Moving beyond meaningless to The Everything
Nihilists and other depressing sorts eventually come to the conclusion that life is meaningless. This existential angst – “if God is dead, and so is the Author, then things can mean anything, which must mean that they mean nothing” – cripples so many people today. The curse of post-modernism, relativism, says that one thing can mean a million different things to different people – who are we to say what is right. Female circumcision by certain African tribes seems to pop up as an example – we feel emotionally it is wrong, but if we want to respect other cultures as we have been taught, we have to let them do what their traditions say is right…. or do we?
Morality aside (see other nuggets for ways out of this mental trap), Sufis have a simple way to help those trapped in meaningless to move beyond the nothing. They suggest that we must first go through this stage of meaningless but we mustn’t get caught there. The trick is to keep on exploring further into our selves and at some point we will reach a moment ofaniliation of the self (which they call fana). But far from an aniliation of ourselves, this is actually the key to realising we are in fact everything (which they call baqa). It is only when we let go of the ego, or small self, and realise what we thought was ourselves was nothing (i.e all the memories, fears, opinions that keep us hooked in a loop) that we realise we are actually part of universal oneness, and are actually therefore part of ‘the Everything’. But buyer beware – it is as easy to get stuck in an egotistical arrogance where we think the sun shines out of our arse and is is to get stuck in the pessimism and cynicism of the existentialist crises or what Buddhists call The Void. The key is to keep on letting go of any notions that feels in any way possessive or defensive, and what remains is that sense of everything.
Imagine you are on the high seas, in a rowing boat, miles from land, with a white fog all around. It would be easy to think that you are the only person on the planet. But what if, seen from another perspective, that white out in front of you was actually the hull of an enormous cruise ship, on close up its impossible to see. This is just like our sense of The Void. To us ‘tiny-grain-of-sand-like’ individuals, it looks like a great big nothing. But if we can just get out of our own head, and get perspective, we realise we are starring out at The Everything – AKA The Universe – and we are an equal, glorious part of it.
To finish with Buddhist scholar DT Suzuki;
“What stirs us up to the very core of our being must come from the great fact of affirmation and not from negation.”