Archive for May, 2013

Striving Towards a Goal?


“Life is teleology par excellence; it is the intrinsic striving towards a goal, and the living organism is a system of directed aims which seek to fulfill themselves.”

C.G. Jung (CW 8, par. 798)

While walking along a path in the Point Reyes National Seashore Park I came upon the above small tree growing out of a bare rock outcrop. I marveled at the tenacity of this life form arising directly from such a rugged environment. The experience of seeing this tree striving to be in the world reminded me of Jung’s musing on teleology. Telos is the Greek word for final cause or goal. Whether life has a final goal or not has been debated since the time of the early Greek philosophers. By the end of the Middle Ages the rise of secular thought proclaimed that we could never know, nor certainly prove, if nature contained a final purpose or goal. Since then teleology has had its philosophic proponents, but the idea that life contains some final purpose or goal finds little favor in today’s world. Presently, the dominant perspective states that we live in a world of random mutating matter lacking any inherent purpose or goal except the perpetuation of our genetic code.

What does such a ‘philosophy of life’ do to us psychologically or socially? On one hand it forces us to find and define our separate goal or purpose in life. On the other hand, it leaves us standing alone in the midst of a dead purposeless universe. Personally, I feel there is more to life than blindly passing on genetic code. A perspective like this leads to a disembodied and detached view of our being-in-the-world. More than ever we need to be experiencing our interconnections and greater purpose in life. Perhaps our teleology is to become conscious of the integrity of our selves and a commitment to caring for others in the world. Can we take a lesson from that solitary tree emerging from bare rock? No matter where we are, no matter how seemingly hostile our environment can we strive to manifest the value of life in this world?

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“Dwelling, however, is the basic character of Being…”

Martin Heidegger

I sit in at the dinning room table gazing into the living room. On the table before me is my cup of coffee and a book. As my eyes drift up from the table I am captured by the symmetry of the en-framed living area. Light streams in from the front window enlivening a collection of flowers sitting on a table before the window. Each flower captures the light in its own particular way highlighting different hues of petal, leaf and stem.  In this moment everything feels right in my lived-world. I feel included in this peaceful place. I am aware of the importance of dwelling as compared to inhabiting. Dwelling opens me to a richer experience of my surroundings. In dwelling I am an active participant in my lived-world. This chair holds me rather than supports me. The soft colors in the room infuse my being with their subtle nature. The balance of proportion surrounding me from every angle evokes within me a deep sense of balance. In this moment, my being-in-the-world is truly a part of the place in which I dwell. These yellow walls, white wooden frames and this wooden floor inform who I am as a being. I revel in my co-creative relationship with the surroundings. A sense of place puts us in touch with a deeper part of ourselves. A sense of place also puts us in touch with the materials used in its design and with all of the craftsmen whose care created this special space. Sitting here with coffee and book this place’s presence opens me to the world at large.

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If the whole is to change, the individual must change himself. Goodness is an individual gift and an individual acquisition. … the good [person] shines like a jewel that was lost in the Sahara…”

C.G. Jung (CW 18, par. 1378)

I am writing today in support of Basic Goodness Day, May 7th, proclaimed by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche spiritual head of Shambhala. Today we are asked to affirm our own and other’s basic goodness. The quote by Carl Jung indicates that goodness is something that each of us acquires by carrying out our inner work. If we seek goodness within ourselves and connect to our basic goodness, then any action coming from that still, strong place will be the appropriate action in that moment.

Carl Jung (CW 13, par. 4) liked to quote the ancient saying “If the wrong man uses the right means, the right means work in the wrong way.” If we do not work from a place of basic goodness, then even if our goal is well intentioned we may end up creating more chaos in the world. So, today let us find the gift of basic goodness within ourselves and seek it also in those we meet. Meeting such individuals on our path will be apparent for they will surely ‘shine like a jewel.’

May we all shine like jewels on this Basic Goodness Day!

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