning to build a character who is consciously present on the energetic plane of existence and also dares to show up separately, on the ground, in an authentic and benign way as much as possible. We personally project appearances and listen to collective signs and mood, both constantly changing.

Entertainment catches our interest, because it contains the same archetypes reflected in our personal dramas. When simply consuming, the observer’s relationship with the artists is lost. The big art industry no longer contends with artists as actors playing roles as known individuals in a community. They are still in a context which is created for the purpose of sales. They still have an influence, but the experience of the “consumer” is different. There is no reciprocity, no seeing each other off-stage. I consider tv, movies, plays video games, celebrity news or expressions via social media, to be lesser forms of art than any banal instance of everyday life. Entertainment can be art, but without community, art is not culture. Society is big. Community is small. Community is about survival, not only physically, but psychically. The survival of our character, who does not know who it is and nor of the karma it generates without interacting in ways that get one’s hands dirty depends on recognition among others of spiritual reality. Society does this abstractly. Community allows this web to grow. Many consumers are aloof about produced entertainment, but other electronic platforms are designed and function as entertainment as well, including watching the news, social media, even doing research via the internet. We can try to concoct a plot in our google search history, on our news feed or app thread, but the plot of karma is in context, beyond what we personally can grasp. Try as we might to create a good personality virtually, our karma is the physical residue of our actions. The big picture accepts all of us, us as we are, not in vain. We can deceive ourselves and others on stage and on the screen, but the part of us that is watching cannot deny our transparency.

It is easy to overlook the cues, warnings, affirmations and essences of our fellow co-creators when overstimulated by addictive products, or depressed about the role one plays in society merely to earn a living. It is important to remember that our intentions, our grief, our aspirations and our humility also comprise our biography. Consider the motive of capital gain driving corporate media. One could say our creativity is stolen when media eclipses our awareness of how we weave together fiction, the delusion that we authorize the world, and non-fiction, respect for universal laws, all the time. Owning our lived experience as earnestly as if our own inner life were a classic epic originally re-produced takes commitment. I would say devotion. We can devote the self to the story of our own life in a way that is beneficial to the whole. This lifestyle requires to observe rather than assume, to surrender our preferences and have faith that seemingly haphazard events contain underlying lessons. This ongoing work is worth it, because when we are conscious of how our individual experience is pregnant with hidden truths, we  become acquainted with the spiritual world, the forces present in the veil of appearances. I say in the veil and not behind it, because in the theater of life, all forms are essential. The illusion of matter is not something to be taken for granted. There are more beings than we can possibly imagine and the balance of their moral existence is remembered in physical structures. It may be tempting to ignore substance as a conversation with beings, because it is exhausting to think of caring that much. Nihilism is not the answer. That is where God comes in. The veil of appearances, the masterpiece we are the audience for, is so wonderful and complex, it gives us pause to write.

Using theater as a metaphor for an awakened life, the ego then is an artist. Artists know how much work is required to produce anything good. Most creativity is garbage, or practice, put more gently. It likely takes many years before a contribution is made that is valuable in itself to the collective. Quality does not depend on special effects nor grandeur. It depends on transmission. When an impression lights up the heart, we let it in. Otherwise we repel it. Noticing the consequences of our desire alters what we desire, if we care enough about not harming ourselves and others. Others help us develop conscience, especially elders. We cannot underestimate the valuable role elders play in our local communities. As we age, we become more and more invisible, transitioning from being actors into directors and producers, so to speak. Others inspire us to awaken from turning a blind eye on the oracle of life. When we meet people we admire, we want to share the same experience with them, which is impossible. We all live in the subjective prison of our associations. The only true meeting place is the language of the stage. Spirits, we observe ourselves as actors among other actors. We meet without calling each other’s bluff, allowing the situations we find ourselves in, replete with every detail, to speak fresh truths, for itself in a common tongue. Just as spirits encounter each other by clothing themselves in forms, actors encounter each other through the disguise of metaphors and atmosphere. We know the universal form is superior to the personal metaphor, but the passion of taking the play seriously gives back what is borrowed from the archetypal, regenerated.

Sense perceptions can be manipulated to  mimic spiritual refinement. This is called aesthetics. There are many distractions on the market which use this to their advantage, enhancing sensations to attract consumers. The desire to harness the beauty of nature is natural, but we must be aware of what lies outside the frame as well, which our senses are also taking in. We cannot ignore the big picture, lest we ignore our own hearts. It is present in the panorama of ordinary existence. The underlying intentions that produce the sensations we perceive impact us just as much as the surface. When we learn to listen with the heart, we can discern the will that informs phenomena. We can develop direct awareness of the spiritual qualities that propel changes surrounding us everywhere in present-moment observations. There is no separation between the subtle nuances of subjectivity and overarching objective discernment, if we are sensitive enough and honest with ourselves. They are mutually dependent modes conducive to wisdom. We have to sacrifice the lust for fame and adrenaline. Then we discover how, while we are like puppets on the strings of larger forces, we are also continuously contributing to the collective pool, whether or not we know how to take hold of the phenomenological strings from the subjective end. This should make us grateful that our stage is so small, because it is humbling indeed to realize the power of the inner life.

This awakening equals acknowledging uncertainty. Such humility helps one dare to be a witness, both to the wonders of life and to the antics of the ego. Faking certainty about what is happening is encouraged by our society, making it harder to make necessary shifts. Discomfort is part of the comedy, which can be soothed by realizing what a miracle it is that we can feel such strong emotions, being such tiny specks in the great universe. What to create when we have the power? Is there anything to add? How can we do anything right knowing we are largely oblivious? Perhaps it is time for washing our costume from yesterday, when we’d rather jump into this scene right away? The pinnacle of art is everywhere, local, free, and it’s purpose is to maintain life. Creativity is both a gift and a duty, the overlap of art and craft. Sometimes our duty is to move, others to use restraint, silence and be still. The universe does not present itself the way we perceive it unless we perceive it. Being a conscious witness, the student, the audience, is the first step to becoming a creator. This entails feeling truly what that heart laments and desires. Culture gives meaning to life, but it does not necessarily feel good. Like fermenting pro-biotics, the host is surrendered to the colony. This is transmission, charity, accepting the task of embodiment with a generous heart.

Karma never stops moving, so fast that we are always alone. When we embrace hardships as challenges intended for us, we join in a communal process which releases us from ignorantly believing our character is the director of the theater. Perhaps when we die, there is some secure ground, but while we are alive, contentment is available when interest in learning transcends craving for comfort. The physical world is wise and made many sacrifices to hone the senses which separate us. Attending to symbols, spontaneous events, insights, disciplines, we allow our senses to blossom. Devoting our life to the cosmic script is like planting the human organism in proper soil. Thus, we can experience being a real person, rather than a lonely and vain facade. It is a privilege to participate in the masterpiece of everyday life. The challenge is to surrender to the present moment. The desire to not cause harm is the key to discerning which part we play in relationship to the beings and forces around us. It is touching how much mercy and forgiveness exists among us, as we all dance this dance that cannot be contrived nor edited, without knowing the next step.

Nature provides what we need, access to land, water, air, time, but living in Eden wouldn’t make much of a story, would it? Reality is not the beautiful movie we invent in our minds of an independent entity framed by external impressions. Reality is the lurking itch of conscience pointing in the direction of where our ignorance can next be combated. While we perceive from different standpoints physically, the soil of nature is the inner life where we are continually interconnected. Our addictions may be different, but our hearts’ desires are alike. There is plenty of beauty and love and safety to go around. We can learn to weave our stories consciously, improving, free of the puppet strings. We cannot free ourselves from laws without knowing them. We know by relaxing into the collective themes unfolding. Paying attention to group mood reveals that our hopes and fears are merely blinders covering our interwoven myth where we shape-shift, die and reincarnate constantly. Ultimate truth about the nature of reality is revealed by simply noticing what takes precedence over everything else, in it’s impact on our state of being and hence in our impact on the environment, —the care between living beings. Naturally we want others to forgive us and notice when we develop, but do we make the effort to do this for others? How many people can we do this for in a day, on an on-going basis? The way the economy is designed, our actions cannot do justice to the heart’s desire to noticing the growth of those we interact with. Our lives are too crowded, our schedules too fast. The challenges of initiation are posed to us through our ordinary experiences, if we accept the importance of what is taking place in our immediate sphere of existence. It is not only permissible, it is responsible, to take one’s personal story seriously. Our biography is written by how we act AND how we attend. We are a ripple effect in the scene we are a part of.

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