Malevitch, Black Square
I have an American Indian friend who is a Pueblo chieftain. Once when we were talking confidentially about the white man, he said to me: “We don’t understand the whites. They are always wanting something, always restless, always looking for something. What is it? We don’t know. We can’t understand them. They have such sharp noses, such thin, cruel lips, such lines in their faces. We think they are all crazy.
Carl Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man
Starting on a very light note today, I am reminded of a brilliant scene on Seinfeld, in which Elaine and her boyfriend Paddy are on a long-haul flight. Theirs is a love-hate relationship, which consists in breaking up and getting back together cyclically. She considers herself an intellectual whereas he is a simple-minded car mechanic/football fan. While on the plane she takes out a fairly thick looking book and starts reading whereas he just keeps staring at the seat in front of him. She cannot comprehend how a person can spend the entire duration of a journey just staring into nothingness, so she loses it, starts yelling and breaks up with him, yet again. But perhaps Paddy is the ultimate Zen master we should all look up to. Must we keep the mind busy at all times? I always try to achieve my moments of stillness but I find that task impossible when I am at home or up and about in the city. Quietness and peace come naturally when I am in a large forest that stretches near where I live, though. Surrounded by its beauty, I can let my earthly Taurus Moon commune with nature and shut down the ever busy planets in Gemini that keep bombarding and straining my nervous system on a daily basis.
It is fitting that I should have started by mentioning the most famous TV show about nothing because nothing is my subject, or rather I want to write about nothing. Being Polish, I am partial to Slavic humour. One of my favourite writers is Czech, Michal Ajvaz. He is able to dress deep philosophical issues into attractive and humorous costumes without sacrificing their depth. In his short story entitled Nothing he wonders how opinionated everyone is nowadays. What comes is my attempt at a translation from Polish:
I am amazed how people always carry their opinions around like suitcases. It is enough to ask them about something and they will open one of the suitcases and empty its contents. This has always been incomprehensible to me. I do not have any opinions myself but I do not own up to that. In social circumstances, I used to pretend to have the whole inventory of opinions, ready to be used like instant tea bags. But in fact, my opinions were dummies, they were often incoherent, fragile and ugly. The others would show off their shiny, shapely, polished and hygienic opinions. As our conversation progressed the room got cluttered with all kinds of opinions. We could not see each other any more. I was really ashamed.
In a joking manner, he captured my exact sentiment. I break out in cold sweat when asked about my opinion on something. At the etymological root of the word opinion there is the word choice (think of the word option which is related). We must choose to form an opinion. But what if you see the two sides simultaneously and why should you devalue their wholeness and co-existence? This is one problem I have with decisive opinions, and the other one is that they prevent the mind from being fresh and open to new possibilities and wonder. Opinions often prevent life from flowing naturally. I would always choose ideas over opinions. Ideas can plant the seeds of change, opinions are usually stumbling blocks.
One thinker that has changed (been changing?) the landscape of my mind is Krishnamurti. I always keep the following words of his in my heart, as a pointer to what I would like to achieve one day:
Truth can come to you only when your mind and heart are simple, clear, and there is love in your heart; not if your heart is filled with the things of the mind. When there is love in your heart, you do not talk about organizing for brotherhood; you do not talk about belief, you do not talk about division or the powers that create division, you need not seek reconciliation. Then you are a simple human being without a label, without a country. This means that you must strip yourself of all those things and allow truth to come into being; and it can only come when the mind is empty, when the mind ceases to create. Then it will come without your invitation. Then it will come as swiftly as the wind and unbeknown. It comes obscurely, not when you are watching, wanting. It is there as sudden as sunlight, as pure as the night; but to receive it, the heart must be full and the mind empty.
I do not think that Krishnamurti rejects thinking here and puts all value on feeling. I believe what he means is this: be still, be open, do not be rigid in your opinions, do not identify with your views, your background, your ethnicity. I spent enough time at universities and various intellectual circles to be able to see clearly how futile and sterile all the excessively intellectual pursuits can be. Thoughts create more thoughts without touching you emotionally. Academic psychology left the human heart outside in the cold and shut the doors firmly. All I know is that this is no longer my world. I choose nothingness, which according to Cirlot’s Dictionary of Symbols is “reality without objects and without forms yet nurturing the seeds of all things.”