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善度四旬期:愛勝過死亡

(本文轉載自默禱微信群組,翻譯自文之光神父的四旬期反省(2020年四旬期第五週星期二反省))


說明:文神父英文詩意,翻譯不易。但靈修也並不強調完全理解,若不能理解,不必糾結,感受即可。畢竟,真理是簡單的。祝福大家善度四旬期,與主同行。歡迎轉發分享。

我們的記憶儲存在哪兒?唯物主義者的回覆是,長期記憶儲存在大腦的海馬迴,而像我昨天吃了什麼晚餐的短期記憶,則儲存在大腦新皮層內。一個較微妙的回覆,把心靈層面視為真實(不僅只屬大腦的無意識活動),是所有記憶皆儲存在較深層的意識之中。我們最近進行了一次跨宗教的默觀對談,當中佛教代表Alan Wallace說,既然我們認為計算機的記憶並不儲存在鍵盤內,那為什麼我們認為大腦使我們有意識?

我一位年邁的女長輩患有老年痴呆症十年,根本無法與人溝通。她的女兒們決定告訴母親其丈夫——即她們的父親——已經去世,儘管她們知道母親將不會知悉且沒有反應。當她們向母親告知有關消息時,她依舊含糊不清地說一些沒意思的話,但其後,淚水划過她的臉頰。這未必能為記憶提供一些科學印證;然而,這卻表明縱然大腦衰退,意識仍然幸存,就像已證實腦死但正接受醫療護理的病者,被發現仍存有意識一樣。

看到與我們一同生活和摯愛的人失去記憶,並離我們而去,是雖生猶死的經歷。我們一生觸碰到許多傷痛程度不一的死亡,但這一定是最沈痛的一種。然而,就算在這種情況下,縱使我們用以傳遞相互認同和關心的所有信號皆變得暗淡無光,我們仍能在意識深處聯繫起來。

深層記憶的持續存在——而愛是一種不斷被憶起和更新的記憶——不會否定死亡。在某種程度上,它使死亡更不可逆轉和令人懼怕。然而,它超越死亡,並突顯生命乃偉大的永恆。生命是無法消滅的。意識本身就是生命,記憶彰顯愛比死亡更為強大。

我們從人際關係學懂了這一點。偉大的靈修傳統亦然,它們透過延綿不絕的意識長河傳遞活生生的記憶,這記憶將我們連接至共同的發源地,同時又讓我們得以在各自的生命旅程中繼續邁進。對今天所有人來說,我們每人的生命旅程皆與新型冠狀病毒的威脅和恐懼緊扣。我們當中,部份人已經歷喪親之痛。這一切觸發我們對朽壞的身體及自己無法逆轉的驟變的認識。

然而,在這黑暗時期,因生活過度紛擾而被抑壓的集體記憶又重新被喚醒:有關生命的記憶,生命乃經歷一趟心靈之旅,以奧秘開始並終結,滿載難以言喻的痛苦和歡樂,卻又充滿奇蹟(wonder)。是奇蹟最終令我們得以擺脫恐懼。我們首先得面對真正的困境:就像此刻我們失去靈修路徑,缺乏意義之源,看不見隱藏於死亡陰霾下的生命之光。這些皆屬於存活在我們唯物主義和虛妄中的另一種「病毒」的徵狀。將之牢記在心,足以戰勝死亡和垂死的恐懼。



(英文原文)


Where is our memory stored? The materialist’s answer is in the hippocampus of the brain for long-term memories and the neocortex of the brain for what I had for dinner yesterday. A more subtle answer that takes the spiritual dimension for real (not just as an accident of the brain) would say that all memory is stored in the deeper level of consciousness. As our Buddhist dialogue partner in the recent inter-contemplative dialogues, Alan Wallace, said we don’t think that the memory of a computer is stored in the keyboard. Why should we think the brain makes us conscious?


An old aunt of mine suffered Alzheimers for ten years and could not communicate at all. Her daughters decided they would tell her that her husband, their father, had died although they knew she would be unaware and unresponsive. She continued to jabber meaninglessly as they told her, but then, tears rolled down her cheeks. That may not prove anything scientific about memory; but it suggests something about consciousness surviving the atrophy of the brain just as it has been shown to survive the clinical death of patients under medical care.


To see someone whom we have lived with and loved for a lifetime lose their memory and drift away from us is dying while alive. We pass through deaths at many levels of intensity in a lifetime, but this must be one of the worst. And yet, in this too, there is a substratum of consciousness that connects us, even when all the signals we exchange to show that we recognise and care for one another have flickered out.


The persistence of deep memory – and love is a kind of memory continuously remembered and renewed – does not negate death. In a way it makes death all the more final and terrible. Yet it transcends death and shows life as the great constant. Life is inextinguishable. Consciousness itself is life and memory shows love to be stronger than death.


Personal relationships teach us this. So do great spiritual traditions which are a transmission in a stream of consciousness of a living memory that connects us to our source while it carries us forward on our individual journey. For all of us today our individual journeys in life are connected by the threat and fear of the coronavirus. For some of us it has already meant the death of loved ones. For all it triggers the awareness of our mortality and the uncertainties of change we cannot control.


In such dark times, however, a collective memory, suppressed by hyper-distraction, becomes conscious again: the memory of life experienced as a spiritual journey beginning and ending in mystery, full of inexplicable pain and joy but full of wonder. It is wonder in the end that frees us from fear. We are first exposed to our real predicament: of not having a spiritual path in times like this, lacking a source of meaning, not seeing the spark of life hidden in the darkness of our deaths. All these are symptoms of another virus rampant in our materialism and delusion. To remember this is to beat the fear of death and dying.

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