Esteemed Reader: Knowing What to Ignore | April 2022 | Esteemed Reader | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Esteemed Reader: Knowing What to Ignore | April 2022 

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The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore.
—Rumi

In Dante’s Inferno, the ninth and deepest circle of hell is not fiery. Dante’s hell is frozen, so cold and inert that nothing moves. It is a realm of inexorable habit and inertia. All the prisoners of this environment are fully encased in ice. The hell that Dante describes is characterized by the absence of freedom.

Convicts in this ultimate circle of hell are guilty of crimes of treachery. They include Ptolemy, infamous for murdering invited guests. His crime is considered greater than fratricide or patricide because betraying a relationship willingly entered is more serious than betraying a relationship born into.

The icebound image gains potency in consideration of the worlds the Christian tradition plots on the spectrum of hell to paradise as a simultaneous reality here and now. In this latter model, we see the gamuts of the spectrum as concentric worlds which beings inhabit in a manner precisely corresponding to their level of being and the frequency of consciousness the substance of that being conducts.

Dante describes nine levels in hell, purgatory, and paradise—27 in all. While Christianity tends to view these domains as afterlife punishments and rewards, for practical consideration, we can view them as frequencies of consciousness to which a being becomes attuned by oscillating at a corresponding vibration here and now. As only verification in experience gives a theory or mental model any value, we are invited to observe these states in ourselves.

Hell is a state of delusion with the corresponding negative emotions. This is a condition of fixation on fantastic or imagined threats and dangers. A true taste of delusion can be had by placing attention on any of the readily available news, entertainment, or social media channels for a few moments. This industry glorifies the meaningless and destructive, the banal and petty, the greedy and vicious, as though crime is the reality of the world. And it is, in the world of hell. When we allow our inner life to be occupied with the vibratory frequency of this world, we inevitably serve as instruments for that signal.

In Dante’s third circle of hell, the prisoners are swimming in, eating, and spouting shit. This is a good picture of one who is inwardly occupied with the outputs of conventional education and professional media.

Purgatory is a more benign place, characterized by absent-minded dreaminess. It is the realm of “going with the flow” in which attention is passive. There is nothing inherently destructive in this state, which is akin to a kind of waking sleep. The danger is that the passivity of attention makes one vulnerable to be captured by fears and fixations on imagined threats that are either invisible or situated in some distant place or time.

The threshold to the realm that could be called paradise is in becoming conscious of and free of identification with the contents of our inner life. This means separating the immediate and real from delusions and fantasies. It means inhabiting our own nature with natural wakefulness, allowing our deeper nature to make contact with the natural world.

To cross this threshold to paradise requires, as Rumi intoned in the 13th century, knowing what to ignore. The corollary is knowing what to put one’s attention on.

Most everyone can recognize the state of natural receptivity and joy that arises spontaneously on a walk in the woods. Here we can allow our nature to make contact with nature. This is the beginning of conducting the frequency of paradise, and it is not limited to a walk in the woods. It is available here and now, always and everywhere.

We are taught and told that the world is in peril, that crime is rife, that massive and destructive forces are at work. For most (though not all) direct experience does not support this position. Experience shows that human beings are naturally decent, sensible, and good-natured. We are told that the planet is in peril and become so fixated on this imminent catastrophe that we forget to notice that it is a place of extraordinary deliciousness, a paradise.

The movement between worlds is a subtle but palpable shift that depends upon where attention alights. Where attention is, there we are also. So we are faced with a question: Can I begin to ignore the unreal and seek out the real? Can I choose not to be occupied with negative delusion and instead be a vector of awareness, grace, and joy? Can I attune the frequency of my being to the paradise that is always, already here?

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