Thursday, October 11, 2012

Top of the Mountain

While reading a book by Lawrence LeShan about meditation, I came across an interesting metaphor. The chapter I was reading was concerned with the trap people fall into when they consider meditation. Superpowers and ethereal visions were discussed. But when discussing this, he mentioned the use of spiritual ecstasy, be it induced by deep thought or powerful drugs, as it pertains to inner development. In this, he said:
Standing high on a mountain will let you see where you want to go. But if you stay on that mountain, you will never get there.

People who know me will tell you I have a strong stance against recreational drugs. This includes not only LSD and marijuana, but also tobacco and alcohol. I have never seen the purpose of using external substances to manipulate the chemistry of you brain. I am taking prescription medication to keep my mind stable, but this is a measure of survival, not leisure. I have negotiated with my doctors to take no more than necessary to keep myself from becoming dangerous. And even then, I long for the day when I need not rely on it.
But that is all irrelevant to this point. If I may dive into this metaphor (which LeShan actually advises against since you fall for another trap of taking it seriously, but we know I'm just being poetic here, right?), you use pleasurable stimulus to take you high into the sky, where the air is crisp and you can see for miles in every direction. You can see the golden deserts, the emerald forests, the clear blue oceans, and everything in between.
Now you can pick a spot and say "I want to go there". But here comes the difficult part. Now you must leave the mountain. For the sake of time, let's say you want to go to the heart of the forest, where you spied deer and other creatures living in grove of trees. But not only must you travel for miles and miles, but you must also deal with the obstetrical of travel. The outlying areas of the forests are full of sticky air laced with pestering gnats. You may get lost among the trees and find yourself in a swamp choked with methane. And even if you get to your destination, you may find all the woodland creatures have long since abandoned this clearing.
At any point, you may feel the need to return to the mountain. You feel the need to indulge in the pleasure that made you first able to see what makes you stimulated. The problem is that not only must you force yourself down again, but you are back where you started. However far you got has been made meaningless since you need to go that far again. Maybe you can pick somewhere else to go, but the desert and ocean are filled with just as many pitfalls.
While I often find myself longing for the pleasure of the mountain top, I also feel the need to avoid it. Not only do I feel a warrior should know better than to take shortcuts that will just make your journey longer, but I also think a warrior would enjoy the pleasure of those pitfalls if he didn't know they were there. I fully agree with Nitcheze that "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger", but I would go farther and say it also makes you happier.
As part of a deal I made with myself to not be judgmental  I will not command people to cease the use of recreational drugs or similar stimulus. But I will advise them to leave the mountain and see what the rest of the world is like. I'd also like to point out that being high, in any sense of the word, does not make you more worldly than someone from below. In fact, that mountain top is the farthest place from the world you can be.

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