Tuesday, January 25, 2005

On "Garden State" and Waiting for Perfection

Well, I never made it to Gethsemani. During this past weekend various events unfolded that spoke to my intuition saying that perhaps now was not the time to go. I have postponed my trip until later this year.

Thanks to a recommendation from my friend Kevin, I also watched the movie "Garden State" this past weekend. The film immediately jumped into my Top 10 list of favorite flicks. It spoke to me on so many levels and is both humorous and profound. And strangely enough it helped ease some mental dissonance that had been created while reading Paramahansa Yogananda's "Second Coming of the Christ" (a commentary on the 4 Gospels of the Christian Bible). Let me explain.

While this book ("Second Coming") is amazing and insightful, I do find one aspect of it with which I find I cannot resonate. Yogananda continually alludes to a philosophy that says that matter (our physical world) is BAD and the world to come (heaven/illumination/enlightenment) is GOOD. Time and again he speaks of how the goal of life is to eventually escape this Satanic and unbearable world and forever enter into the world beyond forms.

The problem with this philosophy is the same as the problem with Christianity's view of heaven and also its fascination with The Rapture (see "the Left Behind" series). In this view, the 'NOW' is constantly unbearable, incomplete, and marred. Physical form is simply something to be overcome: this world is incomplete and the next world is perfection. We put Salvation and Goodness OUT THERE somewhere and therefore have license to ignore the Salvation and Goodness of our present moment/circumstance.

"Garden State" helped me see the ridiculousness of this philosophy. The film is a story about regaining FEELING and EMOTION - both very "earthy" and "worldly"experiences. See, I believe that physical existence/life is to be embraced, created, and lived, not overcome. Spirituality can help us understand that this world is not ALL there is (that our true existence belongs outside of this world) but I don't believe it is to help us to leave this world behind entirely. Blogger Isaiah very frequently talks about Divine Order - that everything is happening exactly as it is supposed to happen. I believe this world is of Divine Order - we are here for a reason: to experience life with all its pains, joys, sensations, relationships, and apparent tangledness. Life is for the living. When I die I will experience nothingness and an escape from the world of form, but while I'm here, I'm going to live damnit. God is equally in the world of form as God is in emptiness.

Andrew Largeman: Fuck, this hurts so much.
Sam: I know it hurts. But it's life, and it's real. And sometimes it fucking hurts, but it's life, and it's pretty much all we got.

While spirituality teaches us that this life is NOT "all we've got," there is truth in this quote and it is this: Live fully. Experience and savor the variety of emotions and feelings of this world. Even while doing this you can still keep in mind that this world is maya (or illusion) and that no matter what you experience it will never hurt, harm, or affect your Eternal Soul.

Henry Miller said "The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware: joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware." Embrace your worldliness... your earthiness! Union with God, Salvation, Goodness, Peace, Perfection are not just future events - they can be found here as well. If we choose to Wake Up, we can see that they are indeed here and now - all around us in this crazy playground called The World.


Erin said...

I saw Garden State in the theatre. Zach Braff (wrote, directed, starred in) is brilliant. He's the whole reason I went to see it. I LOVED it. Of course, I love any movie that leads me to ponder its philosophies for hours afterwards...

kev said...

right on, man. we're so submerged in this thinking that we have to feel like crap to worship our creator, like we're never good enough. enough! let's be free to know that the only reason we're miserable is because we want everyone to know the beauty of finding out what it's truly like to have every single thought and action be the right one, the beautiful one, if only to see what might happen to the world. and when it isn't that way, we get a bit down; BUT, still this joy persists, that we're still okay. i dig the separate nature of the soul from the body, and i dig how they work together as well. God did good.

Jon said...
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Jon said...

Trev, excellent point.

I too, believe that this is divine order. If there's no conflict, then there's no resolution. The darkness is necessary for light to be known. A lot of the emphasis in Hindu schools of thought and most Buddhist schools (other than Zen) is to achieve moksha or nirvana so you won't have to deal with "conditioned existence" anymore.

This was also the major reason the Church Fathers opposed Gnosticism, which held the belief that the world sucked so much, God couldn't possibly be the Creator, and an evil, false god must've created the earth and bodily existence. (The demonization of the cosmos as opposed to the drama of redemption.) Furthermore, a lot of ordinary Christians just see salvation as a way to "go to Heaven" instead of a way of bringing Heaven to earth.

Brad Warner's book Hardcore Zen really opened my eyes to the escapist element in spirituality. I recommend it.