Stories and phenomena fall apart

This post started as a play with the different theist labels (atheist, non-theist, theist, pantheist, panentheist etc.) and how they all describe aspects of how I relate to the world. They all fit, in their own way.

Playing with stories in that way can be instructive. I can find how they each have validity for me so I don’t get (too) stuck in any one of them, and then do the same with the many possible stories holding them all. I can notice some of the dynamics going on around these stories and the ways I apply and live from them. I can explore how and when each of these stories seem helpful as a guide for attention and action. I can notice how I tend to play with stories in un-conventional ways, finding the truth in them for me in that way, and also am free to use them in conventional ways – and usually do – when I talk with others.

And here, I am reminded of how stories – when they are explored far enough – fall apart. Any topic can be explored from an infinite variety of perspectives, each one valid in their own way. It can be explored from an infinite variety of context, each of these also valid in their own way. The reversals of any story or perspective has validity in them too. Any story is inevitably self-contradictory. And reality/life will inevitably show up differently from any particular story, outside of the imagined boundary of the story.

The same is the case with any phenomena. I may take something that seems very solid, well-defined and real, such as a stone or persistent pain. What is it really, in immediate experience? Is it as solid as it appeared? As persistent? As well defined and something I can easily label? When any phenomenon is investigated, does it fall apart as well – as something solid, well defined, something I can easily label?

This too may be quite obvious in our post-modern and quantum physics world, but where it gets really interesting is when it is brought to what I take as most real and true, that which I may not have thought to question, or haven’t yet investigated with sincerity and heart.

Which stories do I take as most obviously true and real? Which do I take as so obviously true that they seem silly to question?

Which phenomena seem most obviously substantial and real? What do I find when I investigate them in immediate awareness? Are they as substantial, persistent and real as they initially appear? (When I take my stories and images of them as true?)

I may investigate the story of people. There are people. Can I know that is true? There are certainly the appearance of people, and I take myself as one – at least sometimes. But what it is really? What I find is just awareness. Awareness appearing to itself as something that can be labeled people.

And then the story of an I. Is there an I? What seems most as an I? Where is it located? How does it appear in each sense field? What is it made up of? Is it content of experience? Is it really different from any other content of experience? Is it substantial? Persistent? What happens when it is taken as what I am? Is it really what I am?

More simply, what happens when I stay with the experience of anything over time? Does it stay the same? Can I hold onto my labels of it?

These examples also illustrate how those two inquiries – into stories and phenomena – are not really that different. They are two sides of the same coin, or more accurately, two angles into investigating the same thing.

Finally, I can investigate what happens when I live from taking stories as true and phenomena as real. (Rigidity? Lack of receptivity? Reactivity? Trying to protect viewpoints and identities? Tension?)  And what happens when I recognize, in immediate experience and maybe over and over, that stories are not true and phenomena are not as substantial and real as they initially appeared. (Holding viewpoints and identities more lightly? Receptivity? Heart? More adaptive to situations? More sense of connection? More ease in daily life?)

Trigger: Tom’s Sunday talk at CSS about the idea of infinity, how it is self-contradictory and self-destructs when investigated far enough, and how that is the case with all our stories and ideas.



  • atheist, non-theist etc.
    • can be entertaining to see how each one is true + maybe even some insights
      • playing with ideas, may yield some insights within stories, and even outside of stories (may notice something here now, dynamics, what is here)
      • when investigate far enough, becomes meaningless, falls apart (can be viewed from infinite variety of perspectives, within infinite variety of contexts, will inevitably be self-contradictory, reality/life will inevitably show up differently etc.)
      • (one of the things I do in this blog, use stories in ways that are less conventional, find the grain of truth in them for myself, and in the process allow the stories to become meaningless in a conventional sense)
        • use the stories in un-traditional ways, to find the grain of truth in them for myself, and in the process make the stories meaningless from a conventional view
        • lose their meaning b/c I use them in whatever way I find most helpful for myself at the moment, don’t have any fixed meaning, often used in a quite un-traditional meaning (any fixed meaning breaks down)
        • still use those words in conventional sense when talk with others, for practical reasons (no reason to do anything else, most of the time)
      • mainly, show that whenever we use those – and any – ideas, we play with them
        • and if take as true, try to act – and react – as if true
      • all we do is play with ideas, when we explore through images/stories, although may have real life impacts when take as true (try to live and react as if true)
    • exploring how each is true
      • atheist – critical thinking, investigate, look for oneself, no “god” as an entity out there, don’t take stories about spirituality/religion as literal truth (no other stories either)
      • non-theist – spirit but no god as (separate, distinct) entity (1st/zero person)
      • theist – second person, devotion, service
      • pantheist – all/reality = god
      • panentheist – god embraces and is beyond all

when any story is investigated far enough, it falls apart (infinite perspectives and contexts, reversals have truths as well, is inevitably self-contradictory, life will show up differently – outside of the imagined boundaries of the story, etc.)

and when any phenomenon is investigated, it falls apart as well (as something solid, well defined, something we can easily label)

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