The Play-as-Being book group is finishing up its reading of 21 Lessons for the 21st Century today. It’s been an interesting ride, but as I write this, I have the feeling that the book is already outdated. Which is scary, because I don’t think enough people are thinking yet about the range of questions he brings to the fore. The only thing I feel sure of (inasmuch as I feel sure of anything), is that he ends the book in the right place, with what individuals can do.
I’m a big big fan of the ‘free will or no free will’ question and discussions that come up around that question within both science and contemplative circles. Free Will belongs to a self that doesn’t exist in the ways our systems tend to program toward, so Harari’s angle is a technological one, drawing attention to the role algorithms have in our lives already, then imagining the directions they are heading in. Importantly noting that they are not heading in these directions on their own, but at the direction of ever more consolidated powers.
He touches on but doesn’t fully address (how could anyone?!) the role of the unexpected in all this. Would any of us have imagined the scenarios we’re in right now, a decade ago? At any second, massive changes can and will occur.
So what CAN individuals do?Harari says, “Get to know yourself as well as ‘they’ do.”
You can tell by my posts perhaps, that this is what I’m working on: meditating more, leaning on and relearning what ‘intuition’ is in light of changes in complexity as a person, but also as a person within a family and friend network, as a member of larger society in my country, and within the world/cosmos.
I don’t have the capacity to mentally encompass all that! Indeed any of those categories when combined with any of the others can shut down my feeling of ‘free will’ about anything and be quite paralyzing! “No wonder that Hindus and Buddhists have focused much of their effort on trying to get out of or off of this wheel (entirely)” says Harari, of fathoming the myriad posited schemes of meaning.
My question is then, how to take it all lightly and keep perspective, while not distracting nor entertaining myself away from the questions or buying into one scheme or another. The PaB group I mentioned above is the closest thing to a community that can embrace so many contradictions that I’ve ever come near, yet Life seems to be kicking me out of that nest too.
My reflection on 2017 is not complete without writing at least something about Twin Peaks: The Return. However, anyone who watches or has watched the show will immediately understand how hard it is to do so.
First, I can’t think of any show less able to squish into some category. Second, there are a thousand more qualified detail-maniacs writing about Twin Peaks right now. I mean, I joined a Facebook group during the time of the show’s airing, and continually marveled at the level of Beautiful Mind style dot-connecting that went on, but I couldn’t engage in much directly, because my way of watching seemed so different.
Still, maybe that different way of absorbing the material brings something of value to offer.
When Twin Peaks first aired back in the early nineties, it was hardly a blip on my radar. I was young and wild, and had just returned from my first away-from-home adventure in the mountains of Colorado – an environment not so different from Twin Peaks. This would make my discovering the show later in life somewhat precious, triggering deep nostalgia, but at the time I was simply indifferent.
Rather, the show came to my attention again in about 2010, through a meditation community, during a dream studies workshop, in a virtual world. We (as avatars from all over the world) were sharing moments, during waking life and dreaming, wherein there arose some feeling of uncanny. People cited all sorts of surreal matrix-y moments and odd encounters, in some cases things they had never shared with others before, and a particularly well-read person in the group mentioned experiencing this feeling strongly, while watching Twin Peaks. Others chimed in agreements.
This was noteworthy, because during years of ongoing discussions, television had rarely come up as a topic in this rather bookish group, much less as informative to contemplative exploration. So I rented the DVDs through Netflix, and watched them all over the course of just a week.
“Ah, I get it!” I thought. The show was immediately quirky and charming, but more than that, the process of watching itself, felt like a weird sort of spiritual practice, or at least many elements did. I’d never been drawn to gritty shows (so had little exposure to David Lynch or Mark Frost), and some seeming ridiculousness pushed beyond my tolerance levels, but the weaving in of the intuitive and sense of the spiritual into even the petty felt dare I say, more realistic, than a normal story.
I was also completely smitten with the sweet boy-scout character at the center of it all …just liked spending time with him. Nothing of what Dale Cooper was experiencing in his dreams seemed that unusual to me, and I felt that should we meet, we would understand one another.
Back in 2010 there were already a few rumors cropping up about a possible revamping of the show, and this built up lightly in the background of my attention until the exciting first teasings on Twitter.
Imagining what I wanted from a next season, there were just a few requests: Dale Cooper, and a sustaining of that uncanny feeling. Everything else I left open, but I also did more research, watching Lynch films, reading some of the more obscure theories. When the show began, I read The Secret History of Twin Peaks and The Tapes of Dale Cooper.
So I felt ready.
I wasn’t, Thank Goodness.
Twin Peaks gets its place on my accomplishments/worthy-of-reflection list for 2017 because it was A LOT OF WORK. It took far more than an hour of engagement each episode, not just to process the intensity of some of the scenes and try to connect or project what they might lead to, but also to suspend and eventually let go of judgement and further expectations.
Each part (sorry, not episode) absolutely had to be watched twice: once without subtitles and once with. Homages to films and artists had to be happily researched (see bottom of this post), and more and more obscure theories had to be, or seemed like they had to be, understood.
Then, all of that ‘information’ had to be thrown out: one had to go into each part, and each scene in each part, and each character in each scene in each part, as a new canvas. That’s trust, man. And what or whom was I trusting?
I think I was trusting the art itself. I wasn’t necessarily ‘a Lynchian’ like many, trusting the Artist, but there was some rareness of connection, and I was leaning into that, in spite of several scenes that were deeply disturbing without that context.
I stuck with it because Twin Peaks: The Return, is extra-dimensional, not in the way of telling ‘someone’ an extra-dimensional story, but in giving openings the viewers(?) walk into, or dream into, themselves.
A main question asked by the series, is one I ask myself all the time:
“Who is The Dreamer?”
“The only way you can talk about this great tide in which you’re a participant is as Schopenhauer did: the universe is a dream dreamed by a single dreamer where all the dream characters dream too.”
(some of the) Films:
Dr Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
2001: A Space Odyssey
(some of the) Artists: Edvard Munch
First, credit due. At the end of 2016, there were just a few things I was totally sure about. I’d finished reading The Universe Has Your Back and had moved into A Course in Miracles. I’d begun to feel a release from integration work, and to be more forward looking, open to making new connections, forming new patterns. It was as though a large book I’d been reading had naturally finished, and many of the characters seemed just about ready to go their own way. In fact, many did!
One pressing discouragement had been quite small bucket list items that year after year, remained on the list. These were things like Indian cooking classes, checking out the Unity Church, organizing a dream practice workshop, and getting organized about writing every day. And in 2017, I did follow through on these, as well as related things that seemed to ride the tide. The Universe met me in kind; intuitive guidance returned.
I renewed meditation practice, and let myself off the hook for not living up to the image of the disciplined yogi in my mind who sits for 2 hours a day and is consistent like clockwork. Instead, in large part thanks to not seeking this kind of support in the same places I had been, I allowed myself what before I’d seen as crutches: using Insight Timer app, and checking in with a small group of friends via SMS to share favorite guided meditations. To be clear, the yogi in my mind would never use guided meditations, but I’ve come to love having choices between light music or weather conditions, silence, or someone holding my hand and walking me through.
There were a few hard challenges, and a few areas where I went against my introverted grain, to do what felt right to me. In one case, the risk to my pride was significant, but I followed through. In others, the ice breaking was awkward, but that awkwardness didn’t feel as much like death. In that category, I have one more phone call to make before the year is out.
I was supportive with friends and family that leaned on me, and received help when it was my turn, having to drop some grudges along the way. I became more politically outspoken, while working to find places of compassion for those I disagree with. I strove to be honest with myself and others, and not to lose sight of impermanence… that although these feel like dark times, in which ‘sides’ are becoming more and more prominent and entrenched, time, by nature, arises and passes away. Being shape shifts.
The books I read in 2017 were along a wider range than the year previous, from a charming little book about a master gardener’s apprenticeship in the temple gardens of Japan called Cutting Back, and a somewhat odd book recommended by Susannah Clarke, Thursbitch, to the Upanishads, Twin Peaks related books, Lincoln in the Bardo and The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve (plus many others in between and on the fringes). And all the articles, goodness! I kept pretty well to my determinations not to read much click-bait but rather dive deeper. Oh! I read Pullman’s Book of Dust as well, without letting my fangirlish admiration get in the way of admitting that it was great for anyone else, but just okay for Pullman.
A year ago, I was also having a lot of anxiety. During the day I would go about my usual business, enjoying my projects and communities, but in the middle of the night, and if not then first thing in the morning, I would often wake in panic and dread. Instead of rising with appreciation for the new day and my one precious life, I would quickly find myself in a position of judgement and problem solving. Rather than rising to meet those challenges, I would often just try to get through the day without making trouble for anyone else. I leaned on “this too shall pass”, and little by little, dug my way into more openness.
A great resource in that regard, has been the Facebook Live teachings and ‘cyber sangha’ of Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. I’ve been fond of him since the day ten years ago that I found his book The Yogas of Dream and Sleep in a Barnes and Noble bookstore. Dream practice had come up quite naturally for me, and I was gesturing back to the void, trying to learn as much as possible. Although I did try the methods he introduced in that book, they were a bit too technical at my level of study. His clear writing voice and gentle guidance however, made him someone I have continued to seek out. Yet it wasn’t until he began Facebook Live pop-up teachings, that I felt him to be a constant teacher. His last few talks, on Mirror-like Awareness, have lodged deeply in my being. The gist? Be the mirror rather than the reflection. And actually, that is the way I would describe my seat, my stance, leading into 2018.
I’m happier these days, writing in an in-between space between public and private, spurred on by the tiniest inkling of outside scrutiny, deciding to work on increasingly letting go of practical concepts such as age and time … of notions that I chose the big priorities of my life already and am supposed to make due with what I’ve done rather than starting something new.
In other words, I’m going to keep trying, keeping starting something new.
It is a manner of writing and conversing that I’d like to be more comfortable with, to the end of making place for the kind of thoughtful company I most value.
Elizabeth Gilbert accomplished this I think, with Eat Pray Love. It was a spiritual book, but it was more so a telling of her personal spiritual story in a way that included foibles and smallness, insights and breakthroughs, without ever giving the impression that she was coercing readers into sure fire a way of being.
Is this the reason I haven’t yet read her more current book, Big Magic, after rushing to read The Signature of All Things? Is it because Big Magic seems like it may be a guide or program, and I feel flooded by those? It might not be that at all. It might be just a longer version of her excellent TED talk on muses and creativity.
“There is no order of difficulty in miracles.
One is not “harder” or “bigger” than another. They are all the same.
All expressions of love are maximal.”
I won’t share from A Course in Miracles every day, but although I find many lines and exercises in The Course strange, others resonate immediately, like the quote above. Also:
Miracles as such do not matter. The only thing that matters is their Source, Which is far beyond evaluation
Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense everything that comes from love is a miracle. (snip)
Miracles are a kind of exchange. Like all expressions of love, which are always miraculous in the true sense, the exchange reverses the physical laws. They bring more love both to the giver and the receiver.
[Full list is on Wikipedia]
The miracle is a learning device that lessens the need for time. It establishes an out-of-pattern time interval not under the usual laws of time. In this sense it is timeless.
To this list I will add from my own experience:
Miracles are like dreams. They have no origin as such. They unpack forward and backward, open on all sides. This is why The Course describes them as expressions of timelessness.
This is a book I’ve had on my Kindle for well over a year, purchased in a thrill of finding Paul K. Chappell on social media after years of lightly asking around, something like, “Well, he’s a soldier with an interesting multiracial background, had a talk on Book TV after the Iraq War, focusing on peace, but not in a hippy dippy way?” I’d done a few searches and couldn’t remember his full name, instead coming up with someone else. So I’d, once in a while, remember to send out a searchlight again.
I’ve been surprised that more in my circle aren’t familiar with him, when his voice on matters of peace, in the world and in ourselves, seems so unique and needed. It was a YouTube shared on Facebook, from a friend from Hungary, living in South Africa, who I met in a virtual world, that finally gave me the missing piece. All I’d needed was the K!