Thursday, June 28, 2012

Remaining Clear and True to the Pulse of Life

Photo: Simone Lupson-Cook via

In Pali, the ancient source language of Buddhism and Hinduism, the word for mental means “wrong view.”  We must be careful not to interpret this righteously, as in, if you see things differently than I, you are wrong.  The wisdom here lies in the revelation that our wellness of mind hinges on how clear and true we remain to the pulse of life itself.
--Mark Nepo, in the July 2d entry, "Wrong View," 
from The Book of Awakening, emphasis added   

Our mental well-being depends, Nepo says, on " clear and true we remain to the pulse of life...". What is meant by this "pulse of life" notion? Assuming we arrive at a shared understanding of this "pulse," how do we remain clear and true to it? 

I love Nepo. Sometimes his poetry is a bit hard to apply to my life, yet it's always worth the struggle. Something about this day's lesson really grabbed me and propelled me into reflection and action mode. In celebration of the 500th post on PhilosFXI would like to put forward a couple takes on what may be meant by the Pulse of Life. 

Is the Pulse of Life another name for the Biological Imperative?

We all eat food and breathe air. We all have a biological urge to pass the best of ourselves on to future generations. Is this so-called biological imperative what Nepo means by the pulse of life? No, not exactly. There is more to life than the biological imperative. All life as we know it occurs in an environment. In the dance of change that is life, our genes interact with their environment, changing it, and being changed by it. More than the urge to survive, the Pulse of Life seems to imply the urge to get better. We are compelled to survive as a means to achieving "betterness." There are short-term needs, which, if satisfied, allow the pursuit of long-term betterness. The Pulse of Life is a yearning for a better future for our children.

Is the Pulse of Life reflected in Technology ?

We live in a technological age. Technology and progress go hand in glove. But I feel that technology is an application of the Pulse of Life, not a direct reflection of it. In fact, technology in some sense could be seen as working against the pulse of life. Modern living is putting more strain on mental--and even physical--health. Can we keep both our health and our modern, technology-oriented way of life? If so, fine, but if not, which is more important? What must change to preserve at least our mental health and as much of our way of life as it makes sense to keep? What does it mean to be clear and true to the pulse of life in this technological age? To what extent does technology aid or hinder the Pulse of Life?

Is the Pulse of Life the Quest to Commune in Oneness?

The expression, "Life finds a way" rings true because we understand it as if it were in our DNA. It was true before anyone ever wrote it down. All living things operate under the biological imperative, but life is more than that. We humans have additional burdens, gifts, and responsibilities: awareness of mortality; written language; the ability to make tools. Is the pulse of life an unwritten, primordial quest to evolve into a being at one with all living things? I am not talking about uniformity or sameness. I am talking instead about an intense awareness of the inter-connectedness of all living things. This idea of communing in oneness may be the closest I can come to grasping Nepo's intended meaning. 

So there you have it: Communing in Oneness is about balance and harmony. Not uniformity, but tolerance, diversity, forgiveness, positivity, respect, and dignity. Ultimately, "oneness" entails communing with the Divine.

Do birds go to heaven? I can't answer that, but I can tell you this. Rather than destroy the barn swallow nest in the overhang above my garage, I chose to hose bird droppings off my driveway. To live and let live. To let life find a way. The parents of those 4 hatchlings want to survive and have kids and a nice mud-daubed nest. 

Hatchling barn swallows in the garage overhang nest

But beyond the biology and the technology, there is an urge, innate in all living things, for something bigger and better, something beyond all explanation. I get that. That inexplicable destination? That's what heaven's all about.   

In Part II, I will build on this concept of the Pulse of Life as I have defined it, and describe how to remain clear and true to the Pulse of Life it in our current age. 

Part III will be some thoughts on how to make the world a better place by applying these thoughts toward a future age of increased Oneness.