An excerpt from The Logic of Faith
You might say that you have always been searching for grace. Whether or not we make a conscious choice to follow a lineage of wisdom or not, it has always been our natural inclination to bend toward wellbeing. Our search expresses itself the moment we are born into life and instinctively cry out to suckle and find comfort in our mother’s arms. From there, we have so much to learn, which requires lots of playful experimentation. And I mean, “play,” in a broad sense: how we interact with life, how we influence it, how it shapes us, and how we figure out how to bring our actions together with our intentions.
As children we are all driven by a natural curiosity. I suspect, like most children, you did things you were told not to do in order to see for yourself how things worked, like touching a hot stove with your finger or sticking your tongue out at your neighbor. The pressure to not do what you were told made the “doing” all the more tantalizing, and the consequences of such “doings” became part of this playful experimentation too. There is a daring and curiosity in this type of play, from which we all learn about the ways of the world, about the nature of the physical elements, and the feedback we get from challenging behavioral agreements found in any given social context.
Throughout our adult life play continues. The ongoing exchange you have with life takes place all the time: the cold air touches your skin, so you put on a sweater. After you put on your cozy sweater you step outside. Let’s say you get into your car, put the key in the ignition, and turn it. The engine begins to rumble. After a few minutes on the road you might arrive at an intersection, where you stop at a stop sign. You stop because you share an agreement with other drivers and pedestrians to follow the rules of the road and respect civic infrastructure. You may sometimes resent having to work within the boundaries of these kinds of restrictions, but in fact, such systems help direct your life in a positive way, by helping you get to where you want to go safely. I wouldn’t dismiss rules or laws as lying outside the nature of play. They are creative constructs that harness the nature of cause and effect that bring about specific results.
All day long you bump up against things, provoke, push, yield to, finesse, and flirt with the many possibilities you are able to perceive. Sometimes you fail to align your actions with your intentions, and other times you succeed. Sometimes you hurt people. Sometimes they hurt you. At times you have a glimmer of seeing the world as being unconditionally perfect. “Where do such experiences come from?” you might wonder, “and why do they come and go?” These were the type of questions the Buddha asked himself on his way to awakening from delusion. He relentlessly engaged in playful experimentation, until he played his way into grace. This is how he discovered the path of awakening.