I started a comment on Facebook: “Being an enlightened iconoclast…” And someone called me on it, thinking I was bullshitting them. Was I?
Enlightenment is basically knowing yourself as the actor, not the character, and knowing that your “understanding” of the world is created by your warped, inaccurate, erroneous, always-approximating and generalizing mind. An enlightened human is still human and at times, human dramas and emotions arise with a very tight grip. But over seconds or minutes, one can remember it’s all a mind-trip and detach from the drama.
It also means knowing “my property” is a cultural understanding, as is, “my hand” and “money.” The reality comes from our point of view, not from the objects. Stuff exists, but each “object” or idea is an interpretation. There’s no magic- one can’t fly. On the other hand, the meaning of “one can’t fly” is invented.
In particular, the notion of “me” is invented. We usually pick up the cultural definition, that given by others. But when you’re enlightened, you realize that “I” can be “Rand” or “my family” or “American” or “Human”. It’s really a choice. And like it’s purported to be, spending time dwelling in “me” being “everything” is a wonderful way of communing with “God”, without needing to anthropomorphize.
Enlightened inside a Western character
At the same time, I’m a westerner, living a life as a husband, father, employee, etc. Being enlightened, I have some choice about how involved I get in the normal, cultural, mundane life. Trying hard, in a marriage, a job, and/or as a parent, it’s difficult to be detached. It’s sort of lousy to be detached, too.
When you go swimming, it’s important to get wet. When running, sweat and breathe hard. The same thing in life- it’s important not to stay detached. Dancing is much more fun when you get into it and boogey down. Living life involved is much more rewarding.
But one can easily get trapped inside a persona and its limits. There’s anger and suffering too. I prefer to let those go.
When I was a kid, I skied. When you ski, if you’re too careful, you go slow and it’s not too much fun. If you go too fast, you can lose control and wipe out. It’s best on the edge.
Living on the edge of a character
I didn’t purposely come up with the ideas of PeopleCount. I was studying myself and politics and saw the bullshit of my own understanding- our cultural understandings. My background as a problem-solver helped. So did my inclination as an iconoclast. Once I saw the solution I was impressed. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. But it needs to be done. So I began.
I’m not rich. It took me a while to detach enough to part with my salary to work full time on it. I did a fair amount of new thinking about the meaning of money. Is a guaranteed retirement more important than a healthy planet for my kids?
During that time, most of my family members were too fearful to be very supportive. There was plenty of drama. It was very challenging to be their rock and come up with the money necessary to keep two kids in college, cars repaired, expensive Obamacare health insurance paid for, etc, etc. My family and friends couldn’t support me much- I was working lots of hours on it and needed people beside me for hours. I needed partners, not 5-50 minute conversations with people who were holding back.
Being cut on the cutting edge
I found myself depressed at times. I’m a great problem solver, a fair mathematician and a pretty good software engineer. But business planning and marketing were a stretch. Networking and relationship-building seemed to be way beyond skill set. I failed a LOT. It hurt. I gave it everything I had at times. It was enough to open old scars that had been mended and closed for years.
The emotional pain built up. At times I had extreme depression. I even had a few bouts of crying for hours at a time. I had thoughts of suicide. Being enlightened, I knew not to take them seriously, but their emotional strength was enormous. They were extremely compelling.
Do you know that 14% of high school students contemplate suicide? 7% attempt it. Personally, I don’t think non-enlightened people should try extreme emotional trips, like adolescence…
Once I had a small injury and discovered the relief that a bit of stabbing pain can give. I understood first hand why some people “cut.” Depression is real, and it meant parts of my mind were taking the circumstances very seriously. With work and support, I handled it. Life isn’t serious- that’s a choice. But knowing it’s a choice and applying it in the midst of depression are very different things. The latter takes enlightenment.
My claim to enlightenment is supported also by 4 years of a correspondence course on the subject- a westernized, non-spiritual interpretation of an Eastern tradition that explores the depths of ego.
Plus I’ve taken many courses in applied self-study from the top-rated educational organization in the field. It comes to a bit more than the amount of class time and homework involved in a full year of graduate school. But when you consider that I studied my life from the perspective of these courses first over a very enlightening 4 years, and then again over a 5 year period, and then actively during my 5-year adventure with PeopleCount, I’d say it’s more like the work involved in a PhD and a 10-year career.
10,000 hours is needed for mastery. That’s about 5 years of full-time work. I’ve put much more into it.
Calling myself enlightened is certainly bullshit. I say it’s enlightened bullshit. YMMV