The Tyranny of Epiphany

I’ll speak for myself here: the more I grock the aftermath of epiphany, the more liberated I feel from its clutches.
An epiphany, of course, feels wonderful. It’s the gift of new understanding. Sometimes it feels earned; sometimes it feels spontaneously given; all the time it’s a shift out of a certain heart-mind-set and into something else, a new story that appears to be a better match with more of reality.
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You have plenty of examples in your own life, right?
“Oh, *that* is what this āsana is about! I can really feel it now! What was I even doing before?”
“Meditation is the key to unlocking my heart.” (Sub “meditation” for “just feeling my emotions,” or “therapy” or whatever.)
“Oh wow, yeah if I really just follow the current of life, everything works out!”
“My lord, jeggings … Where have these been all my life?!” (What, just me?)
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In my experience, the tyranny of realization comes from the afterthought: “and now I get it; things are this way …”
Of course, in a certain light, that is true. This is the funny part of language. I don’t think it’s wholly accurate to say that is untrue, or that the opposite of that is fully true — i.e. that you never really know anything and things are always in shift so who knows, man?
But you know what I mean? It gets evangelical, even and perhaps most dangerously in subtle ways, in our own interpretation of the raw data of reality.
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“Yeah, I did that pose that way for years but then I saw the light. Here, let me help you see the light right now …”
or “Yeah, I did that pose that way for years but then I saw the light. Therefore, this is the way I am going to do that pose now, despite pain symptoms telling me otherwise.” [This is textbook cult mentality: you attribute your failing to a lack of faith, or alignment of your chosen varietal, and not to the structure of the religion/cult/āsana.]
“Having a hard time? The solution to every problem is in this phrase, ‘just follow the current of life.’”
“We have to take accountability for our lives, lest we slip into malaise, depression, ruin.”
“We should relax and let go more in our lives, lest we slip into the clutches of ego, hypertension, hypochondria.”
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More specific examples:
“You need to engage your core while bending over, or you’ll hurt your back.”
“Running is hard on your knees.”
“Running is good for you.”
“Inflammation is the root of disease.”
“Paleo, or veganism or whatever, is or isn’t the way.”
“Engaging your glutes keeps your back safe.”
“Stacking your knee over the ankle keeps the joints safe.”
Even …
“We need the government to help the injured, poor and infirm.”
“The government should stay the hell out of our business.”
^^^ Take a moment, if you would, to read each of the above examples and, after a moment to let any emotional charge settle a bit if applicable, ask yourself: “What is the epiphany, the realization, that someone would’ve had to make this statement?”
And then, bonus points for “and what is a *potential* cage created in the wake of this realization?”
Feel those answers. That act of feeling is empathy in action. It will inform your cells and move you along in a more liberated way. (Which may or may not be pleasant.)
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We arrive, from the above statements, at a string of relative truths.
This is what the world of language is made of: truths that are absolutely true in certain contexts, that is to say relatively true in the absolute context.
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Tyranny, then, is not in the realization itself, but in mistakenly believing this is now true for everyone, and that the sooner they realize this, the sooner we’ll all be better off.
It’s thinking “I didn’t get it. Now I get it. I better remember to always do it this way now.”
Is there wisdom in that a lot of the time? Of course.
But remember, a dictator asks only one thing of his subjects: do not question me.
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2 Responses to The Tyranny of Epiphany

  1. sally brown says:

    I love epiphanies! The bubbly excitement of newness that courses through the brain and heart is exhilarating especially when it encourages positive change. And who can resist wanting to spread the happiness? But you are right, proselytizing is odious. Having just been given a few epiphanies lately I’m in heaven and have mentioned a new understanding to a person or two, but have also been working to incorporate the new thoughts into my being thus normalizing them and opening to the next new understanding.

    • Liam Bowler says:

      Ha … Yes! I guess I didn’t really talk about that part. I love epiphanies, too 🙂 You explain it — and the impulse to share it — well. Thanks.

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