Saturday, August 05, 2006

We Are Not Worthy!

Honestly, it's a bit embarrassing for me as the honors continue to pile up. First, to be called the Most Obnoxious Man In AmeriKKKa by dailykos.

Then to be colorfully described by a wacky new age website as a "blue-orange rationalist with a vertical orientation" who is "endlessly frustrating in his limited thinking and belief that he, and only he, is right." What rational person, aside from a New York Mets fan, would walk around in bright orange and blue? Plus, I'm not always right. For example, I never would have predicted that infrarational crystal gazers would have any interest in a blog that caused them such endless frustration.

But now (along with Dr. Sanity and ShrinkWrapped) to be acclaimed as a "tendentious," "jejune," and "dated crackpot" by the mansierre-wearing (or is it a "bro" "pec deck," or "Victor's Secret?") King of Combovers, that Cindy Sheehan with a thesaurus, the ad homanally fixated James Wolcott!

Getting called out by the pompous Vanity Fair Guy is eerily similar to getting called out by the sarcastic Comic Book Guy. As he might say, "Oh dear, it appears the witty barbs emanating from your general direction have nearly broken my skin. I may have to purchase some Bactine if this continues much longer."

Next time Wolcott wants to honor me, I just wish he'd link directly to my site. You know, let the folks decide for themselves how we stack up against the awesome intellectual depths of Vanity Fair.

By the way, Petey is all fired up about this. He wants to try for the next level of notoriety--a footnote in a book by Noam Chomsky!

Mama Don't Let Your Cowboys Grow up to be Babies (or Liberals)

Continuing with our interview, the nosy Sigmund, Carl and Alfred next want to know, “What are your politics, and why?,” and “Why have so many of us lost the will to fight and defend what we value or defend our beliefs? Is there a kind self hatred at work?”

I have answered that first question in so many ways, that I think I’ll refrain from doing so again. My political views are summarized in a couple of posts from last March, Political Seance, Parts One and Two. The rest is commentary, as they say.

As for the second question, I think I’ll try to address it from an angle I haven’t tried before, one that was provoked by Dr. Sanity’s eloquent and moving post yesterday, entitled My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys. If this turns out to be a short post, it’s because I’m thinking this through for the first time, and my thinking may or my not arrive at its appointed destination. In other words, it may go nowhere.

Dr. Sanity writes that “I grew up with cowboys. Not in real life, of course, but on the TV screen. My earliest heroes were those rough, tough shoot-em-up guys whose goal was justice and who seemed oblivious to their own tragic fate as they pursued that justice with single-minded efficiency.”

I can’t summarize, so I’ll just quote her at length: “The cowboy hero of my youth was a simple man who minded his own business and valued his freedom. It would take a lot to stir him up, but once aroused, he was unstoppable. His talk might be drawling or lazy, but not his principles; and the violence which was always there under the surface of his placidity could be called on to defend and protect that which he valued. Then he would ride out into the sunset; his job done, his duty fulfilled.

“He never turned away from what had to be done; and he never cared much for nuance or appeasement. He always understood and accepted the consequences of his actions, not caring if he was liked or loved; but doing what he thought was right, no matter what the cost.

“Today the American cowboy lives on in spirit in many aspects of our society. But if anything, there is even more contempt and anger heaped on him by our modern, cynical, and metrosexual society; who long ago stopped valuing the heroic and sees no need for cowboys in the new age.

“Today, any hint of unsophisticated cowboy heroics or clear talk of right and wrong, good and evil are met with scorn by the spoiled elites of the world, who perceive the modern cowboy as an unwanted anachronism and a genuine liability--his mere existence a frightening threat to the fantasy world of love and peace they have created in their minds.

“Still, it is lucky for us that our modern cowboys in the law and military continue to do what all real cowboys were born to do.

“Zane Gray and many other western authors understood that the only thing standing between civilization and the outlaws who preyed on the innocent were those few cowboys who held to the code of the west. Civilization might hate and despise them for the violence of their methods--but civilization most certainly could not survive without their moral clarity and protection.”

As it so happens, back when I was in film school, we studied various genres, one of which was the western, a form that is as uniquely American as jazz or baseball. I still have some of my old notes, outlining the classic structure of the western film:

1. The hero enters a social group.
2. The hero is unknown to the society.
3. The hero is revealed to have an exceptional ability.
4. The society recognizes differences between themselves and the hero.
5. The society does not completely accept the hero.
6. The villains threaten and eventually do harm to the society.
7. The villains are stronger than the society; the society is weak and ineffectual, unable to defend itself or punish the villains.
8. The hero initially avoids involvement in the conflict.
9. There is a past history, or some kind of symmetry or respect between the hero and villain(s).
10. The villains do something particularly evil or personal to draw the hero in.
11. A representative of the Democratic Party, I mean society, asks the hero to give up his revenge.
12. The hero fights the villains.
13. The hero defeats the villains.
14. The society is safe.
15. The hero gives up his special status, the society accepts the hero, and the hero enters society.

I remember as a kid, seeing the film True Grit, the one for which John Wayne received an Oscar. On the surface, it is only a mediocre film, but I saw it again on TV a few years back, and I remember being extremely impressed with what I realized was an entirely allegorical plot that touches in some way on most of the elements described above. I’ll just hit a few highlights.

The film begins with 14-year-old Mattie Ross looking for someone to hunt down the man who killed her father and bring him to justice. Initially the straight-laced and annoyingly sanctimonious Mattie wants to work within the system, and repeatedly makes reference to her fancy lawyer, who you might say is analogous to the entirely ineffectual UN, or to “international law.” Mattie could have had her pick of lawmen, but in the end chooses the aging Cogburn for the job, because she believes he possesses “true grit.”

Interestingly, Cogburn is depicted as someone who is entirely on the fringes of society--actually, beyond the fringe. Like Presidents Bush or Reagan, he would never be accepted by the elite and effete standard-bearers of society. While not a criminal, he is also not a member of society. In fact, he is a fat, one-eyed drunk who lives with a cat and a “chinaman,” playing cards all day. The obvious message is that society, in order to protect itself, may have to rely upon slightly unsavory people who are not properly members of it--violent and “uncivilized” men who care much more about freedom, honor and justice than mere law and order.

Cogburn’s exceptional ability is revealed during a drunken rant, when he pulls his gun and blows away a hungry rat in the far corner of the room. Mattie hires him to catch the killer, Tom Chaney, but only in order to bring him back alive so that he can be properly tried. As a typical liberal, she wants this to be a police action, not a war. For his part, Cogburn has no interest whatsoever in the legal system or in bringing Chaney back alive. He is his own justice system--in fact, he represents justice as such, and will be just as happy to blow Chaney away and be done with it.

An interesting father-daughter dynamic develops between Mattie, who represents law, and Cogburn, who represents primordial, pre-civilized justice. At first, there is even a pronounced gender confusion in the tomboy Mattie, who has a brittle sort of compensatory pseudo-masculinity symbolized be a ridiculously oversized and impractical gun that is "all for show," like the French army.

The transformational moment occurs in the plot when Mattie is captured by Chaney. I forget how, but she somehow falls into a snake pit, which obviously represents the underworld, or hell. In short, she suddenly finds herself in a dangerous and deadly place that is completely outside the illusory safety of society. Rooster--and only Rooster--can save her, by descending into hell and snatching her out. Sort of like a psychoanalyst, only with guns.

Here again, the allegory is clear. Only a complete man, someone who has “one foot in hell”--who knows the territory--is capable of going into hell and battling the demons. Only ShrinkWrapped can save us!

After Rooster pulls Mattie out, he has to make a mad dash back to civilization in order to get her medical assistance. Symbolically she has died, and Rooster’s regenerative act will be to bring her back to society, where she will be healed and “reborn.” In so doing, he replaces her worldly father and becomes the true father of her higher self--a self that is no longer naive, but integrates abstract law with the dirty reality of worldly justice.

For his part, Rooster is reborn as a father instead of the drunken bachelor who lives on the outskirts of society. The conclusion of the film takes place in the family burial ground, where Mattie has set aside a plot for Rooster, right next to her’s. The brutal and uncivilized Rooster is not only integrated into society, but has a place in eternity as well. How fitting.

So, where does this leave us? What was the question? Oh yes, “Why have so many of us lost the will to fight and defend what we value or defend our beliefs? Is there a kind self-hatred at work?”

Yes, there is surely "white guilt" and self-hatred on the part of the Left, which is not even as mature as Mattie in the beginning of the film. At least she wants justice. If she were a leftist, the film would end with her realizing that Chaney had killed her father because he was poor and her father was wealthy. She would realize her own guilt, and campaign to prevent Chaney from being hanged.

At least Mattie, like some Democrats, wanted to bring the killer to justice. But as the film unfolds, her naiveté is replaced by hard-won insight into the human condition, specifically, into the implacable nature of human evil. In the end, she can only be saved by the man who lives outside the pleasant and comfortable illusions of society, who has one foot in both camps, who is basically good but who has no self-deception about the heart of darkness within man.

Rooster has no pretensions about human beings. Before you can have a civilization, before you can have a justice system, before you can have peace, you must have the will and the capacity for raw, barbaric violence. Because if you won’t do it, someone else will have to do it for you--or to you. You can be a spiritually decadent pacifist, but only because there is a freedom-loving, civilized barbarian with a mailed fist watching your wimpy liberal Euro ass. Behind every thousand or so feckless liberal castrati is a man with true grit. And we want terrorists and their enablers to scratch their heads and never stop asking, "why does this gritty bastard hate us so?"

We'll close things out with a little tune. Glen? Glen Campbell? You wanna come on up? Good deal! Boy howdy folks, Glen Campbell live on the One Cosmos Frontierland Bandstand in Branson Missouri!

One day, little girl,
The sadness will leave your face,
As soon as you've won the fight
To get justice done.
Someday little girl,
You'll wonder what life's about,
But other's have known,
Few battles are won alone.
So, you'll look around to find
Someone who's kind,
Someone who is fearless like you.
The pain of it
Will ease a bit
When you find a man with true grit

One day you will rise,
And you won't believe your eyes,
You'll wake up and see,
A world that is fine and free.
Though summer seems far away,
You'll find the sun one day

Friday, August 04, 2006

Reincarnation: Haven't I Begged this Question Somewhere Before? (updated)

Continuing with the interview, here is another question from Sigmund, Carl and Alfred. Hmm... Why do I get the feeling that I have begged this question before? Perhaps I can do a better job of equivocation this time around:

Q: Do you believe in reincarnation? Do we really get another chance to “get it right?” Why?

A: Why? Because let’s face it, Krishna was either liar, lord or lunatic. Krishna said it, I believe it, and that settles it.

Actually, it is interesting that the Eastern, “right hemisphere” of the world regards reincarnation as a banal matter of faith, while it is a stumbling block for the Western, left hemisphere of the worldbrain. Is there a corpus colossum that can join the two hermetispheres and make sense of the concept?

As always, words are problematic and potentially misleading in discussing spiritual matters. In short, words are words, not the reality to which they point or the experience which they memorialize. To back up a bit, there is a fundamental difference between Western and Eastern approaches to philosophy, in that the former generally begins and ends with knowledge by discernment, while the latter rests upon knowledge by identification.

For example, the touchstone of Hindu philosophy is the Upanishads, which were written by ancient rishis, or seers. As such, the Upanishads do not contain ideas that are argued but visions that were seen and experienced. Not only is the truth “seen,” but the seer comes to embody the truth so perceived. In other words, this is transformative truth--in knowing it, you are not the same. Naturally words must be used to convey the experience, but they mustn’t be confused with the thing in itself. This is a very different from Western philosophy, which mostly consists of ideas--however wooly or trite--that can be passed like an object from mind to mind.

The horizontal aspect of language is mostly reducible to a purely Darwinian explanation. But there is a very mysterious vertical aspect to language that cannot be so reduced, unless one wishes to be absurd. Most modern people don't mind being absurd, so long as they can imagine that they understand. Better to be absurd than to deal with the anxiety of not knowing.

It has been remarked that poets are metaphysicians in the raw, mediators between the essence of being and the miracle of knowing. In its sacred or mythological aspect, language is the nexus between the nighttime and daytime realms. It imparts a kind of knowing, but one must not confuse this knowing with profane knowing of the linear and unambiguous variety. Just like everyday language, it reveals and discloses an "object." But it is not a three-dimensional object. Rather, it is a hyperdimensional subject-object.

Or you may think of mundane language as dealing with horizontal recollection, while the type of language I am talking about involves vertical recollection, or anamnesis.

It is said that “that which is Night to all beings, that is Day to the Seer.” The typical soul is blinded by the bright and shiny objects of the waking world, while the seer is able to detect hidden connections in the night womb where events incubate before undergoing the formality of becoming in the external world.

There is a general stream of Life into which the particular stream of your life enters upon birth--your life is a little eddy in the stream of Life, so to speak, and is constituted by that larger Life. Once here, we see through a glass darkly: “on earth the broken arcs, in heaven the perfect round.” We ride atop the mortality-go-round, but the stream below is full of information that links us to the whole. There is a storehouse of collective memory to which we have access, and which can definitely give us the feeling that we have been here before, in particular, because spiritual growth always involves recollection--not horizontal recollection but vertical recollection. We are remembering something that is already inside us, in our deepest, most inward being.

I maintain that reincarnation is a way of talking about the two very different kinds of heredity that clearly operate in us: a horizontal heredity that is encoded in our genes, and a vertical heredity that seems to shape us from "above" rather than "behind." In my view, when we talk about reincarnation, we are simply acknowledging the reality of vertical heredity. It is a way of talking about something real yet mysterious--about that part of ourselves that not only has distinct inclinations and attitudes--even perhaps an earthly mission--but is also able to tap into a sort of knowledge base of which it has had no personal experience.

Are we really the product of two heredities? I don't know about you, but genes or no genes, I have no idea how I dropped into my particular family. I am amazingly incompatible with virtually all of my family members save for one--not necessarily to the point of open conflict (though there is that with one particularly polarized member who despises me), but mostly indifference and mutual incomprehension. I was born with very specific, not to say unusual, inclinations that I can find in none of my relatives, either living or dead. But I certainly see them in non-blood relations with whom I share vertical DNA.


So, we apparently have a terrestrial heredity that extends back through higher primates, lower mammals, fish, plants, single cells, and across the dark abyss to insentient matter.

On the other hand, we have a vertical heredity that extends through various degrees of being--various powers, principalities, rulers, and thrones--all the way up until we reach Brahman, the Absolute, the One, The Father in Heaven, J.R. "Bob" Dobbs and Uncreated Slack.

Our "frontal self" comes into the world the usual way, while another part of us is imaginately conceived, or "word made flesh." Unlike the horizontal word of DNA and natural selection, this is the vertical word of "supernatural" election. (I put supernatural in quotes, for nature herself is supernatural, as anyone who appreciates the transcendental beauty of the mythematical equations governing the big bang can tell you.)

There was a time, not too long ago, when human beings were not aware of their vertical descent from above, any more than animals are. Again, if you think of our humanness as situated at the innersection of the horizontal and vertical, it took some time for Homo sapiens to realize their place in the vertical.

One cannot even know of the horizontal until consciousness has lifted above it. Otherwise we are simply immersed in our perceptions and engulfed by the senses. But as consciousness ascends, one begins to realize that the vertical is also a world in its own right.

After all, Homo sapiens was genetically complete by as long ago as 200,000 (or as recently as 100,000) years. And yet, either way, we don't see much evidence in the archeological record of "vertical liftoff" until about 35-40,000 years ago, with the sudden appearance of beautifully realized cave paintings, body decoration, musical instruments, statuary, widespread burial of the dead, etc.

Clearly, vertical liftoff had begun, into a nonsensuous dimension of transcendental Love, Truth and Beauty that was anterior to our arrival there. For what would motivate an erstwhile ape not just to paint, but to do so with such refined delicacy of line, shade, and contour? Why bother?

But vertical progress for humans is frequently stalled--both collectively and individually. Human beings have reached many historical impasses, or crossroads (frankly, we are in a somewhat nasty one right now). In reality, these are not horizontal impasses. Rather, they are vertical impasses. Overcoming these world-historical obstacles is not a matter of additional horizontal evolution. That process is basically over, although recent research seems to demonstrate that some additional evolution has been going on at the margins.

But even if certain brains have been getting a little bigger or smarter, it is not our hardizontalware, but our vertical software--or aloftware--that counts. You can have a gifted IQ but still languish below on the vertical launch pad, a point that is obvious if you consider the sorry state of contemporary academia. Plenty of big-brained primates there, all messed up with no place to grow (up, that is).

As such, past historical impasses have been broken through in one of two ways: either a vertical ascent by some great hero from this side of manifestation, or a descent of the divine energy into time or into a particular person (technically known as a "avatar," this happens much more often than you might realize).

The vehicle of both ascent and descent is said to be a "resurrection body," the perfected self, unencumbered by the accidents and distortions of horizontality. It is actually already there calling you--wherever there is--just waiting for you to catch up.

Have you ever been acquainted with your resurrection body? I'll bet you have. Again, this is one of the main purposes of religious language--to provide a means for talking about an otherwise immaterial and nonsensuous dimension. Light, transparent, bright, freely coursing energy... these are all gladjectives that apply.

In the gospels, it says that Jesus gave a few disciples the privilege of seeing his vertical body of light. What must that have been like? First, of course, the disciples had to "ascend" vertically, "high upon a mountain." There, within the orbit of their highest aspiration, Jesus' face "shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light." Then Jesus held a summit conference with two other luminous bodies, Moses and his shadowy double, Elijah. Wo! What was that all about?

Our physical body is on loan from nature, whom we must repay at the end of our days. "Thou owest nature a death." But looked at vertically, the body is descended from the spirit, not vice versa. Death, or disincarnation, involves separation of the vertical from the horizontal. Reincarnation is simply a way to talk about their mysterious union down here in 4D.

Let me conclude by saying that this is one of those topics which I am happy to throw open to debate. My responses are meant to provoke thought, not to be the last word.



That was sort of a lame post. When SGA asked about reincarnation, I should have just said “Hell, I don’t know,” and left it at that. Believe it or not, I hate to speculate. For one thing, it makes religious metaphysics look subjective and conjectural, like theories of global warming. My whole point is that religions not only reveal objective truths, but a core of truths that cannot not be.

True, there is a penumbra around any religion (or any science, for that matter), a dark area encircling the light, into which we can project anything we choose. This is where occultists and mere theologians rush into the breach and spookulate about what they do not know. Properly speaking, this is not theology but theodoxy, or “opinions about God” rather than “knowledge of God.” Such vain chatter is nothing more than an agitation in the cosmic void--as Whitehead called it, “the fallacy of vacuous actuality.” Religion is then reduced to philosophy, little more than idle deidreaming, the codification and fetishization of the lower mind’s ability to doubt anything.

Interestingly, the one thing that I wasn’t speculating about probably seemed the most speculative, and that was my crack about the “astral body,” or “body of light.” All traditions speak in their own way of some such similar experience--again, don’t get hung up on the words--and I think I have some idea of what these traditions are talking about. Many people who undertake a spiritual practice--apparently some more than others--are subject to all sorts of sometimes bewildering (and not always pleasant) physical sensations and experiences. This is something I haven’t specifically posted on in the past, in part because I am still in the thick of it and haven’t figured it out myself. It would be nice if it were a stable phenomenon, but it is anything but, so there is no stable conclusion I can draw at the moment--religious or otherwise.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

More Trialogues with Sigmund, Carl and Alfred

I apologize in advance for what has turned out to be an entirely self-indulgent autobobographical post. Only the most fanatical of bobbleheads will be interested in reading it. It is a somewhat rambling response to another question posed by Sigmund, Carl and Alfred, which I never get around to fully answering, partly because I now have to get ready for work. I know what he’ll say: you’re being defensive. Why are you avoiding the question? To which I say: no I’m not. I’m being pretentious and windy. Can’t you tell the difference?

My advice is that you skip this one and come back tomorrow. I know I will.

Q: You are a clinical psychologist. How do your views on God and the cosmos influence your practice?

A: Yes, that’s true, I am a clinical psychologist, but I never intended to be. It’s just one of those things that can happen if you loiter around in school long enough. Believe it or not, I started off as a business major, but eventually flunked out. Or I would have flunked had I not simply stopped showing up at school. I had completed two years toward my BA, but the demands of the third year proved beyond my meager gifts. I had never been a good student to begin with, and had basically gotten by on my wits. Now that there were actual demands upon me, it went totally against the grain of my slack-worshiping personality.

You see, even then I was a seeker, in quest of that elusive source of cosmic slack. I knew that it existed, because I had felt it throughout my childhood. Not continuously, but more or less so. I instinctively recoiled at any enterprise that would rob me of my celestial birthright, my primordial slack. Yes, you could say that I was immature, but even if I had been more mature, I still believe that my basic temperament would have been driven to develop a personal relationship with slack.

So after "flunking out" (their words), I decided to leave business school to pursue other missed opportunities, and became a retail clerk. You could say it was a mutual decision made for me by the school. That was in late 1976. But in 1978 I talked my way back into college, this time making certain to study something that even I, a slack-seeking, beer-guzzling retail clerk, could master. At first I thought I would be reduced to majoring in P.E., and truth be told, I wouldn’t have minded being a PE teacher. Of all the adults I had personally encountered as a child, their job seemed to involve the most slack. They really didn’t do much of anything, and they got summers off. Plus I loved sports, so it seemed like a natural way to maintain the status quo for the rest of my life.

It was actually a new friend of mine at the supermarket who first alerted me the fact that it was possible to major in film. Film? You mean movies? At first I didn't believe him, but I checked it out, and it was true. “Radio-TV-Film,” to be exact. That was the first time the idea had ever entered my head. But I was soon able to capitalize on a natural ability to simultaneously watch movies and lower my expectations, and ended up earning my BA degree in just four terms--Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan. (To be fair, it was only small parts of Nixon and Reagan.)

(By the way, the only other possible major for me was something called Leisure Studies, but even I had more self respect than that. I mean, who doesn't know how to absently flip through magazines or operate the remote control? Do you really need to take a class in that?)

As it happened, may plan to slide through film school with as little friction as possible was arrested by a particular professor, Dr. Schultheiss, who completely altered the course of my life. This professor did not teach any “hands on,” technical classes, but only theoretical and literary ones. And he was very demanding. No multiple choice tests, but lengthy essays that even I, with Petey's assistance, could not fake. He had a very interdisciplinary approach, bringing many different fields to bear on the analysis of film--philosophy, psychology, history, literature, etc. In his words, he stressed "extended, and documented analytical writing and other verbal expression" so as to "make the work of art and life itself comprehensible."

To say that I was unsuited for such a task in 1979 is an understatement. Again, I had never been more than a mediocre student prior to that, and regarded myself as thoroughly average, or perhaps a bit below, in every way, at least as it pertained to academics. I had always been above average in other ways--mainly sports, popular music trivia, making my friends laugh both at and with me, and a preternatural but seemingly useless ability to enjoy myself in the moment, whatever the circumstances, so long as no one was placing any demands upon me.

Perhaps I should note that this latter non-skill is still undiminished in me. I would guess that, on a bell curve, I would be in the 99th percentile of people who are perfectly content to sit quietly, doing nothing. My sense of boredom was apparently installed backward, because most things that people find pleasurable I find intolerably boring (or sometimes jarring). Only much later did I come to discover that many spiritually-oriented people are built this way. It wasn’t that I was introverted per se, in the sense of not needing people in my life. I would just say that I had more of an interior orientation than an exterior one. The imaginal realm was very real to me, I suppose in the same way that the musical realm is very real to a musician.

In my entire life up to that point, I had never had a teacher who was as passionate as Dr. Schultheiss about his subject. But that was not all. The way he could extemporize and pull various strands of an argument together, it almost looked as if he were in a trance, weaving the lecture out of his own psychic substance, right on the spot, somewhat like a jazz musician. This was so different than the typical robotic dullard that presided over a classroom, that it alone awakened something inside of me--call it an incipient sense of a love of Truth, if you want to get Platonic. Later in life I realized that when anyone does what he did in the classroom, it creates an automatic charisma, because one is literally "in-spired" or "en-thused" when speaking in that unscripted but highly informed way.

Although his writing assignments were far more weighty and demanding than any other teacher I had ever had, some theretofore unfamiliar impulse caused me to keep taking his classes--four or five, if I recall correctly. And that is what really began to turn things around for me, because not only did my papers get high marks from him, but on one memorable occasion he actually approached me and asked if I was an English major, because RTVF students normally don't write so well. (I still have some of those papers. It might be fun to post some excerpts later today, when I have time. Nothing earth-shattering, but I still don't understand where I came up with the understanding that I came up with--it sort of came out of nowhere. But it was obviously somewhere.)

You know how, when you look back at your life, you can see certain bends in the road without which you wouldn't be who you are? Looking forward they seem random, but looking backward they seem almost contrived. This was probably the first time any teacher had really praised me, and here it was coming from the only teacher I had ever really admired--as if our paths had somehow been destined to cross--as if my soul had conjured him up for its own needs (which were not the same as "mine").

I don't want to get all new-agey on you, but looking back, I can see a few other crossroads without which I would have seemingly become another Bob entirely, which raises the whole issue of inside vs. outside. I am perfectly willing to believe that our personalities are oriented in a teleological way toward what we are to become, and that something in us seeks out what we need--books, experiences, people, etc.--in order to complete that journey back to the self. But that is where slack and higher bewilderness come in, because this is not generally something that can be consciously imposed from on high, by the ego.

Rather, for most people, it requires a certain amount of aimless but expectant non-doing, allowing “it”--our future self--to come to us rather than vice versa. The Church of the Subgenius refers to this as “floating on the luck plane.” I believe there are the equivalent of mathematical attractors in the psyche, drawing us toward them. We can even feel the cosmic tumblers “click” when we know we are on the right path, like a key turning in a lock. The ability to feel this is one of the perceptual capacities of the human soul.

Still, after getting my BA I was really in a jam, because what was I supposed to do with a film degree and no interest whatsoever in working in the film industry? That was the day psychology entered the picture. I was reading the sports section one Saturday in December 1981, when I saw an ad for Pepperdine graduate school. That was without a doubt the first time it ever entered my head to 1) attend graduate school and 2) study psychology. (It would require another self-indulgent post to tell the story of how I snuck my way into graduate school. It is actually a bizarre story that involves the intervention of Dr. Laura, who was a professor at Pepperdine at the time.)

In the end, although I didn’t have an undergraduate degree in psychology, I was actually better prepared than my colleagues because of my background in treating "film as literature." Being that psychoanalysis is a heuristic science that analyzes character along different lines and dimensions, it came naturally for me to look at people as victims of their own bad movie that they themselves had unconsciously written directed, and starred in. Many of the directors I had studied were indeed influenced by psychoanalysis, and their best work captured that sense of the protagonist being pulled down into the "undermind," where a different sort of "night logic" presides. Suddenly the hero's life was entangled in forces that were beyond his control, leading him inevitably toward the abyss.

Life is no different. Therapy involves locating and interrogating the secret director or author of your life, and trying to figure out his point. To put it another way, who is the dreamer who is dreaming your life, and is it possible to wake him? For that matter, who is the Dreamer who dreams the cosmos? And are they related?

And now I must give myself over to otherworldly forces beyond my control, to the call of the horizontal, and end this desultory post before we have even unscrewed the author's inscrutable untention.