The Eastern Philosophy We All Need To Get A Grip Of Now.
In Indian philosophy, Maya is illusion. Ultimately, it represents our individual and collective illusion that we are in any way separate from the Force from which we are created (call that Force what you may). Think of the gods performing magic, making us believe in things that turn out to be an illusion. By accepting everything as an illusion, we become attached to nothing. And by being attached to nothing, we begin to understand that we ourselves are nothing….yet everything — in the same way that the Force that holds the Universe in perfect order can be seen as nothing, yet everything.
Understanding Maya asks that we see beyond our everyday existence, to question the truth of things, in a way that we are not naturally inclined to do. It is an esoteric concept, but one that holds an acutely mundane relevance to what we may be experiencing now in this pandemic….cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance occurs when we have conflicting thoughts and emotions around any particular subject, which leads us to behave in ways that may contradict what we think we believe. For example, we may believe that the corona virus is highly infectious and accept that we must take the necessary precautions to contain it. But at the same time, we may question the advice we receive from experts on the subject. For example, we may question why big box shops can remain open to the public, while small businesses are asked to close their doors. Can’t the same precautions being taken by the big shops be taken by small business owners? So you raise this point with friends and family, who in turn question your views on the virus…whether or not you see it as a serious threat — which you do.
Cognitive dissonance is uncomfortable. It forces us to think over, reconsider…mental gymnastics for which we simply don’t have the energy, especially since we’ve been sapped of all motivation by the sameness of our days. Every day is Blursday.
Well, these may be perfect conditions to get to grips with Maya. When things are ordered, when things make sense, it is difficult to not think of things as real. When things are chaotic, when things no longer make sense, it’s much easier to buy into the illusion theory. What exactly is true and real? Is any of this distorted existence real? By real, I mean…is what we are being told really true, and not an illusion?
I am not suggesting that the corona virus is an illusion. Rather, I am questioning the things we have been told in connection with it. The big box stores / small business conundrum; the closing of beaches / sunshine and vitamin D boosting our immune system conundrum; the wearing of masks to protect ourselves and others against a deadly virus / no protocol on the disposal of said highly toxic masks conundrum.
If we give thought to these questions…and there are many more, not much of what we are being told seems to make sense. Is it an illusion, and if it is….to what end?
Were you in the corporate world at the beginning of the millennium? Was Y2K a problem? The experts said it was. Was it overblown by self-interested parties? Very likely so. Thousands, if not millions of man-hours were wasted by people on the ground in various industries, preparing for impending doom, while the techie people performed what in the end seemed to be a simple fix to a (big?) problem.
Fear was peddled; money (lots of it) was made.
There is no denying that fear is being peddled during this pandemic. While Hollywood has primed us for virus disaster with films like Contagion and Outbreak, the media ensures that our brains remain wired for fear and panic. However, the constantly repeated phrases of “deadly virus”, “public health emergency” and “outbreak”, mirror the scripts of said disaster movies rather than real life. Independent research on the virus (Worldometer is a trusted source) shows us that the percentage of deaths in relation to the number of virus cases, does not match the inflammatory language used by the media. This in no way diminishes the devastation and grief resulting from the lives lost. It does bring some context and perspective to the mainstream narrative.
It seems unlikely that the beneficiaries of this fear — namely the pharmaceutical industry and its cheerleaders — are motivated by money. Indeed, the industry already earns billions from our willingness to fund its slick advertising. While we wake up each day with the objective of earning cash to pay our bills, what drives people who already have more money than they can spend? Their resources certainly give them the power to think big…like populating the stars or solving the world’s overpopulation problem. It seems that ultra-wealth allows you the luxury of having control over humanity’s future.
Is that the illusion we are currently seeking to see our way through? An attempt to exert increased control over our lives, under the guise of a very exaggerated health risk?We really don’t know, because the only thing that we do know during this pandemic, is that we don’t know anything. Nothing makes sense anymore. The rigid divisions around which we have structured our lives seem to be getting blurred around their edges. For example, what’s happening with our politics? Suddenly, the conservatives are the ones questioning authority and refusing to buy into the fear, while libertarians are the ones insisting that we adhere to every rule imposed.
Our lives, along with our belief systems, are being shaken by our ignorance of the facts. This is uncomfortable ground for us, as we are conditioned to being in the know. Society rewards us for earning certificates that attest to our knowledge of any given subject. Our knowledge and expertise give us a sense of worth. As a result, this cognitive dissonance, this not knowing, is very uncomfortable, as it challenges every thing that we have been taught to expect in life.
But perhaps there is a beauty, a real benefit, in not knowing. Perhaps after we initially and instinctively question who is right or wrong over how we accept or don’t accept the rules, we can find some middle ground over how we manage the far reaching ramifications of this pandemic. Perhaps we can work together to implement measures that protect the most vulnerable in our society, while not creating unemployment that cripples our economies. Perhaps we can become better prepared for viruses, by enriching and boosting our immunity from the inside out through better and natural forms of self-care, rather than placing our faith in chemical amelioration.
Doesn’t that kind of future for humanity sound better than one where the rich jet off to distant stars while some of us still go hungry? Doesn’t a future where wealth is distributed more evenly and where we harness the earth’s natural energy resources, seem more appealing than one in which we seek to decimate the world’s population?
Quarantine and isolation during the pandemic certainly gives us the time to consider on where and what we place our attention. If it’s all an illusion any way, why not create a better illusion — one that serves the many rather than the few? Can we create an illusion where we are in control, rather than one where we are controlled?
Perhaps the pandemic gives us the opportunity to contemplate very esoteric and beautiful questions, in the midst of a very unattractive “reality”. It gives us the opportunity to pay more than lip service to “we are all in this together”, and to actually live that way — beyond the illusory divisions of religion, race and politics. Perhaps in accepting these divisions as “nothing”, we do find that the “we” is everything.