“Something is wrong. I don’t mean with you or me or with any person. I mean in general." --Ragle Gumm

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Recognition and Dysrecognition in the World of PKD

“Many literary critics and scholars in Western and Eastern Europe, Japan, and throughout North America agree that Philip K. Dick will be remembered in years to come as one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century.” –Philip K. Dick: The Official Site

So here it is. Finally. The world-wide accolades he deserves and would have relished were he still with us. The Philip K. Dick Award, new editions of his novels with abstract covers and higher prices, the publication of novels not published during his lifetime, the publication of his Exegesis, translations of his novels into twenty-five languages, two conferences for scholars and fans  in 2012. . . what more could there be? 

And yet. Once we open a novel and start reading, all of this disappears. We are not meant to hold on to the consensus reality as we read. With every story, Philip K. Dick wants to crack open our minds and startle us into dropping the rigid constructs of thought we either don’t know how to question or are afraid to. Sure, money and fame—good for him, good for us—but they are not the reality he seeks to perpetuate once we have opened a novel and projected our minds into it. Pride and appreciation don’t work here.

In a letter he wrote in May, 1981, Philip K. Dick called the process he wanted to initiate in his readers “ the shock of dysrecognition,” the undoing of things which prevent the mind from creating its own reality, independent of the insanity of human consciousness. We are not meant to come out of his novels the same as when we went in. Every mind is its own house with doors, walls, windows, furniture, pictures, and anything else we might pick up shopping through life; and every mind wants to keep them placed just the way they are. But when we take on PKD, we can expect rearrangements to take place: furniture moved, windows broken, doors off their hinges, walls cracked. And then, if we are paying attention and not scrambling to put everything back the way it was, and if we are lucky, we might get a glimpse of PKD smiling up at us from a corner on the floor where the lines were never meant to meet.   

 “Dysrecognition” is his highest praise. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Virtues of Rationality and Madness

I have read a lot of Ken Wilber. He is a genius. At one time in his life he read thirty books a day on all subjects and made as his life’s work the integration of everything he knew into elegant theories of life with new classifications and designs of reality that embraced the whole of human experience: science, religion, psychology, sociology, literature. Two of his many books are entitled A Brief History of Everything and A Theory of Everything.

Wilber established the Integral Institute as an institution of study and spiritual practice and has gathered followers who have contributed to the knowledge base of his intellectual designs. He is one of the greatest intellects to have walked the planet and can stand on the same platform as Aristotle, Plato, Thomas Aquinas, Newton, Einstein and many others. He is also a good man with an expanded consciousness, a compassionate heart, and a life based on being a whole human being. Looking at him, one is amazed, astonished, filled with respect and admiration, probably intimidated, and loved. I have been enriched reading his books and reading about him.

Philip K. Dick, on the other hand, was a sprawling disaster of a man, who wrote bizarre science fiction stories; letters, essays, and in his last years a sprawling, half-mad journal 8,000 pages long filled with passion, self-devouring thoughts on time and space, science, history, literature, theology, mysticism, spirituality, insanity, religious cults—anything his mind could grab hold of to enflame his quest for reality and explain the cracks in his mind that were dragging him into indefinable territory.

Dick was not a scholar. His knowledge of human explorations of life came from encyclopedias and a few obscure reference books, which were fuel to the flame of his fevered pursuits. He did not leave behind an elegant edifice of thought to be evaluated by philosophers and academic scholars. Indeed, he came to believe that his life resembled the fractured, sometimes terrifying, realities he depicted in his books. In his frantic pursuit of reality, he had fantastic visions, suffered from mental disorders, was consumed by paranoia, became hooked on drugs, married five times, and tried to commit suicide, all while breathing in the fire of life that eventually wore him out. His pursuit of reality took him way past the logical mind or even the imaginative mind into irrational realms from where he struggled to integrate the ungraspable experiences of his life into the bound conventions of human thinking.

He sold his first story in his early thirties (1951), gradually became famous for his short stories and novels amongst a few fans and other SF writers, and did not stop writing until he died in 1982 at the age of fifty-three. Within a few years after his death, he became a world-wide cult figure who generated not only amazement at what he wrote but also an almost morbid fascination with his personal life, which was raw to its core. He made his way into the mainstream spotlight through films made from his short stories and novels and has become for many one of the great literary geniuses of his age. His reputation continues to grow exponentially. With the help of his children, his editors, and those who loved him, most of his writings are now back on bookstore shelves, and Hollywood continues to pick through his works looking for movie ideas. He wrote forty-four published novels and approximately 121 short stories.

People love this man, some with professional collegiality, others as a kindred spirit, some with a passion so deep that they cannot imagine not having him as part of their inner landscape. He is loved because he makes no sense, because he is half-deranged, and because he grabbed his life with a ferocious passion that few in this world will ever know. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Eye in the Sky (1957)

“. . . closed worlds that don’t touch on reality at any point.”

“’Illusion?’ Laws grinned sarcastically; with his hard fist he thumped the wall of the kitchen. ‘It feels real to me.’”

“Maybe we have sunk down into the real reality.”

What inspired me to take on the project of reading all of PKD’s books was their ability to touch places inside of me that defied intellectual understanding, emotional response, or social reference, despite their presence in his stories. His writing is something unto itself, unique, and troubling in a way that releases me from the kinds of certainties that our uncertain world does not challenge. Dramatic events in the world can stagger our personal and social security, but no one is going to heaven holding onto the handle of an umbrella, or literally be eaten by a house, or transform into a gigantic insect. All of these events are funny (as Dick intended) if read from a distance, but if you project yourself deep enough into the story, shifting realities can be quite troubling. I found much of Eye in the Sky terrifying, despite the intent of the author.

This novel is about the ambiguity between illusion and reality. The reality shifts are unleashed by the fall of eight people into a proton particle accelerator called a Bevatron and take place one at a time within the psyches of five of the group left on the floor in various degrees of consciousness. In the five reality scenarios, the private reality of one of the fallen draws the consciousness of all of the group into it. Each of the separate realities has a continuity and must, therefore, be accepted as real and played out with its rules. Early on Jack Hamilton, the main character, figures out what is happening and vehemently resists each reality and struggles to return himself and the others to the real world as he knows it, the world in which he is applying for a job but is stymied by accusations that his wife is a communist (McCarthy style).

Getting a flat tire in a dangerous part of town, arriving in India for the first time as a westerner, finding oneself in prison—all of these can be dramatic and challenging assaults on one’s personal reality, but finding oneself in a different universe is another thing. Mental derangement and drugs can induce alternate realities, as depicted in other of his novels, but when one settles into another world and takes on its conditions and lingers there, an uncertainty arises that cannot be anything other than terrifying, were it not confined to a book.

The novel begins and ends in Jack Hamilton’s reality, which the reader can take for granted as the real world. Jack never questions his reality, nor do those who were part of the Bevatron accident. After all, the Bevatron is the concrete cause of all they have experienced. In the reality shifts of the novel, however, the group is never brought into Jack’s private world. One might conclude that all of the realities depicted in the novel are inside Jack, leaving Jack as a solipsistic entity with no reality outside of himself. Or one might conclude that Jack’s world is real only in the context of a higher reality that exists beyond his imagining or the imaginings of others. Or Jack’s world is as he says it is—the real one. Those uncertainties about Jack Hamilton’s reality are for me the essence of the novel.

Philip K. Dick’s stories do not always draw out an emotional response. Some do, such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or Now Wait For Last Year; for me Eye in the Sky does not. What it does, however, is tear a hole in my mental security and leave me with one foot outside the reality that allows me to make a phone call or fix a meal. There are any number of elements that can be used to define human existence; emotion would have to be high on a list of those elements. Once one has slipped past the bonds of human emotion, one begins to question the other human elements, which one usually takes for granted. As that process continues inexorably and darkly, one eventually finds oneself on one’s own. For me this view of the solitary traveler is ultimately the world of Philip K. Dick.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Horror, Beauty and PKD

In their introduction to Exegesis, editors Jackson and Lethem give us a statement by PKD which suggests to me that he had touched the foundation of his existence and that were his readers to approach this reality through his books, they might have a similarly profound realization. As Jackson and Lethem indicate, a philosophical context within a long history of thinkers is irrelevant, especially considering the images and worlds he generated in his stories and the vast amount of fevered verbiage he devoted to explicating his 2-3-74 experiences. PKD is not about understanding, which is of the mind; he is about reality, which is not. Here is the last line from Dick’s statement:

“Thus the essence of horror underlies our realization of the bedrock nature of the universe.”

This horror is not the kind that has made Stephen King, H. P. Lovecraft, and Edgar Allen Poe popular. This horror comes from direct contact with the original condition of the universe. How is that possible? How could Dick make such a terrifying claim, which he says is absolute? You only know if you know, but if you are willing to ask a few questions without expecting a reliable answer from the mind, you can peek into what he is projecting into his stories and find a deeper resonance with them.

First, how do you know that you exist? Things, of course. Things of the mind, of the senses; sensations of the body; the trust we place in the elements for form and structure, the things we depend upon to give life its continuity. Could you know you exist without these “things”? You can only ask this question through the things you depend upon to verify your existence. Without those things, only existence itself can know the answer, but it can only know it in a way that does not include you, who are a composite of the things mentioned above.

Second, this reality must deal with its own condition, which does not ask but which responds to itself in the only way it can—through the generation of a universe and its things. The mind can ask why things at all? Why you? Why me?, but it cannot answer these questions, not even with words as beautifully crafted as Dick’s in this paragraph. Thus, only the naked fact of existence, “the bedrock,” as he puts it, remains, the absoluteness of which unleashes the horror that must be assuaged by the presence of things and particularly, as Dick says earlier in the paragraph, things which through human suffering must ultimately become beautiful. In the gap between the existential horror and the mind’s ability to apprehend beauty lies the issue of insanity, which for human beings is the ultimate crisis. Thus only “absolute beauty” can justify the pain of human existence as well as the horror inherent in absolute existence. This realization is not something the mind can know directly; however, the unbounded existential condition, "the bedrock," can touch the mind and reveal the absolute necessity of beauty in how we live our lives and craft our art. To live such a life and to suffer its necessities is to be real. Philip K. Dick lived a real life.

Read the whole paragraph, take it in, think about it deeply, follow it through Dick’s novels, and you will begin to unwrap your mind on the way to cognizing the absolute beauty which he struggled throughout his life to shape.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

“The Gun” (1952)

Look at what he’s done. He’s put us on a planet that is dead except for a mechanical gun which functions “as if” it were living and intelligent. This gun has only one duty—to protect the treasure that is buried within it. This dead planet is earth.

The treasure consists of artifacts of the now extinct human race which represent its highest achievements, left to be admired by any other race that happens along and wonders who once lived there. And other beings do arrive after seeing a “fission flash” from their distant system. As their spaceship nears the planet, they are fired upon by the gun and damaged enough that they have to land on the planet for repairs. They land near the gun.

As they examine the gun, they realize that it responds to what they are doing and will protect itself. They look around and find buried beneath the gun the treasure it is protecting. They understand the value of the treasure and disable the gun as best they can with the intent of returning to earth to retrieve it. With high anticipation of what it has to offer, they repair their ship and lift off. Meanwhile, the gun repairs itself and reengages its purpose. When the ship returns, it will again have to face the gun protecting the treasure.

The gun is the last artifact of the human race, an artifact that prevents any recognition of what the human race was, other than the implications of the planet's burnt out surface. Not only has the human race destroyed itself, it has negated its existence in the universe by creating an intelligence that is not intelligent; the gun will destroy any effort to retrieve the treasure. The gun is what it is and all that can be said of the human race is that it was insane.

Look what he has done. Put us in a reality that negates itself. Entrapped a piece of universal intelligence within a box that has no door. And pushed us into a cul-de-sac of existence beyond which there is no which to be.

Devastating to realize that you are no more real than the tail you chase.

First PKD Entry--The Limited Benefits of Sanity

This is the second incarnation of this site. The first dealt with the ambiguity between what is real and what is not, why existence rather than non-existence, human and non-human points of view, and existence on its own as a field in itself. I am also exploring these issues at two other sites: On the Way to Where You Already Are  and  Living a Galactic Life.

My credentials for engaging Philip K Dick are not academic but rather experiential. What I have in common with him is the willingness to step into an existence in which sanity and insanity are ambiguous. Those interested in how I can claim this kind of connection can look at the biographical vignettes on this site beginning here.

The purpose of the ensuing entries is to lean against the reader’s reality by engaging PKD’s writings. I will write pieces on his fiction, give thoughts on The Exegesis as I continue to read it, and endeavor to assist his readers to experience the ground state of their personal existence, including its terror. If reading Dick's writings doesn't leave the reader unsettled, then there are dimensions of the stories that remain to be explored. To get the full force of what he has created, one must risk one's own sanity by taking on reality directly.

Dick's writing is more than treasured story-telling, astonishing existential situations, and literary craftsmanship. He is one of an age, beyond religion, science, academics, commercialism, or the quotidian reality that is either boring people to death or murdering them in their sleep. To engage Philip K Dick's life and work is to stir existence places that have no name, creating for readers the opportunity to break loose from the death grip the mind places on reality.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cracks in a Pretzel

Consider the following:

Humanity is suffering from mass psychosis to which we have become so accustomed that normalcy has become its equivalent.

The world is perfect as it is.

The world is a place within which souls evolve. 

Heaven is the ultimate goal/reward for human struggle. 

Good is fighting a courageous struggle against evil which it will eventually win because that feels better than the idea that good might lose.

Neither good nor evil is real.  

Every human being lives his or her reality solipsistically within a dimension that cannot be located but which, somehow, integrates those irreducible realities into the world we take for granted until death.

Reality vs death.

Thoughts of death vs thoughts of reality.

There is no God.

There is a separate God for each individual.

There is a different God for each religion.

There is one God for all religions.

All religions are illusions within an empirically real world.

All religions are illusions within the one big illusion.

One God period. No inside, outside, here, or there. No it and us.

Only it and pieces of it.

Reality shape-shifts so gradually that the illusion of normalcy is maintained while some other force feeds off the ignorance we are bound into.

Reality shape-shifts so rapidly that the illusion of normalcy allows each person’s story to continue within an unchallenged continuity.

All illusions are meant to be dispelled.

All illusions are impenetrable.

Which of these do you hang out with?

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Word

There’s even a word for it: “anagnorisis.” It is a moment of discovery. The moment when you realize that things are not what they seem. Now what could one mean by “things?” One might call on scientific discoveries, the kind that broke out after the church lost its grip on everybody’s mind, or when new systems of government broke out across the land, new lands discovered, or when books were published for the first time, or when the first photographs of earth from space showed this little world in the context of an unfathomable space of things. Seeing is not always believing, as we have discovered; however, if one were to back up a bit and not focus on particular things, just things themselves, all things, then a real anagnorisis might occur. 

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Personal Note Sixteen—In the Prison of Normalcy

The job was hell but good. At first I had so much of the other reality coursing through me that I could hardly answer the telephone. Everyday before work, I practiced meditations that further immersed me in the place I needed to retreat from in order to eat, pay the rent, and speak intelligibly to others. Eventually I abandoned all forms of meditation in order to maintain my sanity. Insanity was a real issue. It took years to bring myself into the world but even then it felt only like a big toe testing out waters I would never learn to swim in. I did a fairly good job at work—eventually—but I was always struggling to maintain the world reality because no matter how much I managed to fit into what I was doing in the concrete world, that world always felt less real than the indefinable core of my being, which was increasing in its presence.

Eventually I found a woman whose life, although much different from mine, nevertheless had enough parallels with mine that we changed our lives so that we lived together. We helped each other restore a modicum of balance and now live together engaged in the maintenance of life on flat ground, which she occupies more firmly, while I integrate into daily life that place from which nothing can move me. After seven and a half years working, I retired with her to a house on the coast of Washington. I continue living that cosmic reality while keeping at least one foot on the ground. I live in relationship, write blogs and tweets, watch movies, cook, read bizarre novels, and look at death as the other side of the coin that was tossed in the air years ago.

End of biographical posts.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Personal Note Fifteen—Touchdown on the Concrete of Seattle

I carried my shattered mind north with the intent of marketing huge numbers of processes that popped up almost daily, whether I was writing or not. Manuscripts went out in the mail and thin envelopes returned. My mind became more fragile as my sense of concrete reality became more distorted. Nothing I did connected with people who were supposed to become clients. Instead, I got farther out there and stayed isolated in a little cottage on the property of the people who invited me to live with them and enhance their financial intake. These relationships flamed out, and when the opportunity arose to leave, I took it, even though I was skateboarding down the street on a thinly worn credit card. The transition from cosmic delirium to school teacher was a painful experience. As a substitute teacher, I rarely overcame the blankness that had overcome my intellect, and as a result was not ready to return to classroom teaching. After returning home from school and people who had no idea, I would evaporate into godspace as a retreat and restore my connection with the cosmic beings who had no resonance with the world my body had to walk in. Their agenda did not take into account the suffering inherent in the human condition. It was a war. Concrete vs cosmic reality. Staying focused to find a job and lifting off from this hell as soon as possible at the end of the day. Eventually the job came. Condensing back into walking and talking human being took years. 

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Personal Note Fourteen—The Fever of Cosmic Life

Cousins took me in as a newly separated husband. A normal thing for them but for me family life was a tattered coat that kept me sheltered for thirteen months while I floated in non-human space they knew nothing about. Every morning I wrote feverishly from four to seven. I downloaded a cosmic drama that included everybody but in my case the layers of mental and emotional veils were fraying away and leaving me with a cold cosmic breeze blowing into my life every moment. I got along in my personal world, sounding normal, cooking when my turn came around, trekking in the state park, letting my cousin show me off to lonely women, who for me were sad pieces of cardboard. I watched TV and felt the weight of cosmic energy continually pushing against these protective activities. And the mornings. I separated more from earthplanet, as I began to call it, and became more identified with the higher plane of existence into which I was hoisted and gradually returned from but not without leaving more tears in the already tattered garments that I had been shedding for years. Eternity is ancient beyond ancient, and I was spending more time where real events happened, events out of which universes and cosmoses on end derived their energy. There never was a beginning, nor will there be an end; yet in this dimension of the cosmic string, as I called it, the one cosmic being took note. Now I was in for it. Madness was a distinct possibility, but it was too late. I was in it for the long haul. No turning back because there was nothing there which had not always been part of the big picture. Everything was cosmic.

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Personal Note Thirteen—Goodbye World

Returning to the US from Tibet was like falling down a dark tunnel where the chaos of others’ thoughts pummeled my brain. Sleep was a war of dirty minds against the silence, purity, and emptiness of life above 15,000 ft. Berkeley twenty-five years later and still the angry demanded the cold illusion of government responsibility to give them their dignity. I was sick in body and mind and could not imagine life beyond what I had just experienced. Better to die in the open spaces of Tibet than bleed spirit all over asphalt, concrete, and the hard floors of claustrophobic living. Our new residence was up the road, however, but the illusions we tried to fit into there were only slightly easier, until we took them on and succumbed to the pretense that permeated everything, despite the group of us who took on the mantle of being spiritual. In our group there was only one soul whose sails were pointed in the direction where she wanted to flow. We stayed close to her. She saved my sanity and enhanced my inner expansion on many occasions. It was here that the heavens fell into my brain with more intensity than ever. My consciousness burst into the highest plane of existence I had ever experienced. I expanded to such a degree that one could easily say I had gone mad. Most around me did not see it, but I occupied spaces where this universe was just an insignificant bauble on a cosmic string that circled in on itself eternally, ever changing, fired eternally by cosmic energy, fed by a cosmic thing into whose space I surged like a teenager thinking I could fly a 747. Crashes, derangement, frustrations, loss of connection with earth ground reality. It all came true after Tibet, bare survival, loss of wife, abandonment of the community that had taken me in, and a journey alone north to Oregon, where the madness settled slightly but where all hope of regaining some semblance of a normal life vanished forever.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Personal Note Eleven—Where the World Ends and Begins

The desert burned us out, so we moved to northern California where the vineyards glowed rainbow colors, where life blossomed more, but left unchanged the brooding cosmos that was downloading into me in a continual stream. Book written. Tried publishers. No deal. Fine. It embarrasses me today, although it contains passages that are among my favorite. Biding time and being alone. Wife close by. A friend or two. One of the Midwest group who had also left; another, a witch-like person who turned me on to the local new age bookstore, where I bought books, got readings and took classes. It was what we did together. Lots of TV. Waiting. I played a miniature role as a performer of Vedic ceremonies, an avocation that continued for years. You know, white outfit, fruit, flowers, handkerchiefs, mantras from ancient Sanskrit texts.  Felt good and gave me an identity, which was getting harder to hold onto. I had to deal with the conflicting beliefs that I knew what I was doing and the deeper knowledge that I didn’t and the still deeper knowledge that all was in order. Damn the personality and all its faults, which take up so much energy and distort even the good things! The veils got thinner, but the regular brushes with insanity were a little farther down the road. The pursuit was still on. Was it toward something or away? Could there ever be enough effort? Enough meditation, enough prayer, enough grooming of my mind. The outer world was drifting away, and eventually I would be as remote from the ground of the world as the moon or the stars beyond. Metaphors, of course, but the metaphor was becoming more real than the burdensome mental stuff which continually clouded up that place inside me that was becoming clearer. A year in this place and then moving on to another town. Wandering from here to there, at least geographically. The inner wanderings couldn’t be measured in miles, only in degrees of acceptance and the concern that the inner vision was overshadowing the outer. 

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Personal Notes Ten—In the Desert

“In the beginning . . .” died when I saw its roots buried in the fantasy of history. If Jesus was real, it had to be now not then. I was open, now that I was outside of a small prison of thought and stretching my legs inside a larger cage. But space is space. My own fantasy of cosmic history ballooned into a 300 page scripture that intermingled with the story of my personal life, just to support the growing suspicion that none of that mattered. During the day the sun shone, for a few nights a comet came through, my harp sold, and my wife worked in the food coop. She did her part. She was heroic being with me who was scarcely there. Flying every morning, touching down during the day on the town tarmac to fuel my personal existence. I continued to meditate. That was good but no longer the main event. It would drop away years later when I had no choice. Things were normal on the ground except the why. Not like the Midwest town where everyone had meditation thoughts slung over one shoulder, thoughts you could carry out into the world . . . after you tied one end of the rope to the town square. Here in the desert there was no town square. Wife was suffering but she made it work for me even if neither knew what that was. The illusions of the Midwest lingered but with different thoughts. It was getting harder to decide what thoughts were mine and what came from others, whether in the sun-drenched world of the desert or the little town with big thoughts, or the early morning world at the keyboard where it always rained cosmic dreams.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Personal Notes Nine—On My Own

No one knew why we were leaving, not even my wife, who wanted to stay. There was no reason to stay for me except that the stars had moved and the sky was more distant than I had thought. How could one leave meditation paradise for a small apartment in the Arizona’s Sun Valley? No reason, no purpose, just the stripping away of years of thinking compromised by things I couldn’t see. Too much heat and not enough water. But inside, the sky rained stars of thought, galaxies of astonishments, cosmoses turning in on themselves. It was all in the words. Tapping away at the keyboard. Straining to put things together. To make pictures in my mind. To take in the surges of energy. To make it work while pretending I knew why I was there. No friends. Just the burning sun and my trans-galactic classroom. My computer at 5 am. Childish stuff at first. Just preparing the way. Things in my multi-storied mind being arranged to sound like it was real stuff. A baby may see a book and think it’s a glass. The storytellers from inside were coming out now that the big story of the Midwest town was fading, burning in the desert sun, transforming into what I was given to see as my eyes began to open. 

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Personal Notes Eight—Learning to Fly

Thousands of meditators in a small town to save the world and to evolve, the only place where enlightenment had a chance, with friends who had common beliefs, a common purpose for the big dive. We carried our illusions as badges, like the badges we needed for permission to dive with the big group. Friends of great depth engaged in dialogues that rivaled the ancients in their probing of reality. Unfathomable people lived beneath the stock phrases and programmed beliefs. Confusion, too. People flying off into inflated scenarios of what was real and what wasn’t, trying this and that when things did not move fast enough and when the gilded cage of groupthink began to fray at the edges. But the satisfaction of belonging to such a group kept me enthralled. I merged into the community and took my seat. I could not imagine living anywhere else. I identified with all this even while trying on Tibetan Buddhism, Liberal Catholicism, the red path of American Indians, kriya, Advaita Vedanta. I turned them all down. How small they seemed, despite a blizzard of visions and mind-popping dreams; visitations by gods, saints, elders, and angels; interfacing with multi-dimensional beings who knew as little about me as I did about them, and something that answered “Yes,” when I asked if it were God. Visitors entered my body thinking I had checked out and split like bats out of hell when they realized that this body was still mine. Meditation eventually became a stabilizing habit after the veils between here and there began to thin out and mental handholds began to slip. These kind of adventures and many more went on for five years. Then another trip to India. Another crash landing after coming back. Then realizing I had to learn to fly in a different way—above the earth and alone; where there was no difference between Kabul, the Himalayas, and a small town in the middle of nowhere. Something from all that had gone before had  passed away.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Personal Notes Seven—The Ancient Trail

Getting rid of karma on the trail to freedom. Pack on my back. The blinding Himalayan peaks like the gods of promise. Sick, tired, dirty. A long way from coat and tie and initiation fees. Ancient trails. Sleeping under stars or in crumbling buildings. Alone. Climbing and climbing. The days and nights turning one into another. Glaciers and rivers that had been running thousands of years but now running down. The world falling apart. Chasing my tail. The beauty of it despite the pain and loneliness. How did I survive that alien landscape and culture? Ride the Ganges down to the Indian Ocean with the ancient masters who probably never had giardia. I shed some things on the trail. Coming back was a bigger nightmare than going. But another plank had come loose. Time again to quit the classroom after ten years of teaching English. The trail to nirvana next passed through a small Midwest town in the middle of nowhere. I love the metaphors. Landscapes floating on emptiness. The untraveled distance between A and B getting shorter.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Personal Notes Six--The Long Goodbye

Meditation and the promised land. Bliss. Infinite knowledge. Freedom from the world. Reality. Teaching meditation with a mission. I only believed in the part that was about me. Save myself--please. Save the world—sure, why not. I made new friends. These with short hair and a clock that said when to do it and for how long. Lock step like soldiers we took the big dive inside, shuddering when the shit came out, sighing when we dropped into the cosmic waters. Still me. Though there was something else there. Whatever. Not this. Not that. But there. The pain didn’t go away. But something there. Almost a true believer I was. Thoughts changing. My mind tried to put everything into a single, grand framework. Headache after headache for a mind that was still a long way from realizing that it was not part of the show. Especially after graduate school where the mind was everything. Teaching school again.  Meanwhile, family tragedy and more pain.  In the midst of all that, I became an advanced meditator with new friends inviting me to sit farther out on the limb. Got married. Still on board the 3:10 to nirvana. The world was becoming more distant but not fast enough. In one dark moment, I thought I was meditating in order to die. But . . . there was Kabul and the big gig. Meditating the dust off my mental floorboards, some started coming loose. Something started drifting up from the emptiness. I had already left, it said. Friends, family, the world. Sure. Why not? Just saying the long goodbye . . .

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Personal Notes Five--From Kabul to the Himalayas

Too many nights with people out of their minds. Things inside me crashing around like a mad man tearing up a room. Friends kept me sane. I made it. When I left long hair for meditation and stuff for a mantra, things softened. Whoever was sitting in my captain’s chair for those years moved out and a new captain moved in. I drifted south from Kabul to the Himalayas. During that journey I had to accept that I was a shit-faced kid who didn’t know anything and couldn’t get out of being that kid. I had to bide my time until the big light came on, when the ancient masters from the mountains decided I was ready. Friends gone, including girl friend. Back to the east coast, on to the French Alps, the guru, hours and hours a day of meditation, lectures on end, a coat and tie, and short hair. David Crosby, I still love you, but it was time to move on.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Personal Notes Four--The Scene

Left teaching when the draft died. Would have been fired anyway. Next stop Berkeley, San Francisco and the big waters. New friends. Living in the streets, broke, sleeping in houses of strangers. Finally settling into a job that stuff did not interfere with. It was the scene. Moving from place to place, in and out with my girl friend. Living out of a sleeping bag down near the railroad tracks. Plenty of stuff, concerts, beaches, bedrooms. A big gig here and there. The edge. Closer than I thought. Plenty had already fallen over. Some knew. Most didn’t. Walking down Telegraph Ave, you could see both demons and saints. On my last big gig, something busted open inside me, and I knew I had a choice. They were closing in on me, the shadows in Kabul.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Personal Notes Three--The Big Gig

For mental food I read about left wing politics. Never tuned into teaching German. I showed up, held my hand over my heart, did drills and read simple dialogs with the kids. Then one day the big gig. It wasn’t that I went somewhere. I just unwrapped and discovered that the “me” that taught school and did things—the me that was a person—was a speck of dust and that underneath that dirty mess was the source of everything pumping it out for the whole universe—it was the whole universe—using just a few drops for me. When the last veil fell, I was astonished that I even existed or that anything existed. Why existence? That was it. No way to explain that! No way to stuff that cat back into the bag. Kabul. That night in Berlin. He was right.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Personal Notes Two--A Strange Land

Crash landed back in a classroom in Virginia teaching German. The small stuff was no big deal but it did wipe away the pain for a while and paint the mind with far out thoughts. Met other guys with long hair. They did stuff. Music and stuff went well together. Silence and sounds becoming one. Good friends in our own world. I traveled back and forth to Berlin to see my girlfriend, and she to me. Then there was the classroom. Kabul in reverse. The war was going on, not only in Vietnam but also in the school. Every morning the national anthem blared into every crook and cranny of the building at exactly 7:20. They knew I wasn’t their kind. They tried to put the cops onto me. I was strange to them and the school was a strange land for me. “I Almost Cut My Hair”  by David Crosby was my personal anthem.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Personal Notes One--Berlin

They had just come in from Kabul. Walking on dirt roads, riding in the backs of trucks and on horseback. Both were tall and weathered. Long hair, worn clothes. They were high on this stuff or that. Their speech was both wild and sweet. Kabul 1970. They didn’t say much about it. It must have been too strange. They were the real thing. I wanted to be like them. They were far beyond what I became a couple of years later, beyond anyone I met later. We stood on a street corner in West Berlin looking for stuff. I tried to act hip. Not a very good act, especially when you ask how long it takes to come back from the big gig. They didn’t mind or notice that I wasn’t hip. One of them just looked down at me with eyes that couldn’t see much closer than the moon and said, “You never come back.” We got some stuff easily enough and went back to my girl friend’s apartment. It was a long, bizarre night that ended with me retching in the alley. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

When Time Runs Its Course

It's not obvious at all. It's a tough one to crack. When faced with this new thing, you might look down, twirl your big toe in the sand, and hope it will all go away. Simply stated, it goes like this: The world you perceive and live in is not real. Come again?! That's right. The world as you perceive it and live in it is not real. It's there all right and it is real in that sense. But what you think it is is not the same as what it really is. What would you do were you suddenly and irrefutably to realize that the whole thing is something different altogether? Not intellectually, but as a genuine cognitive realization that you could neither deny nor be dissuaded from?

What would  happen if people suddenly had to abandon their unquestioned perception of reality? What would happen if the view that no one knows what they are doing became pervasive? That there was no one to blame or to praise? That we are all sailing bewildered in the same boat with no knowledge of how to position the sails? Flatly put--that our perception of reality is false right down to the core.

Every human thought is crippled by the unquestioned belief that there is a future. When time runs its course and you have to take on a life not defined by what might or might not come, will you be able to stand on your feet and accept what is, or will you cling tightly to worn out illusions and be crushed? The mind can neither tell you nor warn you. After all, it's the mind that's broken.

The heart, however, will know. It, too, is more than what you think.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What You Can't Forget

It can happen anytime, anywhere, no matter what you are thinking, doing or saying. No matter what you believe in or dream of--suddenly it is all gone. You know. And you will have to live with what you know, alone, the rest of your life.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Words That Bind

It starts with someone who speaks with authority. He or she knows. Then there is usually a book or many books and many people who read books together and talk and believe what happened centuries ago or last week and take on the mantle of words and beliefs, theologies and ideologies, prayers and practices, stories, and heroes and villains, wisdom and foolishness, all to assert what one thinks and what the other thinks, the good ones and the bad ones, when, in fact, reality has nothing to do with any of it, which is not dependent upon words and assertions that give groups occasions to celebrate--all of which is good, except the massive dependence on the past and the fanciful projections onto the future, when what is going on now seems to be irrelevant. Is anything going on now? Is all this stuff true? Are you and I too stupid to put down the book, break through the time barrier and make our stands with who we are--now? Before anything in the past ever was and and the future left the calendar with nothing to do?

Experience trumps belief all the time. The trouble with beliefs is that they generate so much chatter, while experience wipes out time and brings you into an inexplicable silence in which there are no stories or groups or other possibilities than what you know and which you could never deny to yourself without compromising your sanity and integrity as a human being. But we all like our toys and play in the sand box, and that is good. For every grain of sand is testimony to the silence that frees you from time and having to adapt a set of words that do nothing more than say that you don't know.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Footsteps in the Dust

It's not a sight you usually see. You would never expect it. Drumming your fingers on the armrest of a chair. Focusing on one sight for five minutes on TV. You and it. Even the simplest minds are frenetic. The world is relentlessly more.

For five minutes. Naked feet walking slowly. One step at a time. In the dust. One foot in front of the other. No pauses. Same pace. Just walking, turning back and walking, turning again and walking. One foot in front of the other. One step at a time. Five minutes in finger-drumming time. Eternity in foot time. Drumming your fingers . . . walking.

Just the feet. Heel. Arch of the foot. Toes. Walking.

Where is he going? Walking. No dust between his toes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Suddenly Before Thinking Begins

Suddenly before thinking begins is going on right now. Unfortunately you are processing these words about before thinking begins and are therefore thinking. I write these before-thinking vignettes with the thought that one of them might thrust you into before thinking begins. Ridiculous I know, but that's what happens to a mind that has been ripped apart from here to Sunday. It only knows how to write things like this. It can happen suddenly right now, in which case these words drop off a cliff and you plunge right to the bottom into the root of your existence. That's when your ticket into life really gets punched.

Now such a moment is not illumination or enlightenment. Light is after thinking begins. God and truth are after thinking begins. If you receive some kind of illumination on the way to the bottom, well, that's good, why complain, but that just means you are still holding onto the thought that you are living in a world surrounded by stars and emptiness and suddenly it is very clear that the universe is so beautiful and life feels so good that you can spend the rest of your life thinking you've received some kind of grace, therefore forgetting the before place where it's all real, including your illusions. Too bad.

This kind exultation is not any more real than believing in the world of science, religion, and new age 5th dimensional ascension. "Believing in" and "seeing" are always a lie. This kind of illumination is still within the thought field, where lies thrive--the good, the blissful, the beautiful; the bad, the painful, the ugly. Still the world.

There is no world.

A direct plunge is best because then you don't get stuck thinking how great enlightenment is and how wonderful it would be if everybody were enlightened and the world would then be free of fear . . . you know the story. And if that scenario is true for you, then go for it. Most of what people experience is shit anyway, even when they like it, so why quibble? The question I am asking you is whether you can distinguish between what is "true" and what is "real." That's where suddenly-before-thought-begins pops in. There is no question. When you touch the root of your existence, you have touched existence itself. The before that always is. Where "What!" is not a question.

Now, is any of this true? If you think it is, it's not.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Pavilion

Underneath the pavilion, everybody is engrossed in what lies on the table. So many things to do. So many places to go, people to love and hate, things to own and dispose of, power to gain and lose, hearts to break and salvage, nature to enjoy, ignore or exploit. And you, too, are there, eyes bulging, tongue flapping in the demand to speak, mouth shut to be silent. You and those around you move the pieces around on the table, either together in groups, or against each other in groups. Until one day your head pops up from the table, and you are not playing the game. You are just there while all around you people continue to play like gamblers at a craps table.

You are under a pavilion. All four sides of the pavilion are open. You look around. Outside the pavilion there seems to be nothing there, yet you slowly move to the very edge and look out. Nothing there. You step outside and forget everything at the table. You come back in and resume your game playing, but it is just not the same. You step outside the pavilion again but this time you feel something there. You look back into the pavilion and see everything as it has always been. Everything is the same: time and space dividing everything into the urgency of staying alive. What to do? Where to go? Quo Vadis?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Epiphanies and Language

Have you ever had an epiphany? By definition there is no language which can describe it. The is no future to bind it. No past to explain it. And why would you want to explain it? The more you try to explain it, the less real it becomes. And then what do you have? There are big epiphanies and little epiphanies. The bigger ones leave you outside the binding influence of language. They last indefinitely. Think of the "open road" or "blue sky." Where to go with that first step when there is no language with which to predict a second? Reality and language are simply not compatible. So what do you want? Where do you have to go in order to get it? Language is an energy that recirculates inside of itself, like clothes locked inside a washing machine that never stops tumbling. Maybe what we really want lies outside of the language with which we think. Sounds like a paradox . . . until you know.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Doorways into Mystery

1.   For astronomers it might be black holes. For biologists it might be DNA. For physicists it might be subatomic particles. For Walt Whitman it was a blade of grass.