The Myth of the Magic Bullet and Short and Long Term Fixing
The myth of the magic bullet and the myth of being fixed comes up quite a bit for some on the spiritual path. It’s easy to get into a particularly delusional way of looking at reality when these two myths are placed together.
The magic bullet myth is the idea that there is one teaching, one method, one practice or one moment in time that, by itself, can eradicate everything negative in one’s life. There is no magic bullet. Those who have realized the deepest freedom and peace in their lives did not stumble upon something that would help a self no longer think or feel something. If anything, they saw the illusory nature of that self who would even look for a magic bullet.
If you notice, the idea of a self is tied directly into the idea of time. If I am looking for a magic bullet, I am looking for some way to eradicate “me,” – that story of psychological time in my head with a past and a future. The notion of a magic bullet is a notion that the self carries, in its hope for something to eradicate itself. The closest thing to a magic bullet is to recognize the arising of this self in the moment and see it for what it is – a temporary thought here, a temporary emotion or sensation there (no inherent self is there). If you look from a direct observing presence, what you are seeing is that thought, then that emotion or sensation, and then another thought that says, “I wish there was a way to eradicate those earlier arisings so that they don’t happen again.” That’s all that is happening. Arising A, Arising B, and then Arising C that makes a comment about the first two arisings. The third arising, which is a thought about wanting a magic bullet, is just another thought about a self. It’s no better or worse or more or less enlightened than any other thought. Most seeking comes from wishful thought that someday, somehow the self will stumble upon a magic bullet that will stop all arisings. Even if you look in one moment and see that there is no self there, that there is only a thought connected to an emotion or sensation (which then falls away), that is not insurance against similar arisings happening later. In the very next moment, more arisings may happen and there is either a belief in a self or not. There is either a seeing or not in that new moment. Whatever you saw in some previous moment is dead at that point. It’s a memory. No past recognition can help you in the current moment. Every moment is fresh and new. A new opportunity to look. To say that you have realized that there is no self in some past moment or found a magic bullet and that somehow that seeing can stick with you forever is still a belief in a self in time. It’s the attempt to carry over something in time. “Forever” is the story of time.
Looking for a magic bullet or believing that you have found one is a thought that presumes a self that lives in time who needs to be fixed. This brings us to the concept of fixing, both short and long term fixing.
Fixing ourselves is based on an unexamined assumption, again, that there is a self that lives in time in the head. It doesn’t matter whether we place our bets on a long or short term fix. We are still thinking of ourselves as selves that live in time, either way. Fixing is trying to procure some sort of insurance against the future arising of, mostly, negative thoughts and feelings. It’s like trying to predict or control the future. Imagine trying to procure insurance against any rain falling or any hurricanes hitting the east coast of the United States. Nobody in their right mind would seek such insurance because life is uncontrollable and unpredictable. It is in constant flux. When we are looking for a fix, we are acting out of fear. We fear the future arisings so we frantically look for something that will fix that self that sees itself as a story of time, with a past and future.
The very idea of wanting a fix is a rejection of our present experience. We notice what is arising now, maybe pain, anger, sadness, guilt or fear. We then believe we are selves who are broken and need to be fixed. The moment we think this way, we look for either a short or long term fix. Instead of resting with what is, noticing that everything that is being experienced is a temporary arising coming and going within a space that remains unchanged, we want to move beyond what is to try and fix what is. There is no such thing as a fix. That’s as illusory as the magic bullet. “Short term fix” and “long term fix” are both concepts of time, of selves. The very notion of wanting our present experience to be different is a seeking for future. And that seeking comes from the idea of a self that is broken. Examine that self as it arises, without looking for a short or long term fix. When you see that there is no self there that is broken, that is not insurance from believing in a broken self in the future. The future is another arising thought. Just look again, if it arises. There is no insurance. There is no fix. Those are self-concepts.
It is true that such a moment by moment examination of our present experience decreases suffering gradually or, in some cases, can bring about powerful experiences that reduce or eliminate suffering. But the reduction or elimination of suffering comes from the moment by moment seeing, not the belief in a self that has found a magic bullet or a short or long term fix. Those latter concepts will most likely just bring more suffering because they involve measuring ourselves in time, in story, which almost always produces more seeking as it is seen that fixes aren’t real. There is nothing to hold onto. Nothing to find. No moment in time saves you from another moment in time. No thought saves you from other thoughts. Examine the self notion as it arises, including the notion of a self that is broken, that needs a short or long term fix and a self that is looking for or has found a magic bullet. It’s the belief in a self any way you slice it.