Escape Velocity

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If you could build a large catapult that would hurl you skyward at eleven kilometers per second (yikes) you would be able to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth and move out into the empty spaces of the Solar System. Eleven kilometers per second is known as the escape velocity and just to give some measure of its magnitude it is 30 times greater than the speed of sound. So, it’s quite fast!

Now life on Earth is generally speaking not all that great. Of course it depends on circumstances, but as a bottom line things have to eat each other to continue surviving, and although all creatures strive with all their might to continue existing, they all die. Human beings can savour a particular delicacy known as awareness of mortality. It’s particularly cruel since we are still driven relentlessly by our desires to thrive and procreate, at the same time knowing it is all futile.

Some people might wish to escape this shit show, and there are various methods. Most of them are completely passive and as such totally unsatisfying. Alcohol, drugs, sex, endless entertainment, unbridled ambition – come to mind. And as each attempt to escape fails so we desperately seek yet another way. These passive methods do not achieve anything. It is like trying to achieve escape velocity by jumping up on the spot – somewhat half-heartedly. Even with all our effort (a high jumper) we can only make a couple of meters and then fall back to Earth.

If we are going to achieve escape velocity – an inner escape velocity to leave the shit show behind, then much more effort is required. Small efforts such as going to weekend retreats, reading ‘spiritual” books, superficial intellectual effort, mantras, meditation and the like are not much more than a hop. Achieving escape velocity takes focused effort over a period of years. We have to achieve the equivalent of thirty times the speed of sound before we can escape the pull of Earth – of life as we all experience it.

The main problem for us is that our understanding is all messed up. We think that the world is made of stuff, that there is birth and death, that we are someone or something, that we can change ourselves – and on and on. Gurdjieff quite accurately described this as seeing the world topsy-turvy – upside down. We need to reprogram our understanding of ourselves, the world and existence. It isn’t a small undertaking, but the only alternative is to keep hopping and falling back to Earth. Because of this there are very few individuals who achieve escape velocity. The choice is fairly straightforward – reprogram, or go around in circles hoping that you don’t always end up in the same place. Spinoza had it right when he said:

If the road I have pointed out as leading to this goal seems very difficult, yet it can be found. Indeed, what is so rarely discovered is bound to be hard. For if salvation were ready to hand and could be discovered without great toil, how could it be that it is almost universally neglected? All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.

By MB

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