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  • Writer's pictureallenbroadman

Clarity? What's that?

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

What is clarity and what does finding it look like?

In the spirit of “finding clarity” let’s try to see what “clarity” might mean, and what “finding” it might involve. To start, we should try to take the perspective that there are no definitive answers to such questions, we’re dealing with the limitations of language and labels, which can’t map perfectly to experience. And they are inherently vague, holding ranges of meaning for different people across various cultures and times. But let’s give it a shot.

We think the world is a certain way, but it’s not actually that way. That’s one place to start. For example, we think our mom likes our sister better than she likes us – maybe so, but maybe not. Maybe sometimes she does and at other times she doesn’t. Maybe she doesn’t know herself who she likes better. Maybe she likes our sister and us equally and we just have a distorted sense of the situation, which might go back far into our childhood. The possibilities are endless for how our concepts about how things are can be mistaken, ranging from slightly off to totally whacked out, even hallucinatory. And the different subjects about which we can be mistaken are limitless also and include ones like other people’s intentions and what they think or feel, incidents and events that have happened outside our direct experience, and even the meaning of our own thoughts and feelings. This poor mapping, from what we believe about reality to what’s actually the situation, is a lack of clarity.

Dirty Windows

In the best case, a lack of clarity is something like looking through a dirty window at a scene outside, and the dirt interferes with the accuracy of our vision. But in worse cases, it’s like looking at a scene through a prism or through misshapen lenses, which are twisting the view. We also sometimes lose clarity because our fixed, mistaken concepts and ideas work like filters, so that one thing we encounter changes into another in our perception, or something is added to our perception or interpretation that’s not actually there, or huge parts of what is there are blurry or get completely missed and edited out.

So, if that’s one way to understand things being unclear, what’s clarity? Well in that perspective, it’s just seeing things closely to as they are. It’s the absence of the lenses and filters and dirty windows that are obstructing our ability to just take in what’s happening without distorting, removing, or adding on. The more we let go of our conditioned thinking and feeling, the more we can be open to what is.

Can we find it?

If that’s a working definition for clarity, what about finding it? Do we find a clarity that’s already there, or do we create a clarity that wasn’t there before? One Zen perspective is that our awake mind, in its simple but mysterious awakeness, is aware of all that’s happening directly, in the least distorted way possible. In that sense, clarity is already here, available to everyone, and it’s a matter of working to reduce and remove the obstacles to experiencing what is in the most direct way possible. I’m saying “least distorted” because, in an ultimate sense, it’s not possible to “perfectly” experience reality, whatever "reality" might be.

We have eyes that see only a tiny range of what could be visible, ears that hear only a tiny range of what could be heard, and it’s the same for all the other senses. Having this human body limits how much we can take in of the universe. We cannot take in the very small or the very large, the very close or the very distant, the extremely hot or extremely cold, etc. This human body and its senses just cannot function in that way. But what is available to us all, is the letting go of all the thoughts and concepts that interfere with direct experience, that get in the way of clear perceptions and understanding. We can get closer and closer to just the direct experience of what is, within the limits of this human body we’ve been born into.

I could go on and on, but this is a blog and I’ll feel lucky if you stayed with me this long! I hope this has inspired some questioning for you, about what clarity might mean and how it might be found.


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