Nonduality and Real Distinctions

Steve Gurton told me that “nothing is everything, everything is nothing. You are someone, no one is you. Everywhere is nowhere, nowhere is everywhere. Our forms of intuition – space and time as platform for consciousness – both construct and limit our perception such that expressed and implied meaning leads one to often explain conceptual thought through binaries (opposites). It simplifies things. At a deeper level of abstraction, qualified experience could be categorized as varied phenomena that falls within a spectrum or range.

What I beilieve is crucial to understand is that binaries (opposites) obstensibly reinforce identity politics, the need to hold a position (in relation to that which it contrasts), to justify and proove belief, a grounded position within a defined narrative identity occuring in time. We are socially constructed to reinforce existence, to assign, verify and prescribe, predicate formation, subject-object differentiation. Me and you, hot and cold, night and day, life and death. I’m here!! I must define, and so compare, then you see how language constructs reality. Maintaining opposites volumizes existence, in relation to, you can go with this or you can go with that. Erase your self, hold no position. Opposites are a poor man’s metaphor, let it go, stop defining. The need to understand, yawn. 😮

Maybe our emotionalism fuels our need to contrast, to compare, to take sides, to say what is right what is wrong. Look!! I found it!! This is the way!! Narrative lust, textual favors, lost but found, mutually reinforcing, to ground existence. It’s all so tiring. I apologize if I don’t make sense, but sense doesn’t make me.”

I responded that I “agree to an extent, Steve, but think that we shouldn’t push these considerations too far. Ontologically, at the most basic level of being, there is only the nondual. But phenomenologically, our world is composed of phenomenally distinct qualities, some of which are contradictory. Things are One, but appear distinct. And insofar as they are appearancesof the One, phenomenological distinctions have some degree of reality.

You can opt not to maintain that there are any opposites in the world if you like. But if I take a hot poker and jam it into your arm, I think you will maintain a distinction between “excruciating pain” and “the absence thereof.” You would probably scream for me to stop. So even though all binaries are interrelated, all things are interdependent, and in their being, all things are one, things still appear distinct. And those distinctions are important to us as human beings.

To consider another case, suppose you maintain that the distinction between thirsty and non-thirsty is illusory, and simply constructed by language. I will place you in a room without water for 2 weeks and return to ask whether you think there is a real distinction between “thirst” and quenched thirst, between a functioning body-mind (living) and a non-functioning body-mind (dead).

Equalizing all distinctions not only makes language and communication impossible (since they are both founded on distinctions), but also erases the boundary between just and unjust, such that the committers of genocides are all saints and all that they do is permitted. We must maintain some distinctions, even as we recognize interdependence, interconnectedness, and interrelatedness.”

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