The Interactive Newsletter You Never Asked For
WARNING: This letter contains rambling, twisting, seemingly discontinuous thought-paths. It may, and most likely will, require more than one reading. The subject matter is extremely self-serving, and for this indulgence the author has made every effort to make clear a distinctly murky set of concepts. It might be beneficial to don your mental work-out clothes at this time. The author extends his warmest regards for providing such a compelling reason to attempt this communiqué.
This is going to be a strange letter. You really surprised me with that comment about a particular late-night phone call back in ’88. What do you remember about it? What made you ask about it? Are you beginning to wish you’d never brought up the subject? It’s been a lot of fun working on this during breaks over the past week. (I’m scraping forty-eight years of paint and caulk off our home in preparation for a new exterior paint job.) Right now, I’m re-writing this to put a fresh spin on an over-worked essay.
Richard Bach has written a great many memorable lines, but the most relevant at this moment is:
You teach best what you most need to learn.
Sometimes it’s painful to realize just how true that saying can be. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to immerse myself in this subject matter again. I really needed a refresher course.
Most people don’t initiate this dialogue. Maybe it’s a desire to avoid Skocko’s rambling delusive monologues. (I do acknowledge the possibility that this is indeed a rambling delusive monologue, but there is also a chance that I am making sounds that have something in common with what’s really going on.) Maybe people don’t initiate this dialogue because they have little or no clear recollection, or, their recollections have been discolored to make them seem more unpalatable than they really are. It’s almost as if something were actually eliminating or distorting these experiences. (Contrast these thoughts with the term, “obviate” as described below.)
What really intrigues me, though, is your timing. Your unasked question is quite literally helping me to climb back onto a rather precarious perch—a very tenuous point of view that I fled from in order to finish my schooling. Early on I discovered that these thoughts made it very difficult to play the role of the exemplary student. Last year, these thoughts began “leaking” back into my conscious mind. I’m kind of proud that I actually finished the last two semesters. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done in a long time. (I’ve still got to put on an exhibition of my work in one of the university galleries in November, but that will be aided, not hindered by this perceptual reference frame.)
Back to your unasked question—probably something like, “Now that you’ve been straight for a while, what really happened back when you called me about finding stuff hiding in the dictionary?” (Is this over-simplified guess even close?) Well, on the off-chance that you considered me a drug-crazed, dildonic idiot (and I sure wouldn’t hold it against you if that were the case), I’ve gotta admit that being straight hasn’t diminished the memories a bit (that is, when I put the effort into remembering, and it takes considerable effort to overcome my own lingering doubts and fears). Sometimes I wonder if I’d still believe it all if I didn’t have all these notes to remind me. I know how bizarre and unlikely this story sounds, and I was there to witness it first-hand. Regardless, I still have the dictionary, and I continue to re-experience the sensations from time to time.
I liken the experience (back in ’88) to a wild ride that took me on ever-wilder twists and turns, leaving me gasping at the metamorphic story that unrolled before me. I just held on tight and fought to keep my eyes open. You know, though, I don’t have any idea at which point in the ride I called you, so, I don’t have any idea as to the specifics of what I said to you, but if it began with something like:
Gary, something strange is going on.
I gotta say that I believe that’s still true. Gary, something strange is going on.
At this point in the original letter I wrote:
“Coincidences” continue to spur me on. Right now, Crosby Stills and Nash are singing Southern Cross on the radio. A line in the chorus goes:
Spirits are using me / Larger voices calling
I believe that line is true (most likely in a metaphorical sense). C S & N probably wrote and sang it without really thinking about it. Kind of like the way we listen—without really thinking about it. Kind of like the way we live…
Immediately after I wrote, “Gary, something strange is going on,” a few minutes ago, Eric Clapton’s voice rang out on the radio:
How many times must we tell the tale?
How many times must we fall?
We’re living in a lost memory
I find a beautiful symmetry in that dual coincidence. Both songs have relevance to what is to follow in this letter.
You ever play “what if?”? It’s pretty easy. It’s an exercise to stretch the muscles of the mind. In this case, I say, “What if, blah blah?” and you purposefully suspend your disbelief in order to consider what it would mean if “blah blah” were true. This doesn’t mean that you actually believe it, but you imagine what it would mean if “blah blah” were true. Does that make sense? Do you want to play? Since the rest of this letter depends on you wanting to play, set it aside now if you don’t feel particularly imaginative at the moment.)
—– —– —–
Okay, what if I actually did stumble upon another layer of communication—a layer that is hard-wired directly into the human experience—built right into our myths, our metaphors, and our language? What if realizing this enabled me to peel back one of the veils that hinders perception? What if this layer of communication is endemic to creative efforts like music (especially music), literature, movies, and even some advertisements, for god’s sake? What if it actually were for God’s sake? What if I could hand you a metaphor and an explanation which could enable you to get a feel for the experience without disrupting your life? What if this could help you better understand some of the madness that plagues the human race? What if this layer of communication sought to reach into us and awaken the hero within—the benevolent, loving being that lurks just below the conscious level in most of us, most of the time?
Are you able to imagine that any of this is possible? I hope so, because this is going to be the hardest what if: What if everything thus far proposed is so blatantly obvious that it is virtually impossible to believe—virtually impossible to avoid once you have encountered it—and therefore, virtually impossible to acknowledge—simply because we have been programmed not to believe our own perceptions when an incongruity is revealed to be so blatantly obvious. After all, if it’s so bleedin’ obvious, why then is it not apparent to everybody else? How could an ordinary Joe like you or me figure out something that’s supposedly so clear once glimpsed, but nobody else is claiming to see it?
Sound confusing? Sound crazy? Yeah, well it’s easy to dismiss all this as nonsense, unless of course, you have enough trust in me to at least try and resist that reflex. (That was a shameless effort at guilt-tripping you into trying. Sorry.)
British biologist, Lyall Watson:
The paradox has been apparent for some time, but it seems to be one of those things that looms so large and are so blatantly obvious that they are difficult to see.
Does that sound strange to you? How can something loom so large and be so blatantly obvious that it becomes difficult to see? Would it surprise you if this were not only a common theme for many serious thinkers, but that an answer, of sorts, may be found in the dictionary?
Obviam is the Latin word from which both obviate and obvious spring. Everyone knows what obvious means, right? But do you know what it used to mean?
One of the unexpected things I found in the dictionary is that words have meanings that change over time. How about the saying:
The meek shall inherit the Earth.
That’s an old saying, right? So what does meek mean? How about:
Easily imposed upon; submissive; spineless.
That’s one of the definitions. Maybe we should change that saying to:
The girlie-men shall inherit the Earth.
Hanz and Franz would be so disgusted. But the dictionary also lists an archaic definition for meek:
I don’t think that kind and gentle means the same as submissive and spineless, do you? In fact, I think kind and gentle is closer to benevolent and loving—traits I claim are those of the hero within.
Back to obvious. The archaic definition is:
Standing in the way or in front.
To prevent or dispose of effectively; anticipate so as to render unnecessary.
The Latin root word from which they both spring, obviam, means:
In the way.
What I want to know is:
In the way of what?
These conflicts arise again and again in examples I’d be happy to show you if asked. You know, it doesn’t take a genius (or even a paranoid) to begin to wonder if this might represent some sort of grand design—a reason that begins to explain why we may be predisposed to overlook—to not even perceive—those blatantly obvious answers to some of life’s great questions. What filters our perceptions? What is able to obviate the obvious? Examine the definition of obviate again. Think about what that means:
To prevent or dispose of effectively; anticipate so as to render unnecessary.
What do those transitive verbs infer? Prevent… anticipate… render. And don’t forget the definition of that root word…
Remember, I’m not asking you to believe any of this, just to imagine what it would it mean if…
Okay, since I asked you to play “what if,” I’ll play too.
What if Gary is not bored to tears? (Boring one’s audience is the worst crime an artist can commit.) What if Gary’s curiosity has been aroused to some extent? I promised him a metaphor and an explanation. Here it is, in the shape of a song (along with a translation). The meat of the metaphor is in the last line:
Row, row, row your boat <put some effort into your life>
Gently down the stream <as you drift along the time-line>
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily <don’t worry, be happy>
Life is but a dream sleepwalking anyway>
Our hemp-growing founding fathers were a bunch of rowdy fraternity brothers too. Their house was called the Freemasons. I’m not sure if they knew that their house was once part of a mystical organization—one that certainly doesn’t exist in today’s social lodge—but those rowdy frat boys had a plan. Check out the back of a dollar bill for the major details.
The metaphor I gave you likened life to a dream—said it is a dream. The Freemasons tell a story with a similar theme. Their story indicates that we are all dreaming—that we are all sleepwalkers who have forgotten something vital. Their story includes you and me and all those other idiots driving down life’s highway, blissfully unaware that our blinkers have been flashing for the last hundred miles.
It seems like a dream / Has got me hypnotized
It seems like a dream / Has got you hypnotized
—Fleetwood Mac / Hypnotized
The Freemason’s story? Get this: (simplified for brevity) There once was an entity. Let’s call the entity, God. God existed in the Realm of Permanence and journeyed through The Eternal Order of Progression (a series of tests). The entity encountered The Test of the Sexes. Now, this was an unusual test. It asked God to exit The Realm of Permanence and enter the perceptually challenging maze within the Space-Time Continuum. Here, besides encountering the strange spatial and temporal distortions of What Is, the entity discovered itself split into two distinct sub-selves. (And as I type the period after sub-selves, the KFOG DJ comments on how many songs have come out recently with God as their central theme. She says,”And you do need to listen carefully to the lyrics to try and determine the true meaning in these songs. They’re not just spouting dogma.”)
Anyway, the two distinct sub-selves (you know, Adam and Eve) become confused by the perceptual distortions of space, time, and separateness, and find that they have somehow failed the test. Something about this failure led to such sorrow and shame that it/him-her/they found a way to bury the memory. The story says that they hypnotized themselves and commanded each other to forget it ever happened. It/him-her/they entered a dream-state, sleepwalking through the remainder of their lives, through death, back into life, on and on, through each incarnation. We are the scattered remnants of it/him-her/they. We are under the same post-hypnotic suggestion:
Sleep… Dream… Forget… Sleep… Dream… Forget… Sleep…
No need to put me under / Cause I’m already under a spell
The only thing I still wonder / Is if I did it all by myself
—Danny Tate / Dreaming
This spell would seem to explain the perceptual blinders we seem to be wearing. It/him-her/they/we are actually programmed to be afraid of breaking the spell, but it’s up to us to face down this fear. We’re challenged to break the spell, remember, confront the root of our sorrow and shame, right the wrong, become One again, and return to The Realm of Permanence victorious. (Like I said, this is illustrated symbolically on the back of any dollar bill—and yes, you might find some mighty interesting details by looking up some of those strange words you will find there. Annuit Coeptis, Gary! E Pluribus Unim! Novus Ordo Seclorum!
Wake-up! Wake-up! Wake-up and look around you
We’re lost in space / And the time is our own
—Steve Miller / Serenade
I’ll try to keep my examples to a minimum, but this doesn’t sound like such a far-fetched myth/metaphor/memoir when you look around with your eyes wide open.
Have I been blind? / Have I been lost?
Inside myself and my own mind
Hypnotized / Mesmerized / By what my eyes have seen
Have I been wrong? / Have I been wise?
To shut my eyes and play along
Hypnotized / Paralyzed / By what my eyes have found
—Natalie Merchant / Carnival
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave says that we are not seeing by the light of the true day, but rather living in a cave, with a small fire providing the only light. He says that we stand with our back to the fire, watching our shadows flicker along the wall, thinking those shadows are reality. Hindus claim the world we perceive is only “maya”—an illusion. Sufi beliefs hold that we are merely sleeping in life’s waiting room. The Koran puts it succinctly: “Men are asleep. Must they die before they awake?” Yoda pokes Luke Skywalker with a stick and says:
Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.
The Bible is full of like stories, but my favorite is what God does when He kicks Adam and Eve out of Eden: He gives them animal skins to wear.
If we are truly luminous beings, take a look in the mirror and guess what the “animal skins” are.
I can eliminate a whole bunch of other quotations by letting you listen in on an exchange between two characters in Earth, by David Brin:
Who was it that said life’s just an illusion anyway?
Only every transcendental philosopher in history.
Oh yeah, him. It was on the tip of my tongue.
A more patriarchal perspective is provided in Unknown Man, by Yatri:
Adam and the Prodigal Son are both archetypal figures who appear in cultures throughout the world. There are many stories that intertwine these two figures like the Egyptian Atum, the Mesopotamian Adapa, Tammuz of the Semites, Adonis of the Greeks and Odin of the Norsemen.
The essential story is of a richly endowed hero, like the Syrian prince in the “Hymn of the Soul,” who leaves the innocence of his paradise home and enters the world to recover a precious pearl. This pearl (his soul) is guarded by an evil serpent. But in the course of his travels the prince squanders his fortune in debauchery, forgets his family, who he is, and the nature of his quest. It is only when his parents send him a letter reminding him of his heritage and his mission that he awakens, recovers the pearl and returns home enriched.
If God had a face / What would it look like?
And would you want to see / If seeing meant that you would have to believe?
What if God was one of us? / Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus / Trying to make His way home
Just trying to make His way home / Like a Holy rolling stone
—Joan Osborne / One of Us
Gary, there’s so much more to this story, but something new seems to be going on—or should I say, going wrong. There’s an urgency that’s not spelled out in the tales of day’s gone by. That is, except in all the prophecies about our time. Okay, okay, I promise I’ll just give you a single example…
Around 500 BC, Gautama, the Buddha, told his disciples that The Great Wheel of the Dhamma would be set in motion after the passage of twenty-five centuries. Then, it was said, a new phase of consciousness would arise on the planet.
Wouldn’t you say that something like waking-up would qualify as a new phase of consciousness?
This is the story of how we begin to remember
This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein
—Paul Simon / Under African Skies
Oh yeah, you know that Gautama guy, the one we call Buddha? It turns out that Buddha is a Sanskrit word that means awakened, past participle of bodhati, “he awakes, becomes aware.” This may be a pretty obvious question, but I still gotta ask it: If he’s called, “awakened,” just what did he awaken from?
There are hundreds of songs that echo this story and tell so much more, but I just ran across one of the weirdest sources for this message…
Lost in the Garden of Eden
Yeah we’re lost in the Garden of Eden
And there’s no one gonna believe this
But we’re lost in the Garden of Eden
Would you believe Guns and Roses? Gary, does any of this leave you scratching your head? Does it begin to look like there’s something to all this? And yes, it really would help to know if this just sounds like a bunch of delusive rambling. But, whatever the case, thanks for helping me to put this into words.
Hi to Nancy and Jonathan and Nicholas.