This is a hard sell in a culture where the answer to every problem is more. But consider: Our basic biological needs are few, modest and easily met. If we have more than we need, we have too much. Craving sensory stimulation, we chase more and better experiences—more of what we don’t need. Craving is slaving. Every form of wanting, every anticipation, alienates us from the beauty and power of the inexhaustible now. Jesus to the cultivated rich kid: “Sell everything, give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven.” Which is nowhere other than now.
“I can of my own self do nothing.” I am just coming to see how deep this truth goes. I was shredding my 2015 diary yesterday and came across this jotting: “Change nothing. Do nothing. All that is required of you, He performs.” It was in my hand, but I didn’t write it. Maybe Joel Goldsmith was briefly running things. Truth is, we do not know why we do what we do. An inner power acts; we think we’re doing something. “I did it!” we say. Or, expanding on the delusion, “High five!” Or shrivel up like a dried blueberry, as I did on a call-in show back in the day when no one called in. Are we actors? Plainly, no. We are the acted upon, the done-through. “Do you know how to do nothing?” asked Lao Tzu, pointing to the one thing we can be sure of: It’s all a mystery, top to bottom.
In terms of their aggregate effect, criminals cause far less suffering than politicians do. We note Jesus’ distinct affection for the underclass.
Two of India’s greatest sages, Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj, arrived at the same conclusion: Of all of God’s names, “none is indeed so well put as the biblical statement “I am that I am”.” (Exodus 3:14) In the New Testament, we read that Jesus was nearly stoned to death for saying “Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I AM.” (John 8:58)
When you say “I am”, don’t append a subject complement, that is, an identifier, e.g., father, son, doctor, lawyer, etcetera, ad infinitum. Just put a period on it and see how that feels.