Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Adventure, Contemplation, Creation

Many forms of spirituality have for a goal a final state, such as nirvana or samadhi.  To me, life is dynamic, and I have no interest in a static goal.  Instead, I have found to be particularly satisfying a cycle of inter-related activity: adventure, contemplation, and creativity.*

Just about anything can be an adventure, if approached attentively: e.g. meeting new people or deepening a relationship with friends and loved ones; learning something new; experiencing a new place or a familiar place in a new way, all can be adventure.  An adventure takes us outside of our self, it is an encounter and participation in the world. 

Contemplation is a coming home to the self, an encounter with being at a basic level.  In its deepest sense, it is a return to the source, the very source of our experience and the possibility of experience.  The return focuses and deepens the sense of being, and allows us to re-view the experiences and knowledge we’ve gained in our adventures in new lights, which can provide new perspectives.  Often contemplation leads to new insights which form the basis of new activities in the world, new ways to be creative

The creation of art or new ideas are perhaps the most desired forms of creativity,  but at a more mundane level it might be insights into furthering relationships, new ideas about our career or work, or perhaps ways to better use or invest our resources.

An old master says that Zen is "chopping wood and carrying water."  At one level what this means is that when we bring more care and attention to our activities, all of our activities come to simultaneously have aspects of adventure, contemplation, and production.

I might call this emphasis on adventure, contemplation, production my approach to “an art of life.”  I find in America that many people have developed a technique of life, sometimes a very well thought out technique of life, but I don’t often encounter people who have developed an art of life.  Techniques are externalized tools that make things easier and clearer.  Arts are more internalized methods that can revel in the very difficulties and ambiguities of life.

Perhaps spirituality in a naturalistic context really means an art of life.

* (One might note that the three terms, adventure, contemplation, creation parallel the terms input, processing, output.)

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