Aporia – lacking passage.
Perhaps one the most complex realisations I’ve had in a while, I’ve come to realise why there are so many lost souls out there today, who cling to shallow ideas, instead of deeper ideologies.
In a world where the internet more or less is detrimental rather than beneficial (I would be writing this on paper if my handwriting could keep up with my mind), where people are bombarded with more information than they’ve ever have before and are living in perpetual denial and conflict with themselves, I’ve noted a singular issue, that has not really been raised when discussing identity.
Spirituality and philosophy or the lack thereof.
I can only speak from my own lens, but growing up, I remember reading this particularly bloody and violent book called The Ninja by Eric van Lustbader, in which he explores both Western and Eastern philosophies through the lens of martial arts and a unique character who was raised in Japan, but is of European descent.
Beyond the sex, violence and exotic descriptions of Far East locales, I was struck by the exploration of zen philosophies and the concept of wa (harmony) in the book, something that I’ve actually forgotten about until recently diving back into The Last Samurai soundtrack, which I listened to a lot whilst reading the book.
This spark suddenly shone a light of context on a discussion I’ve been having within myself about the current plight of young people and in particular their strange obsession with basing their whole personality around lots of arbitrary terms. Gender, sexuality, ethnicity, jobs … singular parts of a whole, yet for a lot of people, it is the base for their whole being.
Spirituality and philosophy are both dying slowly in the modern world. Both require you to slow down and ponder, something that many people struggle with in an age where technology is so rapid.
Some would even consider them a waste of time.
What is the purpose of slowing down when you are stressed about 1000 other things? You don’t have time to reflect. And when you do, all you can think about are your failures and the mountain of work ahead of you.
This attitude is exactly why spirituality and philosophy exist. These concepts help you create a mental bulwark against life, and allow you to explore parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed before. It allows you to block out the physical stresses that your body inflicts on your mind and really helps you broaden your mind to your senses and capacities.
Spirituality and philosophy allows you to avoid aporia.
Perhaps one of the strangest lessons I’ve taken out of reading those Ninja books, was the idea about embracing and relaxing around pain. I don’t brace myself or clench before a painful hit or wound. Instead I relax and allow it to do its course. The pain is less intense this way and helps you recover your wits quicker.
The same philosophy applies to spicy food. I believe that it is better to let the heat run its course, than try to find shallow relief in milk or water because the pain only comes back more acutely.
Philosophy and spirituality are very crucial components to creating good mental health and abilities. I find myself clinging to strange beliefs about equilibrium when confronted with something bad, or trying to achieve a zero state, something that I learned again through the book and my study into the concept of zen.
Other examples of my strange beliefs are: I believe that my home town, Melbourne, is actually a beautiful woman in my mind, that I talk to when I don’t want rain to hit me when I’m out.
Lady Luck is a genuine deity that needs constant ministrations and seducing to be on my side.
I can lower pain with the power of my mind, by sinking deeper into a strange level of consciousness where the sensation of pain is more tolerable. I use this at the dentist all the time.
The point is … whilst I am not a believer in God, or any real religion, I still practice some form of spirituality and apply my philosophical ideas in practice.
This brings me back to zen and the concept of zero. As strange as it sounds, I genuinely do not have a lot of thoughts in my mind. My mind is not in constant flux, stressed about something or the other. It is largely empty and quiet, activated only when I need it.
If I take this essay for example, I am not writing it out in my head, then typing it. Words appear on screen, the same time as I think them. The same happens in conversations, and random monologues that we all experience at some point in our lives.
Beyond that, my mind is not always thinking. It is still and quiet, zero.
Zero as a philosophy is a very intriguing concept. It is seen as a place of infinite possibility, an inverse of the idea that by having zero, you have nothing. Avoid the more Western idea that zero equates to nothing. In Eastern philosophy, the concept of zero actually frees you to the world. It is boundless and never ending, an endless source of inspiration and creativity.
In zero, nothing and everything can exist. Past, present, future, whole or parts … they all exist and don’t exist. There is no distinction between them all.
I practice this concept all the time, with the emptiness of my mind. Ideas come to me, like fish does to a patient fisherman. I need only to put my hand out and tickle the belly and the idea will jump out of the river and into my lap.
In a strange way, I suppose I’ve always been attuned to the zen approach to life. My belief in equality, bad or good, the ability to be attuned to my emotions but never be ruled by them … my constant self-reflection in what I can do better and what I should let go of …
I’ve always paraded myself as a man of ruthless logic and reason, but somehow that never quite described how complex I really am. I am philosophical in a lot of ways too, just not in the same vein of the famous Greek definition of the word.
Am I saying that you should practice zero? Of course not. Have you been following my greater point?
I am saying that you should explore different philosophies and see how they can help you, change mindsets or even lifestyles.
Mine is quite Asiatic inspired, the constant desire to improve oneself, and seek discipline in all aspect of life. There aren’t questions about life, about death or trying to make sense of it all, I just accept that I am here and will work to improve myself.
I don’t give in to nihilism because that is ultimately self-defeating … I just focus solely on what I can achieve in this short time I have on Earth.
So why do I use the word aporia to describe certain people living in the year 2022?
I believe that one of the key fundamental issues that people have in a increasingly non-religious world, is that people lack that inner spirituality, the inner harmony that will help them excel in life, no matter what happens to them.
Living in a Western society, it is far too easy to not discover deeper Eastern philosophies. We aren’t taught them, and increasingly, especially in Asia, we don’t get to experience them either. Famous school of thoughts in China, Japan and other parts of Asia, have now been made irrelevant in a world more globalised and arguably Westernised than ever before.
The world has moved on from deeper spiritual connections in search of something else, that will never quite satisfy the soul but will help you survive the complex maze that is the 21st Century: money.
In this contemporary world, money is more or less the new philosophy that drives people’s existence. It is not enough to be alive, but now you must own essential items that will help make you a functioning member of society.
The trust from people that you will contribute to the fabric of your community by improving yourself, isn’t there. The irony of it all though, is that you can own a car, work 76 hours a fortnight, be married with 2 kids and a homeowner and still be absolutely miserable and on suicide watch.
To truly address the hole, the void that exists in all of us, I believe that we all need to live in the present and fill it up with sensations, ideas and fulfilling moments.
That comes from a spiritual belief in something. Something deeper than selecting a part of ourselves that we define ourselves by. Something greater than our normal daily existence. It’s about exploring how we fit in the world, not how the world fits us.
For me, despite not being a very “outdoor” person (I prefer urban environments to forests), I still retain a strong belief in indigenous ideals about “Mother Earth” and doing one’s part to look after the environment you are in. I routinely pick up rubbish … whenever I see it. I address and see Melbourne as a living goddess that needs help, and have imaginary conversations with her and how we can help each other.
I still need that connection to the land, when I am out and about. What I take from the land, one day, I must return.
It’s not enough to acknowledge some traditional owner, or pass your respect to some dead ancestor of yesteryear … what are you doing now to actually pay homage to them? Are you sorting out your recycling? Avoiding going to events that create a lot of rubbish? Are you even aware of their fundamental beliefs?
Spirituality encourages a lifestyle shift in something greater than empty buzzwords. It’s so easy to say stuff and then do the complete opposite. People engage in shibboleth every single day … but how many of us actually try to take a spiritual approach to things?
How many of us actually do a service simply because you want to and don’t see any rewards?
I have a love/hate relationship with my conscience. When I see something is wrong, from rubbish at a park, to lost dogs, I can’t help but create a huge emotional conflict within myself. A part of me want to ignore it and don’t go out of my way to help, but my heart tells me otherwise and warns me I’ll regret it later. I can always find time to help someone, or do something. A couple more steps to the bin isn’t going to hurt my legs, nor is an hour spent with random dogs that escaped their owner’s home.
I just feel compelled to do something … blame my spirituality, my conscience or my personal philosophy … at the end of the day, I have to do it, regardless of how wasteful it might be or whether I get a reward or not.
I have to do it, to maintain wa.
Because at the end of the day, I have to be responsible for myself, my actions and my memories. I can look back on my memories with regret or pride. Either way, I got to make a choice, and I need to make sure that choice will create internal harmony.
If you ever find yourself struggling to identify something wrong with your life, at this current time, perhaps it is time for you to look up a philosophical affirmation or a spiritual guide.
Then act upon it. Apply it to every aspect of your life. Understand that everything you do, contribute to the whole of your life, every little thing, from skipping a meal to helping a friend. You will always be a greater sum, than just your hobbies, your friends, your possessions and your family.
You are you. Everything you are, and nothing you aren’t.
Isn’t that a strangely enlightening and spiritual realisation?