NOTE: This was written January 11, 2013, in the style of a personal journal entry. As such, it is not a counter-apologetic statement. It is a personal statement reflecting my journey and state of mind at that time. I reserve the right to continue my journey, and change my state of mind!
I was born just 47 years ago, and have learned a little bit about myself since then.
The more in harmony and at peace are those around me, the happier am I. When conflict arises, I am just not okay with it. The bigger the conflict, the more out of sync with it I become until I am just done with it. If practical and possible, I retreat; just walk away – – “who needs this? Not me.”
If being passive isn’t practical, I become aggressive. I crusade against the conflict, I work hard to minimize or heal it. I meditate, I letter-write, I blog about it. Whatever works to communicate to myself and my world that The Conflict is NOT me, not mine.
I have in my personality a generous helping of “peacemaker.” I’d much rather harmonize than wage the aggressive war of creating the original tune, the original message. Creating is bold, risky, primal war with the already-here in order to bring forth the not-yet. Talk about conflict!
It’s much more like me to want to see the new (or classic or popular) creation, and harmonize with it, or fit it harmoniously in with all the rest of creation. You write the words, the chords, the melody; I’ll add the bass line, a touch of harmony, and record the song.
In high school they made us take career interest surveys. One personality-based survey told me my best fit for a career was “conservator. ” After I looked it up, I disagreed with the image of myself walking around my museums and libraries, seeing that everything is just so, and logically ordered. I retreated to my preferred career choice– filmmaker, wishing (as if it would make it so) I could follow in the footsteps of Kubrick, Spielberg, and Coppola.
Thirty years of walking around my mental museums and libraries later, I still haven’t made peace with myself. I still value my own cinematic opinions all out of proportion to my actual experience creating cinema. Same with music, painting, and literature.
I am a Conservator of my own illusions about myself.
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I am a spiritual person. For a time, I embraced religion, but now I reject it. I am a philosophical person and mostly live in my head, in the theoretical library I’ve been mentally shaping since I was a kid. I have always discussed with my peers and friends the validity and value of the beliefs, customs, and institutions in which I found myself: Dogs vs cats, and God vs none (as a grade-school philosopher, with my best friend, the son of the conservator of my local natural history museum). As a teenage sophist, I questioned the public school system of my country, the United States. As a twenty-something educator, I questioned the actions and values of my country itself.
As a teen, I quit the Catholic Church in which I was raised. It had no relevance to anything in my life. By twenty years of age, I was accepting the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The first teaching I accepted is the one I didn’t subsequently reject in my post-SDA life: “All is not as it seems to be with the Christian religion.” I leave it to the reader to guess (or research) how the SDA church corrects what it sees as the errors of Catholicism, and Protestantism. Suffice it to say: twenty years after joining the SDA Church, I left it, after applying the same theory to it that it taught me to apply to all other religions (excepting itself, of course): what if all is not as it seems?
My current foray into the study of Buddhist teachings and how they intersect with psychology, psychedelic experiences, and science in general, began with me discovering how invested Buddhism is with the concepts of self-understanding and peace-making. These are concepts about which I care a great deal.
Aldous Huxley’s last novel, Island, introduced me to Buddhist ideas from the perspective of Western civilization. H. H. The Dalai Lama’s book How to See Yourself as You Really Are gave me an eastern perspective on Buddhism translated into my language. The Psychedelic Experience by Tim Leary, et. al, a translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, includes a commentary on Eastern psychology’s advantages over the more self-limited Western psychological schools of thought (as well as a manual for how to substitute psychedelic substances for Buddhist meditation in the pursuit of enlightenment). Leary & Co concluded that Eastern psychology was a much more matured and advanced science because they didn’t separate from it the spiritual and practical moral reality of life. Kind of a mind-blowing idea.
The ideas which so for have impacted me include the following:
- From The Psychedelic Experience: “The Bardo Thodol is in the highest degree psychological in its outlook; but, with us, philosophy and theology are still in the medieval, pre-psychological stage where only the assertions are listened to, explained, defended, criticized and disputed, while the authority that makes them has, by general consent, been deposed as outside the scope of discussion. Metaphysical assertions, however, are statements of the psyche and are therefore psychological. To the Western mind, which compensates its well-known feelings of resentment by a slavish regard for ‘rational’ explanations, this obvious truth seems all too obvious, or else it is seen as an inadmissible negation of metaphysical ‘truth.’ Whenever the Westerner hears the word ‘psychological,’ it always sounds to him like ‘only psychological’.”
- Island: If I only knew who in fact I am, I should cease to behave as what I think I am; and if I stopped behaving as what I think I am, I should know who I am.
- How to See Yourself as You Really Are: Science and technology have contributed immensely to the overall development of humankind, to our material comfort and well-being as well as to our understanding of the world we live in. But if we put too much emphasis on these endeavors, we are in danger of losing those aspects of human knowledge that contribute to the development of an honest and altruistic personality. Science and technology cannot replace the age-old spiritual values that have been largely responsible for the true progress of world civilization as we know it today.
- All things are impermanent. If you really ponder that truth, it’s not just self-evident in the most obvious ways (such as the constant change we all experience as we age, or the decay and death we recognize as facts of life); it’s true when seen through the empirical lenses of science (such as physics and chemistry proving that all matter, including that which makes up you and me, is – – at its elemental level – – composed much more of the space between atomic structures than the structures themselves. We appear solid but are really more empty than solid.
- The Quantum Activist: when electrons shift orbital positions, they do so without traveling the space between them; essentially, they travel faster than light/ instantaneously
- Things appear permanent and stable, but really everything is in
motion not just at the atomic level which was current knowledge in the 1980s when they taught us about protons, electrons, and the forces binding them together in their tiny orbits. But motion is evident above and below that level, and that motion likely will continue to be detected as the precision and reach of scientific instruments continuously improves. Things are not as they appear, and that includes these words that I’m writing and you are reading, and the appearance of every object you can find when you lift your eyes from these words and observe your world. It includes what you think you see in the mirror, or in your own mind when you consider who you are.
- These facts of science lend credibility to the assertion of Buddhism that all living beings, all sentient beings, have more in common than we have separating us. All members of the human race are so connected to each other in so many obvious and many more subtle ways that it is a shame that most of us waste so much energy promoting the terrible fantasy that some of us are better than others, or more deserving of care than others, or more inherently valuable than the rest of the members of the human family.
- And flowing from such terrible fantasies is the continuous stream of ignorance, racism, poverty, violence, greed, war, and corruption which still plague us here at home on Planet Earth.
- Those who wish to better themselves and their fellow human beings will seek to dispel such fantasy-illusions in themselves and see themselves as they really are.
- “Reality” is more about love and compassion and spiritual growth than what it usually is taken for, as in the “real world” where you supposedly gotta be selfish and fearful and competitive and harsh toward your enemies in order to survive.