So, you are a writer that feels inspired by a great idea to put it out there in fiction – cause if you do, there’s two of us.
You have carefully elaborated your character cards, you have designed an enticing and captivating plot with lots of unexpected turning points and surprise reversals of situations, and your hard-worked book already feels like a page turner. You have perfectly calculated your first 25% of the book’s first conflict, you have carefully considered what happens once your book builds up at 50%, and then you have built a looming disaster for your character at the next coming turn point, once your book reaches into the 75%. Here it is time for an impossible situation when all is lost, or almost, and only a miracle can still save the day for your character.
Today science and technology have enabled us to live with different donors’ organs, with artificial organs or limbs, more recently 3D printed, or with newly grown parts from stem cells. We have the ability to change body parts like we do for our cars, yet we are still capable of identifying ourselves as being the same person as before. What is this thing that makes us form and keep an identity, a basic feeling of who we are?
It’s ok to change a limb, or an organ – even as crucial as the heart. But what if we were to change, for instance, our brain, in a head transplant? Would we still keep your identity after that?? For my part, what makes me be who I am is not my hair, or liver, or legs, but my mind (ok, maybe my soul: my brain and my heart), because it’s behind the way I feel, think, remember, act and react. So, I guess, identity is mostly provided by our mind.
Which brings me to this crucial question: If a doctor were to transplant a head on a different body, who would the new person be – what would be his identity? If we had a John’s head on a Bill’s body, would that be Bill, still, but with a different head? Or would that be John, “wearing” Bill’s body??
As absurd that this may sound – and it did seem so out of this world to me when I first heard about it, this is a real scientific project, already performed on dogs, rats and monkeys. But between a monkey and a human there is not much of a difference, right?
Why would scientists do that? I think that people, when they do crazy things, they do it firstly because they can; many things are happening in the world today because of the high disproportion between wisdom and intelligence, and power doesn’t seem to care about wisdom – not even when it comes to science. Is it in quest of fame? Even though this fame may well turn into notoriety a few years ahead, when the results may turn out to be disastrous?
Dr Sergio Canavero of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group proposed to use surgery to extend the lives of people with degenerated muscles and nerves or cancer-permeated organs: “I think we are now at a point when the technical aspects are all feasible” – he is preparing to do it himself in two years from the date of the announcement (June, 2015, according to New Scientist). The head will belong to a 30 y.o. Russian patient who is trying to offer himself a chance this way. He is suffering of a rare degenerative genetic disorder, a muscle wasting disease, which would be the main reason behind operating head transplants. Now, if the volunteering patient feels and knows for sure that there is no other way for him than do it or die, it’s easy to understand: the guy is kind of playing the “Russian Roulette”, but in reverse: of all the deadly bullets, there may be a single one to shoot life back into his body, give him a probable chance to life.
I have no doubts that, if this experiment will fail in 2017, chances are that it may become routine in 2020. That is why I would like to take you off the course of current way of thinking: “Let’s take the next step ahead, even though, who knows, the stepping stone my foot is currently on may go tumbling down into the abyss as soon as I move it, leaving me stranded above a gaping void.” What sort of a life would that be? How, and who could one feel with a new head, or a new body?
Identity – What Makes Me Be “Me”?
I know who I am not only because I read, studied, listened, exchanged information with the world outside of me. But I am who I am because this body of mine that I’ve been gifted with years ago has been the source of endless experiences, pleasurable or not, but mostly through my senses – my body has provided them to my brain, and my brain has been labeling them in categories and memories from least to most joyful or painful. I am a full package of all this, a whole circuit of an entire chemistry between my brain and my body – a package of memories of sensations and emotions provided by my brain-body system. To these I add my dreams (wishes and literal dreams), my ambitions (which mostly are not for recognition, but for realizing, I hope, happiness), my relationships – I can’t see my life without them (would they relate the same way to me when I’m no more the one they knew??). This is what makes me and defines me, gives me the feeling of who and what I am, and I wouldn’t exchange them with anybody or anything. This is how I relate to my inner self and to the world around me.
When I feel tired, or sad, if there is a breeze of wind, a fresh scent of freshly cut grass, some scented oil on my skin after a relaxing bath, a beautiful plateau with mountain flowers and grazing sheep with bells by a gurgling spring nearby, or the taste of freshly picked, ripe raspberries, any of these would immediately project me into a different dimension, and would effect a sudden change to this complex “I am”: any of these can instantly change me from a grumpy person into a five-year-old jumping bundle of joy. I am not so sure that my head alone could provide me with any of these – I can read about a love scene, but it would always leave inside me a craving for the real experience – to me, quality of life is not tradable in exchange for longer life, not even for the long-held humanity’s dream, immortality.
What brought me to these musings is all this talk about the increasing role that information technologies (IT) and artificial intelligence (AI) are going to play in our lives sooner than later. Maybe I am old-fashion, but I am not such a big fun of virtual reality, and in the next post I am going to explain why.
I can completely understand why people who keep their blogs private. Some of the things I write and see on here are deeply personal, so why would we want the rest of the world to read it? Especially those blogs concerning mental health. There’s still a massive stigma attached to it and you don’t want to have to proof read and edit everything you write so that your language is acceptable for every person that could come across it.
It’s not about how many people follow your blog or how many people find what you write interesting; sometimes it’s just about having an outlet to scream and shout (and let it all out!). It’s so therapeutic to write all your feelings down – it takes them out of your head for a while which can be priceless and more useful than anything any doctor can ever offer you.
Let’s say you have a great job that has been passioning you for a number of years, you have a great life, your husband/wife is as much in love with you as in the first month after you met, but there’s been a shadow lately that seems to take away the brightness off all these blessings, leaving your soul bare. Because you just realized that time is passing by, you are not getting any younger. But these are just the exterior things. You have inside a growing emptiness that, some strong inner voice is telling you, only one or two little children might fulfill. And your sister/cousin/friend, far from having all the comfort that you are currently enjoying, has already two gorgeous kids that are growing up under your very eyes and seem to bring their parents joys far greater than any job could ever provide. And then you feel quite a nostalgia… for someone you never knew before, a tiny being who, eventually, if coming into your life, will change you in ways never imagined. You just entered the powerful influence of the Mother/Father archetype.
Or, another story, another archetype: you tread the alleys of life in all ease and happiness, believing in your bright star and your right to independence, in your own power of self-expression and your right to enjoy life. The more you seem to praise your independence, the more those of the opposite sex seem to be attracted to you, and excuse is good if it helps you to stay free. And then, the unthinkable, the unbelievable happens: you’ve met that person for five minutes, but now, living even one hour faraway from him/her seems an eternity of loneliness and darkness… you have just fallen in the Love archetype.
Or the Transformation archetype…When this one takes over, it’s time for you to search for meaning, think deeper, ponder over the big life’s questions… over the Big Roles one must play in life…
If there is really nothing you can do but drop everything and follow these deep urges, you have just fallen under the compulsive influence of an archetype. There is intense discussion on how much we act upon rational decisions, and how much we are unconsciously motivated: when we fall in love, it is not a rational decision, but we act as if driven by an almighty force, a force that we cannot resist. When falling in love happens instantaneously, with a passionate, consuming and out of control emotion, it is because we have just activated an archetypal “program”. It is archetypal because it characterizes humans no matter the culture, social position, age, race, etc, and it is a program because, like with any digital device that functions in certain ways, we, too, behave at times as if “programmed”, outside of our control. In a less mechanistic view, an archetype is a universal pattern of behavior that motivates everything we do.
Archetypes (archein, meaning “original or old”; and typos, which means “pattern, model or type”, that is “original patterns”. The archetypal images of the Hero, the God andthe Goddess are so ingrained within us since primordial times that mankind has elevated them to cosmic proportions, identified them with celestial bodies – they are now part of World’s mythologies.
The Father, Mother, Lover, the Trickster, etc, are also archetypal, “primordial images” according to Jung; the Self (the archetype of wholeness or of the self), the Anima/Animus (the part of the soul characterizing the opposite gender: a man will look for his feminine part of the soul in every woman he encounters, and similarly the woman, for her masculine part), the Spirit, the Shadow – that bad vs good duality in conflict also within ourselves; the Self: our strive for wholeness, or for oneness, that we represent or find in a Mandala.
Mandala, as a circle, is the symbol of completeness and perfection of the being, an expression for heaven, sun, and God; it has, since ever, expressed the primordial image of man and of the soul.
In ways not unacknowledged by today science (subliminal perception existed way before modern advertising, politics and so on, started to use science’s discoveries), symbolic images affect us at levels below the threshold of consciousness. Just by contemplating it as a spiritual exercise, a mandala takes us through a complete journey towards finding the Center, the “navel” of our personality, as our ancestors used to see it – it has a healing role, guiding, helping one settle and find own grounding. During such exercise, images talk to the soul before talking to the mind. Christianity has discovered these same fundamental realities in the three-dimensional representation of the mandala, the cross. This has in time acquired the highest possible moral and religious significance for Western man.
But these symbols are universal; any quaternity – the four cardinal directions , or four corners of the world, the four seasons, the ancient Greek classic four elements : Earth, Water, Air and Fire (like in Tibetan Mandalas), Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, the Four Gospels, the Four Rivers in the Garden of Eden, the Four Vedas of Hinduism, the Four Archangels of Islam, etc., is intended to cover any aspect in its wholeness and be complete.
But what is the need to feel complete, or what is the meaning of that? Jung has introduced us to the Archetype of Wholeness, or Archetype of the Self : the psyche’s need to achieve the totality of its conscious and of its unconscious components. According to Jung, when one realizes, knows and accepts the totality of his personality with his goods and his bads, his Conscious and his Shadow, he will have achieved the totality of the self – he will have attained the Center. As ultimate goal, self-fulfillment is an universal instinct, called by Jung individuation; according to our capacity for flexibility and non-resistance, all our experiences, good and bad, pleasant or unpleasant, serve to take us there, sooner or later.
Jung could be just the new voice added to the chorus, as the most familiar aphorism to have traveled along times and cultures, since the oldest antiquity to our days, must be probably “know thyself”. It has been taught, written, shouted, advised, sang, cast in metal and chiseled in stone, from the Greek “gnothy seauton” (“know thyself”) inscription written in stone in the forecourt of Apollo’s temple in Delphi, to Socrates, to Plato, to Brias of Priene, Heraclitus, Thales of Miletus, Pythagoras, to more recent days Thomas Hobbes, Alexander Pope, Samuel Coleridge, etc., in all languages and all cultures; it is the motto of Hamilton College and of a few other educational institutions around the world – this just to wash away the New-Age-ish coating that many apply to it in dismissive ways. No matter the interpretations that many have thought appropriate to express, Pythagoras speaks with most clarity: “Man, know thyself;then thou shalt know the Universe and God.”
Other archetypal images refer to the axis, like the World Tree, or Axis Mundi – the axis that links the Heavens to the Earth, and relates Man to the God primordial image: The Creator up there made us down here to serve and elevate Creation. Some native peoples name him/her The Wise Old Man/Woman.
Having grown up with holy images each of us in our respective cultures, we have consciously and unconsciously been absorbing their substance; their meaning has become part of us and they are now our models of growth and evolution. So much so that, at times (too many times, in fact) they talk to us so loudly that they deafen or blind us to the only reality: that they are universal. God, in any language around the world, is equally holy, unique, awesome, tremendous, as we are equally human, mortal, imperfect, striving and questioning.
Archetypal images fascinate me more than anything since I had to realize that, if I seemed sometimes unreasonable and obsessed with one or other issue in my life, it wasn’t me – I can, in all honesty, blame it on the Archetype in action at that time. Nobody can resist or oppose the irrepressible power archetypes have on us, and everybody should be well aware of the key role they play in our lives – this could spare us many conflicts.
Do you relate a phase of your life to any of these archetypal energies? Initially I started writing this after pondering for a long time over the action of the many archetypes in my life. Then I just realized that no more had any of them such an effect on me as at the “peak of the action” – nothing seems to matter to me as much as it used to at given times in my life. Having thought of all that, of all those memories, I could give a sigh of relief, together with asking God, or any divinity that might hear my prayer: no more of that, pray, I have had already enough.
But then, I heard a laughter: “Hold on, not so fast!”. The divine voice (or it was a Muse, which I highly hope), wanted me to think of how long, and how stubbornly I have been clinging on to my latest madness (it only began like 13-14 years ago). How self-absorbed, lost to the world, obsessed, selfish, burned with desire, haunted by ideas waiting for, asking to be written have I been? The inner voice, not wanting anymore to leave me in my darkness, clarified it earnestly to me: I have been “possessed” by the Writer Archetype. And I have a feeling that I may not be the only one around, since we all seem to have been pondering and weighing the perspective of starting writing, on a blog, at least??
For some of us, the urge for writing is quite an irresistible need, and one may try and oppose the idea of exposing oneself and going public for as long as he wants (here read: “fight … as long as I want” – because it is myself that I am trying to write about), but, fight as he may, here he will end, eventually – we are all already on the stage here, already under the spotlight.
I wouldn’t have considered my urge to writing an archetype, but I subscribe to Mark Nepo’s idea about the need to be authentic and true to oneself, no matter what. Here are some quotes from his inspired and inspiring book: The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live an Authentic Life:
–“…the need to express who we are is archetypal; that is both necessary and timeless. And expressing who we are is less about describing ourselves than it is about letting who we are out in a regular rhythm that is an imperative as breathing.”
“It is this exchange or flow of who we are- in and out- that keeps us connected to all that is living. ‘Ultimately, expressing who we are has a physics all of its own. More than being understood, it is about not hiding our basic nature.'”
“Essentially, the life of expression is the ongoing journey of how we heal each other… for by telling our stories and listening to the stories of others, we let out who we are and find ourselves in each other, and find that we are more together than alone.” From Mark Nepo, The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live an Authentic Life”
Literature definitions for archetype:
Archetype is a repeated pattern of character, image, or event, which recurs in story, song, myth and art
In literature, an archetype is a typical character, an action or a situation that seems to represent such universal patterns of human nature.
But maybe I am just imagining things, maybe others would not agree with me on the Writer Archetype? Or on any other, as a matter of fact??
I had a dream more than ten years ago, one of those dreams that keep on repeating, categorized as “recurrent dreams”. I was going somewhere, then, for some reason I just fell in a whole in the pavement; in that dream I was suffering a lot, for “not paying attention”; I just happened to spot this poem during a Google search:
I remember of those times when I was in so much discomfort that I was dying to find out the why of my anxiety and depression, and would give anything to discover and identify my own story with similar ones. Other times I would just look for some piece of advice and support, or just for information.
I would have never imagined that somehow, some day, I would dare to write a blog, and that I would write about this all. Like it’s been in another life, today I pain to remember – in the sense of “forgetful”, not “painful” , that I have been through pain and depression myself. Because I came out with such wonderful and empowering things I didn’t know about myself, the way I understand it now is that depression, instead of being a trauma and a disaster, is just a way to take us further on in life, in ways that we would have never seen possible. In spite of what all those in the business may choose to believe – that depression is a mental disease – I now see depression as a spiritual emergence. Maybe if western culture viewed things from a different perspective, and would give credit to the fact that this world has a soul (that there is meaning and a sense to existence, and that we are not only endowed with a brain, but with a soul, too) if our society’s labels were different, maybe our suffering would be less. Until then, I hope that my writing may act as a beam of hope and may comfort others who are still in the darkness, by showing, by PROVING that there is a powerful light at the end of the tunnel.
Today I just want to show you that, simply by going out in nature and doing simple things like stooping down to every little thing that may capture your attention, you are tuning in to the invisible, but powerful forces that create, renew and increase life. There is nothing more powerful than reaching back to the original source that made this being that you are and built it from one cell to the 100 000 billion cells bundle of consciousness that you are now, capable of pondering – some from within pain, others, from within joy – over the meaning of it all.
These pictures I took with my I-phone camera during my two days writing retreat in the mountains may not ambition to participate in any photographic competition … but they keep intact the memories of the past summer, the excitement of the senses, the feeling of accomplishment and pure joy, the assuredness that, by admiring and acknowledging Nature’s Beauty, I was participating to the Great Act of Creation. And you know what? Nobody can convince me that that was not true.
Besides my writing, these are the things that bring me tons of joy, refresh me and recharge me. Try to reconnect to the things that give you pleasure, that give you confidence, and power – one of them requires just to escape the dull routine of daily life, go out, escape. Blessed are those who can and will go out to reconnect with the Great Mother!
The cosmos is also within us. We are made of star dust. We are a way that the cosmos can know itself. Carl Sagan
I am He as You are She as She is Me and We are All Together – after John Lenon
It happens extremely often to talk to someone and find out in surprise that his/her life trajectory is very similar to mine; I refer to life-changing moments, defining experiences, crisis situations, etc.
The name of this blog wants to imply that there are patterns of existence that we are all subject to, and that we are an organic part of an ensouled world in a continuous process of evolution.
I had my first realization about life patterns while going through some very specific situations; with some, I realized in amazement that my dreams have been dreamed by others before (I mean, to a high degree of similarity) – it was as if my own life situations having been lived by others before. I was my first encounter with the Archetype, with archetypal images and the “archetype of transformation”.
Later I found out that Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung has largely developed on archetypes. He sees them as universal, archaic patterns and images that derive from the “collective unconscious” – that’s how he explains the fact that they are manifest in all humans, throughout history and across all geography. Archetypal images and motifs flesh out our myths and stories, our literature masterpieces; we encounter them in all forms of art, as artists seem to be more sensitive than the rest of us.
We are moved by art because we unconsciously recognize the archetype represented and resonate with it -. this is why people have the religious figures so deeply “embedded”. In fact, all the great themes of humanity are inherited by us as archetypes: the Mother archetype, the Father, the Child, the Christ, the Devil, the Trickster, and so on.
Jung sees archetypes as the psychic counterpart to instincts. If our biological survival and evolution has been ensured by instincts, mentally and emotionally we are evolving through archetypal models; that’s why I like to call them programs, more than just phenomena.
Seen from an evolutionary – historic perspective, we are ourselves processes in evolution, far from being just ephemeral points popping in and out of existence,
Our ancient philosophies and our religions mention that we are spirit and soul, and astern religions tell us in addition that our soul keeps on evolving together with the world around us. If we can view things this way, we can see how the human spirit – which is mind, human consciousness (to distinguish it from Consciousness, the intelligence of the universe) is on an evolutionary trajectory. Our society as a whole is far smarter than any previous generation in known history .
We are far more informed and more communicative in ways that are really significant and that regard us individually, not necessarily for professional reasons, and we can only anticipate how things are going to look five, ten years on, now that the phenomenon is growing exponentially.
Intelligence, as an effect of the internet and technology, is seen to take such accelerated, ascending trajectory that it has made many “luminaries” today fear that in maximum twenty-five years human mind is very likely to have attended its limitations, and then … we will step into the “transhuman era” and will implant nanocomputers in our blood stream to access the internet (sic) and download the cloud into ourselves or upload ourselves to the cloud – as you wish you will be served). But this is another story.
Talking about blogging here, I still see it is amazing how we have all met across continents and distances because of the internet – thing unimaginable only twenty years ago.
Watch how close things look in this visualization of the internet, in the neuronal network in our brain, and in a map of the outer space: could it be just a difference in scale??
I have started this blog as early as 2011, full of enthusiasm that I am going to finally have an outlet for all my writing, put it all out there. Of course I intended to express myself regularly. Alas, I was soon to discover that my fears were still stronger than my inner drive, and whenever I tried to post something, I had to give a huge fight with my fear of pressing the button.
Maybe, for a while, it was all for the better; but now, not anymore.
My greatest problem so far is that I cannot publicly write and bring myself under any “spotlight”, as by my nature I am not quite the extrovert type. But I came to be under unbearable pressure from inner and outer conflict to put it out there, and I now understand that there is no other way: I’ll have to take it as another leg of the journey.
Exactly as I was writing this, I happened to receive in my mailbox Lauren Hailey’s post – she writes a blog on traveling with/through depression. She writes about why people are writing on blogs about their very personal experiences and I choose to mention it here, although this is not exactly my current situation (better: not anymore).
I am not motivated by the therapeutic function of writing, but my writing here intends to serve a communicative and expository function: I want to restore sense and meaning into other people’s lives, at least as much as life has gifted me with.
“It’s not about how many people follow your blog or how many people find what you write interesting; sometimesit’s just about having an outlet to scream and shout (and let it all out!). It’s so therapeutic to write all your feelings down – it takes them out of your head for a while which can be priceless and more useful than anything any doctor can ever offer you.”
My early life had already served me with situations where I had to ask a lot of questions – or, maybe, I was excessively curious. From spending all that time alone in the hills at my grandparents’ village, I wanted to know what was there behind the horizon line, and “what was there before God created the world”, as I couldn’t accept a “Creation out of nothing”, unaware then that this same assumption will likely not worry a majority of scientists to today.
Growing up, my extreme sensitivity and my ability to relate to and understand others have always caused me pain, as others weren’t necessarily responding with the same; but this has driven more questions: “What is the sense of it all? If God Is, why is there unfairness? Why is there pain, and suffering? How to find happiness?”
I already knew, quite early, that the answers are not to be found through religion, and I elaborated many worldviews along time, trying to explain-away why my subjective experience was pointing to a reality other than what it was mainstream “correct”. I sought answers through academia, then I sought answers through experience, but then nothing was quite enlightening, because there was the gap between what I knew to be real and what they were telling me; which, eventually caused me more pain, from a sort of cognitive dissonance: the fact of knowing something that wasn’t acknowledged caused me serious self-doubt and gave me lots of pain.
I just happened to have, in a number of occasions, maybe related to my depressions, some altered states of consciousness; and often enough, I would have undeniable foreknowledge through dreams. But, as I learned through my dreams, this would be the least worthy aspect about them – because dreams bring us incomparably more.
Of course, I was busy with all these things only in my private moments, because I didn’t dare to discuss them with others. Time passed-by with me being quite busy with my outer-life challenges, ambitions, rejections and failures, fights, successes and victories. But, having checked all these things on my wishing list, nothing seemed to keep their initial value to me.Gradually and unwarily I fell into a debilitating depression, at the age of forty.
We are so used to live a schizophrenic, double life, one diurnal, with its “true“, “real realities”, the other nocturnal, with its “senseless” stories, that we never feel the need to bridge the two. I had no idea of the middle-age crisis that strikes usually at forty. My days were awful, and I would look eagerly only for the night to fall; then I could live within my dreams, far richer and fulfilling than my daytime reality.
It felt all this like a darkness for me to cross, and which would never end, I was convinced. But, from time to time, I had some extraordinary dreams – extraordinary by the emotion they created in me. The impression was such that I felt compelled to jot them down randomly, on any bits of paper that I had close by when they awoke me in the middle of the night.
With time I collected a whole number of dreams that are at least unbelievable; for how come that our mind, which is said to be contained in this organ that we all have under the skull, has access to information that is in no way fabricated inside it??
I learned that absolutely anything can happen in dreams; there is something like pieces ofinformation “floating” out there in the Consciousness Cloud, whether one is directly concerned by the subject or not. Under certain circumstances, the brain would just pick and transform them into conscious knowledge. Similar examples, as I found out, are plenty, from people whose credibility cannot be doubted – not that I have the least suspicion they made them up. I have had the same in my experience, so there is nothing I can do, but trust people like Abraham Lincoln, Nils Bohr, Einstein, Kekule or Mendeleev – among countless other equally trustworthy minds who “dare” to share their most intimate experiences. But this only brought in more questions.
The amazing feats of the sleeping mind – the “unconscious”, as is called, I learned, way after my inner mind decided to “awaken” me to this other reality, eventually took me to discover psychology: I had to learn it’s many approaches to the human psyche, be it depth, cognitive and evolutionary.
And then I developed an unquenched interest in consciousness studies – which, ultimately, lead me to another nub on my list of interests, system sciences.
This is an interdisciplinary field that studies the nature of systems in their simplicity and their complexity, in nature and society – the way we interact with all there is. Because we are systems inside systems ourselves, and because we are Whole Universes by ourselves.
All this made me clearly see that it is time to finally give a serious chance to a deeper understanding of what is happening within us, more significant than what is happening outside us – there is something important to know about our human condition. When we will finally get to know ourselves we could each contribute and elaborate a user’s manual for individual and social behavior so that people would cease being segregate, dysfunctional, disturbed and diseased.
It is about all this that I came to write a spiritual memoir describing the journey(s) in an artistic, literary way, a study on my dream journey where I analyse and relate the playful game between the conscious and the unconscious, as well as a nonfiction book on the Conscious Universe: man being a system inside systems.
All my writing is drawing from my personal journey of individuation: an inner and outer journey of awakening. What I know now is that, if I ever want to bring all this knowledge to the world, there is no other way than put myself on the lab table and start doing it regularly on this blog. If there is only one person to benefit from this, it’s worth it a million times.
When I first read Empedocles’ famous “The nature of God is a circle of which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere”, I thought: “philosophers are crazy people” – didn’t know about non-locality then. He must have already understood the reality of panpsychism (the idea that the mind is not only present in humans, but in all things) but then, all ancients did, or believed that anyway. We like to consider them rathe primitive It makes a whole universe of sense to me now, but I had to grow up before, and out of my previous conditioning.
I used to see the world as divided between those people who accept the “God up there” idea, and those in favor of the idea that there is no God at all, and that the world has come into existence just like that, out of nothingness – like many mainstream scientists like to believe today.
I was quite jealous of those having faith, as they could easily accept strange things and call them “miracles”. As my parents were totally irreligious, an absolute requirement of their time and of the communist type of society, my very religious grandparents were trying hard to give me a minimum of religious education. As a little girl, I have spent many long and lonely summers back there at my grandparents’ village, trying to figure out the best way to spot Him while He is spying on us. Lying in the deep grass I was squinting my eyes until they would become sore from trying hard to discern among the passing clouds a silhouette seated on some gauzy mass observing us. “He must be very interested in us, people, as He must know to which department He is to send us after some indefinite time”, I thought. But, you know what? Hard as I tried, I could never, ever see Him.
Growing up, such episodes seemed ridiculous; this, my formal education and the “materialist-dialectic” communist ideology that was being insidiously forced on us, made me grow up considering my grandparents’ religion and God as some myth, an anachronistic story of other times.
I wish that didn’t happen – I mean, growing up without having faith. Maybe my inner and outer life could have been way easier had I not been torn between two incompatible things: my absolute disbelief in anything outside of this tangible, material reality, and the impossible-to-deny experiences that I have been trying for so long to bury deep in some dusty folders of my mind. Continue reading “Cogito, Ergo Sum – Thank You, Depression!”→
In response to the daily prompt “Which question do you hate to being asked?”, I would answer: there is no question – absolutely no question to which I wouldn’t be disposed to answer. On only one condition: that the question springs from a desire for knowledge and meaning, therefore elicited by a somehow intelligent being.
Sometimes adults tend to ask thoughtlessly, like little children when they just love to practice their newly acquired sense of manipulating words:
“Why do I need to go to sleep?” “Because you need to rest and grow”, you would say.”Why do I need to rest and grow?”, they’d ask. “Because you feel great and happy when you are rested; because you just said you wanted to be a ‘big boy’, like your brother Sam”, you say. ”Why is Sam a big boy?”, he would answer.
As much as you can find it cute (with some effort, I know, not that easy after having spent the last drop of energy on the never-ending tasks that you have to take home and finish at the end of a ten-hour-long working day, after a long commuting time, bad traffic, bad day, etc,etc), it is not that easy to make the same effort for an adult. Because some of them, by force of being lazy at using their God-given neurons, become obnoxious.
I once had a neighbor. She was all-knowledgeable, of course, like all neighbors are – no matter how qualified, how many degrees you happen to have, it so occurs that you always fall quite short of some knowledge relative to your neighbors (or some relatives, why not?).
I was enjoying the early spring sun, with my little baby-daughter in her trolley. Life was good, the sun was warm,the baby was peaceful, I was enjoying reading some Sartre. But the baby didn’t want to be peaceful for more than she had set her mind to, so she made me put down my book and tend to her needs. Then, heaven happened once more …. I grabbed my book again to continue my reading, but the atmosphere was such, that reading existentialism felt more like a loss than a gain – so I just re-placed the book on my knees and got lost in thought.
My afore-mentioned neighbor happened to pass by; we exchanged greetings, she complimented me on the baby, then, with an expression of horror, she looked at my book: “Oh, my God, that’s how you read?” And, as she must have seen in my eyes that I didn’t make any sense of her aghast expression, she explained it to me: “It’s not this way that you hold it: your book is upside down!” And, very dutifully, she even helped me to correct my mistake: she set it back on my knees, the way any literate being should keep his/her book if he/she wanted to read any.
I agree, this was not a question in full-right – it’d better be called an exclamatory question: more of an exclamation than questioning, looking for an answer. But it’s all the same: I chose it because it makes a good example of how insulting and thoughtless, without any consideration, or rightly stupid some people can be; she asked me only a couple of weeks ago if I could tutor her kids with their French.
I chose this example to illustrate how people can be unmindful and insensitive at times, addressing others with thoughtless, hurtful questions – just for the sake of making noise. “Do you have watches in your country?” someone asked my husband when he was a training doctor (“that” country was supposed to be Lebanon, where Europe was abducted by Zeus disguised as a bull, where the oldest attested city in the word, Byblos – Jbail, is still alive and going, where the first Law university in the world was founded, where the origins of the alphabet we are currently using are – the Phoenician alphabet, etc, etc). Has it ever happened to you too??
I would rather throw a look around me and try to make an objective, logical analysis of what I can see. When I’m in the middle of the turbulence zone, I tend to believe that adversity surprises mostly me, like persecuted by a blind destiny.
But this is only my subjective view; when I step back, take a deep breath detach myself a little, I see that the phenomenon of turbulent zones regards way more people than my own precious person – sometimes even in more disruptive ways. Disasters, plane crashes, natural calamities, bloody wars and terrorism, and the list could not be ended in one single page if I wanted to, make, sadly, almost daily headlines.
But humanity has seen undoing and met with debacle and chaos many a time before. It happened all along history (incidentally, debacle comes from French debacle, meaning to unbar, to clear ), and, guess what, after every major calamity and war, humanity, as if it purged of its negativity, reached deep into the reconstructive forces of creation and cooperation and helped advance culture and civilization more than it was never imaginable before.
Behind us is a trail full of bloody wars and revolutions, of chaos and then of reconstruction, and the cycle repeats itself, invariably, every time: from chaos and disasters, we seem to have built all this culture and civilization of ours in an ascending curve of waves and troughs. As if the humanity in us could never reach and access those strings and gears that make us good and beautiful, creative and generous unless after it saw the beast coming out and showing its teeth in a mighty roar; only then we would fight tooth and claws for ideals like love, growth, order and peace. Chaos represents the confusion or disorder brought to us by events and changes that surprise us and over which we have no power of prediction or control.
The Devil has two horns, two hooves and a tail. He is hairy and his tail ends up in a trident. How do I know that? Well, everybody knows it, like everybody knows that God is good. Did I ever see him? You mean, the Devil? Well, I haven’t quite seen him, but I did suffer the sharp blows of its horns – or maybe it was a kick from his hooves, or a whip of his tail, or a punch with his pitchfork – or all together. The Devil is a very energetic, well armed entity, as I could see for myself. I never really considered the stereotyped fellow with red cloak and pitchfork until I got his mighty blows once in my left elbow, once in my chin (I still wear the scar), and another one in the arcade of my right eye – and I consider myself lucky, because it could have been much worse. What’s more, it rendered me infinitely grateful. For all my skirmishes with him along the years, I can swear, even though many of our human fellows may not believe me, that he is an intelligent, sensible fellow. Far from being the “darkness incarnated” of the urban legends that made people see an alleged diabolic image taking shape in the smoke of the burning twin towers, and which many have blamed for being behind the mind of the reckless authors of the crime, the Devil means no harm.
All this is true: my skirmishes and final pact with my own demons is just an allegory for the process of transformation that was sort of being forced upon my psyche, helping me to finally grasp and come to terms with crippling, life-long issues of anger and pride – among many other ones, of course. By virtue of some natural mechanism, I slipped gradually into a crippling depression, only to discover years later that it was to become my greatest blessing. I was forced to confront myself with my deepest fears, struggle against my fiercest demons, shed light into my darkest corners, only to uncover my grace. This helped me see the beauty of the realm inside, of which I had no idea it existed, in first place. Our inner demons, condemned by our religions as sins, potentially render us blind and insensitive to the meaning of existence
In fact, we should be honest with ourselves and brave enough to confess, not only in the secrecy of the confessional, but admit it openly in our social media profiles our (so far secret) indulgence for the once seen as “deadly sins”, lust, greed, sloth, gluttony, envy, anger and pride.
The fact that Fifty Shades of Grey has been making tsunami waves lately is speaking stories. One hundred million copies in a three-year lapse of time is an unprecedented figure in sales. But here’s the facts and figures: “Fifty Shades of Grey has topped best-seller lists around the world, including those of the United Kingdom and the United States.The series has sold over 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into 52 languages,and set a record in the United Kingdom as the fastest-selling paperback of all time”.
Maybe this is our society’s new way to purge itself?? When it is about passions, the solution nowadays seems to be: “go with it, burn it into cinders! before it burns you! It’s either you, or IT (read it: ID).
In these confrontational days of intolerance against religion in itself, against others’ religion, and against Islam in particular, I find it opportune to bring up here this fragment of a poem – meditation by Sufi Master Jalal ad-Din Rumi. Sufism is the mystical branch of Islam – a concept that scholars define as the inner dimension of this religion. Sufi Masters have always sustained that Sufism is purely based on the teachings of Islam, the way that Prophet Mohamad and his cousin, Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib has meant it to be understood. It is not a negligible fact that religion, be it Christian or Islam, has had a long history of being used for ideological, political and military purposes.
“Why think O, pious men that I have returned to sobriety. I am neither a Moslem, nor a Hindu; I’m not a Christian, a Zoroastrian, nor a Jew. I am neither from the East, nor from the West; neither from land, nor from the sea. I come neither out of nature’s workshops, nor of the revolving heavens. I am neither from the earth, the water, nor from the air or the fire. I am neither from the divine city, nor from the (material) dust, neither from the being, nor from the essence […] I’m not of this world, but of the other one neither, not of the paradise, neither of the hell. I am neither of Adam nor of Eve, nor of the Eden or Eden’s angels. My place is the no-place, my trail is of that which leaves no trail; it’s neither the body, nor the soul, since I belong to The Beloved’s soul. I have abdicated from duality; I have seen that the two worlds are one. It’s One that I seek, One that I contemplate, One that I call in. It is the first, it is the last, the most exterior and the most interior. I know nothing outside “Oh, You”, or “Oh, You that Are” I am drunk from drinking the cup of love, the worlds have disappeared from my eyes. I have no other business than the banquet of the spirit and the wild drunkenness. If only one instant of my life have I spent without you, from this hour and this moment I want to be sorry for my life. If I can gain in this life just an instant with you, I will trample under my feet the two worlds, dancing in triumph for the eternity.”
Rumi, Diwan – my translation after Jack Brosse’s original translation – Le Livre des Sagesses, p 1584
I have been through a number of blogs that are dear to me, here and in other places – and I cannot remain unsympathetic to those who share stories that are so similar to mine. I’ve been through years of depression more than I can count my years without it, but it’s long buried now and (almost?) forgotten.
From what I have seen in my own life-story and in people far and near me, to overcome depression and neurosis, a “bilateral approach” is needed: self-effort firstly, and only secondarily specialist’s assistance (which I didn’t get in my own situation – or, shall I say, my only specialist was my Indian Sadhguru?). It is extremely hard though, to face it or undertake it alone, while it is also true that nobody else can do the work for you – not any one person, not any one medicine, etc. What I mean is that you will need years of sustained self-effort in order to realize that the strength that you crave for, the balance and serenity that you crave for, the self-worth that you crave for, the validation from others that you crave for – and, above all, access power and realize FREEDOM, are already there within you as a given: you are born with all that (it took me years of practicing a specific aspect of yoga). If you cannot see that yet, is because the veil of dust over your eyes has been accumulating thick along your life, and cemented already (with me, it was). This is why you’ll have to accept to die, allow your ego to shatter into a myriad pieces, in order that your Self may get space and be born. Without this key requirement – accepting your ego’s death – you risk, at best, to remain for the rest of your life dependent on your psychoanalyst, medication, etc. Additionally, you may think that you need support, love, comprehension from others, just to make it easier on you – but, trust me, sugar-coating a bitter pill is not absolutely necessary. The journey is not so easy – but it’s the journey of your life, the only one worth taking. For the while. Cause it’ll take you to another, more worth-wile than the one before.
I’m 55 now. I used to believe that my life purpose is to be a good daughter; then a good student; then a good wife; then a good mother, in parallel with being a good employee. All these cards have fallen one by one like blown away by a gust of wind, to let me see that my only life purpose is be ME. If I don’t accept that, if I keep running after the common things of life, there is a higher authority UP THERE (I guess, my being a non-believer has considerably hindered my journey) that keeps calling me to order; and it’s hard… and it gets harder every time.
Only after all these years – I’ve been a slow learner – I finally think that I know why. What is increasingly evident to me is that I am a cowardly person, not daring to accept and show myself for who I really am in the deepest of my heart. I’m nothing of the things behind which I’m used to be hiding: I’m not the daughter, I’m not the wife, I’m not the mother, I’m not the teacher. I’m Mirella. And I know that time has come for me to throw myself into the river of life (of a different level than my ordinary) an start swimming. Live behind the excuses, like: “I donno how to swim”; “I can’t swim! “I’m afraid of swimming”; I’m going to swim, yea, sure, but not now, later”; I’d rather not swim alone, I need co-swimmers”. Meanwhile, wave after wave keeps washing away the sand under my feet, while I keep grabbing a board, a twig, a pebble, a mole of sand, a leaf, a dried shell, just to keep clinging to the sand and not let myself being dragged into the water… eventually, I’ll have no other trick up my naked skin, than start swimming. Finish that memoir – in all honesty and artistry, say it out loud, say it all.
Now, I cannot pretend that I understood a thing as for why are these values: I’ll just tip my hat with British elegance and give credit to specialists. I remember though learning, a number of years ago, to add up 2 apples with two other apples, and my teacher insisted that I could not add up 2 oranges and 2 apples (unless I changed their name to “fruit”).
This, among many others, was part of my life baggage of axioms – we have an existential need for absolute truths and things that are immutable. Well, reality, it so turns out, is not that axiomatic, precise and immutable, and 21st century science begins to openly acknowledge it; but this applies to our personal experience as well as it applies to sciences. It has never before been so obvious that society and individual lives are in upheaval, with old norms, institutions and taboos overturned – and it seems that this is just the beginning.
Life experience puts us in contact with things, people and experiences only to bring us to see, sometimes with pain, sometimes with relief, that clinging too hard to fixed concepts is unrealistic, and we risk to break our necks in free fall through the void of our misconceptions if we don’t give up on heavy, rigid beliefs.
With the insights of quantum physics we find out that reality doesn’t really exist, that it is just a matter of our perception, as particles shift between wave and particle under the eye of the observer. I can see that light can be only wave and vibration, but it’s hard to conceive that physical matter can, too?? The commoner like me can only wonder: how come that light and matter can be at the same time both wave and particle?
Science nowadays is discovering things that were thought impossible or unacceptable only a short while ago. We were convinced that our skies show a fundamental “emptiness”, pointed here and there by stars and galaxies. Only a couple of years ago, in 2011 became public the most recent view that all what we see, distant and near planets, stars, galaxies and all, make up just 4.9 of our universe; the rest of it, and of which scientists had no idea that existed, isdark energy and dark matter (dark, meaning non-reactant to light, invisible) that constitute 95.1% of it all. Pretty much unknown for scientific pride, who praises itself that it can send space missions outside the solar system.
So, what is mind, after all? The picture changes here, too, so that the firm belief that human mind is just a mechanism comparable to a computer is slowly shifting, as neurologists come ever closer to the understanding of the mind as more than just brain: they start seeing soul also.
To bring just an example, Neuroscientist Christof Koch, chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, is as close to expressing his belief in an ensouled world as anyone could hope for: he thinks that consciousness is not dependent on brain only, but that it arises in any sufficiently complex, connected information-processing system – from cells, to worms, to animals and up to humans; this can be a scientifically refined version of ancient panpsychism – a philosophical doctrine asserting that all there is, it is part of the God-Mind, or Spirit. Of course mainstream science is not yet ready to acknowledge the existence of a Universal Field of Consciousness, but I can see that it is slowly getting there.
For this, and many other reasons too, I began doubting that the world is just the one described by the science that I have studied at school, as I learned to doubt that 2+2=4; at least I know that it doesn’t always hold.