At every moment life opens up to us, with infinite pathways. We exist
at the center of a circle, from which we move. Inside the circle, we
make our choice, but how free is the choice? Outside are objects and
forces, which continually impact us, altering our course. All of society
and nature, the whole world in which we subsist, influences us. We defend
ourselves or submit to these influences. At the moment we act, the causes
appear to be our own, and we cannot act without giving our consent.
But is our choice authentic?
A café is an innocent destination, it seems. A cup of coffee
produces a mild feeling of elation. A song enters our heart, churning
away. The buzz of conversation animates us, and the whole setting fixes
us solidly in the manners and conventions of our day.
A speaker cheers or rebukes, glorifies or vilifies. An audience acclaims,
a protest provokes, a mob rouses. Social pressure crushes, and instinct
overwhelms. A summery breeze arrives, and blows away fatigue and misery.
A hormonal imbalance angers, or attracts. We are stirred or pacified,
repelled or seduced.
Is freedom possible, or are we the bonded servants of manipulative forces?
Are authentic choices possible, or is our view blind and our act response?
Is it possible to actually sense and comprehend the tremendous meaning,
the deep continuity, the intense challenge, which everything contains?
But this great yes is born in the crucible of separation, in which connection
to outside influences is severed. There is a moment in which everything
stops. All influences are held to a standard which is inviolable. But
what is and where is that standard? It must be formed, and this formulation
of the whole self is the great task of the great no.
A circle is drawn, and inside a flame is revealed, which burns away
impurity and mediocrity. Under the ashes lie secret, essential elements.
Purity, innocence and simplicity, beaten out of us at youth, remain.
The broken will is healed, and the indomitable will awakens. From this
glowing core arises full awareness, freedom, and authentic choice.
In the perfect solitude of the great no, the full range of one’s
natural capacity is tested. Missing resources are uncovered, and calibrated.
Enfeebled faculties are infused with a new vitality. The spark of spirit,
which was almost extinguished, is rekindled. It does not die out: it
smolders, it burns, building its strength.
The great no is an immensely affirmative act. It is not the little no,
which breaks down but does not create, and dies out in criticism. It
is the positive, preliminary pre-condition and foundation of free action.
It is the exercise and stimulation of one’s capacity for choice.
It is the psychic event that makes it possible to hold on, and not be
swept away, by causes and conditions.
At the heart of the great no is a commitment to discover the source
of broken connections. Its passion to withdraw is driven by a vision
of returning to society, one fine day, but this time in relations that
express the core of understanding. It’s a challenging process,
and there will be periods when everything beautiful is assaulted; and
there will be times when energy is low, when efficacy is dim, when things
go wrong, and during these periods it is the great no which keeps and
sustains us. The tide will turn, and when it does, it will flood back
with all its accumulated power.
Cultivate and trust your native reluctance, your intuitive comprehension
of what is false, shabby, and hurtful. The great no is a gift to be
cherished above all. The great danger is the loss of the capacity for
distinguishing what is good. Never fail to be aware. A whole lifetime
of integrity can be marred and defeated by a single hurtful act. After
this, true love, and happiness, are not possible.
The intense pain I generally feel in social situations is my token that
I am who I am, and who I was. It is the inability to participate in
that which is not authentic. It’s the faithfulness to the sacredness
of human relations based on actual seeing and contact. I thank my natural
reticence, which points out the flaw, and stops me from premature participation.
This is my primary religious sentiment. Frustrated, but constantly brewing
in my heart, IT is the clear sight of what is and what is not superficial.
It’s not likely to be a popular holiday, especially among power
mongers, who want to sell, convince, or promote something. I doubt we’ll
see it on calendars any time soon. But the great no is a beautiful,
under-rated faculty, worth cultivating, and worth sharing.
The great no would encourage saying no in as many ways as possible:
to stop the continual bombardment of self by popular culture and politics;
to halt the unquestioned obedience to what appears to be natural and
fixed; and to clear away the trivia and sham that assaults us.
The great no event would be a day for non-participation: in bureaucracies,
such as government, corporations, or mass media; in organizations or
groups, with an identity and autonomy of their own; and, especially,
in all the subtle ways that we have integrated with views and motives
that have been imposed from outside.
The event could involve many other components, such as exhibits, films,
discussions, and workshops. There could be introductory classes on understanding,
and on deep relationships.
The purpose of these activities would be to share ideas about non-participation,
to encourage the setting aside of time for exploration, and to nourish
the possibility of reforming and re-conceiving identity and culture.
We want to open up the full range and depth of the interior space that’s
necessary for humility, understanding, and love.