Children and 'Enlightenment' and Enlightenment

My daughter was yelling at the maids, which is the one thing she cannot do. My wife said she must get that from her, but my wife never yells at the maids. I was confused. Then I thought about it, and it's true. My wife must be yelling at the maids inside her head, and my daughter just can't control the voice in her head. In many ways, we as parents are that voice. Her emotions are still externalized, like her brother's digestive system.

External Organs

They say that having a child is like wearing your heart outside your body for the rest of your life, but for the child's first years all of their organs are outside. The anus, the stomach, the brain; all somebody else's problem. I still wash my kids' butts and feed them by hand, and they're six and seven now. Indeed, my Amma fed me by hand (occasionally) until I was a teenager. Then I hand-fed her cake at my wedding. The loop is never supposed to close, it's just supposed to reverse flow. This is the circle. The circle of life. But it's broken.

As you grow up you're supposed to keep all your organs inside your body, all your money inside your bank account, all your thoughts inside your skull. You are, in short, expected to be an individual, which is not a natural state of being at all. One of the greatest disproofs of individuality is that we're literally attached to our mothers at birth. Humans come out half-baked, babies are definitely not done. The entire digestive loop takes years to become self-regulating, and emotions take even longer. Indeed, these loops never become independent, you just learn to mediate them through people other than your parents. It takes a lot of work to understand the concept of not-self (anatta) as an adult, but to babies it's self-evident (or not-self-evident). Babies are just born connected and we only unlearn this as adults.

As my kids get older I can see them developing the illusion of self. And I can see the segmentation of life between home and school, where they cannot let their organs all hang out. When I get their school reports I'm like, “Who is this kid?” Polite? Doesn't complain? Never yells? Did I get the wrong report? What's happening is that they're now capable of self-regulation. At home they just don't have to. So they don't. As I say, you show your ass to your family, and in my family this is literal. My son knows how to wash his butt on his own, but he prefers the concierge service. So I'm still (literally) dealing with this shit at home.

The Illusion Of Self

Self is a highly useful illusion, I'm not shitting on it entirely. There are significant aspects of reality loosely correlated with the sensation of being alone—like bank accounts, and pain, and death. But there are equally significant aspects that are not regulated by the self alone. Like 'mental health', which is really a social level of cognition misattributed to the self and medicated into submission. This is more theoretical in adults, but you can see it more clearly in children, who quite loudly 'wear their hearts on their (snotty) sleeves'. A child's mental health is their mother's mental health, their family's mental health, and certainly not regulated by the child alone.

From the time a baby first cries and is comforted (inshallah) their mental health is socially regulated. Whether that baby can be comforted is socially regulated, ie whether the mother is currently being bombed or trapped in wage slavery or generations of trauma. Mental health is a strange category built on top of a bad assumption, that the individual is some proven quantity that one can stack 'science' upon. The fact is that the self is, at best, not proven by science, and has clearly been refuted by the Buddha, among others. Illusions can be useful, but if you believe in them they become harmful. Behold all of Western Civilization, which is really just a few bad assumptions taken to ruin.

The Paucity Of 'Philosophy'

The entire restriction of 'philosophy' (really just Anglo-European philosophy in almost all universities) to the thoughts of adult men sitting alone in rooms has really led to ruin. Western thought is just twigs on a branch thinking it's a tree (and what strange fruit they bear). Western thought says, of course not, look at all the airplanes and cell phones and atom bombs, we're obviously right, it works! But in the long run this is all just garbage! Hell, within one year most consumer goods are garbage. All we have done with science is hook up a giant entropy machine and blow through millions of years of resources in a few centuries. People we so preoccupied with the fact that certain ideas 'worked' that they never stopped to ask if they were good ideas. And they're not!

The motherfucker of all bad ideas is the idea of the individual, whom all ideas must be based around. This is the 'rational actor' of economics or the 'educated voter' of liberal democracy, neither of whom exist, but whose phantoms roil our existence. As Vine Deloria Jr. writes,

Among the most important differences between tribal peoples' and Western thinking is the concentration in the West on the solitary individual to the exclusion of the group — a perspective now rendered obsolete by quantum physics. We know today that the idea of the individual is meaningless, but much of our philosophy, law, and religious thinking continues to make the individual the focus of attention and the starting point for all other analysis. From John Locke to John Rawls, the important decisions are to be made by individuals possessing neither father nor mother, village nor tribe, age nor gender...

The various Indian tribes recognized that individuals who had no loyalty to anyone else were exceedingly dangerous to have around.

The grandmother of all bad assumptions is that there's one knowable, communicable truth, and that we should build an ivory tower on top of it, as if that won't lead to absurdity and anger the gods like such towers do. The folly is thinking that other cultures and experiences are even interested in the same questions at all. As Brian Yazzie Burkhart writes (in the same book),

There is no world, no truth, without meaning and value, and meaning and value arise in the intersection between us and all that is around us. How we behave, then, in a certain sense shapes meaning, gives shape to the world. In this way, what we do, how we act, is as important as any truth and any fact. We can think of this as the meaning-shaping principle of action.

American Indians refer to this principle over and over again when asked certain questions by non-Natives. When asked such questions, Native elders will respond by saying, “We don't talk about those things,” or “It is bad to talk about those things.” These interdictions generally leave the questioner puzzled. But the confusion seems to arise from a lack of understanding regarding the underlying philosophical assumptions involved.

As the saying goes, play stupid games, win stupid prizes, as you can see from centuries of colonialism leading to complete resource and climate collapse. And this is fundamentally a philosophical problem. Just look at any philosophy department, which is really just Anglo-European Philosophy, AKA white supremacism, with some Greeks thrown in for seasoning.

The ongoing interdiction of most philosophy in the world from the academic canon of White philosophy and certainly from the certainty of science has led to great ignorance and great power, a fatal combination! The disregard of cultural and religious practices as superstition has led to a great dumping of thousands of years of social memory, painstakingly encoded and evolved. The disdain for the experience of women and children has missed the great breadth of life, indeed, the most important parts. The modern concept is that 'other' cultures and women need to be included in the canon, but who wants to be included in this shit? It's like the Hollywood movies where women take starring roles to behave exactly like men, blowing up shit and punching people, except with boobs.

I point this out because I have spent all morning being yelled at by my children for any number of 'reasons' which are not remotely rational. Every 'reason' is just a hook that their emotions catch onto while bouncing around, fundamentally an excuse. Today they're a bit sick (allergies), hence all the ennui, which comes out over various bullshit. They'll be sniffling at school but only explode into complaint at home, where they can take their shoes, uniforms, and selves off. This is who we are, at our core 'selves', the core self is not-self at all! The core self is actually a web of relationships, and the web is actually connected to everything. This is something a philosophy centered on the individual cannot capture, no matter how many DEI meetings you hold. The difference is at a very fundamental level. The point is not assimilating the 'other' into yourself but dissolving the self entirely into the otherness. It's not the rejuvenation of western philosophy but, for starters, its destruction.

My Own Childhood

So I return to my own childhood. To the original teacher, my own mother. As children, my Amma had us do metta meditation, which was saying 'may I be well peaceful and happy, may my parents be well peaceful and happy,' and so on, outwards and onwards, radiating to all creatures and all beings. I would go through my family, my family back in Sri Lanka, the dogs back in Sri Lanka, and so on. At the time I mainly experienced this as sleepiness, but it was in fact waking up. This child's 'prayer' contains the very nature of not-self, which is both nothing and everything at once. It illustrates a point beyond reason (which is really just the finer points of illusion), beyond language (a most useful illusion of grunts), and certainly beyond communication. At some level, you have to just do it. The master's tools will not dismantle the house. You have to just open the door of perception and wander out.

As a young man, my mother took me to a meditation retreat, which I had no particular interest in, but I had nothing else going on. And that was life changing for me. I 'knew' about Buddhism my whole life, but I never understood it till I sat under a tree and cleared all thoughts. For the lay Sri Lankan Buddhist this information is actually encoded at the social level, through rituals one may not understand, but which nonetheless contain the information and can transmit it through many generations. ie, from mother to son, even if the sons are ignoramuses. So I take my kids to temple on Poya, and church also, not in the hopes that they'll understand anything, they're already closer to God and not-self than I am. I take them to just dip them in the flow of greater selves, so that when their own self hardens, they have the tools to dissolve it again.

At some point, they're going to stop yelling at people… and start yelling at themselves. At some point, they're going to stop crying out loud and start crying to themselves. At some point, they won't wake up and scream at anybody, they'll just whimper to themselves. These are not necessarily better ways of dealing, they're just more convenient for everybody else. A child knows, instinctively, to ask for help but we train this out of them. And it's hard to get that back.

The real 'solution' to one's problems is dissolving them in the people close to you, in the people further from you, in all creatures and beings and even those things considered 'inanimate'. This is natural for a child, who assigns deep inner lives to teddy bears, but quite a contortion for a calcified adult. But having a child can help you realize this, because they're constantly outsourcing their cognition to my head. To be honest, it's annoying as shit, but also enlightening.