May 17, 2011

Beyond Boxes

As Morpheus explains to Neo in the movie, The Matrix,
all those who haven't wakened up are your enemy.
In other words, there were only two kinds of people-- those few who were aware of the cyber-dream world, and all those who were still enmeshed in it, and worse-- would fight to maintain it. We are living in that kind of world, not physically as in the movie, but virtually, in the sense that our apparently normal reality is largely a fabrication sustained by the corporate media for the benefit of a tiny elite group.

For those few of us who have seen the Neo-matrix, a.k.a. New World Order, being erected all around us, it is a source of much frustration that the vast majority, including our own families, do not 'see' the true, dark situation. We fervently wish they could pull away the blinders and think outside the box.

I got thinking about how appropriate that metaphor is-- the box. A simple three-letter word for a simple concept with a lot of significance. We understand the box to be a paradigm, a set of beliefs that circumscribe our perceptions of reality. This box surrounds us on 6 sides, has unique faces that filter everything that enters the conscious mind, and thereby, governs absolutely how each individual understands the world. The perception box encloses its owner all around. Yet despite its authority, this box is completely transparent and non-material. Anyone can walk out of this box, if they will to do so... and if, primarily, they are aware of the box!

It's interesting that when we die, we are buried in a box, the final box made of solid material to enclose the last, material remains. Perhaps it's more remarkable that when we are born, we're placed in a cradle-- a five-sided box. It surrounds the baby protectively, but allows free access thru its open top. Symbolically, we could say it represents the reality that a child comes into the world already delimited by fixed structures of race, gender, health, etc. as determined by genetics and parental circumstances. These influences are far stronger in shaping our emergent beliefs than most of us realize. Some students of these factors can tell you an amazing outline of your basic beliefs simply from your place and year of birth, and your birth-order position. (Indeed, author Gail Sheehy and others have written books that paint such sketches of 'generations' with uncanny accuracy.)

In other words, the 'box' is subtly assembled around you, starting from the moment of your conception, and continuing thru your entire growing experience. As they say, give me your child for the first seven years, and I'll shape his character (or mind) for the rest of his life. There's also the old proverb, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. This latter saying explains how the constraints of culture are transmitted from one generation to the next. Clearly, the forces that shape an individual's belief system conduct their work in a million incremental-- and largely unnoticed-- steps.

However, that cradle you lay your little head in had one open side, remember? That symbolizes the opportunity to escape the box-- which you can only do by 'rising upward.' As we grow up, we develop, first, self-awareness, and later, awareness of the world around us. Why are some of us so much more aware than others? I believe that the answer is a combination of environment and character. The 'Western paradigm' is preponderantly left-brained, disdaining intuition and other right-brain faculties. Those raised in this milieu learn that 'logic' and 'reason' are paramount, while imagination and creativity are only useful so long as they are 'constructively channeled,' which is code for 'stuck in the approved boxes.'

By nature, some of us are more 'rebellious,' as labeled by the mainstream society, while the majority are more compliant (since that's where the rewards lie). Those rebels who also exercise their intuition and imagination are, I submit, most likely to be aware of the box. Being aware of it, they can then make an informed choice as to whether to accept the prevailing world-view or some variation. The rest are destined to drift along in the comfort of their mental boxes, believing what the 'box-makers' want them to know.

For any who manage to escape the box of their birth/circumstances (e.g. religion, culture, caste, etc.) the greatest risk to their subsequent freedom is this: that they will simply leave box 'A' and jump into box 'B!' It's almost unavoidable, for that is what we know-- boxes; and that's where we feel comfortable. And thus, the rebel Protestant becomes a Catholic... or vice-versa. A Christian might join the Bahai's, or a Republican may become a Democrat; or an Evolutionist a Creationist; and so on. In every case, the individual gained freedom from one thought-prison only to pick up the shackles of the next... traded one box for another. Big deal!

True freedom lies in avoiding all the 'big boxes,' and keeping one's mind as open as possible. As Jesus told his followers, the truth shall set you free! And truth, contrary to the snake-oil salesmen who peddle their substitutes, does not come in a box. Only when the human mind (soul) allows itself to soar freely among beliefs does it understand real freedom.

The honest answer to most of the transcendent questions of existence is 'We don't know.' But religionists and atheists, alike, insist that their answer is correct, while all others are in error. The cynic (or realist) may assert that mere humans are doomed to live in a box of some type, and there is no total freedom for physical beings. Agreed. Therefore, the object is to live in as large a box as possible-- one that provides as much freedom as feasible for mortal minds. We want a box that encompasses as many other boxes as possible, without being enclosed by another paradigm. Those who insist that their box is the only 'true' one, simply demonstrate how firmly ensconced they are.

If I call myself a follower of Christ, it does NOT mean that I've jumped into a box called a denomination or a church. By studying the scriptures in a non-dogmatic, inquiring manner, and allowing the text to explain itself (under the unction of the Holy Spirit) I discern the themes and unifying principles underlying the words. The words are only tools, often crude ones, that attempt to convey truth. To get hung up on literalism or fundamentalism leads to the next box. Jesus told us plainly "I am the way, the truth, and the life!" Scripture also, interestingly, tells us that he is the Word. So, the object of scripture, and study, and religion, is NOT a denominational, cast-in-stone box; it is a being, the person of Jesus the Christ.

As humans, we must believe in something outside of ourselves, be it based on science (so-called) or religion, or possibly something else ('the Force?'). That outer framework provides the solidity of the reality we exist in, whether we are contemplative or not. To accept Christ as the source of that external context of our lives, without submitting to a pre-packaged credo (ie. a religion), is as free as a person can get, in my opinion.

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