Bohemian Buddhist Review

The Bardo of Waking Life

Physicists don't find anything because there's nothing there.
 
The Bardo of Waking Life by Richard Grossinger
 
If you haven't read any of Grossinger's work, I guarantee you'll agree he's a writer like no other -- ever. A post-modern wunderkind/grandfather/cosmic jester forged out of the white heat of a super-traumatic childhood, Grossinger's newest book will shake you, wake you, and make you laugh out loud, sometimes all at once. 
 
His word skills are off the charts, as are his insights into the human condition, which I think he'd see as tragi-comic. Grossinger's an outspoken spokesman, in spiritual/scientific terminology, for the divine embedded in us:  "The DNA/cellular matrix is either cosmic script with local dialects or a dialect of some greater language."  And this: "Exquisitely ontological threads of being underlie even dust devils raging down empty corridors."  What mind pictures he paints!
 
His rants on politics -- and he does definitely rage on, be prepared -- are thigh-slapping foot-stompers.  "This here nation is a sham, a thrown-together republic, a polity without closeable borders, without native clans or indigenous continuity, sustained by imported resources and debt to foreign banks, maintained by increasingly shrill, moronic and self-righteous rednecks, riveted to domestic dramas, setting standards of international policy by sectarian moralities and taboos.  They engage in oversimplified, grandiose geopolitics like the dry drunks and closet cocaine addicts they are."  (You can tell this was written in the most recent Bush era.)
 
I really love Grossinger's big picture.  He sees us evolving from our background of "the Paleolithic shaman's deepest magic, the blind apotheosis of his most fervent desires, the invocation of his most feared ghosts.  [Our present] is his paradise and his nightmare."  What's so bracing about "The Bardo of Waking Life" is that it takes no comfort from conventional dualities.  
 
"If we put as much attention into mindedness and breath as we do into machinery and metals, then we could transcend technology itself and -- slowly but surely, like cell colonies over the next 10 million or so years -- become creatures of light and love . . . "   Hey, he's just sayin' -- and I much prefer his futuristic vision to that of the dysfunctional dystopians now in vogue in certain literary circles.  "At the ashram, zendo, and yoga class, you see the bare beginnings of this act."
 
So keep meditating, in other words.  How is external reality going to change if we can't transform our internal reality?
 
"For as long as we don't know what we are, what consciousness is, how mind comes to root in bodies on worlds, we don't know shit."  (This after a refutation of modern science and how we've lost our gods, as well as a red flag about "the Intelligent Design people, who are just as far off the mark as materialistic scientists because an anthropomorphic god is just as idolatrous, just as Golden Calfy as an atom.") 
 
Grossinger's out to debunk all our mod gods and restore our awe for the Great Unknown.  With language that seems like inspired alien poetry, he's a cosmic time and space traveler sent to tell us how magical our world is, before we destroy it. 
 
"While we clearly arise in a maelstrom of bleak supernovas and runaway asteroids and comet seeds -- exploding stars, colossal colliding rocks -- entropy-entropy-entropy -- we also are receptors of a very high and esoteric octave of energy ... We emerged from the swamp, true enough, but as simultaneously Darwinian and theosophical beings."
 
And here's Grossinger's take on the Heart Sutra:  "Scientists scoop down beneath atomic and subatomic levels, exhuming charges and space only, for substance has no base or bottom.  The interior of an atom, in truth, looks more like a Sufi dance or a Navajo sand-painting than the contents of a pried sardine can.  Where quantum physics meets sacred geometry, stuff is another form of emptiness.  Physicists don't find anything because there is nothing there."
 
This is the author's interpretation of the Tibetan Buddhist practice of tonglen:  "Breathe in clear mind, only witnessing, always in attention, ever wondering . . . Breathe out the mystery -- I don't know shit from shinola." 
 
We get a disquisition on reincarnation, couched in cosmically jazzy language.  "If I lived before . . . " goes the common question, "why can't I remember it?"  And the common answer usually is, can you remember exactly what you were doing ten years ago today?  Most of us can't, but that doesn't negate the fact that we were probably doing something. Grossinger's definition of the purpose of life, disirregardless of our views on reincarnation,  is noteworthy:  "lasting happiness . . . finding your core and becoming whole." 
 
He gets into cosmic comic mode with his "New Mantra for Anxious Moments During Turbulence on Planes -- Stay Interested.  That's All the Universe is Asking of You.  Stay Interested."  My teachers might re-phrase that slightly, to Stay Awake, Stay Aware, but it's the same difference."
 
While our collective situation on planet earth may be ger-effed at the moment, we still have some individual choice (also known as free will, but don't get me started on that can of worms) about our own liberation, in each and every moment. "The beauty of our situation is that, despite the dangers and fragility and outright darkness that lie on all sides of us, we are free."  Forgive me if you've heard this all before, but it bears repeating; freedom's not about getting to some hassle-free, perfect world of milk and honey, but about being able to free ourselves in difficult circumstances.  Which last two words virtually define life on earth.
 
Not one to subscribe to belief in any sort of permanent embodiment, celebrating the amorphous fluidity of existence, the dance of emptiness, he leaves us with a non-denominational koan:   "How would we find ourselves except by being forced to look for what's not there?"