Stella’s Radio

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My short story “Stella’s Radio” was published this week by Delay Fiction. It’s a story about love and connection, about the awkwardness that sometimes attends the becoming of who we truly are, and about the way life’s circumstances can propel us into the open, out from the cover of normalcy and safety and little dreams.

I didn’t know these things when I sat down to write it. A story begins with some little nudge of inspiration, a moment that conveys an energetic charge. I feel it in my body. There is a visceral need to start setting some words out onto the screen, to start the process of constructing all the things around this point of entry. It might be as simple as the image of an elderly man shaking hands with a another person. He has a certain look in his eye—a tone that rings throughout his being. A joy settles into my chest. A recognition. Then it’s off to the races. Who is this person? What is he doing? Where does his clarion presence come from? I could spend days envisioning scenes and moments and people, and nothing would grab hold of me, and then out of the blue something will stick. I’ll be dragging the trash cans out to the curb, and it will hit me. The feeling. It’s like being a child and discovering some new trail in the woods. Where does it lead?

Sometimes people ask what a story is about and I find myself taking a heavy breath, as if I’ve just been asked to explain how the world began. I find the essence of a story is just too much to say before attentions wither. And even if I manage to say something simple and relevant, like I tried to do in the opening paragraph here, that’s still not what the story is. How to explain this thing that has no beginning and no end and is part of every story and is the only reason we write in the first place?

We read for many reasons, but we write for only one. A story is a truth you can’t say any other way. It’s a peek at the heart of things, at the point where you end and everything else begins—the point where nothing is missing. To write is to pioneer one of these routes to the world’s center, to enter the whole of things more deeply than usual. You put on some instant, some moment or place or being, like a costume—it’s interesting at first, you could just take it off, right?—but then you discover you can’t go back. You can’t unlearn what you learned when you sat down to write. You can’t forget what you called upon to set those words upon the page.

A story is a vantage. It’s a simple movement usually, from the sandy ground on which we usually walk to the outcropping twenty or thirty feet overhead. We scramble around a bit, find our way up there, and the distance we travel on paper is very short perhaps, but once we arrive, and turn to look back, we discover nothing is quite what we thought it was. Things are renewed, made fuller–ourselves included, as both writers and as readers. How do you say what a story is about, when really it’s this movement, the moment of looking back, and what each of us finds there? I cannot say what you will find. What it’s about depends on you…

Writing is a lovely, challenging, sometimes debilitating process, but ultimately it enriches and sustains me. And hopefully, if you read this story, you will get a glimpse of what I’m talking about!

On Conflict and Freedom

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Course Ideas / Reflections

I have come to an important realization I think. And it’s not to say that I didn’t sort of know this already, but there’s a difference in knowing something and really knowing it.

We’ve all seen these dichotomies: the zone defense or man-to-man, materialism or spiritualism, unrestrained capitalism or comprehensive socialism, cardio or strength training, STEM or liberal arts, the Right or the Left… And we all have at least one or two thoughts on these things. If you’re like me, though, you’re not reducible to a multiple choice form, particularly one with only two answers. The truth is that we’re all unique, and even when we do align on some big picture issue, the motivations behind our choices are often distinct. Even when we agree, it’s often for different reasons.

But we live in the age of convincing. We always have, of course. There is nothing unique about the fact that in the present historical moment we are berating one another right, left and center over the ways that we think, feel, and encounter the world and one another. The failure on our part is not in thinking there’s a right answer, but in thinking there’s only one right answer. And this is the knowledge to which I’m returning.

Wherever we’re each at in our exploration of who we are, is the right answer for each of us. It’s a hard pill to swallow, because some people are in a place of self-exploration that requires the people around them to suffer. Something ought to be done about that, we think. But what’s really tricky here is that before we get all the way down the chains of causation that lead to the accruing and exercising of power over others in a manifest way, we pass this little place called the need to be right, and what we seldom realize is that the need to be right comes at the expense of others, too. You’re on my side, or you’re one of them. All our difficulties stem from this, from our inability to wrap the cloak of inclusion around everyone.

The crux of the matter for me is whether we’re living in a world that is simply happening to us, or one that responds to the movement of who we are being, and who we are becoming. This might be restated as suggesting that we either live in a zero-sum game, or we live in an open-ended movement of creation. My opinion is that we live in the latter, but when I forget this, and act as if I live in the former, then antagonisms necessarily develop.

In the zero-sum version of reality it is necessary to assert one’s particular views with the degree of force that is acceptable to one’s conscience, because this is the means by which the desired outcomes are obtained. We’ve set some boundaries on the sorts of force that civilized humans are able to bring to bear upon one another, but within those boundaries we are quite tenacious. And having boundaries doesn’t change the fundamental condition under which we labor. That condition is one of limited views in conflict.

Part of my discovery is that there simply is no wholeness in conflict. When I slip into the zero-sum version of reality, I am myself conflicted, sliced in two, and ineffectual. In the interactive version of reality—the version in which we are all related, in which the countless dialogues between the individual and the Whole somehow yield the multi-dimensional fabric of daily life, a curated experience of being supplied to each one of us—there is a unique sort of freedom on offer. It is the freedom of comprehending that reality is working.

The tremendous difficulty in accepting this freedom is that it implies a tacit complicity with all the evils of the world. There’s this idea that if certain things that obtain in our world were resolved, then things would be pretty good. It hinges upon the notion that if we could somehow convince those people out there who are doing screwed-up, awful things, or even just innocently deluded things—which if you think about it, amounts to the same thing—then we could get things on track. And in a zero-sum reality, this is perfectly correct.

But when one offers the benefit of the doubt to reality itself, and allows for the fact that reality is working, then one begins to understand that our efforts to change other people is identical to having our cake and eating it, too.  In other words, a world in which we remain precisely who we think we are on every level, but without the collective difficulties we face, may not be a possible world. The difficulties may simply be symptomatic of our incomplete understanding of who we are. They are simply the feedback—as immutable as the effects of gravity on a bouncing ball—the effect of the cause, which is our ignorance.

The acknowledgment that reality is working simply takes the edge off. It doesn’t mean to suggest that the difficulties we see are not worth tackling, but it frees us to express who we are without getting everyone else on board first. And I think it is this freedom—the possibility of offering the gift of who we are on behalf of everyone, and expressing the clarity of our hearts without becoming mired in the need to correct or push down another, that will ultimately transform this experience for everyone. Because this type of movement is undivided, and whole, and true.

Consciousness, Panpsychism & A Course in Miracles

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Course Ideas / Reflections / Science

This week I listened to Sam Harris interview his wife Annaka on his podcast Making Sense. She has recently written a book entitled Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind, which I should note I haven’t read. An interesting moment occurred when she said it was not altogether obvious why consciousness should exist from an evolutionary perspective, because there is very little, if anything, that we cannot imagine occurring just as well without a conscious witness to the proceedings. We can visualize a computerized intelligence, for instance, with the right programming, that could behave much like a human being without actually being aware of what it was doing, or how it felt to be doing those things.

This led Annaka to ponder the possibility that consciousness is not something that is the product of matter and energy, but is a fundamental part of nature, or fundamental to physical reality let’s say. It exists in the same way that matter and energy do, as a given. I’m a little unclear on exactly what to say about what she really means, because I haven’t read her book, and because its admittedly a challenging topic to review in detail. She and Sam were very careful at this point to note that this is a scientific conception of consciousness, wholly unrelated to New Age ideas of the topic. It always amuses me when people insist on these distinctions, because it’s sort of like saying we have a scientific theory of why things fall down to the ground, and just so you know, it’s completely unrelated to the layman’s delusional awareness that things fall down due to a mysterious force.

These false categories do nothing but sustain false lines of demarcation. We draw them because it makes us feel good to be on the right side of them, but they are of no real value to the process of inquiry.

Enough on that. What brought me to the page this evening was an interesting idea that struck me as Sam and Annaka were exploring this topic of panpsychism, which is the word for a range of ideas related to the idea that consciousness exists—in some form—at all levels of physical phenomena. I realized there is an insistence when approaching the topic scientifically to note that atoms have such a miniscule, dim, and protean form of consciousness that it would barely be considered consciousness at all. In other words, humans are at the apex of known forms of consciousness, and atoms have the awareness of comatose bricks in a wall. The idea that struck me is that we quite possibly have this backwards.

I’m going to get New Age now and refer to A Course in Miracles, which for me is as valid a source of information as any scientific experiment. It also is irrelevant, as core ideas in the Course can be found in essentially all spiritual teachings that aim at offering its practitioners the experience of non-duality. The Course is just one form of what I believe is a universal truth, and this particular form happened to appeal to me. At any rate, there is an idea presented early in the Course, and which only appears on a few occasions, but which made a big impact on me when I first encountered it. It goes like this, “…the mind is naturally abstract.” I would like to relate this to the notion that human consciousness is quite possibly a much more limited form of consciousness than that which obtains throughout the universe. It’s just a fun idea to ponder, so bear with me please.

Now, when the Course speaks about the mind, it is speaking about the One Mind, or the whole Mind, or the instantaneous totality of being of which all that exists partakes. It’s hard to describe in words. You can’t describe it in words. But you can give some inklings, just as you can give kindling some heat, and hope that at some point awareness catches fire… The basic point in the Course is that specificity, and the situational awareness so conducive to winning professional sports titles, is really secondary. It is illusory, and fundamentally related to what Annaka and Sam would both describe as delusional notions: one being the sense of a personal self, and the second being free will. These don’t exist as we think they do, according to Sam, and I agree. I’ll actually agree and disagree simultaneously on the notion of a personal self, because it’s paradoxical to a certain extent. But for the purpose of this discussion let’s equate a personal self with an egoic awareness—with the idea that there is an “I” that exists separately from all other “I’s.”

The Course says, “Everything the ego perceives is a separate whole, without the relationships that imply being. The ego is thus against communication, except insofar as it is utilized to establish separateness rather than to abolish it. The communication system of the ego is based on its own thought system, as is everything else it dictates. Its communication is controlled by its need to protect itself, and it will disrupt communication when it experiences threat. This disruption is a reaction to a specific person or persons. The specificity of the ego’s thinking, then, results in spurious generalization which is really not abstract at all. It merely responds in certain specific ways to everything it perceives as related.

“In contrast, spirit reacts in the same way to everything it knows is true, and does not respond at all to anything else. Nor does it make any attempt to establish what is true. It knows that what is true is everything that God created. It is in complete and direct communication with every aspect of creation, because it is in complete and direct communication with its Creator. This communication is the Will of God. Creation and communication are synonymous. God created every mind by communicating His Mind to it, thus establishing it forever as a channel for the reception of His Mind and Will. Since only beings of a like order can truly communicate, His creations naturally communicate with Him and like Him. This communication is perfectly abstract, since its quality is universal in application and not subject to any judgment, any exception or any alteration.” (emphasis added, quotes taken from the Text, Chapter 4, Section VII, Paragraphs 2-3)

What does it mean for the mind’s natural state to be a perfect abstraction? It sounds kind of ridiculous. But what it means is that the mind, in its natural state, might say, “I love,” and stop there, instead of saying “I love ice cream.” There need be no object—no specificity—to the mind’s natural extension of Love, since it extends love simultaneously to all that exists with it, and as it, and thus has no concept whatsoever of inventions or schemes (such as the ego’s concept of a separateness between beings) that do not ultimately obtain.

What I’m proposing when I suggest that the scientific notions of panpsychism as presently framed are fundamentally backwards, or upside-down, is that the simplest forms of matter and energy are the least constrained. We like to think consciousness is all about having experiences, and for us that means having experiences as a human being. For the vast majority of us, that means having experiences as a particular human being. The forms of conscious awareness most readily available to us are those bound by this beautiful complexity we call a body. But a particle—whose behavior in quantum mechanics can be explained perfectly by presuming that it explores every possible state available in the entire universe simultaneously—is not bound at all by this complexity. It could, conceivably, possess a far more abstract form of awareness, which for us is indeed unfathomable. We could say it is so dim as to be nothing at all… or we could flip the coin and say it is so bright as to be everything at once. It really is not possible for us to distinguish between these two possibilities.

The long and short is that I find it very interesting to consider that complexity is, paradoxically, proportional to limitations when it comes to consciousness. That’s not to say there are not beautiful and holy spaces to explore through this lens. There are. But I suspect a valid theory of panpsychism will need to reframe the very idea of materialism, by considering that physical systems do indeed inform consciousness—not by building it up, but by focusing it down into very specific pathways, in order to yield very specific forms of experience. Materialism would then predict that the formation of complex systems is the product of collapsing the natural, unbounded and unified form of consciousness that ultimately exists within and as everything, into localized, ephemeral, illusory, but instructive vehicles for the creation of novel experiences.

The body in this view is not an exemplar of heightened consciousness, but an exemplar of specificity, giving rise to a very limited form of consciousness.

On Genius, Part 3: Lolita

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Book Reviews / Reflections

I finished my first Nabokov yesterday. Lolita. I thought it was shockingly good—delicate, grimy and translucent all at once—though I’m acutely aware I will need to read it another time or two if I wish to speak intelligently about it. As I sit here and wonder how to take the seething swarm inside of me and capture it somehow on the page, I’m realizing it’s an interesting opportunity to continue the vein I began in my previous post—about our innate ability to recognize truth.

I was thinking more about science and religion last time than I was about art, but there’s myopia in such a view. To speak about science and religion without speaking about art seems an empty pursuit to me, for in any human endeavor, the fundamental activity—whether we wish to admit as much or not—is the expression of who we are: of who we know ourselves to be, and of who we are becoming.

I should say that I can appreciate why Lolita is a controversial work. It is, in its most parsimonious form, the story of a middle-aged man’s perverse subjugation of a twelve-year-old girl. For some readers, I know—as well as appreciate and respect—there is no degree of linguistic brilliance or artistic distillation that could be summoned to redeem such a foundation. For me, however, the work was sublime, and this is how we arrive once again at the seeming incongruity of our appreciation for exactly what it is that events, and moments, and encounters actually consist of.

While some see Lolita as a book written by a man, and narrated by a man, who self-indulgently recounts his barbaric relations with his stepdaughter, others confess to having been so taken in by the subtlety and effulgent beauty of Nabokov’s prose as to have missed the true depth of his protagonist’s evil. But for me, neither of these readings does more than scratch the surface, and what lies beneath is infinitely more difficult to wrestle wholly into view. It is precisely here, I think, that great art begins and ends.

We are ushered, before we’ve realized it has happened, into an enigmatic void, where both sweet and sour obtain, where we resonate with what we despise even as we find ourselves suddenly skeptical of all that we abide. The question is whether we can suffer such difficulties long enough to see where they lead, if anywhere, or instead find ourselves so breathless in the presence of this paramount candor that we must insist on wrapping its arm around our necks, so that we can tap out with our dignity intact.

What I think Nabokov has done, somehow, is lure those who will follow into the place where categories intermingle and mutually dissolve, where the trite cannot subsist, and the compass needle is rendered impotent. It is not a work to say that truth is in this or that; it is a work that points to the existence of a trap door in our awareness, and asks, have you seen this, too?

The foreground of this work is alarming, and it is given to us by Nabokov with such alluring, iridescent prose, that it is all too easy to be deceived. But when those two curtains part, for those still in their seats, what remains is an encounter with the abyss of stray connections, frayed ropes and discarded belongings that could lead to just about anywhere. What this vacant stage will not do, however, is field questions. The lights will not come on and reveal that all this time we’ve simply been in a theater surrounded by carefully parked cars and ice cream shops and cloudless skies. The lights have come on, in fact, and revealed the faceless potency over which all our fabrications have been laid.

And this is where the truth emerges for me, in all great art—in this whipping of our world suddenly from view, to expose the fathomless marrow of being in which we are all equally ensconced. The madness of art is that to bring such a primordial distillation of ourselves into view we must be profoundly faithful to the details of our mirage. We must illumine the fabric of what is right before us each and every day with a nearly-blinding light. We must tease and pluck apart the bolster, examine each and every thread until it, too, is found wanting—too friable to have carried the real weight of being—and we are left with nothing of which we began. Only now we’ve found what everything is.

The fragmentation of our hearts and minds that I spoke about last time can be viewed as a means of retreating from this uncanny position. This retreat is what Reich described as armoring, when I quoted him saying, “There is much good reason to assume that in such experiences of the self man somehow became frightened and for the first time in the history of his species began to armor against inner fright and amazement.

This seemingly gaping core that we witness can be staggering, but it is only so for an instant—that instant being whatever duration of time is required for us to release our grip upon the fabricated notions of self and world to which we cling. The other side of that instant is the fullness of all that we are, rampant and unbroken. It is all that we have inadvertently deprived ourselves of coming to know, and join with, because of our fractured rigidity and our self-deceptions.

Great art—genius art—pierces the veil of conceptuality, and invites us to breathe deeply the luminous air that lives within us all.

On Genius, Part 2

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Course Ideas / Reflections / Science

In this second article on the topic of genius, I found myself drifting towards our ability to recognize beauty and truth. I thought it was an interesting topic, because it relates to how we process information and perception as individuals, and part of what is so beautiful about genius is that it breaks apart our clotted mentalities.

The reorientation of perception that comes with encountering genius can be startling, but also I’ve found it can be delightful, because with the recognition of what is true, there is joy. There is release from what binds us. Over the years I’ve come to trust in this experience, and to recognize that we possess an innate faculty that recognizes truth and responds to it with feeling. This is not a logical computation, but a sensation. Feelings of joy, or peace, or even a regenerative sadness emerge, and as we follow these feelings, we are able to sift insight from the dross ground of experience, and this too, is genius. Eventually we recognize the universality of what we are discovering: it is not for us alone.

But is the truth “true” for all of us? Or are we each merely mining a tableau of personal fancy? Is there, in other words, an ability within us to recognize genuine insight—to discover, while bypassing the convolutions of logic, a deep and genuine understanding of the nature of reality? My answer to this question is yes…

But some would argue no. Just look around, they might say. If we all possessed this faculty we obviously wouldn’t disagree so vehemently about so much. It’s a powerful argument, but I don’t agree with its premise, or its conclusion, and here I turn to some of the genius writers and thinkers I’ve enjoyed exploring over the years for an alternate explanation: although we all possess such a faculty, we do not all access it equally.

A hallmark of genius, I’ve found, is the ability to not only see the big picture, but to think in terms of wholeness. To see the invisible relationships upon which the visible “facts” depend. I mentioned at the start of this series that I had recently read my first Wilhelm Reich book, Ether, God and Devil. One of the points Reich made in that book that I resonated with was the notion, from his research, that we are each “armored” to varying degrees, and that this armoring directly affects our sensations, perceptions, and feelings. He even goes on to say, “the organism can perceive only what it itself expresses.” We are thus all in the business of defining the parameters of our experience.

Without going into extreme detail, it is sufficient here to note that the armoring Reich describes is a protective mechanism that conditions our experience of ourselves and the world, and is marked by a constriction of normal, life-enhancing functions. It is an imposition of constraints on what we might otherwise think and feel—a rigidity of thought and feeling akin to an authoritarian type of control on the flow of life within and through us. We do this instinctively to protect ourselves, just as a tree becomes hardened in the area of a wound.

I believe in Reich’s mind this was a rather ancient development in humankind. In the book Cosmic Superimposition, which was printed together with Ether, God and Devil, Reich tries to imagine how this armoring could have come about, and says of humankind’s dawning ability to reason and examine it’s own self, “There is much good reason to assume that in such experiences of the self man somehow became frightened and for the first time in the history of his species began to armor against inner fright and amazement.” He goes on to say that, “it is quite possible that the turning of reasoning toward itself induced the first emotional blocking in man.” And later he concludes, “in attempting to understand himself and the streaming of his own energy, man interfered with it, and in doing so, began to armor, and thus to deviate from nature. The first split into a mystical alienation from himself, his core, and a mechanical order of existence instead of the organic, involuntary, bio-energetic self-regulation, followed with compulsive force.” (Cosmic Superimposition, pg 293-294)

What resonated with me strongly here was the notion that both mechanistic/materialist viewpoints and fundamentalist/religious viewpoints are in point of fact mirror images of the identical inner dysfunction. This is the ability of genius to see wholeness in what we take at face value to be completely different, and seemingly antagonistic, responses.

The answer to this problem, in language other than Reich used, is the integration of the heart and mind into a functional whole. In the perceptual modalities most important to me, the heart is not marginalized, but integrated with the logic of the mind. It is the heart, I believe, that is the compass I mentioned at the outset of this article—the heart that recognizes truth and chimes in with visceral acclamation. And what is missing for me in both a mechanistic and a fundamentalist religious view of the world is the awareness and wisdom of this most important faculty. Both perspectives are rooted in a certain rigidity of thought that seeks to impose a particular set of limits on the world’s magnitude, and make it more readily apprehended, judged, and subdued.

I first encountered this idea reading another genius—(to me)—Jose Arguelles. I read his book The Transformative Vision while in college, and I recall it being a beautiful exploration of the idea that the “true human being” was a seamless merging of what we call science, and what we call art. I recall Arguelles suggesting that it is only in the joining of these two fundamental aspects of our being that our authenticity and power as beings emerges. This is a theme I find echoed in Reich’s exposition of armoring, in Viktor Schauberger’s lamentation of our “techno-academic” systems, which he found as life-negating, exclusively male-oriented, and damaging to the planetary ecology, and in what A Course of Love refers to as the joining of heart and mind into wholeheartedness. (These are but a few of the places in which I’ve found such a view expressed.)

I think the reason a given individual’s recognition of truth is so often perceived as a matter of individual fancy is that we are coming at this problem primarily as “split” individuals. As split individuals we function with limited access to one or the other faculty, and are thus inaccurate perceivers. Our ability to access the inheritance of genuine knowing within us is stunted. It is a well-known fact that just about any argument can be justified with reasoning, for instance. Recognizing innately this profound difficulty, science relies upon externalized experimentation, and religion upon sacred books. But neither provides an accurate accounting of what we call life.

In my opinion when we are in our hearts, which I do not personally take to mean a marginalization of the mind, it is possible to reach the type of alignment that simply doesn’t exist when we are arguing in favor of our individual perceptions. And when we are in our hearts, I find we agree–not on facts, but on the truth expressed between us, and as us. All too often I have fallen victim to reacting to a particular idea that rankles me, but the truth is that there are no winners in the debate of ideas. The path forward is not in being right, but in being true—and ultimately this means being true to ourselves, and the entire spectrum of who we are. Geniuses throughout time have seen this, and understood that what hinders us is the profound difficulty we each have in transcending our fractured pscyhes.

On Genius, Part 1

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The first task with a subject like genius might be to define it, but I’m going to resist that temptation. I’d rather develop the ideas as we go, so that just about the time we think we’ve put our finger on it, we’ll understand why we can’t. What I’ll say is that while genius may seem to be a rare bird in our present society, it is not because any one of us lack access to it. What is suggested by this word is the fundamental nature of who we are, and if that sounds like a boring or inaccurate beginning it is only because of our lack of imagination about ourselves.

We’ve been led in our culture to believe that genius is evidenced by superiority of achievement in a field, which is not to say that it is not found in the masters we look upon with awe, but such an emphasis can be misleading. In any field there are those who possess a particular talent for it, which, if combined with years and years of practice and the type of ambition that shapes matter to its aim, may lead to the emergence of a sophistication. But technique alone is insufficient for genius. We are all familiar with those who possess astounding technique, but lack, for whatever reason, that little something extra that truly captivates and inspires us—that speaks to the very heart of who we are. Skill alone can be tedious.

On the other hand, we are also each familiar with those who lack the particular physical talent or practiced complexity that mark the most technically accomplished of a given field, but who, by the force of their passion and the manner in which they reveal the mystery of who we are, touch us deeply. We are wounded by such offerings, ushered to the brink of the roaring intensity alive within us, even as we are transported to the star-swept womb of a lowing silence. Genius inspires us to identify with what lies beyond necessity, beyond convention, and without which we would be but empty shells.

We might say that genius is the character of life itself, but this too is inaccurate, for what is meant by life? For too many of us yet, the experience of this world is a treadmill of survival. Genius may reveal itself in the face of life’s trials, but it is not the trial itself. There is no genius in suffering. There is no genius in earthly power, for that matter—in persecuting or enslaving others, in whatever form—just as there is no genius in deriving power from fealty. The power of genius is that it entitles everyone to a share, and where there is real genius, this is instantly recognized. Where there is genius, everyone is rewarded.

This niggling something extra we call genius cannot be captured or taught. It cannot be codified, reduced or pinned down, and no structured program can synthesize what is in truth the very content of our being. We cannot make ourselves any more or any less who we are, but we can desire to know who we are, and in our explorations is genius revealed. We can proceed only by remembering, and discover only by sharing.

The hallmark of genius is that it reveals us. Genius eclipses the norm, to be sure, but the norm is an arbitrary convention that nowhere exists, and uniqueness itself is not genius. We’ve all seen the sort of turning-away that is prideful and affected. Genius involves an authenticity that transforms all who partake of it, by releasing us from the bonds of our mistaken conclusions. It doesn’t rancor against what has been, but eclipses it with a beautiful certitude that renders our previous muddling moot. Though genius is not out to claim victory, it is our way out of loss, because genius makes us whole.

The problem with genius is that it is not a respecter of qualifications. It requires no resume or previous training, and our systems tend to be built on the convention of paying dues—on entitlement, seniority and lineage. Some of this is as it should be. And some of it is not. If you want to go farther in a field than those who previously set the markers, then you may have to retrace some of their steps. Genius is not about a willy-nilly hunch—it’s not about strapping wings made of wax onto your back and diving off a cliff. Too often we equate genius with derring-do. The genius is not in any particular feat, but in the attentiveness we give to our dreams, in the knowing that we work with—which no other can give us—and in our scraping away the barnacles of doubt we’ve picked up from the tidepools of history into which we were born.

Where there is genius, there is magic. The unknown is made real. There is conception, and birth, and new life. What existed for no one, comes into existence for everyone. There are stocks of this little something more within all of us, and I think the challenges we face on this planet arise principally from our efforts to come up with systems that work without resort to this most fundamental resource. It’s like trying to grow food without resorting to the use of sunlight, like trying to breathe only the air we’ve first squeezed into tanks.

If we had this stuff we’d use it! we say. But this is not so. The truth is we spurn genius, and we are frightened by those who can enter the sanctity of their own being and emerge with something we think we could not have. We think fairness is when long-suffering is the only resource at our disposal. Insights are too unpredictable; there is no obvious proportionality between the work that is input and the revelation received, and so they upset our tiered systems of privilege. But so long as we sustain a world in which the inventor reaps a reward that no caregiver can hope to receive, a world in which only what is provably earned may be received, genius will be thwarted.

We’ve created a world where power trumps authenticity, and this world requires only such genius as may be trademarked, copyrighted, or patented. In this world we cannot compute the possibility that what is real is only that which is shared by everyone. It is ironic, is it not, that the victors in our systems lay claim to the spoils? What we call power in this world exists in equal measure to all the unused stocks of genius that have gone rancid. It is the product of our dismay with all those who refuse to know so little as we ourselves do.

But worry not, for genius is the power of who we are, and it is the only power that will remain. If that seems like a definition, then perhaps you know something about us that I do not, for I have yet to even glimpse the horizon.

Rebooting the Blog

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Course Ideas

I’ve not posted here in a while, but look forward to getting back into a rhythm in the near future. I’ve been working on a few short stories, and making very slow progress on a novel that will eventually be drafted, and also have been contributing some writing to a booklet that will provide some Q&A on the connections between A Course in Miracles and A Course of Love.

The most exciting personal news of recent months is that my short story “Candelaria” was picked up in February by the New Limestone Review–the University of Kentucky’s literary journal. This was a very welcome development, to say the least.

I read my first Wilhelm Reich book this winter, a combined volume that contained two short works entitled Ether, God and Devil and Cosmic Superimposition. Reich’s writing was thoughtful and I much enjoyed encountering his novel perspective on things. The experience left me thinking it would be fun to write a series of posts on the subject of genius. There are many thinkers and creators who have worked outside of established conventions, some of whom have enjoyed some popular success and many of whom have not, and I suspect there are countless inspired people we know precious little about. The ability to cultivate a penetrating insight, and also to possess the skill, talent and perseverance to introduce it to a world that doesn’t always know how to handle it, is exceedingly rare it seems.

Anyway, more to follow…

A Course of Love Virtual Conference

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Course Ideas

It can be hard to explain just how or why a particular source of wisdom moves us as it does. Challenges with anxiety and self-doubt earlier in my life, coupled with a deep-seated desire to make contact with what—at least in glimpses—was a loving universal reality, led me to A Course in Miracles (ACIM). This book was extremely helpful to me because it clarified sources of confusion I hadn’t previously been able to understand. I studied it on my own for something like fifteen years—off and on. While the philosophy was never far from my attention, I drew closer to it in some times than others, like an orbiting moon.

The basic idea of ACIM is that we don’t properly understand or interpret our experience, principally because we misunderstand who we are. It’s a common idea in many spiritual teachings. A fundamental idea contained in ACIM is that we are not purely physical beings, and that reality is not purely material, and that just about every value judgment we form is erroneous because of how we assign value, where we place our attention, and how we structure our thought given our misunderstanding. There’s the idea that we’re almost looking at things upside-down, or inside-out. Where we were intended to deeply know, express and rely upon the invulnerability of our being, instead we only seem to know ourselves as vulnerable, isolated, and alone. We’ve been bereft instead of heartened.

A key practice in ACIM is shifting our perception so that we learn to be at peace, with the idea being that as we withdraw our investment in falsehood, the truth will naturally be restored in our sight. One thing that can happen is that we can oversimplify this process—we learn to carve out this quiet niche of peace to which we remove ourselves when difficulty arises, but we don’t ever quite merge this bubble of genuine knowing with the entirety of our daily experience. It’s like we’re split in two almost. There is the world that nags and tugs at us, and then there is the peace to which we navigate, and we bounce back and forth as times demand.

I was recognizing this—that I could easily find my way back to peace, but also that I kept misplacing it—when I did a web search to see if there were any other modern spiritual teachings from Jesus that might be out there. If there was one, why not another? I knew, of course, that there was more than one. I’d also read A Way of Mastery, and a book I’ve long enjoyed is Dialogue on Awakening by Tom Carpenter. But I was curious. And that’s when I found A Course of Love (ACOL). It was sometime in 2012 I believe.

For me ACOL was just perfect. There was a fullness there, an emphasis on the importance of expressing who we are to become who we are—and not just in terms of speaking intellectually about the “idea” we have of ourselves, but of actually leaving behind the self-concepts to which we so often compare ourselves. The book touched me in a way that few have, and I’ve enjoyed returning to it on multiple occasions. Just like with ACIM, my orbit of ACOL seems to be elliptical—I approach and I retreat. But the retreat isn’t really a retreat as much as a deeper level of trust I think. A foray into genuine unity, without the training wheels. A digression into deeper meaning.

This is a long-winded preface for sharing with anyone who may be interested that this weekend there will be an on-line conference about A Course of Love. I’ve included a link below. This weekend marks the 20th Anniversary of Mari Perron’s receipt of the Course. I don’t feel there’s any substitute for encountering a teaching like this directly, but I also think if you’re drawn to participate in some fashion that this conference will be a direct encounter of its own. The power of ACOL is, for me, at least in part, the encouragement to live who we are. It’s a tall order, but the truth is we only do it together. We can’t sit in our rooms and polish ourselves up, then reach the proper state and go into town. There’s really no polishing required; rather, we need a certain vulnerability, a certain acceptance of who we are. An understanding of ourselves that is genuine, and can only come from discovering who we are through the sharing of who we are.

I’m a panelist in one or two of these videos, and had fun getting on these video calls to share in some creative encounters. If you’re interested, I hope you will check it out. Regardless, and as always, I hope just touching on these ideas for a moment or two here brings some peace to your day.

The Mission is Everything

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A number of elements drew me to Linda’s Mission-Possible Blog Challenge this year, but the first was the Louise Hayes desk calendar image she posted that read, “I chose to come to this planet, and I am delighted to be here.” The image included the eyes of a fox peering playfully over the top of a log. Something about that just cracked me up. It’s certainly not what we’ve been feeling of late—it’s not the most obvious emotion at play in the world, at any rate—and yet it sort of begs the question, what else would I be doing? And where would I rather be?

Linda’s blog challenge is about having a purpose to fulfill in this earthly life. A soul mission. I’m at the point where showing up seems like maybe it was the mission, and this doesn’t seem inconsistent with the image of a fox peering over the top of a log, readying itself to pounce. I think it is the playfulness of that picture that I loved when I saw it, and it is playfulness that seems important to me somehow. To play is not necessarily to have a serious mission, but it’s not wasted time either. Play gladdens the heart, communicates equality and innocence, requires vulnerability. And it transmutes all that time I spend being serious into something useful.

You may have an image of what it is to be a playful person, and I probably don’t fit it. I’m not Will Farrell. And for swaths of my day I’m quite serious about things. But there’s always this fox peering over the log of my own seriousness, waiting to catch me in my own forgetting, and when the time presents itself, he dives into the fray. I can only hold my breath in serious waters for so long. I’m definitely not built to reside there indefinitely, which is kind of interesting given what’s going on right now in the world at large. It’s a pretty serious time, with some form of fear and destruction in the ascension on every front.

There’s a sense for me that weathering the storm of this age may be the mission. Living right through the middle of it. Maybe just knowing that what’s important is our being for one another—being sideless in a way. And I think play can be like that. It doesn’t require a declaration of identity and ideology. It doesn’t require qualifications or expertise. This play to which I’m drawn isn’t what you do when you’re bored, or escaping—it’s the kind of play you do when you’re building something new. It’s a whistling-while-you-work play.

There is a challenge I have sometimes with the specificity of the mission idea, like there’s this one thing in which our lives culminate and which our “success” hinges upon. Maybe that was true of Tesla, or Churchill, or those who have made specific contributions with their genius or strength of character. Maybe it’s true of those who seek to escape the wheel of reincarnation—maybe there is a particular experience to be lived, absorbed, and forgiven that will provide the desired release. I don’t know. But my sense is that in all of these cases there is something even more expansive, more common, even more immediate that underwrites these other notions—the experience of sharing of a meal, of traveling from one place to another, of the wind whisking over the grass, the color of flowers in spring and the scent of snow in winter. There’s a way in which we’re almost always placeless, even when we’re right here.

The idea of a mission breaks down for me when it posits a goal related to being somewhere else. So for me, the mission is to be right here, and to continue being right here, now, free in the creative balance of this moment. I think this brings me back to playfulness, which is always so immediate and so enlivening. If we can discover how to be at peace with one another in these times, it seems a tremendous accomplishment, far greater than any technology or political coup one may have achieved. And so this mission isn’t mine alone. It isn’t personal, in the sense that this sort of goal is not achieved in isolation, or in spite of what else may be occurring.

If I do have a mission, I think it must be the type that unfolds day by day, little by little, under the cover darkness perhaps, whether I am conscious of it or not. The mission is the energy that moves me. It’s the wind that sets my life into motion, and nowhere it takes me will be removed from its aim. I am most content in the knowing that my mission is here and now. When I can settle into the calamity of being with greater ease, I feel the most purposeful, the most powerful, and the most fulfilled.

A Selection of True Awakening Experiences Part III

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My days are no longer numbered. That’s one thing I’ve noticed.

And I feel okay about being up this creek without a paddle. I’m even starting to think whatever it is I don’t know is probably the best part, and always will be.

Today, I must confess, the full moon cracked me like a nut, and I wasn’t the only one. For a while we were floundering. All of us. Working up a righteous indignation there in the conference room. Awakening is realizing Hafiz is there the whole time, standing just outside the frame with his stopwatch and kazoo, counting down until real forgiveness strikes–that breath that says, what’s all this about?

I admit, I inhaled. The wounds we receive are never what they seem. Those are where the sweetness resides. We tunnel through them into glory. Most of the time I’m ignorant of what’s happening and I have to look back to see what it really meant. I have to dig down until I strike the nectar of who we are. Then I understand. I was thinking the whole episode meant something pretty good while I was driving home, realizing I wouldn’t have it any other way, while overhead the sky was splitting open into colors.

You realize at some point you have a secret inside you that you’ll probably never finish telling. But it’s sure fun to try. I listened to a podcast last week by some philosophers who were saying living forever wouldn’t actually be good, because we’d run out of new experiences to try, and then we’d get bored. It would be best if we could control when and how we died. Then we could maximize. I think that’s how I felt before I read Rumi, before I cried alone in the forest, before I realized everyone has the same secret inside of them and no clue how to tell it. Somewhere along the way you realize we’re already endless, and that all these different faces we’re bumping into are the Answer to the problem of eternity.

So can you really be awakened and have a day job?

Yes, of course.

In fact, that’s pretty much how it works. The ocean works all the time. The plants. The microbes. The stars. We need breaks, of course. During one of them you swat a fly and suddenly you realize: it’s all just being the thing you don’t know how to be. Now you have perspective. It does get easier.

Underneath the continuous rant of dissatisfaction we call a world, there is always light gathering. The world is a tree laden with ever-ripening fruit. It’s easy to say it’s something else. Something stifling and hot. Something to be wary of, at least.

Get as wary as you’d like. It’s okay, the moon will come along and crack you open. That’s what I learned…

Many thanks to Barbara for inviting me to participate in the next leg of this collective journey of discovery…