A curious quote appears on my social media and marketing pages: “A mere heap of conditions this, where no being can be found.” – Samyutta Nikaya PT1-3
This statement by the Buddha stands in stark contrast to the concept of soul, even dependent origination. I don’t have knowledge of, or opinions on whether there is or is not an entity within, a soul which has lived before or will live again in heaven, hell, the Western Paradise or in the land of the slain, Valhöll. I have a degree in the objective study of religion, spent time practicing Christianity and Buddhism, listened intently and believed. But I also listen to neuroscientists who write about “relatively stable identity representations stored in memory…” and the “effects of self-categorization.” *
Whether we are attentive or not, believe or not, study or not, a paradigm shift is underway. Mind is not a constant. Mind is an aggregation of impulses, habitual nature, failed and successful endeavors. As Jung concluded, we have a wasteland of attempts behind us, each endeavor an undeveloped self – the attempt to be an athlete, poet, husband or wife, businesswoman and so on. As an elder, I reflect on my attempts to learn, understand and become. There was Tim the musician, the philosopher, the priest – all gone, all partial identities, each like existence itself, imperfect and impermanent.
I am still quite valuable in the right situations, but as we all experience, many of the skills developed in one’s lifetime are no longer relevant in the end. Much of what I can do for society, nonprofits and business, is no longer wanted. I am sometimes the bull sent to pasture, the photo collecting dust on your wall and in your memory, an eight-track tape. I am also sometimes the voice of experience that can save a marketing campaign or inform a life. As the monks say, so be it. The sun still brightens decking on my balcony. Seasons wash over me and I am blessed (interesting word) to have friends and family who care sometimes for me, about me and about my welfare.