On New Life

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Course Ideas

I have, for most of my life, been curious about the creation of a better world. When I think about what this world could be, it comes with feelings of wonder and happiness that are quite the opposite of the guilt and grief that attend the world as we have known it. I think these feelings are related to the sensation of things working out. Or perhaps more accurately, of things having already worked out. It’s like a distant memory of a place we all must know. There is the sense that, somehow, what is true is good, and what is good is so for all of us, and that in our coming to know this we discover there is even more to it than we thought.

This could easily be dismissed as sentimental, even misguided dreaming. Plenty of people along the way have been willing to disabuse me of these notions by explaining how the world really works. To them I can only say, yes… that’s how it’s worked in the past. The question is not whether or not it was, however, but whether or not it had to be. Has the world been the way it has because it simply couldn’t have been otherwise—because of some inviolable law that requires it function just as it has forever? Or could it have been different?

My answer is yes, it could have been, and still could be, different.

This answer permits me to wonder just what it is that might be changed or transformed, and just what it is my heart still whispers about. Such questions may be answered on many levels, but I think we must get to what is fundamental if we are to truly understand. And in the simplest terms possible, I think the world we’ve known has been rooted in the seemingly inviolable principle of death. Death is the ticking clock, the enforcer of our zero-sum games, the tragedy we cannot escape, the ultimate acknowledgment that things don’t work out in the end.

With death as the final arbiter of what is so, the perception of certain realities is inescapable. For starters, death isolates us, each from each. Death is not a team sport, after all—it is the cessation, the extinguishing, forever, of me. In a world beneath death’s sway, the life we “have” is the one thing that is ours and ours alone to do with as we please. We will never receive another, and there is no going back. I am me and you are you, and we are profoundly separate beings, each packaged separately, our lives compartmentalized by the bounding walls of our individual volition and ultimate demise.

To say that conflict arises from this view is an understatement. And there is no escaping it while death is in command. Our responses to the situation vary greatly. Some try to be good, or virtuous. Some to maximize pleasure or profit in the time allotted. Some to pass on a name, a mark, or a brand. Others to live quietly while leaving not a trace. I’m not sure the world will ever be without conflict, by the way, and certainly not without differences of opinion, perspective, and desire. But there’s a tragic edge to things when death is running the show.

So let us talk of Life! We’re all enamored of life in one way or another, but I think precious few of us yet appreciate its true dimension. The life of which I speak is not the life defined by death’s shadow. It is not some fragile, chance dynamic hacking bubbles of being from the inky sea of molasses that is death’s perpetual presence, only to collapse again into nothing at all. It is not defined by bodies or forms or colors alone, though these are most certainly spun-off from its creative flux. It is not some subset of the world we see. Life, real life, is an indivisible movement, a power unto itself alone, a perpetually unfolding wholeness in which nothing is truly lost, and in which we are fundamentally joined even as the platform of Life itself brokers the possibility of freedom, novelty, and differentiation.

We realize how profoundly death’s grip has held us when we try to parse the statement: there is no death in Life. What does this even mean? To the rational mind still isolated from the whole, still divorced from the heart’s clear knowing, the statement would seem to require a sort of superhero immortality—that we live in our current form forever. Wouldn’t this be life without death? Well, no actually! Such a notion is still in death’s thrall; it is simply death inside-out. Still defined by death alone, this existence would be yet another, macabre form of tragedy: day without night, existence without rest, and stasis without transformation. This is not Life!

There’s a great deal more to unpack here, but for now I simply wanted to convey some sense of the spaces we’ve yet to explore. The question is still before us: how would a world nourished by our awareness of Life itself be different than the world we’ve made in the past? I must admit this is where the dreams begin for me, the flashes of what might be. None of us can predict the experience we will have when we begin something new, but we can imagine it, and what I imagine are conditions obtaining in our society like transparency, simplicity, and authenticity. Death is the great obfuscator, you see—the keeper of secrets and guilt, the progenitor of shame. Through these instruments, death commands our allegiance. These could fall away, leaving us with genuine concern for all life, backed by a willingness to make an honest accounting of things, and the space to do so in which blame and mistrust are replaced by compassion and support.

Most importantly what I see is the restoration of rational values, by which I mean those values that emerge when the thrall of death has been left behind, and the power to destroy is finally seen as ineffectual compared to the power to create. The masculine and feminine—the mind and the heart—will merge and our actions will be guided by the principles of life. It is hard for us to even comprehend how it may be so, but it is possible for us to be freed from the horrible trade-offs that stalk us today. And this is how we will know the world has been transformed: when the means of our fulfillment are profoundly just, and the source of our joy is the day itself.

17 Comments

  1. Death is part of life…it’s normal…just driving in a different car…someone told me that…be alive and enjoy the brand new 24 hours…always thoughtful and makes me wonder…thank you Michael 🙏🤍🕊 smiles and joy from our isolation here in etown 🤓🤗☺️

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello Hedy! Thank you for the note and hope you have a lovely New Year’s!

      This is an interesting subject and hard to cover in a single post–the way our perspective can shift so profoundly when we discover the fact of Life in our heart. Like many things spiritual, both the either (we die, that’s it, there is only this plane, e.g. materialism) and the or (we live forever in the forms with which we identify today) seem in adequate descriptions of the spaces in which we ultimately reside. Transformation–a beginning and an end, but a renewal, too–is normal…

      Blessings my friend!
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lee Roetcisoender says

    As with any form of expression, there is no equality, justice or morality underlying the relationships that make up the individual parts of that work of art; only contrast, diversity, competition and strife. At a fundamental level, it is the contrast of the individual parts competing against each other that makes an expression possible. If one is searching for equality and justice within the framework of a work of art it will not be found. Equality, justice and morality will only be found within a one-ness viewed as a whole. So, from the perspective of wholeness, a perspective that is in direct contrast to individuality, the act of expression itself is a moral endeavor.

    Peace of mind comes from knowing that we are not alone and that we as individuals are a part of that greater experience, an expression that by its very nature is a just and moral enterprise. What makes any expression work is diversity and contrast wherein the individual parts are competing with each other for the right texture, the right color pigments, the right refraction of light or the right placement upon the canvas of our universe.

    As a work of art, a human being may not be an exceptional piece of that universal painting, but we are unique in that we can reach a consensus amongst ourselves and write our own story of justice and equality by creating our own work of art through cultural expression. We do not have to serve the dynamics that brought the expression to where it is today. And as human beings, we have been imbued with a power that is unprecedented within the entirety of the expression and individually, we have the power to control our own destiny by determining what that final work of art will look like as we express our own intrinsic properties is this choreography of Life.

    Peace

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Lee,

    I’m thinking there are three or four rabbit holes in your reply here we could tumble down. But first I wanted to say this statement really hit the nail on the head for me, We do not have to serve the dynamics that brought the expression to where it is today.

    I think I understand what you mean when you note that “there can be no equality, justice or morality underlying the relationships that make the individual parts of a work of art,” but I’m curious if you could explain further. Or maybe you can comment on my attempt to say what you’ve said back to you. It seems to me that as individual elements, when we identify solely or primarily with that individuality, then we are inherently in a competitive relationship with other individual identities. But when we identify with the whole, this dynamic shifts.

    I watched the documentary Call of the Forest recently, and so as I think about a healthy forest, and about these notions, it seems they both obtain somehow. There is the need for diversity at the individual level, and here there is competition (as you describe it) between the various species that would occupy particular niches, but then there is something profoundly whole and beautiful about how it all fits together. So there is a cooperation that almost subsumes the competition when viewed through the lens of the whole.

    Is this similar to what you’re saying?

    Peace!
    Michael

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  4. Lee Roetcisoender says

    You nailed it my friend. I think this notion of individuality that we cherish so deeply is the very dynamic which isolates us from the whole, and that dynamic is a relic left over from the very evolutionary process that brought us to where we are today. Prior to the introduction of mind, there were only valences that guided the evolutionary process of the expression; valences being non-conceptual representations of value. With the introduction of mind and the intrinsic power this new system possesses, homo sapiens now have the power to alter this dynamic because the very nature of valences themselves can now be perceived as conceptual representations of that same value; and that’s a game changer.

    It is the genesis of conceptual representations of value which tips the balance in our favor, but only if one is willing to embrace the structure of intellect over the primordial feelings and non-conceptual representations that still enthrall us to one degree or another. For example: I think the fear of death is directly correlated more towards valences than it is towards the pure, cold hearted structure of intellect.

    Intelligence is a double-edged sword and we all have to learn how to use that power wisely. One can choose to use it in service to valences or one can learn to use it in the context of conceptual representations of value expressed as intellect. This is a dynamic where the structure of intellect supersedes primordial valences. We will never be free from the affects of valences, but we can use the power of our intelligence to make meaningful decisions that benefit the whole and not just the individual.

    Peace

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Lee! I understand more and more of your terminology as you share. In these few paragraphs something further clicked with me and I realized that what you are describing as the non-conceptual representations of value, i.e. the valences that guided evolution, are probably what A Course in Miracles and subsequently A Course of Love describe as “body thoughts.” Here is a quote from ACOL that I think dovetails nicely with what you’ve shared:

      The idea of sharing one heart, one heartbeat, one love, is not so unacceptable to you as the idea of sharing one mind. Your thoughts, you feel, are your own, private and sacrosanct. These highly guarded and regarded thoughts are what A Course in Miracles calls body thoughts. Distinctions are made in many religions and philosophies that separate thought—as dictated by the body—from thought of a higher order, or spiritual thought. Thoughts related to your personal self and the “laws” of the body, such as those of survival, are not the thoughts of the true Self. This is the clarification that needs to be made for some of you to fully let go of your fear of the shared thought system of unity. (from ACOL C:31.2)

      Happy New Year!
      Michael

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  5. I would never have thought of it this way, though I share your optimism, and the idea that there is indeed Life, or perhaps I’d call it consciousness, without death. I also expect that one day all, or at least most of us will awaken to this truth. And when we do it will be so obvious we will laugh. It reminds me of Ramama Marharshi’s acolites lamenting that he was leaving (with the death of the body) and him saying he was not leaving, and “where would I go?”
    Alison

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, it’s indeed a mystery, Alison! There’s a way in which what truly is defies the standard categorical partitions of our mind. In a book I hope to share more about soon called Mirari: the Way of the Marys, Mari Perron has a dialogue with Mary of Nazareth, and at one point Mary says, “where is it you think we are?” A very similar question to Marharshi’s quote. I think it defies being just one thing or another somehow. But most importantly, whatever it is, it’s all part of Life! When the expansive, inclusive nature of Life is apprehended, the concept of “using” the natural world or one another for personal gain simply makes no sense…

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This was so good, Michael, such a nice gift to read and savor on this sunny New Year’s Day. Thank you so much. Your writing always brings a smile to my face and such an expansion to my heart.

    I finally found my log in information to WordPress, so I am back on here, and looking forward to catch up with your writings. I am glad you are able to express with words what some of us feel with little dusty corners of our hearts. It is almost like you take a broom of sentences and sweep away the dust so we can see the beauty and possibilities underneath.

    May your 2021 start well and be nourishing for you and your family.

    Sending you Peace and Love
    Kristina

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kristina!

      Hope you have a great 2021 as well. So nice to hear from you, and thank you for the lovely description of how my thoughts here connected with feelings and inklings of your own. It’s beautiful how we share in these “knowings” together. I wasn’t super active in 2020 on WordPress but we’ll see what the coming year brings. Inspiration, too, seems to flow through times and seasons of its own!

      Peace and Love to you as well–
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Such gentle, hopeful words. The perfect words to begin a new year. I believe that those of us who have the capacity for contemplation naturally envision a better world. And, yes, it seems like a place we know in distant memory. Maybe this is what hope is: the memory of a place we once inhabited and to which we long to return. It’s one thing to imagine that world and another to ponder how we can possibly return to it during this life. I also believe that this time that we’re traversing is a gateway to a whole new way of living. For those who can recognize it. No, we don’t have to continue as we have been for millenia. Throughout history, there have been great empires that eventually fall, only to be replaced by another that functions in the very same way – as a centrally-controlled hierarchy that eventually becomes bloated and corrupt. We need to stop giving our power away, in my opinion.

    May 2021 bring you continued inspiration, Michael. Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m with you, Julie. It’s hard to see how we might return to it in this lifetime, but I was thinking the other day–reading Richard Powers’ beautiful book The Overstory, where in one passage he recounts the timeline of Earth if it was scaled to a 24-hr day–that this profound transition happening may be taking place for a few hundred years either side of the mid-point… It sort of squares with our intuition concerning the inertia of our current trajectory. At the same time, I’m reminded of the work Ilya Prigogine did, in discovering the dynamics of self-organizing systems. The classic example is the Raleigh-Bernard convection cell: the fluid is boiling in complete chaos, and then in an instant shifts into a highly ordered state. You can find a good video of this online if you look it up… So who knows!? We could be approaching or be in, right now, a point approaching some sort of phase shift. Humans being so much more complex than water molecules this is a metaphor I suppose. But a fun one to contemplate.

      Yes, we’ve got to stop giving power away. It may include discovery of where our true power lies I think…

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

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