I've wondered for years what it meant to live IN the world, not OF the world. Seems like a fine, wavering line that never stays in one place. Also seems straight-forward. Upon first becoming acquainted with this distinction, I thought, Oh yeah, I get it, I understand. I set out to attempt it and became so confused about its meaning I could only say, I don't get it. First thing, I had to figure out what was meant by "the world." It's a concept I heard about in church my entire childhood, taking it for granted I knew what the world was. There is the world and there is church, its apparent opposite. However, I found church to be part of the world just like the obvious, a poker table, just more subtle to see. That seen, I had to rethink at the start, to include church, religion, as a part of the world, not its opposite or apart from it. The definition I settled on for "the world," is having to do with the human mind. It comes to that made by God, life forms, and that made by the human mind, products, ideas, beliefs. God's creations grow, whereas human creations start their entropy upon completion The only living part of a human creation is in the process of the making. A painting, for example, lives while the artist is making it, applying colors, feeling the process along. Once it's signed, the process of entropy begins. Eventually, it will return to dust, its original form, the dust being God-made, origin of all things and thoughts human-made. Everything that comes from thought is human-made, like the question, does the shadow of a flying bird move? An argument can be made that the shadow does not move. Absence of light cannot move. In like manner, from God's way of seeing, this whole world, even our own existence is illusion created by our own minds. This one is a bit hard for me to grasp, given that ants are just as subject to gravity as I am, and they don't have a human mind, though for an ant's needs, an ant has plenty adequate mind. I start being able to get it looking at atoms as the building blocks of the material world. An atom is nothing but space with one kind of electrical charge orbiting another.
My pocket knife, made of atoms, cuts my finger, made of atoms, and blood appears, made of atoms, all of it the same thing, or same non-thing, solar systems in galaxies, infinite space, what the Buddhists call nothingness. How many universes can exist in infinite nothingness? That nothingness in which we dwell on a really huge electron orbiting a much bigger proton, a star among billions of stars in a major huge galaxy, is an illusion made by my mind? How was it there before I was born, evidenced by books written about it before I was born. I'm not the only one to dream up this illusion of standing upright on earth. It's said in the East that all this creation we live in is created by a belief system believed in common. I have a hard time seeing that, or maybe I've got it wrong. I can't help but see it that if I am walking toward a barbed wire fence and tell myself it isn't there, seeing it is an illusion, a dream, I walk into it and I'll be jabbed and scratched in several places by sharp barbs and thrown backwards at the same rate of force I hit it. Getting up and looking at it, scratching my head saying, but it's an illusion, how could it knock me down and make me bleed? I can see creation in the realm of illusion in something like interpretation of experience and projection of expectation onto experience. Takes it back to attitude toward life, mentally projecting expectations, the experience itself, and interpretation follows, interpreting from the same source as the expectations. I go to London as an American tourist, come home and tell friends I learned as an American in London how it feels to be black in America. An internationally famous actor, like Liam Neeson, can go to London and be received as an honored guest in every restaurant he eats in, hotel he stays in, and the places he peruses in the course of a day. He returns saying London is friendly, gracious, couldn't be better. It was circumstances that made the two experiences different, not so much expectation or interpretation.
I can see the two experiences self-created in that studio promotions made Neeson a big star, he goes to London and everybody recognizes him, a star. My life experience made me somebody nobody outside my immediate world ever heard of. In London that makes me an American. Every cliché about Americans is stuck on me like sponsor patches on Nascar drivers. No, I don't wear Bermuda shorts; no, I don't wear Nikes; no, I don't wear Hawaiian shirts; no, I don't talk by way of interrupting, loud and endlessly. Doesn't matter, American. Or an Anglo-American girl says to a Chinese-American girl, I just love putting chopsticks in my hair. Projection of what we believe about an other, however limited or fantastic it may be, becomes reality by way of expectation and interpretation, both serving what we go into the experience believing, our attitude toward life. It's our attitude toward life that precedes us everywhere we go, that creates our experience before we get there and concludes it by the time the experience is over. My next question, was there even an experience? Attention on expectation and conclusion at once, the experience slips by, hardly noticed. In this way I can see illusion in attempting to order apparent chaos and nail it down with expectations, conclusions, names, categories, words, language, self-awareness, and then the confusion really begins. Off we go into interpreting the unknowable and calling it God. In American Anglo-centric illustrated Bibles, Moses is white. He came from south of Egypt. That's getting into Nubia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda. You don't see many white people in that region of the world before European colonialism. I'd guess none at all however many thousand years ago Moses lived. And somebody from south of Egypt, I'll venture Ethiopian, could have similar features to an Egyptian of the time, enough to pass for Pharaoh's family. Pharaohs are often portrayed white or off-white. Sculpture portraits I've seen of Pharaoh heads don't have Nordic features. White Moses is projected illusion.
In Indian portrayals of the Buddha, he looks like he's from India. In Nepalese depictions, he looks like he's from Nepal. In Tibet, he looks Tibetan. To see a Burmese Buddha, he's from Burma. It's the same in Indonesia, Thailand, China and Japan, as well as everywhere else. In California, he'd have blond hair and a surfer's tan. Aryan Buddha. American Jesus is northern Germany white face, Irish red hair and beard, wrapped in the American flag as a red, white and blue gown. Expectation and interpretation complicating illusion further. And further until we have a whole history in Christendom of believing in a Medieval idea of hell, then a pope comes along in the beginning of the 21st Century and says hell is something a loving God would not do; hell is an invention of the human mind. Expectation and conclusion confirm the projection. Another case of the few controlling the many, operating from the human mind: the world. I attempt to separate IN the world from OF the world by looking at this idea called the world as the illusion, projection of belief, literally not fact-checked, going by what was expected from what was already believed for whatever superfluous reasons were most convincing to a given world-view, attitude toward life, in different times along our way. All the mental construct about God I take to be of the world. I'm more interested in seeing God in the flow of life, the force that through the green fuse drives the flower (Dylan Thomas), the love energy that flows through all life, through the veins in the leaves. Water evaporates into the sky and forms into clouds that rain on the earth. The cycles of life on earth have been so interrupted by heedless exploitation, of the world, there may not be much left for anything but cockroaches and bacteria. Something will evolve to eat roaches, something to eat that, on and on, until we're back to the crisis point we're facing collectively in this crucial phase of our spiritual development. I live in a world of people informed by Faux News, but I don't have to support them, go with them, oppose them, listen to them, give them any attention. At the end of the story Good Soldier Schweik, by Jaroslav Hasek, Schweik was conscripted into the army in the time of WWI. The regiment marching down a road to war takes the road to the right. Schweik sees some flowers growing up the road on the left and goes off walking by himself up the road to the flowers. Schweik was a light-hearted, guileless, comic character who was in the world not of it.