Signals before the snap? A chord progression?
No- it’s a definition of the material context. If you’re reading this you’re probably a human being- within the material context. Thus, we can consider Four Three Four Four to be the human context, our context for spiritual growth.
Four– old age, disease, death, and birth.
Three– refers to disturbances from others (whether mosquitoes, neighbors, or government representatives, to name a few possibilities), natural disturbances, and disturbances from our own body and mind.
Four– This refers to intrinsic shortcomings of human nature. These include inherent limitations, and the tendencies to be in illusion, to make mistakes, and to cheat.
All of the readers (perhaps even the author?) of this article have cheated in various ways. For example, we’ve all stolen (yes, “we” includes you). And consider scenarios such as the customer thinking “I’m getting this for so little”, while the seller is thinking “I’m selling him rubbish and making such a profit.”
It’s dark and shadowy. Just a few feet in front of me, it’s a snake! No. It’s just a piece of rope. That’s illusion. Also it’s a form of illusion to confuse the body with the self. If I’m thinking “I am white”, I am black”, “I am fat”, “I am thin”, “I am American”, “I am German”- these are all indicative of our tendency to be in illusion, removed from spiritual growth. Our actual identity is no more connected to these bodily designations than it is to designations related to the car we drive- e.g., “I am four-door”, “I am two-door”, “I’m a mid-size Japanese SUV”. Metaphorically, we are the driver of the car. It’s easy to slip into illusion about the very nature of who we are, without even knowing that we’ve done so. As Soren Kierkegaard stated “The greatest danger, that of losing one’s own self, may pass off quietly as if it were nothing; every other loss, that of an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc., is sure to be noticed.”
To err is human. Pressing that “send” button too quickly, lack of discretion with that aggressive investment, a foolhardy romantic adventure- we can make a long list of varieties of mistakes. The same is true for limitations. We can’t see what’s happening directly behind us, or hear frequencies beyond a certain range.
Four– Eating, sleeping, mating and defending. These propensities are common to all living entities within the material context. Some may eat off the ground, and others in an upscale restaurant. Some may defend with claws, others with thermonuclear devices, or sophisticated rationalizations.
Resisting the human context is the source of much suffering and against spiritual growth. Naturally we may endeavor to delay, reduce, or alleviate consequences and symptoms of these fifteen elements. That’s different than resisting the fact that they are inherent to our existence. For example, we of course make efforts to decrease the frequency and severity of our mistakes. Resisting the reality that mistakes are inherent to human nature, though, can result in unnecessary shame and guilt, or hurt, resentment and hostility. Naturally we strive for healthy living to minimize the occurrence and effects of disease and old age. Denying their inevitable reality, however, might be the cause of excessive anxiety, or debilitating depression, and hindering our spiritual growth.
How are we responding to the human context? Are we trying to avoid it, to escape the pain of it? To what extent are we consciously responding to its various features with a sense of purpose? Embracing the fifteen factors as integral to the human experience opens the possibility of utilizing the material condition in the service of self-awareness, of realization that we’re the driver of the car,
supporting our spiritual growth. We get to consider how the material context provides a complete arrangement for our process of spiritual growth.
Endeavors to achieve fulfillment, contentment and security within the material context are ultimately futile. We’re eternal beings, and can’t be satisfied with temporary gratifications, any more than a fish can be happy outside of water, whatever amenities the land may offer. Four Three Four Four affects only the material aspect of the human being. Cultivating genuine (as opposed to pretentious) spiritual consciousness, spiritual growth, allows us to transcend miseries inherent to the material condition, and be like the lotus, in the water, though untouched by it. This lotuslike state of being is the foundation for enduring happiness and well-being, not dependent on the fluctuations of the fifteen components of the material context.