I find it a little difficult to say what the subject matter of this seminar is going to be, because it’s too fundamental to give it a title.
I’m going to talk about what there is. Now, the first thing, though, that we have to do is to get our perspectives with some background about the basic ideas which, as Westerners living today in the United States, influence our everyday common sense, our fundamental notions about what life is about.
And there are historical origins for this, which influence us more strongly than most people realize. Ideas of the World which are built into the very nature of the language we use, and of our ideas of logic, and of what makes sense altogether.
Now then, do you see that this is simultaneously an advantage and a terrible disadvantage? What has happened here is that by having a certain kind of Consciousness, a certain kind of reflexive Consciousness – being aware of being aware. Being able to represent what goes on fundamentally in terms of a system of symbols, such as words, such as numbers.
You put, as it were, two lives together at once, one representing the other. The symbols representing the reality, the money representing the wealth, and if you don’t realize that the symbol is really secondary, it doesn’t have the same value.
People go to the supermarket, and they get a whole cartload of goodies, and they drive it through, then the clerk fixes up the counter and this long tape comes out, and he’ll say Thirty dollars, please, and everybody feels depressed because they give away thirty dollars’ worth of paper.
But they’ve got a cartload of goodies; they don’t think about that. They think they’ve just lost thirty dollars. But you’ve got the real wealth in the cart; all you’ve parted with was the paper. Because the paper – in our system – becomes more valuable than the wealth.
And so what I would call a basic problem we’ve got to go through first, is to understand that there are no such things as things. That is to say separate things, or separate events. That that is only a way of talking. If you can understand this, you’re going to have no further problems.
I once asked a group of high school children ‘What do you mean by a thing?’ First of all, they gave me all sorts of synonyms. They said ‘It’s an object,’ which is simply another word for a thing; it doesn’t tell you anything about what you mean by a thing. Finally, a very smart girl from Italy, who was in the group, said a thing is a noun. And she was quite right. A noun isn’t a part of nature, it’s a part of speech. There are no nouns in the physical World.
There are no separate things in the physical World, either. The physical world is wiggly. Clouds, mountains, trees, people, are all wiggly. And only when human beings get to working on things – they build buildings in straight lines, and try to make out that the World isn’t really wiggly. But here we are, sitting in this room all built out of straight lines, but each one of us is as wiggly as all get-out.
Now then, when you want to get control of something that wiggles, it’s pretty difficult, isn’t it? You try and pick up a fish in your hands, and the fish is wiggly and it slips out. What do you do to get hold of the fish? You use a net.
The myth underlying our culture and underlying our common sense have not taught us to feel identical with the universe, but only parts of it, in it, confronting it, aliens. And we are, I think, quite urgently in need of coming to feel that we are the eternal universe each one of us.
And so in this way, we haven’t realized that life and death, black and white, good and evil, being and non-being, come from the same center. They imply each other, so that you wouldn’t know the one without the other.
Now I’m not saying that that’s bad, that’s fun. You’re playing the game that you don’t know that self and other go together, in just the same way as the two poles of a magnet.