In this brief life of four score years and ten, you have set before you the choice, once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, and the strife quicks true from false, or for the good or evil side that it is the brave man to run the coward stands aside. Ugh, he hasn’t made that choice and you don’t know how to make it. The suspense of that as a great dramatic move. But the Hindu has that funny look which says, huh! Right now. We’ve got to get to the bottom of this and I want to really I have I’m a little diffident about this because I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence.
But I do want to give you what should be called the first lesson. What your mother should have told you before you learned about one two three and ABC. There is something underneath all that the something much deeper. And it’s about black and white. But now let me introduce it by asking you to consider all your senses as forms of one sense. Basically a sort of sense of touch. Because seeing is touching at a distance. Our eyes are so sensitive that they can touch light our ears are so sensitive that they can touch vibrations of air. Our fingertips are less sensitive in Western civilization our noses are almost insensitive. But these are all forms of response to touch. Whether they be rather solid things like tables and rocks or whether they be very subtle things like tiny particles in the air or light waves.
So when your senses are touched. They go off and on. Either there’s something there or there isn’t. Now when you consider for example the phenomenon of sound. There isn’t actually such a thing as pure sound. When you hear a sound, a note being sung, you are actually hearing a vibration. You are hearing sound silence, oscillating, because it is the alternation of sound and silence that impresses us. This is so with almost all contacts. If you have a delightful girl sitting next to you and you want to make your presence known to her and you put your hand on a knee and you leave it there, she will cease to notice it. But if you gently pat her on the knee, she’ll know you are still there. Because you come and you go. Now you see It, now you don’t.
So all physical, all physical manifestations are in the sense vibrating. They are pulses, light is a power. And the most solid rock is also a pulse and you can’t put your finger through it for the same reason that you can’t put your finger through an electric fan when it’s revolving. It’’s going too fast, so this table is going so fast that I can’t done it philosophers are always using tables with a straight something because they speak of classroom gets a little boring but still. It resists because it’s going so fast. On Off On Off On Off On Off On Off. So you see, this is the process the nature of the wave. You can’t have it is not such a thing in nature as half a wave. A wave that is the say, which has only a crest and no trough. To get a wave you have to have a crest and a trough at the very least. So the up and the down go together. Likewise therefore, the black and the white. So what we call existence is being-nonbeing. So therefore to be on not to be is not the question. To be and not to be are inseparable companions. Just like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, who incidentally agreed to have a battle.
So between all these explicit differences, like the top and the bottom, the up in the down, front in the back the light in the dock. Explicit differences have behind them an implicit unity. That is to say they are always found together. There is as it were a conspiracy under the surface. To look as different as possible and yet to be one. It takes one to produce difference because you see you don’t know what you mean by difference unless you know what you mean by unity. You don’t know what you mean by is, unless you know what you mean by isn’t. You know there is a matchbook in this hand and there isn’t one in this hand. Abstract from that and you get the idea of being and nonbeing. But they go together. Now the whole joke that’s been played on you, by you of course, is that they don’t go together. That in other words black might win. That seems very persuasive. After all when one looks at existence. You realize it’s quite an effort. Lot of energy going on. Wouldn’t it have been so much easier over there not to have been anything at all? When it once you get that idea existence becomes odd. And so also, when you think about death. What would it be like to go to sleep and never wake up. That thought always makes us intellectually dizzy. And it makes you think about birth the funny event of waking up after never having gone to sleep. You know something distinctly spooky about that.
But you see that this is all part of it. That the black side has to be real genuine black so that the white side can be real genuine White. And it’s always seem, as if whenever black turns up that’s going to be the end. And this is a conspiracy, so when you when you’ve got the game, uh-oh black might win, you have to play the next game which is all white must win. And so we start it all out, the battle between the sides. And from this battle come all the complexities of human culture. Just out of black and white. Look how complicated we can make them. The game of heads and tails, is one of the very simplest forms. Will it be heads,will it be tails? That gets boring. We make it more complicated, we make them into dice. We make them into checkers more complicated still chess that’s all based on black and white, but how elegant. Even color emerges finally from black and white. Analyze our composite structure down to its final terms and we seem to turn up to be something like a newspaper photograph. You know, black and white dots that stand away from them, and they seem to be light and shadow. The point at least painted saw this. But we are all this buzzing little on off yes no yes no yes no yes no yes no yes no yes no every neuron is either firing or not firing yes no yes no yes no and out of this multiplicity of yes and no. Look at this thing.
But it all depends on this little joke, see. That we forget somehow. That yes or no go together. A person who understands that, you see, is a sort of initiate. He’s been let in behind the scenes. He’s in what you would call a person who is very far in. There a lot of our most of us are very far out actually. With a person you might call a square is the most far person there is because he really believes that black might win. That white must win, he’s completely bamboozled he’s altogether forgotten the secret. So he’s way way out, lost as lost can get. But Harbor. How magnificent. But so that he doesn’t go off his head altogether there are always in societies some foreign people. And they want to call the esoteric people as compared with exoteric people and the foreign people are out of cages. They don’t give the show away too easily now you might say you’re not being very far in your explaining to us. What the joke is and you really shouldn’t do that because if we knew that it was all right and that the whole thing was a joke what would happen to our incentives.
Now I feel I can say all this quite safely because very few people will believe it. Because it’s very difficult to believe. The other position, that black might win, is marvelously persuasive. So maybe in this audience there might be a few people who would understand. And then our anxiety is, will such people stop the show? Will they suddenly become inert, be enemies of progress or become frankly immoral because. You know you want to obliterate someone and after all they’re not serious they’re just a mask of God which is the same as you are having to push them out of the way them not. Will they get like that. Well there’s always a gamble you see, for all things again. And there’s always danger. Every good thing in this world is dangerous. The moment you teach a child how to walk, you give it the capacity to kick it’s mother. The moment you have. Fire to warm yourself and to cook with. You have the possibility of destruction there is no way around danger so of course a person who was in the highest sense of the word disenchanted. You see that it’s a marvelous word because it has a positive meaning as well as the usual negative one to be enchanted is to be spellbound. To be fascinated like a chicken with its nose on a chalk line.
So the actor who is really involved in playing the world is fascinated, he is enchanted by his own spell. Spell in the beginning was the word. You see. The chant. So, to be disenchanted is to suddenly recover from a state of auto-hypnosis, to wake up, that’s why a Buddha means that from the Sanskrit word good to waken, to be awakened it is one who was woken up. And who knows. My goodness, it’s all a dream. But what a magnificent dream, a beautiful thing a great work of art art in the highest sense. Maya, as the Hindus call the world as well as Lila. Maya means very roughly illusion but it means a lot more besides it means magic it means art it means creative power it means construction, from a root word martyr lay down the foundations of a building hence our word meter. Measure metric. And also matter. Does it matter, means does it put on a good show? Does it amount to something or. Is it a convincing illusion. Illusion likewise connected with the Latin Ludere, to play.
But you see, we have a culture in which words like play illusion and so on have a bad connotation. We don’t want to get with an illusion. And we want in the end to know, I wonder if we really do want this, that at least God is serious. Now look, if I say to you I love you. And supposing I say this in a very personal way to a particular individual. The person I says that to turns around to me and says ‘Are you serious?’ I say no. No no, indeed. But I am sincere. This is a commitment. It’s a rash commitment, it’s the height of rashness. But it’s therefore not serious. Keyserling, in his South American meditations, makes the point that a man of spirit is above all a man lacking in seriousness. He, as a man of courage, plays with his life now to quote G. K. Chesterton again he said the angels fly because they take themselves lightly. Are much more so than the lot of the angels I mean just let me put this in anthropomorphic terms because there’s an important thing about talking about God in anthropomorphic terms. A) Nobody takes it too seriously. B) It puts things vividly in ways that escape more abstract intellectual language. I mean, when all those angels and saints around the throne of God in Heaven forever and ever, what sort of a show do you want to be going on everybody going to look at each other. Are they going to stare into the eye of the lord as say yeah. Dante in the Paradiso, describes the Hymn of the angels, and he says it is like the laughter of the universe. In other words they sing Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia. What the devil does that mean? It doesn’t mean anything, except it’s a kind of celestial whoopee. So you see, what I’m pointing out is this, that even in the tradition of the most serious religion that there is, the one that really takes life seriously, because there’s the possibility of ultimate tragedy. Even in this most serious religion its mythological forms, its symbology, gives a little tweak to give away the show. Just as in those Hindu images of Shiva the Destroyer aspect of the divinity when he is dancing Tandava, the dance that he dances at the end of a cycle when the whole universe is destroyed he showed the ten arms and fierce aspect and in his nine of his arms he has bells unfun the bolts and clubs and knives but one is in this gesture. The hand, palm outwards, fingers up, it means don’t be afraid, this is a big act.
So you see, the notion of the world as playful is I think you may agree, the only finally workable and rational solution to our predicament. There is always, of course, the chance that it might not be. But it is indeed the chance that you may wake up. Divine yourself everlastingly down. All that you may never wake up at all. I don’t know what that would mean. Except nobody would ever know whether it was serious or wasn’t there. But, it seems to me that there are certain metaphysical systems, some of which are good gambles, and some of which are not. Because a great deal of the problems of life resolve themselves to the question, ‘What are good game rules?’ Ethical questions have to be decided this way, aesthetic questions, and questions of simple political organization. Now you can obviously see can’t you that a social order. In which nobody trusts anybody else. Is not set up as a going game. If everybody is spying on his next door neighbor and if we have a big brother who’s got a kind of television outlet and a mike in every room everybody is bugged, and there’s no game, because the poor old big brother can’t even take a walk in the park. He’s got to sit there watching everybody. The Hindus work this out in a book called The Afathrastra [sic], where it is a manual of operations, for the perfect tyrant. And it gives minute instructions, how to hedge himself in, with the rings like the rings of a spider’s web. How he gets the different ranks of his courtiers and advisors, he puts them all at enmity with each other so that they will all spy on each other, and all report on each other and then right in the center he lives in the super protected room. Where he has guards, but other guards watching these guards. And he has a secret exit out from the middle that goes somewhere down to the river where he’s got a fast speed boat waiting. And on the way out there’s a keystone he can pull and make the whole palace collapse. Now here is a man living in perpetual paranoia. He can’t even sleep, he has to have some valid taste is food for him to be sure it isn’t poison. He’s the maximum non-trust, and this is a non workable system. You cannot throw a ball unless you’re willing to let go of it.
So in exactly this way game rules have to have play in them, that is to say, they have to be a good game has to involve. A wonderful balance of chance and skill. Randomness and order. And then it has a chance of going on. I was discussing tossing a coin. That’s a very boring game. Tic-Tac Toe is a pretty boring game, because if you know how to play it anyone who starts wins, so it reduces itself to tossing coins. On the other extreme, three dimensional chess. Is much too complicated for most people to keep tangles of it. And they lose themselves in the tangle from. But somehow in the middle games like poker, bridge, chess. Even Go. Marvelously intriguing people, can get fascinated you know how it is once you become a chess buff, you can go you go on and on and on and on well that’s what we call the instinct for survival. Where you know the math game, the bee game, the bird game the man game you can’t let go it’s fascinating. So we’re all human buffs. A universe that man’s all the people started as an apple tree apples. And the apple tree apple serves to go after him because appling is great. So is tree-ing, but you can see different forms of trees and different forms of animals in the same way as you get the difference between Mazurka waltz, Charleston twist, rumba or so not a few partita all Mahjong, chess, dominoes, so it’s all like that. The question is to find out the most fascinating thing. See if you play chess, which can become a game of pure skill with the element of chance almost eliminated when a real champion is concerned. It ceases to be fun after a while unless you have an opponent who is a little bit unpredictable. The whole point of it is that you cannot quite figure out the other person’s skill and that introduces an element of chance but if a game is pure chance. The fun goes out of it, unless you’re out of your mind. And think that there is a serious chance you might win.
So it’s in looking for that strange balance that we find a clue to what it’s all about. The question is simply fundamentally. Do you have the nerve to follow that through? Can you look black,night, in the face. And say, ‘Well I really do know you’re the other side of white. You come on pretty fierce. But that’s your nature.’ And that anxiety which constantly asked the question to be on not to be, and therefore trembles between them, will in the end turn into laughter the same trembling, when it knows that to be and not to be are inseparable twins.