Writing on the Internet is like taking a long walk through a great city: You can be visible to millions, and seen by none.
Monday, 3AM. It winds down, this chasm of time, these funhouse mirror days of recurrent, spasmodic pandemic lockdown. I was always taught the linear order, and felt — as little as 2 years ago — the immense, nearly inconceivable length of the line before me. Now the future and time itself all feel flat, distorted — misshapen like the coins I placed as a child on the railroad tracks before the next line of boxcars rolled by.
What have I learned from these 20-odd months of implosive stasis? What benefit has been drawn from this long abundance of emptiness? I was sucked into the web of darkness with untold millions or billions of other frozen souls. All of us forgot that there is another web — an invisible net of light where nothing is advertised or sold; and where no one is trolled or censored for an inconvenient belief.
In the web of Nature, there are no grifters selling get-rich-quick schemes, nor any political pundits pawning corporate uniformity and calling it liberalism. The true web has no shills or facts tinted and twisted like the faces of emojis. In the net of Nature, truth is valued over mere information.
But now — amid confusion and panic on one side, and profit-lust in another, smaller and darker corner — even information itself has been warped. The gradual methods and cautious processes of empirical science have been infected with the obsession for precipitous action, tyrannical control, and the impulse toward the demonization and silencing of any who question the hysterical blindness of a forced and violent conformity. Even science is no longer itself.
When the highest principles and practices of Reason are themselves twisted and truncated, we are called back to what is direct, present, and always with us, undistorted and clear whenever we allow it space and this moment in which to live. When every belief system — scientific, religious, political, academic, technological — appears foreshortened with the malignant toxins of panic, prejudice, and groupthink; we are drawn back within. To body.
In one of the oldest documents of human history, the Chinese oracle I Ching, the text titled “Meditation” (Hexagram 52) relates the inner journey not to Spirit or Soul or God — but instead to body. The individual lines of this text refer to the back, the toes, the calves, the hips, the trunk, the jaws, and finally the heart. Every aspect of the inward-turning search for the source and the destination is pointed back to physical presence in the moment of Now.
It is probably no coincidence that Hexagram 52 is placed directly after the text for “Shock” or “Sudden Action” (Hexagram 51) and before the text titled “Development/Gradual Progress” (Hexagram 53). It’s as if these ancient authors are asking us: how can you possibly respond to shocking events and achieve an orienting point of recovery and progress, except by first holding still in the presence of body and the current moment? As Alan Watts used to say, those who cannot live in the present cannot be trusted to plan for the future.
This also offers any genuine seeker a hint about where the path leading forward can be found: not through affiliation with a tribal in-group and its designated God, Prophet, or Methodology; but through the separation from tribalism and its prejudices, via a simple act of physical discovery amid the only time that we ever have — the immanent Present.
For each body, each individual, that path is unique. But the ground upon which such an experience happens is universal — this living moment amid the weight of form and its connection to a massless, quantum energy of recovery and rediscovery. This is the nourishment by which every way of knowledge, belief, and action might be regenerated and given the natural force to transcend panic and inspire renewal.
This is the orienting path through which we learn not to join or submit to the voices of panic; but instead to question them. And that, after all, is the original mandate of both natural Science and genuine Spirituality.