OF PARADOXES AND METAPHORS
Understanding Some of Life’s Lessons
Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that life, as an idea, is a gigantic paradox composed of paradoxes, and the purpose of life is to understand the paradoxes and to put oneself in accord with them. To put ourselves in accord with life’s paradoxes, we must daily interpret the unfolding of our never-ending story because we are, in a sense, spiritual detectives charged with finding, understanding, accepting, and living the highest Truths of Universal Governance—Truths secreted within the unity of each paradox.
I have therefore titled this book, Of Paradoxes and Metaphors: Understanding Some of Life’s Lessons, because the expression of our human awareness is based on words, those metaphorical symbols whereby we give recognition to our interactions with life. A word, even a string of words, like beads on a necklace, no matter how well crafted, is still an approximation of an experience based on the symbology of language. Nevertheless, language is the portal through which we approach an experience, but without the ability to grasp its totality because the rigid boundaries of language are an absolute barrier to expression beyond the appearance of what is. This “No Trespassing” sign, as it were, defines the boundary of the Transcendent Mystery, which is simultaneously beyond our comprehension and within our experience.
As I am write this book, I realize that each book I have written is the outer manifestation of my inner journey, a glimpsed unfolding of the never-ending story of my life. To gain a sense of where I have come from and where I might be going, I have revisited the pages of my life over the last quarter century in a sort of animated editorial to select and update what I think I have learned about life’s paradoxes and lessons, as expressed through the metaphor of language sandwiched between the covers of my various books. The book you are holding is an accounting of my efforts.
Despite the expressive freedom and exasperating limitations of language, I have often wondered why humanity seems to learn so little from history, why youth thinks itself invincible, and why I have been so incredibly blind to many of life’s little nudges toward a higher consciousness of cause and effect. Of late, as the count of my years passes well the mid-heavens of my sixties, I have reach a greater height from which to survey the terrain of my inner landscape, and I find the view clearer than in the lower elevation of my younger years. It’s from this vantage of greater experience that I see a story emerge from the distant land of memory, a story about a Chinese priest in search of the “Book of Knowledge.”
The priest had spent his entire adult life fighting dragons, thieves, armies, and demons of every kind that seemed to block his path to the “Book of Knowledge,” a path he followed without knowing where it led. Finally, after years of struggle, he found himself at the edge of a great sea, and there, high atop a lava pinnacle, was a monastery.
With the last of his strength, for he was now very old and very tired, he climbed the narrow, winding stairs to the monastery, where a monk greeted him and bade him enter. The monk then told him to rest, for his way had been long and arduous.
When the priest was rested, the monk came to him and said: “You have traveled from afar to this monastery following a path that led you knew not where. In so doing, you have shown the strength of your faith through obedience to that which has guided you from within, and your courage has been well tested along the way. I am the keeper of the ‘Book of Knowledge.’ Having proven yourself worthy, I give you permission to look within.”
The old priest looked at him and asked: “And what shall I find?”
Whereupon the monk replied: “Only what you bring with you. Only what you take with you.”
That said, the old priest opened the long-awaited Book and found within a mirror, and the reflected image of his own face. And within that reflection was all knowledge contained, for it revealed the relative wisdom of what he had learned and thus become as a result of his trials, inner struggles, and the choices he had made along the way.
He saw, for instance, the moment in his life when he learned that discrimination of choice determines the path one’s feet are destined to walk. He saw the far-distant circumstance in which he had learned that a life without desires is the key to freedom from the prison cell of materialism’s continual temptations and discontent. He saw, by contemplating the cumulative events of his life, that good conduct is the sole responsibility of the individual traveler, and is not dependent on the behavior of another.
He suddenly understood that all the demons along his path were only distortions in the house of mirrors, those disowned parts of himself that lived in the shadowland of his ego. All these precious years he had been washing the window of his soul on the outside, while the dirt he most wanted to remove was on the inside. He suddenly understood that wisdom can neither be taught nor given away, that wisdom, the distillation of life’s experiences, must be earned; and that unconditional love, which asks nothing, overcomes all obstacles.
He slowly closed the Book, with ever-so-slight a sigh, and reconciled himself to the fact that the sacred Book was in reality a mirror reflecting the opportunities and the choices he had made along his journey of incarnation, as well as the lessons he had learned—lessons presented to him by the Lords of Karma. In retrospect, he saw within the great Book the sum of his living and realized that he was, in the end, alone with his experience of life.
Today, I realize that the Priest and I are one. I say this because one, long-ago night, when I was eight years old, I stood gazing at the stars of the Milky Way and realized deep within the core of my being that I was alone in the universe, totally alone—and that it was okay. I knew, beyond a doubt, the universe would take care of me, and thus knowing, felt myself an inexorable, inseparable part of its flow and ebb, its Eternal Mystery. And now, having been graced with an infinitesimal peek inside my own “Book of Knowledge,” I think I’m beginning to understand the connotative essence of the Eternal Mystery in living: Life is a paradox composed of paradoxes—much like a box with a smaller box inside it, with a smaller box inside it, with a smaller box inside it, ad infinitum, as well as a bigger box outside of it, and a bigger box outside of it, and a bigger box outside of it, ad infinitum. I cannot explain why it is this way. It just is.
This said, I now find myself in the gateway to the “eternal present,” that reality beyond time, which transcends the material world humanity deems its domain. Only when I stand in the threshold of the ineffable present, the reality between the illusions of past and future, can I participate fully with life.
I say “ineffable” present because the gateway is like sitting alongside a large river of mild current in which that part of the river immediately in front of me represents the eternal present, that which flows towards me a dream, and that which is already by me a memory. There is no stopping the flow of the river, just as there is no past or future, only the fluidity of the present moment—the Tao, the Chinese gateway of eternity. The ancient Greeks also knew the gateway, but by another name: Paradoxos, which means “unbelievable.”
A paradox is a statement that seems contradictory, but when understood, expresses a truth that illuminates the humor embodied in the “essential truths” of the Transcendent Mystery of the universe. Here, it is reasonable to ask how one might gain an intellectual image of a paradox.
Paradoxes are the windows of the soul. I say this because life’s paradoxes are a “double vision” of sorts, like peering out of a house through a pane of glass. Through the window we see objects that lie outside the house and simultaneously reflections of things that lie within. And the glass, through which we peer, at once transparent and reflective, represents the unity of the Transcendent Mystery, whereas the view without and the reflection within represent the pair of opposites that comprise our intellectual understanding of the material world.
. . .
Similarly, we can observe the workings of the outer world of Nature through physics and biology while at the same time Nature reflects back to us the inner workings and images of our own psychological maturity. This phenomenon is perhaps most clearly illustrated in the night sky, where stars and constellations bear names and images of our mythological heritage, while concurrently serving as an entry into the scientific understanding of the biophysical Universe. With this intellectual view of our world, you might wonder how can we every “see” a unified whole. . . .
“A child of nature turned scientist, Chris Maser, is a modern day transcendentalist. In his book Of Paradoxes and Metaphors: Understanding Some of Life’s Lessons, he leads us in a gentle spiral of stories, experiences, and observations. Maser looks at our world through relationships personal and global. His questions for the Great Mystery spring from interactions within the human web. He nudges us to our own questions for the Universe, which will point each of us toward our own truth, and asks us to have the courage and humility to find that truth.”—Linda Saurenman, Los Angeles, CA.
“Mesmerizing. Reading Of Paradoxes and Metaphors is like sitting around a campfire, listening to the wisdom of the ages as shared through the stories of a dear, wise friend and mentor. Through reflections on his own life, Chris Maser provokes the reader’s reflection on her or his life-stories and, ultimately, the mystery and wonder of being human. That process is both calming and challenging because it leads to the truth that, ultimately, we are each solely accountable for how we respond to and experience of our time on this Earth. Fully understanding and embracing that responsibility forces us to give up the “comfort” of blame, self-pity, anger, and other aspects of being a victim. The joy is the rediscovery of the knowledge that lies within us … that life is unfolding in each moment, and we have the power to respond in the manner we choose.”—Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner, Minneapolis, MN.
Of Paradoxes and Metaphors: Understanding Some of Life’s Lessons. Woven Strings Publishing, Amarillo, TX. (2003) 235 pp.
If you want more information about this book or want to purchase it, visit “BOOKS” on my website.
Text and Photo © by Chris Maser 2013. All rights reserved.
Posted by: chrismaser | August 5, 2013
OF PARADOXES AND METAPHORS
- ANIMALS I HAVE KNOWN
- BIODIVERSITY: OUR ENVIRONMENTAL INSURANCE POLICY
- BOOKS, DESCRIPTIONS
- BOOKS, SOCIAL-ENVIRONMENTAL SERIES
- BUILDING BLOCKS OF SUSTAINABLE PLANNING
- CHILDREN DESERVE A VOICE IN THEIR FUTURE
- COMMONS: OUR HUMAN BIRTHRIGHT
- CONSIDER THIS
- CONVERSATIONS WITH FEAR
- CURRENT ENVIRONMENTAL CRISES
- DEMOCRACY—ITS PROMISE AND CHALLENGE
- EARTH AND ME
- IN HONOR OF WOMEN
- LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES
- LEADERSHIP QUALITIES
- LEADERSHIP'S RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
- NATURE’S INVIOLABLE PRINCIPLES
- OCEANS IN CRISIS
- PLACES IN MY HEART
- REPAIRING ECOSYSTEMS
- SPIRITUAL ECOLOGY FOR ENVIRONMENTAL MYSTICS
- THE WORLD IS IN MY GARDEN
- THOUGHTS FOR A BETTER WORLD