In the last week or so, a collision of two books has got me thinking about the nature of reality and how we relate to it. (Jack Barrow’s The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil, Jo van der Hoeven’s Zen Druidry, if you were wondering). For the magician, the self is the centre of the universe, and the will / imagination can direct said. I’m a long way from being an expert, but as I understand it, holding that belief is rather necessary if you want to go about doing magic. Now, on the Zen side, Jo points out there is one universe and we’re not the centre of it and if we can learn to see ourselves as part of the flow we’ll be able to get along a lot better.
I find both ideas compelling, and after some serious pondering I have come to the conclusion that these things are probably both true. One universe where you are not the centre, another where each of us the centre of his or her own universe and able to shape it by force of will. The life we live, the way we experience things, the choices we make – come down so often to our perceptions and beliefs. If I believe the universe is out to get me, I’ll see proof of that in every setback, and will resolutely ignore the opportunities that came with the setbacks, potentially to my own detriment. If I believe that I am divinely inspired with a special job to do, I’ll look around me and see proof of that in every rainbow and cupcake that comes my way. We see what we want to see.
What’s probably least helpful is bumbling through life without any deliberate choice about how to engage with the world. I don’t mean a ‘go with the flow’ attitude here, I mean a total lack of engagement with anything. The kind of blinkered view that makes it impossible to connect outcomes to actions, to predict how what we do today might shape our options for tomorrow, and to be able to see how other people’s motives might affect things. I’ve encountered that kind of wilful blindness, that refusal to see how what we do influences what we get, often coupled with an inability to imagine that other people are different from us, want different things and react in different ways.
I’m not sure it entirely matters what your relationship with the universe is. I am utterly convinced of the importance of having a considered approach to living and being. Even if that doesn’t fit into an existing idea about how to do things. But then, I’ve also seen so many human relationships conducted with no consciousness of cause and effect, or the implications of difference, too. Things work better when we pay attention to them, think about them, and do not take them for granted.
I am the centre of my own little universe. I am also aware that everyone around me is the centre of their own little universe too, no one of these any more important than any other, all of them able to influence how my bit of reality functions for me, all of them potentially influenced by what I do. Perhaps it could be a lot simpler than that, but I find this perspective works enough for me, so it’ll do for now.