Discovering the freedom of writing

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Earlier this year, a dear friend pointed me to a beautifully written article sharing Thich Nhat Hanh’s insights on the art of letting go. Little did I know the power of this gift he had just given me and the transforming journey I was about to start. I had no idea this gesture was about to change not only the way I write, but also the way I live - that it would set me free. But I guess, that’s the power of words - and friendship.

I live to write and I write to live. It’s that simple. Writing and life: these two things are inseparable. No arguments. So, I shouldn’t really be surprised that finding freedom in my writing would transform the way I see the world and how I live. Finding the ‘art of letting go’ when I write has changed me for the better in a noticeable way, and as such my husband, work colleagues and close friends are actually commenting on the difference. And I am feeling that difference, big time.

When I first read Christina Sarich’s article The Art of Letting Go, I really struggled with the concept of detachment but really connected with three of the four forms of detachment described: joy, compassion and gratitude. It has taken me some time to understand the power of the fourth: equanimity.

Joy, compassion and gratitude were easy, they were part of my vocabulary already, they were important to me and part of me. I hold these virtues in my heart, they lead me through life. Equanimity, however, was not as familiar to me. The elements of ‘nondiscrimination’ and ‘even mindedness’ I connected with, but I very much struggled with understanding the concept of ‘detachment’ associated with being equanimous. I am so grateful that this is no longer the case as understanding equanimity has been a critical piece in learning the ‘art of letting go’ and finding freedom in my writing.

I laugh at the irony, that I got so stuck on the very term Sarich’s entire article is about: detachment. And that I struggled because I was finding it difficult to ‘let go’ of my long term understanding of this word. I was finding it hard to move past the fact that what I understood ‘detachment’ to be, was exactly what the article described it wasn’t: ‘a form of aloofness, or emotional disconnect from others’. I was so confused. How could ‘letting go’ mean ‘diving in’? Aren’t they opposites? But more on that later, because I want to point out that working through the things I struggled with in this article, served as a good reminder to me that when making a formative shift in life, the initial struggle we face is a critical part of the journey. Without the struggle, we don’t change. And although those words weren’t written in Sarich’s article, this was its first gift to me, and the first step in changing the way I write.

Embrace the struggle

So, if you are looking to write more freely, my first bit of advice to you would be to make peace with the struggle associated with the story you are working on.

When I write, it starts in my head - long before pen hits paper or my fingers hit the keyboard. Sometimes, like today, I wake up with the words forming in my mind and I have to get up and let them pour out. Other times, I walk around for days, with the story slowly building. Accompanying the ‘slow burn’ internal writing process there used to be a certain level of crankiness. Something my family got used to. They knew to get out of my way because ‘mum was writing in her head again’. And they probably couldn’t wait for it to come out; for the relief and calmness that followed. I also looked forward to the respite. I can’t explain why it was so uncomfortable. Perhaps, it was the fear that the words wouldn’t come out right. Perhaps I was just being impatient. I am not sure, but I do know that once I made peace with the struggle of this internal process, the negative emotions surrounding it disappeared (well, so far in most cases it did - for change takes time and practice).

I found this inner peace by letting go and accepting the struggle as part of the writing process. By finding joy in the struggle, being kind to myself during this process and being grateful for the struggle, trusting it would deliver what it needed, in time. I worked on being equanimous during the struggle: finding calmness and composure even if this part of my writing process felt difficult or uncomfortable. What worked for me was learning to detach myself from the struggle, stop trying to own it, or control it, and just letting it take me where it needed. Trusting the struggle to land where ever it needed to. Seems like Sarich’s article was starting to sink in after all.

Remember the joy

As a young kid, I never placed expectations on my writing. I just wrote with great joy and playfulness. Anything was possible. Rediscovering this joy and playfulness in my writing, has been a big part of learning to write with a free spirit again.

In Sarich’s article she explores the concept of letting go through learning to ‘love more completely’ and explains Master Hanh’s four elements of detachment as the pathway to achieve this. Giving joy and happiness to others is the first. So for me, it was about learning to love my writing more completely, loving it for its imperfections, loving it for what it is. And the first step in achieving this complete love for my writing, was remembering the joy it gives me and noticing how happy it makes me, and through this giving it the freedom to give joy to others too.

So, the second gift from Sarich’s article was Master Hanh’s quote:

‘The first aspect of true love is maitri (metta, in Pali), the intention and capacity to offer joy and happiness.’

I always used to say I wrote for me, no one else. I would explain that my writing ‘falls out of my head’, it just needed to come out and that it ‘wasn’t about others’. But what is a piece of writing without a reader? What is a piece of writing that does not think about its audience? As a Communications Manager in a business setting, I always think about the audience. Why wasn’t I doing this with my personal writing? When I used to say, ‘Sure, I write a blog and I write poetry, but it doesn’t matter who reads it, because it isn’t about that.’ I was missing the point. The fact is, people will read it, and regardless of how many people read it, or what people think of it, someone will read it. I realised that even if it is only one person, it is a valid audience. Even if this person is the writer herself, it is a valid audience - when rereading your work, you shift from being the writer and you become the audience.

So from now on, I always start my writing with the intention to offer joy and happiness. Joy and happiness to myself and to others. I embrace my inner child, and remember the joy of writing and allow myself to be playful when I write. That doesn’t mean I can’t write about serious topics or write in a serious way, it means to enjoy what I write, enjoy the process of writing and, just like free-play, to be flexible when I write, embrace change and let go of any rules and expectations.

It is through this that I have become a better friend with my writing and learnt to truly love my writing. Inspired by a poignant quote of Master Hanh’s from Sarich’s article:

‘We have to use language more carefully. ‘Love’ is a beautiful word, we have to restore its meaning. The word ‘maitri’ has roots in the word mitra, which means friend. In Buddhism, the primary meaning of love is friendship.’

So, be a friend to your writing. Truly love your writing. Write with the intent to bring happiness and joy to others, including yourself. Find the ‘maitri’ in your writing.

Show compassion

During this journey of self discovery, I realised how nasty I was being to myself about my writing. How I would put it down and make excuses for it. I would write a piece, share it on my blog and when someone said to me what a great piece it was, I would sometimes say how much I hated that particular piece of writing, or how it was OK but it didn’t say what I really wanted to say. And I would say these things because I believed them to be true. I felt the disappointment, for the writing I had produced, deep in my heart. Ridiculously, I would apologise in advance for my writing before others even had a chance to read them.

My previous blog post was introduced in this way, in my Twitter post: ‘This doesn’t even touch the surface of what I want to say but here it is, a mere wondering about Nietzsche and Eastern thought.’

‘Doesn’t even touch the surface of what I want to say’. Why did I introduce my piece of writing this way? Why did I put it down in the same moment I was sharing it with others? Because it was true, it didn’t touch the surface of what I wanted to say and I was focused on the outcome. I was also frightened people wouldn’t understand it, and that they would see it as a poor piece of writing. Judging my writing is judging me. If my writing is no good, I am no good. I write to live, I live to write. They are inseparable.

Letting go of this fear, showing compassion for yourself as a writer, and showing compassion to your pieces of writing is so important. Learning Master Hanh’s art of letting go, is understanding that after ‘maitri’ comes ‘karuna’ (compassion), which Sarich describes as the ‘next form of detachment’ and beautifully brings to life in the words:

‘The Buddha smiles because he understands why pain and suffering exist, and because he also knows how to transform it.’

I write more freely when I smile with the Buddha.

Be grateful

Sometimes my writing makes me laugh. Sometimes it gives me peace. Sometimes it makes me cry and other times my writing surprises me. I am really grateful for how my writing makes me feel. Whatever the emotion may be. I have also learnt to be grateful for each piece of writing, no matter what it turns out to be. Helping me understand gratefulness in relation to my writing is the third gift from Sarich’s article and came from her words where she explained:

‘In truly letting go you practice gratitude. Mudita, or joy arises when we are overcome with gratitude for all that we have, such that we no longer cling to some other longed-for result.’

I didn’t realise how much I was clinging to a different outcome for pieces of my writing. I wasn’t aware how attached I was to my own definition of what it is to be a writer, until I read these words and let them sink in a little.

As well as finding happiness in whatever I have written, and for the writer I am today, I am also grateful for how my writing makes others feel and for the joy it gives to me and others. I am grateful for the conversations my writing starts and the connections it has given me. I am especially grateful when my writing inspires others to find their inner writer and when they share their stories with me. Stories which then give me great happiness and joy leading to a cycle of sharing and enjoying each other’s creations. It is a delight.

I get the same sense of happiness when reading the pieces of writing my friends write, which are completely independent of me. It is lovely to be part of a community of writers.

Sarich describes the Bhudda’s definition of ‘mudita’, the practice of gratitude, as ‘unselfish joy’ where ‘we don’t only find happiness when something good happens to us, but when others find happiness’.

‘Joy arises when you find happiness even when others find joy–and it has little or nothing to do with you.’

Set your writing free

A conversation some six months ago (although not word for word):

Friend: “I read your latest blog post, I loved it. There was so much in it, I actually printed it out to read it.”

Me: “Really? Oh, I so hate that piece. It just….I don’t know (big sigh). I don’t like it, it wasn’t what I was hoping for. It doesn’t say what I wanted to say.”

Friend: “Well, it’s not yours anymore…”

Wise words. Letting go means it is not yours anymore.

It took me some time to get there. I felt something the moment I heard those words, but didn’t truly understand their sentiment, but thankfully those four words ‘it’s not yours anymore’ kept running over and over in my head after this conversation until they landed and I got it.

Driving to work one day, the things percolating in my head collided. Ideas I had read, Sarich’s article and all its gifts, memories from my life, stories and poems I had written, the recent conversation about my writing and other conversations I had shared all fell into place as I discovered the meaning of the fourth element of letting go: upeksha (equanimity). I was standing on the metaphorical mountain top, the fourth gift from Sarich’s article:

‘Upa means ‘over,’ and iksha means ‘to look.’ You climb the mountain to be able to look over the whole situation, not bound by one side or the other.’

From this psychological vantage point - standing under blue skies in the bright sunshine on top of the metaphorical mountain - I had an epiphany. The words I would use to describe the emotions I felt in that exact moment are, ironically, the four elements of letting go. I felt great happiness and joy, I was full of kindness, I was bubbling over with gratefulness and was suspended all of the sudden in a deep sense of calmness.

I felt maitri, karuna, muditi and upeksha as I realised it was these very four elements I needed to apply to my writing, and as I realised equanimity was to become the fourth pillar to guide me in life - alongside the intent to bring joy and happiness to myself and others, to be compassionate and kind to myself and others and to be grateful in the moment.

Writing more freely is about detaching from your writing. That does not mean being cold and distant from it, but truly loving it. Diving in. Letting it go to be whatever it will be to you and to others, in whatever form it is in. Knowing, it is not yours anymore. Not owning it. Not attaching your ego to it.

My writing is not mine to own, any more than my children are. I have birthed them from my body, I have loved and cherished them, I have guided them, but they are their independent selves, they are their own beings. They may have my genes, but they are unique, we do not share the same fingerprints.

Detach from your writing, let it have its own life and purpose. Accept it is what it is, and had to be written. Don’t put your beloved writing in your pocket.

‘We try to put our beloved in our pocket and carry them with us, when they are more like the wind, or a butterfly, or a stream, needing to move and flow, or risk dying. This is not love, this is destruction.’ Christina Sarich, The Art of Letting Go, May 2018.

My favourite piece of writing, which I have loved since I was 19, captures the very essence of not owning the things we love. Sylvia Plath’s beautiful poem, Morning Song, which she wrote after the birth of her first child Freida, expresses it beautifully in the third stanza.

I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.

Rain from inside a cloud form a puddle. The puddle is not the cloud. It exists in its own right for children to playfully dance in, with their gumboots on.

Words from inside my mind form a story. Get your gumboots on!

A philosophical muse - Nietzsche's other lover

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It is said that Nietzsche only ever had one love affair. One with the beautiful Lou Andreas-Salomé. A striking and intense Russian intellect, she captured Nietzsche’s heart. And his mind; some suggesting she was partly the cause of him losing it.

How could this possibly be? A great thinker of our time, a man of philosophical brilliance, with prophetic ideas, losing his mind over love? Not such a ridiculous idea, when you pause to think for a moment on the power of love.

Yes, Nietzsche is described as having loved Lou Andreas-Salomé. It is said he loved her with all his heart and was left a broken man by her lack of romantic interest in him. But Lou was not Nietzsche’s only love affair to define him. Like Lou, another had a significant influence on his work. This second love affair, however, was not one with a woman. Nor a man. (And certainly not the theoretical man.) In actuality, it wasn’t with another person but a love affair with a set of ideas. Nietzsche was in love with the ancient mysticism of Eastern Philosophy. A love affair he was true to in his writings - in particular Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

In his early writings, I see hints of Nietzsche bringing together the philosophical ideas of Ancient Greek and Eastern thought. Particularly in The Birth of Tragedy, where he introduces the notion of the Apollonian and the Dionysian, their duality and how in coming together they form the highest art form, Greek Tragedy, and an answer to human suffering. Based on Greek Gods, Nietzsche uses the archetypal energies and associated symbols of Apollo and Dionysus to express his ideas. It is through the coming together of the Apollonian and the Dionysian that we achieve the aim of the Greeks of the sixth century B.C., what Fritjof Capra in his exploration of the parallels between physics and Eastern mysticism, ‘The Tao of Physics’, eloquently expresses as the Milesian “endeavour of seeing the essential nature of all things”.

Capra highlights the link between Ancient Greek thought and Eastern mysticism in his first chapter of this book.

“The endeavour of seeing the essential nature of all things…is also the central aim of all mystics, and the philosophy of the Milesian school did indeed have a strong mystical flavour. The Milesians were called ‘hylozoists’, or ‘those who think matter is alive’, by the later Greeks, because they saw no distinction between animate and inanimate, spirit and matter. In fact, they did not even have a word for matter, since they saw all forms of existence as manifestations of the ‘physis’, endowed with life and spirituality. Thus Thales declared all things to be full of gods and Anaximander saw the universe as a kind of organism which was supported by ‘pneuma’, the cosmic breath, in the same way as the human body is supported by air.

The monistic and organic view of the Milesians was very close to that of ancient Indian and Chinese philosophy, and the parallels to Eastern thought…” (Capra, pp24-25,1989)

Capra goes on to explain that these parallels between the ideas of Ancient Greeks and Eastern thought became stronger in the philosophy of Heraclitus of Ephesus.

“Heraclitus believed in a world of perpetual change, of eternal ‘Becoming’. For him, all static Being was based on deception and his universal principle was fire, a symbol for continuous flow and change of all things. Heraclitus taught that all changes in the world arise from the dynamic and cyclic interplay of opposites and he saw any pair of opposites as a unity. This unity, which contains and transcends all opposing forces, he called the Logos.” (Capra, p25, 1989)

Logos. The Apollonian and Dionysian at play. Two opposites in unity. Transcending opposing forces. In Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy, man transcends his suffering in the unity of these two Greek archetypal energies, paralleling the archetypal energies of the East.

Logos. Apollonian and Dionysian. Yin and Yang.

Apollo, the god of dreams, the ego, the veil, the god of light is the archetypal energy of Yang. Dionysus, the god of wine, the god of chaos, of music and madness, god of the dark is the archetypal energy of Yin. Perhaps, Nietzsche’s love affair with Eastern philosophy began without him even realising it - through the Greeks who paralleled Eastern mysticism.

I couldn’t help but think about Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy and Thus Spoke Zarathustra, as I read Capra’s first chapter in his book, which shares the journey of physics stemming from the Ancient Greeks. In this chapter, Capra takes us on a journey of Milesian thought and what followed: a reaction starting with Parmenides who called his ‘basic principle the Being and held that it was unique and invariable’ (Capra p25, 1989), which led to the ‘dualism between mind and matter, body and soul’ (Capra p26, 1989) and then to the Aristotelian model which occupied the Western world for two thousand years, and gave birth to the ideology of the Christian Church.

Throughout Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche speaks of the Socratic man, Socrates and science. How the poet Euripides and the rational man, Socrates, questioned the power of myth and the Dionysian; and then destroyed Greek Tragedy and the union of the Apollonian and the Dionysian. Socrates and science overcame great art, and removed from man the chance to gaze into the Dionysian abyss.

'“Let us now imagine the one great Cyclops eye of Socrates fixed on tragedy, an eye in which the fair frenzy of artistic enthusiasm has never glowed. To this eye was denied the pleasure of gazing into the Dionysian abysses. What, then, did it have to see in the “sublime and greatly lauded” tragic art, as Plato called it? Something rather unreasonable, full of causes apparently without effects, and effects apparently without causes; the whole, moreover, so motley and manifold that it could not but be repugnant to a sober mind, and a dangerous tinder for sensitive and susceptible souls.” (Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy, Kauffman Translation, 1969, Vintage, p89)

Socrates, the great grandfather of science, wearing the Aristotelian veil, takes us away from unity of opposing forces and feeds the Yang energy of the world.

“Socrates, the dialectical hero of the Platonic drama, reminds us of the kindred nature of the Euripidean hero who must defend his actions with arguments and counterarguments and in the process often risk the loss of our tragic pity…

“Virtue is knowledge; man sins only from ignorance; he who is virtuous is happy.” In these three basic forms of optimism lies the death of tragedy. For now the virtuous hero must be a dialectician; now there must be a necessary, visible connection between virtue and knowledge, faith and morality…” (Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy, Kauffman Translation, 1969, Vintage, p91)

Further into The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche, in resolving the death of tragedy at the hands of the rational man, moves to its rebirth, again reinforcing the importance of the unity of opposites:

“I will speak only of the noblest opposition to the tragic world conception - and by this I mean science, which is at the bottom optimistic, with its ancestor Socrates at its head. A little later on I shall also name those forces which seem to me to guarantee a rebirth of tragedy…

“I shall keep my eyes fixed on the two artistic deities of the Greeks, Apollo and Dionysus, and recognize in them the living and conspicuous representatives of two worlds of differing in their intrinsic essence and in their highest aims.” (Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy, Kauffman Translation, 1969, Vintage, p99)

A rebirth of tragedy, through overcoming the theoretical man.

“…great men, universally gifted, have contrived, with an incredible amount of thought, to make use of the paraphernalia of science itself, to point out the limits and the relativity of knowledge generally, and thus to deny decisively the claim of science to universal validity and universal aims.

“With this insight a culture is inaugurated that I venture to call a tragic culture. Its most important characteristic is that wisdom takes the place of science as the highest end - wisdom that, uninfluenced by the seductive distractions of the sciences, turns with unmoved eyes to a comprehensive view of the world, and seeks to grasp, with sympathetic feelings of love, the eternal suffering as its own.” (Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy, Kauffman Translation, 1969, Vintage, 112)

Nietzsche declares with his typical ironic humour and symbolism, which makes his writing and ideas such a joy to read, the death of Socratic thought, and an embracing of the earlier Milesian Greeks, and Eastern view of life.

“Yes, my friends, believe with me in Dionysian life and the rebirth of tragedy. The age of the Socratic man is over; put on the wreaths of ivy, put the thyrsus into your hand, and do not be surprised when tigers and panthers lie down, fawning, at your feet. Only dare to be tragic men; for you are to be redeemed. You shall accompany the Dionysian pageant from India to Greece. Prepare yourself for hard strife, but believe in the miracles of your god.” (Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy, Kauffman Translation, 1969, Vintage, p112)

And here Nietzsche first speaks to the Superman. The Übermensch. The few among the herd who can overcome. Who will journey to Eastern mysticism (India) to the Milesian thought (Greece) and transcend self.

This is where The Birth of Tragedy is a prelude to Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Nietzsche’s Übermensch has been mistaken for an evolutionary overcoming in Darwinistic terms. But examination of passages in the beautiful prose of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, shows links to man’s overcoming in line with Eastern philosophy and the notion of transcendence.

In 1637 Descartes wrote ‘Cogito ergo sum’ - ‘I think, therefore I exist’. Which, according to Capra:

“…has led Westerners to equate their identity in their mind, instead of with their whole organism. As a consequence of the Cartesian division, most individuals are aware of themselves as isolated egos existing ‘inside’ their bodies. The mind has been separated from the body and given the futile task of controlling it, thus causing an apparent conflict between the conscious will and the involuntary instinct.” (Capra, p28)

This is where the herd is. And what Zarathustra insists man must overcome. This conflict between the Apollonian and the Dionysian. A conflict between Yin and Yang.

This conflict, alongside the mechanistic Western view, is in contrast to the organic world view of Eastern mystics. The mechanistic Western view, or to use Nietzsche’s play of words and double meaning in Birth of Tragedy the ‘deus ex machina’: a common plot device of Greek tragedy to resolve a hopeless situation (man’s existence) and as Nietzsche describes it when referring to the the ‘cheerfulness of the theoretical man’:

“..the god of machines and crucibles, that is, the powers of the spirits of nature recognized and employed in the service of a higher egoism; it believes that it can correct the world by knowledge, guide life by science, and actually confine the individual within a limited sphere of solvable problems, from which he can cheerfully say to life: “I desire you: you are worth knowing

“It is an eternal phenomenon: the insatiable will always finds a way to detain its creatures in life and compel them to live on, by means of an illusion spread over things. One is chained by the Socratic love of knowledge and the delusion of being able to thereby heal the eternal would of existence…” (Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy, Kauffman Translation, 1969, Vintage, p109)

In contrast, Capra describes the world view of the Eastern mystics as:

“all things and events perceived by the senses are interrelated, connected and are but different aspects or manifestations of the same ultimate reality.” (Capra p29)

And it is this, that Zarathustra, at forty years of age, after ten years of solitude comes down the mountain to share because he is weary of wisdom like:

‘a bee that has gathered too much honey’ (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Hollingdale Translation, Penguin, 1967, p39).

Capra goes on to explain:

“Although the various schools of Eastern mysticism differ in many details, they all emphasize the basic unity of the universe which is the central feature of their teachings. The highest aim for their followers - whether they are Hindus, Buddhists or Taoists - is to become aware of the unity and mutual interrelation of all things, to transcend the notion of an isolated individual self and to identify themselves with the ultimate reality. The emergence of this awareness - known as ‘enlightenment’ - is not only an intellectual act but is an experience which involves the whole person…” (Capra p29)

And this is what Zarathustra means when he speaks of “God is dead” and “Man is something that should be overcome.” In short, the Christian Church belief in a god, and a higher being separate from self, a discontented God above, with its founding in the Aristotelian view of life, is no longer. God outside of self is dead. And in accepting this, and man seeing himself as god, he will overcome himself - and bring chaos back to the overbearing form of the Apollonian. Bring night to day, dark to light, Yin to Yang. A balance.

“I tell you: one must have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star. I tell you: you still have chaos in you.” (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Hollingdale Translation, Penguin, 1967, p39).

Is Nietzsche, through Zarathustra, calling in this passage for mankind to tap into their Dionysian energy? The archetype of chaos, the god of dance and wine. Is he calling for us to give birth to the god within?

With too much ego from the ancient Greek God of the Sun, Apollo - the god of illusion, covering with his veil the suffering of man, to make life bearable, the Christian afterlife, is seen by Nietzsche as an illusion:

“Once Zarathustra too cast his deluded fancy beyond mankind, like all afterworldsmen. Then the world seemed to be the work of a suffering and tormented God.” (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Hollingdale Translation, Penguin, 1967, p58).

Reading a passage from Capra’s The Tao of Physics about knowledge, reminded me of a passage in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, an early chapter, lessons in overcoming. Capra discusses the Buddhist concept of ‘absolute knowledge’:

“What the Eastern mystics are concerned with is a direct experience of reality which transcends not only intellectual thinking but also sensory perception. In the words of the Upanishads,

What is soundless, touchless, formless, imperishable,
Likewise tasteless, constant, odourless,
Without beginning, without end, higher than the great,
stable -
By discerning That, one is liberated from the mouth of
death.

Knowledge which comes from such an experience is called ‘absolute knowledge’ by Buddhists because it does not rely on the discriminations, abstractions and classifications of the intellect which, as we have seen, are always relative and approximate.” (Capra, p36)

There is something in this, that brings me straight to Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in the chapter ‘Of Joys and Passions’:

“My brother, if you have a virtue and it is your own virtue, you have it in common with no one.
To be sure, you want to call it by a name and caress it; you want to pull its ears and amuse yourself with it.
And behold! Now you have its name in common with the people have become of the people and the herd with your virtue!
You would be better to say: “Unutterable and nameless is that which torments and delights my soul and is also the hunger of my belly.” (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Hollingdale Translation, Penguin, 1967, p63).

Don’t talk about it, or it will be useless. Make it nameless. Transcend the intellectual thinking of your virtues.

I cannot help but think of the Buddhist concept of ‘living in the present’ when I think of Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence. Is our ‘monkey mind’ the equivalent of Nietzsche’s buffoon who distracts the tight-rope walking by leaping over him, making him lose his head and balance, falling to his death? The same ‘monkey mind’ which, swinging from tree to tree, takes us from thought to thought, distracting us from our intentional attention of the present and the freedom this affords us?

Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence, where every moment infinitively repeats itself, forces a focus on what John Hollingdale refers to in his introduction to Thus Spoke Zarathustra as “states of being over purpose”.

“The doctrine of eternal recurrence of all events was formulated by Nietzsche as follows: ‘The sum total of energy in the universe is determinate, it is not infinite. Consequently the number of positions, changes, combinations of this energy, although tremendously large and practically “innumerable”, is nevertheless also determinate and not infinite. But time, in which the universe exercises its energy, is infinite, that is, the energy is always the same and always active: until this moment an infinity has already elapsed, that is, all possible developments must have already been in existence. Consequently, the development at this moment must be a repetition, so too that which it produces and that from which it arises, and so forwards and backwards. Everything has already been in existence innumerable times, inasmuch as the total arrangement of all forms of energy every recurs.’…

“H.A. Reyburn has tabulated three principal consequences of this belief in the following way: ‘In the first place, the doctrine effectively removed purpose from the world, and the conception of an end of things…’

“It is this first consequence here mentioned that is the most important for an understanding of the eternal recurrence and of its connexion with the doctrine of the Superman. For in both conceptions, Nietzsche is seeking to minimize the importance of ends, of purposes, and of actions and maximize the importance of states of being." (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Hollingdale Translation, Penguin, 1967, p25).

The quality of your present experience, the present moment, not the past or the future, is what is important.