Lurching. Lurching. Lurching.


This Believer of Convenience warily tiptoed into Sam Harris’ new book titled Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion. I’m a 1/3 of the way in. He’s managed to settle under my skin, burrowing into my consciousness.  I’m deeply ambivalent about the message. The polarity of my emotions is stark – it’s as if I’m split in two. I drift in and out of darkness and I find myself empty in my quiet moments of contemplation. I’m certain that this wasn’t Sam’s objective with his Guide.  Yet I find it impossible to disagree with certain messages, such as yesterday’s post titled Carpe Momento. And another this morning which I’m sharing below.  I’m leaning heavily on F. Scott Fitzgerald to function: “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function” – – as I need to function, I need to function. Here’s Sam Harris with another one of his “pow, right in the kisser” messages to me:

We are ever in the process of creating and repairing a world that our minds want to be in. And wherever we look, we see the evidence of our successes and our failures. Unfortunately, failure enjoys a natural advantage. Wrong answers to any problem outnumber right ones by a wide margin, and it seems that it will always be easier to break things than to fix them.

Despite the beauty of our world and the scope of human accomplishment, it is hard not to worry that the forces of chaos will triumph —not merely in the end but in every moment. Our pleasures, however refined or easily acquired, are by their very nature fleeting. They begin to subside the instant they arise, only to be replaced by fresh desires or feelings of discomfort. You can’t get enough of your favorite meal until, in the next moment, you find you are so stuffed as to nearly require the attention of a surgeon— and yet, by some quirk of physics, you still have room for dessert. The pleasure of dessert lasts a few seconds, and then the lingering taste in your mouth must be banished by a drink of water. The warmth of the sun feels wonderful on your skin, but soon it becomes too much of a good thing. A move to the shade brings immediate relief, but after a minute or two, the breeze is just a little too cold. Do you have a sweater in the car? Let’s take a look. Yes, there it is. You’re warm now, but you notice that your sweater has seen better days. Does it make you look carefree or disheveled? Perhaps it is time to go shopping for something new. And so it goes.

We seem to do little more than lurch between wanting and not wanting. Thus, the question naturally arises : Is there more to life than this? Might it be possible to feel much better (in every sense of better) than one tends to feel? Is it possible to find lasting fulfillment despite the inevitability of change?

Spiritual life begins with a suspicion that the answer to such questions could well be “yes.” And a true spiritual practitioner is someone who has discovered that it is possible to be at ease in the world for no reason, if only for a few moments at a time, and that such ease is synonymous with transcending the apparent boundaries of the self. Those who have never tasted such peace of mind might view these assertions as highly suspect. Nevertheless, it is a fact that a condition of selfless well-being is there to be glimpsed in each moment. Of course, I’m not claiming to have experienced all such states, but I meet many people who appear to have experienced none of them— and these people often profess to have no interest in spiritual life.

~ Sam Harris, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion. (Simon & Schuster. 2014)

Source: Sam Harris Portrait –



  1. Isn’t the whole concept of living within duality just a touchstone of the human experience? It took me years to accept that one can be both strong and weak; selfless and selfish; wanting and sated. Is the key to our peace of mind, our connectedness with our spirituality in part the recognition and acceptance of this reality? That one can alternatively decry the horrific while simulltaneously whispering abundant gratitude for catching the sight of a raindrop resting on a flower?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. yes, the moments of feeling at ease in the world, make it beautiful. i’m not a religious person, yet feel this ease more often, over time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a very Buddhist perspective–observing the hooks as we lean toward pleasure and away from discomfort.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for improving my moment, David (as usual).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Being at ease in a world for no reason … is a path worth exploring 🙂
    I hope he covers the judging fearful part of ourselves that shows us when we begin our spiritual journey beyond “self”.
    Val x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “And a true spiritual practitioner is someone who has discovered that it is possible to be at ease in the world for no reason, if only for a few moments at a time, and that such ease is synonymous with transcending the apparent boundaries of the self.”

    That is what mystics have been able to. In “Waking up” Sam Harris says he uses the terms ‘spiritual’ and ‘mystical’ interchangeably. Chapter one has many mentions of each. You do not have to believe in God or be religious to be spiritual or to be a mystic.

    In my free ebook on comparative mysticism, “The Greatest Achievement in Life,” I summarized many similarities, and some differences, among the mystics of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.

    Ironically, the man who personally introduced me to mysticism was an atheist who once wrote “God is man’s greatest invention.” Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was also a Nobel astrophysicist at the University of Chicago.


  7. I am the student in the next chair over – who has yet to crack open the textbook – almost there…(just got back into town last night). Please keep sharing your notes.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: