When I played basketball with my dad, who was good at basketball, I knew he was letting me shoot when he could've blocked my shot, letting me dribble when he could've stolen it, etc. But around age 16, this stopped being fun. I wanted to compete against my dad's best game. Somewhere between 16 and 18, I got into a verbal fight with my dad about this problem. I must've been winning, and I said, "Dad, you're not trying your hardest! You don't have to let me win anymore!" But he insisted he was trying his hardest. My paranoia was the result of his (earlier) "faking it."
To explain my spiritual/psychological hang-up, I can use a situation like this. I am like the person who begins to pretend, for the sake of social smoothness, that I am something I'm not. But unlike my dad, who always knew whether he was faking it or playing his hardest, I play my fake game for so long that I literally forget that I'm faking it. [Side-thought: I wonder if there are any women who have gotten so good at faking orgasms that they begin thinking that they're having orgasms, and would answer "yes" if asked by a lie-detector, "are you having orgasms?" -- but who really aren't having orgasms.]
And I suspect I'm not alone. Yesterday, I mentioned that I feel bad about the fact that I respond to people who have "power" over me by smiling and nodding and being agreeable. That's my fake game. But I also think maybe the "game" I play with (say) my wife, is a kind of faking it. It feels real, in contrast to how I behave with (say) my boss... but I wonder.
This is Buddhism. And maybe it's "the kingdom of heaven." It's who you would be if there was no one to please, or who you would be if everyone were pleased by what you were. And this is paradoxical, of course.
In my imagination, "enlightenment" and "salvation" happen as moments in this life -- and they repeat. I'm not sure I agree with the Calvinists about the doctrine of "Perseverance of the Saints." I'm not sure I believe that there's such a thing as "total" enlightenment. When this experience comes, it comes by way of letting go -- letting go of the games you're playing, of all of them, all at once. And the reason it's a "salvation" of a kind is that in that experience, you realize that other beings will always be having that experience, that experience of "dropping it." What's left, of course, is no-self. Is nothing. But there's a communion in the realization of that, I think.
Anyway, when you have that experience of no-self, time keeps ticking. Reality keeps happening. It can only last a few minutes, or at most, a few days. Then, somebody starts urging you to "act normal," and although you find that confusing at first, they give you clues. You start behaving the way they expect you to behave (which is very similar to the way you were behaving before the salvation/enlightenment experience). In other words, having dropped the games, you discover almost immediately that it's more fun to start playing the games again than it is to just stand there with your nothingness.
And it's this, being lured back into "Maya," that keeps you out of the asylum. And that illusion lasts again until you realize that the Self is a collective projection. There's no "Self," no "me," only what all of you expect of me, and a willingness to participate in and as that.
So if I have a spiritual/psychological hang-up, it's in forgetting that Maya is Maya. But if I realize that, if I really am aware that that's my "thing," then maybe it's not a problem at all. What would you like to see me be? Just more of this? Don't you get bored? Always getting what's expected?
The next time you see somebody completely dazed-looking who claims to be bewildered by the pronouns "You" and "I," think carefully about how you participate in reconstructing him or her. Especially if he looks like "me."