Entelechy

vcxa8286entelechy |en?tel?k?|noun ( pl. -chies) Philosophy – the realization of potential.• the supposed vital principle that guides the development and functioning of an organism or other system or organization.• Philosophy – the soul. ORIGIN late Middle English : via late Latin from Greek entelekheia (used by Aristotle), from en- ‘within’ + telos ‘end, perfection’ + ekhein ‘be in a certain state.’ —Blackburn, Simon. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Walton Street, Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1994.

It is inside of you, like the butterfly is inside of the caterpillar. He then used a word that I heard for the first time, a word that became essential to my later work…A great word, a Greek word, entelechy. It means the dynamic purpose that is coded in you. It is the entelechy of this acorn on the ground to be an oak tree. It is the entelechy of the caterpillar to undergo metamorphosis and become a butterfly. So what is the butterfly, the entelechy of…? — Jean Houston

I first came across the word ‘entelechy’ while reading the above passage in Jean Houston’s enlightening autobiography, A Mythic Life during the mid-nineties. Being the lover of words I am, I sought out its root and origin.

As best as I could determine, entelechy is akin to the soul of an organism. It is the energy which drives one to fulfill his purpose in life. It is not growth of an organism, a child becoming an adult. That is a life process. Entelechy, is more connected with the spiritual process. It is the soul’s energy, the hidden key to all that is contained within and to all the possibilities without.

In addition to being the coded drive of a single organism, entelechy is the flow of consciousness between organisms. Have you ever stood overlooking water and watched as a flock of shore birds performed as one single unit. Flying, turning, twisting, reflecting the sunlight, diving and landing as a single bird. There is a force greater than trust allowing the movement to occur in perfect symmetry without crashing into one another. This is entelechy extended beyond the single organism into a group consciousness. Entelechy is the core of the morphogenetic field existing between all of life.

Acedia

B4C0A454-579E-47EC-B306-E76CD25BDF24There are times when I have not wanted to be of this planet. In truth, I have grown weary with the world, the politics, and the unending changelessness of things. A presidential campaign lasting for more than two years. The power and wealth of the few and the continued suppression of the many. The continuing wars in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq still mounting in their toll of innocent lives. World famine and financial greed all increasing at alarming rates even when the tools to bring about change exist but are not implemented. The return of once eradicated diseases like cholera, scarlet fever, yellow fever, and polio now indifferent to the drugs previously used in their demise.

I do not want to be with friends nor do I seek to engage in new friendships. Phone calls and emails go unanswered or unreturned. I get through each day as another day of life doing the things I love, but somehow doing these things brings a different kind of satisfaction. It feels as if a completion of life to this point is being made. I find myself waiting for activities of the day to end so I can enjoy the blissful solitude of my own surroundings and wait for nightfall without interruptions. The darkness somehow feels safer for me now. There is nowhere, except for here, where I have to venture. I fall into the void of sleep with no thoughts of waking until the morning sun forcefully opens my eyes.

I am on a journey. It is not unlike journeys I have taken before except for the absence of a fixed timetable but this journey is internal, not external. Whenever I take journeys out into the world, I always come back with stories and experiences to share with friends. Small tokens commemorating the places to which I traveled. Pictures, postcards, etc.  I always come back a different person than the one who started the adventure initially but this journey is proving to be much different from those  I have taken before.

At first I thought I might be in a state of depression except for the fact that my feelings are not out of hopelessness or inadequacy nor are they out of synchronization with the events taking place in the outside world. It is more of a transition. A transformation of sorts. A transformation which takes me to my depths, rattles my brain, and challenges all my beliefs once again. I could blame these feelings on my aging and the facing of my impending death but I think it is more than a sense of doom. It is in a word, “acedia.” I know acedia is defined as “spiritual or mental sloth; apathy” in today’s English dictionary, but I prefer the medieval Latin and more philosophical spelling and definition to the modern psychological one. In Latin, accidie, as it was spelled, is a state that inhibits pleasure and prompts the rejection of life.* Thomas Aquinas associated it with the turning of one’s back on things, a torpor of spirit. Acedia is often translated as sloth, which is actually quite different.

The conditions of such a journey make it difficult to share with friends. I cannot explain something I am in the middle of experiencing myself. I have no photographs of pristine mountains covered with glistening white snow and no stories to share from fellow travelers met along the way. What I can share is this. The journey of transformation is one to be taken on numerous occasions throughout our lives. As soon as you finish with one, another waits on the sidelines to grab you and wisps you away. This type of journey requires a strength of belief. Not in a religious sense, as in a god, but a belief in oneself. A strength you may not even know was possible until you experience it firsthand and like those journeys taken into the outside world, you will return a much different person than when you entered. You will return with a greater truth and belief in yourself and your place in the world. Your awareness, acceptance, and understanding of life will be enhanced by the discoveries you learn about yourself. There is no preparation you can make ahead of time. There is no gear to pack and no magic wand can assist you along this journey. One does not take such a journey with plans to return to where one started nor do you know where or when it will end.

This life, in the end, is but a preparation for our final journey toward death. I believe the real journey starts when our essence or spirit is free of this body. I have loved and I have been loved. I do not ask for anything more.

I wish you well.

 

*Blackburn, Simon. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Walton Street, Oxford, England OX2 6DP: Oxford University Press, 1994.

What Matters?

vcxa8286Ten things that matter most to me in this life are:

Love — It is the most precious of gift of all.

Nourishment — Air, Water, and Food — These are necessities. Life must have access to clean air, clean water and food to sustain itself.

Free Speech — Ideas must never be censored whether one agrees with them or not.

A Belief In Yourself — No one is more deserving of your trust and love than you.

Solitude — Solitude is refuge for the soul. Learn to incorporate it into your life.

Dreams — They are the windows into your life. Dreams do not always lead to reality, but they always lead to possibilities. Welcome them, even your nightmares have something to tell you.

Promises — Keep the ones you make. They are the foundation of trust.

Creativity — When you realize you are more than a creation — Create!

Freedom — To believe whatever you choose to believe and not be punished for that belief as long as no one is harmed because of it.

Death — It is inevitable for every living creature. Learn to accept and to live with its reality.

The Routine Of No Routine

The search is the meaning, the search for beauty, love, kindness and restoration in this difficult, wired and often alien modern world. The miracle is that we are here, that no matter how undone we’ve been the night before, we wake up every morning and are still here. It is phenomenal just to be. This idea overwhelms some people.

— Anne Lamott

vcxa8286When I retired nine years ago, the one thing I most looked forward to was not having to awaken each morning to the blaring of an alarm clock. I could wake to the natural rhythms of my body, to the light of the sun, the songs of the birds or the cranking of the garbage truck slowly making its way down the hill. I looked forward to shaping my days rather than having them shaped by the routines of my typical work day. I could live each day without the routine (a sequence of actions regularly followed, a fixed program*) of going to work, going to lunch, coming back to work, and finally coming home which was the only part of my routine I enjoyed. Unlike many people who fall apart without a routine, I thrived. I did not need a schedule full of meaningless activities to stimulate my life. I had books to read, poems to write, Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata to learn on my keyboard, walks to take, and oceans to visit. The last thing I wanted was a routine of any kind. I wanted my days to be free for me to follow my heart and my dreams.

The Buddha asked his disciples to empty their minds of all desires for desire was the root cause of all suffering and disappointment. Many find this somewhat paradoxical as the desire to empty one’s mind of desire is itself a desire which adds to the suffering in one’s life.

I experienced a similar paradox in my attempt to not follow a routine. Doing what I choose to do each day itself became a routine. Yes, it was a chosen routine of my own activities as oppose to a required one, but still a routine. The difference was that my new routine had more flexibility in its implementation. So, I embraced my new routine because each day I was doing the things I loved.

I only awaken to an alarm clock if I have an early flight to catch as I make all of my appointments late in the morning so I can awaken naturally. I may do some yoga stretches or go for a walk when the weather is agreeable. I have never been a breakfast person so a cup of tea or coffee usually comes next. Then I read the news and set about my work. I call my writing work because I take it seriously and because it fills a good part of each day. However, it is work I enjoy doing. This is usually followed by a nap, a meal, and another walk before the daylight comes to an end. In the evenings I will write some more, read, or maybe watch a rented movie on iTunes. On occassion, I interact with others or take a Spanish class. These activities are the core of my routine which changes daily and is yet grounded in that I no longer have to commit any of my time to activities I no longer want to do.

My new daily routine has become a ritual as it is repeated each day with the same  degree of love, devotion, and desire to live this life I love doing the things I love to do. This is my true secret of life or in the words of Jim Harrison, “You have to follow the affections of your heart, and the truth of your imagination. Otherwise, you will feel badly.”

  • Source Reference: New Oxford American Dictionary

A Soul Reader – Oliver Sacks

vcxa8286I had never heard of Marcelo Gleiser until a few weeks ago when a friend recommended his book The Island of Knowledge-The Limits of Science and Meaning. “It’s right up your alley,” she said, and she was correct.

As circumstance would have it, I came across his name again a few days later when I read his response and tribute on NPR’s 13.7 Cosmos & Culture to one of my most favorite people Oliver Sacks. (July 09, 1933 – August 30, 2015) The Man Who Turned Life Into Magic. I was stunned earlier when I read Oliver’s op-ed piece in the New York Times. He is dying from cancer of the liver. This is a man who gave life to so many people upon whom the world had turned its back. He was a man I learned of from a movie before ever reading his books. In his essay he talked about how he planned to live his remaining time on this earth. He wrote:

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming…This is not indifference but detachment. […]

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

I never met Oliver Sacks. I know him only through the stories he wrote in Awakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, Altered States, and his essays on hallucinatory drugs. I am one of the readers with whom he shared that “special intercourse.” He not only touched my soul, he opened it. I learned about compassion for my fellow human beings regardless of their physical and/or mental differences from Oliver Sacks. I learned we are all different and to accept what is uniquely different in each of us.

It is from his stories I learned about him, a gifted, intelligent, caring, and heart centered individual. He is one of those rare individuals I would like to sit down and talk with over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. His friend Marcelo summed up his many attributes best when he referred to Oliver Sacks as “A Soul-Reader.”

Thank you Marcelo for your beautiful tribute to I man I know you love. Thank you Oliver Sacks for the life you gave to so many and for teaching me a out compassion. A soul reader is the best human being of us all.

Happiness

vcxa8286I have wanted to write about happiness for a few day now, but I didn’t know what to say. I know happiness exists. I know it to be a major source of joy in my life. I know it exists as a part of my being. It is my general nature. I am happy when I wake up in the morning. What about you? Is happiness a universal state of being?

I found the answer to that question in a rather unusual manner. I was searching the internet for a dentist when I came across an Ecuadorian expat site. People from various states and nations were posting questions about living in Ecuador. One expat posted a copy of the video embedded below filmed in the city of Loja. Because I have been living in Fiji for the last four years, I have not had much exposure to American music so although I had heard of Pharrell Williams, I had not listened to his music until today. The song was named “Happy,” and apparently it was or perhaps still is a popular song. I played the video, and almost immediately received the answer to my question. Is happiness a universal state of being? Yes, it is.

In his song Pharrell singed the line, “Clap you hands if you know what ‘happiness’ is for you.” It was in the moment that I realized that although happiness is a universal condition, we each have different keys to unlocking it from inside of us. To some the key might be dancing. To someone else the key might be found in helping others, and to others it might be finding their soulmate. These keys are the common threads to unlocking happiness. Of course there are many more, but these are a few examples.

I believe happiness is a state of being, not a state of mind. One cannot will themselves to be happy. There are no “ten keys to happiness” or “five things you can do everyday to be happy.” We have all been hooked by these quick fixes to find whatever we are searching for. The internet is full of them. They all promise to help you reach your goal, no matter what that goal is. It could be to lose weight, gain an abdominal six-pack, or find the perfect mate. What most of us fail to understand is that happiness is not out there to be found no matter how much we search or pray. It is not in the purchase of a new “something,” or in that two week vacation you’ve been saving for all year. These are just fleeting moments of happiness in your life. They have no permanence. Happiness, however, is not fleeting because it is a state of being. It is an integral part of who you are, of who I am.

Although one may not necessarily be happy 24/7 and generally happiness is pleasurable, I don’t believe happiness is “elusive” or “the mere repetition of pleasure and avoidance of pain.” Happiness shares a duality with sadness. Only their triggers are different. It is the Buddha Nature. We all have it inside of us. It is part of our entelechy. It is as embedded in our being as life itself. The key is to allow it to unfold freely from within. Happiness is not exteriorly dependent. Happiness is the smile that appears on your face for no particular reason. Happiness if the energy of being alive bursting inside of you. Happiness is the joy of your soul awakening.

I challenge you to watch this video, We Are Happy From Loja, and not feel happiness bubbling up inside you.

Enlightenment—What Is It Really?

vcxa8286Enlightenment is not something to be sought but rather something to be realized. It is a state of being which does not have to be experienced each moment of our existence. That would be overwhelming and could lead to schizophrenia and yet, it can be realized each moment of our life without harm. The key is not to attempt to hold on to that moment but to release it and to always live in the present now. “A glimpse is all we get,” most of the time and that one single glimpse can sustain us for the rest of our life. Unfortunately, when most of us experience clear vision or a sudden insight, we pass it off as an illusion or the effects of a migraine headache. It can be both that subtle and that overpowering.

We are each born enlightened. A baby sees everything as part of himself and not separate. He reaches out with his finger to touch the full moon shining outside his window and because of his awareness of everything as part of himself, he does. Everything is one until he learns to name things, to differentiate between his mother and father, a bird and a cat, and the parts of his own body. It is through the process of learning that he begins to separate things as being outside of himself and different from himself. The moon which he touched as a baby is now 200,000 miles away rather than on the tip of his pinky.I believe there are three key elements of enlightenment and I will refer to them as the three A’s: Awareness, Acceptance and Appreciation.Awareness: What is awareness and what, you are probably asking, does it have to do with enlightenment? Everything, is my reply. Awareness is the foundation of enlightenment. The Buddha is recorded as saying, “I am awake” but he could have just as easily said, “I am aware” and the meaning would be the same. Awareness in English is the knowledge or perception of a situation or fact.(1) It is specific to a thing. In Japanese, awareness is an appreciation of the ephemeral beauty of the world. The change of seasons, the falling of the cherry blossoms, and the planting of the crops. Awareness in Japanese is “That poignant sensation one has of time passing, of the inevitable cycle of life and death.” From the noun comes the idiom mono-no-aware. Roughly translated as “enjoying the sadness of life.” (2)Although spelled the same, the Japanese meaning and translation more closely resonates with my concept and understanding of awareness. When one is aware, one is cognizance of his surroundings, the changing patterns of day and night, the phases of the moon, the connectedness of all life and the inevitability if death. These things are accepted as the natural flow of nature. One is as aware of the importance of the honeybee in this flow of life as one is of his own place in the nature of things.Acceptance: This doctrine is a most difficult one because of our nature to pass judgement. To see things in the duality of good/evil, right/wrong, or love/hate, we pass judgement not only with concepts but also with people and religions. Black people are…Italians are…Mexicans are…Jews are…Christians are…Muslems are…. According to the Bible stories I grew up with, no duality existed before Eve bit into the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. She and Adam were unaware of their nakedness, unaware of opposites because no knowledge of duality existed in the garden. Everything was one.I am not blaming Eve for the problems of mankind. I simply use this story as a metaphor to illustrate the nature of duality and why it has created this mountainous barrier to acceptance. An enlightened individual sees beyond the duality to the singularity and unity of all things as they are. He practices the doctrine of acceptance which Jesus spoke of in his Sermon on the Mount as did the Buddha and many others. Today the Dali Lama accepts those who destroyed his country, murdered his priests, ravaged his temples, and annihilated his culture as brothers. (3)

Siddhartha in the book of the same name by Herman Hesse uses these words to describe acceptance of the nature of duality to his friend Govinda.

The world is not imperfect or slowly evolving along a long path to perfection. No, it is perfect at every moment: every sin already carries grace within it, all small children are potential old men, all sucklings have death within them, all dying people — eternal life. It is not possible for one person to see how far another is on the way: the Buddha exists in the robber and dice player; the robber exists in the Brahmin. Therefore, it seems to me that everything that exists is good, death as well as life, sin as well as holiness, wisdom as well as folly. Everything is necessary, everything needs only my agreement, my assent, my loving understanding; then all is well with me and nothing can harm me.

In following the doctrine of acceptance one doesn’t manipulate or interfere with another’s way of life or another’s beliefs even if he believes his motivation is from his highest spirit. He refrains from giving advice unless asked but is not indifferent to providing aid when needed or requested. He eliminates the fanatic in himself. He kills the one in himself who must change others to his beliefs, his way of life. He accepts the differences in the world without judgement and without the need to convert anyone or anything for any reason. The sole purpose of the enlightened individual is to live life each day totally aware that life is a blessing.Appreciation: Appreciation is akin to Gratitude which I previously addressed in other essays but when I think of appreciation in connection with enlightenment, I believe it goes a bit further than the virtue of gratitude. Appreciation is the complete understanding and acceptance of a situation like malice aforethought while still being able to give thanks to the universe for all that exists. It is the giving of grace for everything and every situation which exists including individual acts which one might deem cruel. In this way appreciation goes hand in hand with the other two points of my triumvirate, awareness and acceptance. They might be called absolutes although in philosophical circles they are not considered such.Appreciation is the total surrender to the sublime in everything. The surrender to the excellence and beauty of all that exists, including death and destruction. It is the acknowledgement that in order there is chaos and in chaos there is order. It is the way things are. Appreciation of the way things are does not mean that one cannot fight for change but on the ultimate level of life it means one sees the whole picture and not the individual frames. It is the looking at life with a flood light instead of a spotlight. The monks who publicly set themselves ablaze in protest to the war in Viet Nam knew this. They appreciated life and wanted their deaths to stand for something more. I trust in the end their sacrifice had purpose.There is obviously more to be said concerning Enlightenment but at least the three A’s — Awareness, Acceptance and Appreciation will give us a good place to start.(1) New American Oxford Dictionary, Apple Digital Edition 2011.(2) Metcalf, Alan A. The World In So Many Words. Boston, MA: Hough Mifflin, 1999

(3) Within the last decade, the Pope has apologized to the cultures and religions of the world that were destroyed or eliminated because of the acts of Catholic church in the attempted conversion of these cultures to Christianity. The governments of Australia and Germany have apologized for their treatment of the Aborigines and the Jews respectively for their government’s genocide and attempts at cultural cleansing. The United States however has never issued an apology or any acknowledgement of wrongdoing to the Native Americans for the ravage destruction and rape of their lands or to the Negro slaves for their brutal mistreatment, repeated lies of equality, or utter failure to incorporate people of color into mainstream American society. I still have not received the twenty acres and a mule promised my forefathers after the so called emancipation of slavery. Unlike the Dali Lama, I am not yet at a place where I can forgive America for the daily acts of violence and lies upon its own people and to the world. This is the difficulty of acceptance.