“The obvious is that which is never seen until someone expresses it simply.”
— Khalil Gibran
“Few of us believe in our own mortality until we’re face to face with it, and then some of us will forget immediately after.” — Laurence Gonzales, Deep Survival
“You could tell the secret of life ten times over, and it would still be safe. After all, the secret is only known when people make it real in their own lives, not when they simply hear it.” — Deng Ming-Dao (a modern Taoist sage)
“It is common to overlook what is near by keeping the eye fixed on something remote. In the same manner present opportunities are neglected and attainable good is slighted by minds busied inextensive ranges, and intent upon future advantages. Life, however short, is made shorter by waste of time.” — Samuel Johnson
Many, or even most, of the significant problems in our lives are more about recognizing the obvious rather than discovering the mysterious or hidden. One of the most classic ways that we deceive and hide from ourselves, is by refusing to recognize the obvious and shrouding what is right before us in rationalization and false complexity. We often delay and deny necessary transformation by claiming that there is a mysterious answer hidden from us, when actually we know the answers but have various reasons to pretend that we don’t. Another way that we sabotage ourselves is that we recognize the obvious to a degree, but don’t act in ways that are consistent with the recognition.
Here’s an example of one of these all too obvious aspects that we will often refuse to recognize: In hexagram 27 of the I Ching, “Providing Nourishment,” it is written: “He who seeks nourishment that does not nourish reels from desire to gratification and in gratification craves desire. Mad pursuit of pleasure for the satisfaction of the senses never brings one to the goal. One should never…follow this path, for nothing good can come of it.” Very succinctly, this thousands-of-years-old source recognizes one of the most obvious truths of human existence, and yet almost all of us choose to ignore this obvious truth and pursue nourishment that does not nourish at times. Someone once said that insanity means doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. If that definition were valid, almost all of us would qualify as insane, because almost all of us reach for that gooey dessert, that extra drink, that whatever, thinking it will make us feel better when long experience tells us that overall it is a detriment.
In the Sixties people would go on road trips or to the Far East saying that they were “trying to find the meaning of life.” Someone once said that such people had the question reversed, because it is life that asks you what your meaning is, and you have to supply the answer heart beat by heart beat. Is the answer to the meaning of life really so difficult and mysterious? Actually, there is universal testimony from across cultures and periods on what the meaning of life is. You don’t need an ancient source, you can ask many who have had near death experiences or those who are aged and feel fulfilled with their lives. The meaning of life, in my opinion, is obvious. I wrote about it in The Capsule of Intentionality as follows,
“But before we address the particular needs and problems of this unusual time let’s consider that which is essential to human life in any era including the present. The secret of human life is that for this incredibly difficult incarnation to be worth it you need two key elements. These two elements are the secret to just about all the happiness and meaning possible in a human life. The two elements may be expressed in different words but they are recognized cross-culturally and across history by the most varied traditions, religions and sources of wisdom. You can find them in the words of the ancient prophet of your choice, in the spiritual awakening of someone who has had a near death experience, and you can also find them deep in your own heart.
“The first element is learning. You are here to learn and become more aware. Instead of saying learning you could call it growing, evolving, becoming more conscious, achieving wholeness or individuation. Choose whatever words you find most suitable. This element is such a deep human longing that people can be persuaded to join the army to ‘Be all that you can be.’ Learning is such a basic drive that it takes years and years of sadistic compulsory education to bring down your desire to learn enough for society to get some use out of you.
“The second element is love. Giving love and helping others is crucial, more crucial than receiving love or help. You’ll notice that I referred to helping ‘others’ and not ‘people.’ Others is a larger set that includes people as well as any of a number of other sorts of beings from animals to the sentient entity of your choice.
” Loving and learning are the two sides of the secret of life coin. Often they will overlap as showing someone love and helping him be more aware are often the same thing. Beyond a certain point you can’t have one without the other.
“Obviously, the secret of life isn’t much of a secret. You’ve probably always known what the secret was. Pretending we don’t know what the secret is can sometimes be easier than manifesting the will to take actions to fulfill these two great and ever-present purposes. Focusing will and using awareness, wisdom, intuition and compassion to fulfill the secret of our incarnation, which we already know, is what it’s all about.”
To truly recognize the obvious, you cannot merely recognize it in your mind as an abstraction. The recognition must be physical, emotional, and spiritual; it must resonate in the depths of your being. Recently, I came to realize what the word “realization” means. It’s when something becomes powerfully real for you. The realization is often about a truth that you may have known about for years but failed to view as real on the deepest level until some particular moment.
When recognition becomes realization your work has still only just begun because then you must act on the realization, you must allow it to transform you and your life by changing both your perspective and, when applicable, your behavior.
When I write oracle cards I am essentially trying to teach myself difficult lessons. I am trying to turn my recognitions into realizations. Once I’ve done that I still have to work moment by moment and with mixed results, to walk the talk, to actually live by the realizations. In many oracle cards, for example, I emphasize the reality of inner wholeness and the dangerous pitfall of looking to find wholeness in the other. At this phase of my life, on the abstract plane, the truth of that seems obvious, but when it comes to actually living my life it is anything but obvious. Often it is a moment-by-moment struggle to stay aware of the many ways that I project my inner wholeness onto others and seek to regain the intrapsychic interpersonally.
What are the obvious things in your life that you need to recognize? Often people who know us well are better able to recognize some of the obvious factors we are ignoring better than we can. Ask some spiritual allies you really trust: “What are the obvious things that I seem to be denying or neglecting to deal with?” If two or more allies point out the same things you should take what they say quite seriously. To others it may be obvious that you are spending over your means, or repeating certain classic self-sabotaging patterns in relationships, in regard to your health, your career and other major areas of life. Look at the people you know well and consider what obvious factors they are denying or neglecting. Instead of telling them (unless they invite your counsel), consider the ways in which you may be denying or neglecting similar obvious factors.
Consider this a propitious time to recognize, realize, integrate and act on the obvious.