I remember staring outside my bedroom window at the age of thirteen, and being struck with a thought. With a silver eyeliner pen (it was the eighties) I wrote the word: Empty, on my windowsill.
What occurred to me on that rainy afternoon is a theme philosophers have been tossing about for centuries. It’s the idea of making our appearance upon this planet as a blank slate. With no comprehension of having been here before, devoid of wisdom and insight, we begin our lives as empty vessels awaiting enlightenment.
Our first training begins with our parents, whose love, caring and nourishment deliver us into the early stages of childhood. We learn how to smile. We learn the word No. We decide I like peas. I hate carrots. We begin passing judgment without understanding the limiting scope of only having ever tried our mother’s peas or our mother’s carrots.
For years I’ve been struggling to pry myself from the claws of judgment. It can be a very difficult prospect, at best. Every person, situation, object or thought that enters the mind’s periphery has a judgment linked to it. It’s how we perceive our place in the world. It’s also how we attempt to project life’s lessons into wiser future navigations. However, by maintaining these tainted hues of prior interaction, we are effectively painting over the full expression of the present moment.
With this colored version of reality as our basis, we consciously and subconsciously, seek supporting evidence that validates these predetermined images. Once verified, the experiential data is then sorted, tagged and stored, providing clear points of reference by which all future interactions may be gauged. If the signs swing in the opposite direction, it’s the view itself that often gets adjusted; peeling off of one label and affixing another of a more seemingly applicable color onto our mental filing folder. Warehousing our experience in this manner does not however, balance the restrictive nature situational exposure has on our discernment. It reduces a snippet in time to a perpetual generalization, forever locking a documented assertion away until new input remands a revision.
But I’m extremely objective.
Based on what?
Our beliefs are not our own. Not one.
Think about it.
If we are born as empty vessels and our parents are the first to begin this process of filling, we take these perceptions and store them away. We then begin attending school. We learn new things, some of which we accept and some of which we toss out, based on what our parents taught us. Then we make some friends. We conclude that not everything our parents taught us makes total sense and revise our earlier opinions. Then the real change begins; we discover this great big noisy box in our living room that floods our brains with torrents of information.
We grow up under thunderclouds of stimuli filling our sloshing buckets with beliefs.
Based on our perpetually morphing convictions, we continually accept or reject new information, shaping and modifying what has in essence, become who we are. Each of us imagines we’ve done a remarkably discerning job of developing ourselves. What we fail to understand is that none of it is real. The me that looks in the mirror every morning as she brushes her teeth, is a set of ideals that has developed into a personality. A personality based solely on external data and experiences steeped in the judgments built from this external data.
I don’t exist.
Every morsel of information, whether written, spoken or observed, has been assimilated or rejected based on building blocks of belief I’ve been stacking up since the day I was born. None of it my own. Therefore, none of it real. The me I’ve become is a hodgepodge of societal and moral discernments that I’ve deemed superior enough to accept. This of course, doesn’t begin to take into account the bombardments I don’t make a conscious choice about. Marketing messages have been penetrating our psyches and shaping our cultural opinions and behaviors since the advent of the industry, making our principles even less discerning had they truly been of our own volition.
Would it not therefore stand to reason that if our beliefs are rendered illusory then all judgment based on these beliefs are also irrelevant?
Staring at the blank page in my notebook I know finally, that my superior judgment may be put to rest. It’s been exhausting; the constantly labeling, reviewing and updating, attempting to ascertain where it is I fit into the milieu. The peace I’m seeking may simply be found in being — no judgment, no label, no silver eyeliner pen — simply a raw moment in time.
~ by Christine Fowle