Saturday, February 17, 2007

How To Be a Self-Centered Baby and Develop an Interiority Complex

Something miraculous is happening with Future Leader. Yes, I realize that children in whom you do not have a direct genetic stake are intrinsically boring, but bear with me. I only bring this up because it may be of cosmic significance.

Ever since Future Leader was conceived, he has been on the hyperactive side, both in the watery medium of the intrauterine world and the gaseous medium of this one. He was constantly banging away in the former -- as if he couldn't wait to get into the next world -- but has been the same way in this world. In fact, if we had taken our eyes off of him for 30 seconds, he would probably have been in the extra-extrauterine world by now. He is always trying to push beyond his edge of competence.

He became especially relentless once he learned how to crawl, which I believe was by about late November 2005. Things only escalated when he learned how to walk, which would have been in around May 2006. From the start, he attempted -- constantly -- to crawl before he could move, to walk before he could stand, and to run before he could walk. His restless search went on from the moment he opened his eyes until the moment he fell asleep, and his hands had a life of their own. Literally. Even while pausing to eat, one hand would prop up the bottle while the other groped around, looking for whatever. He was half kitten, half monkey. Imagine the nightmare of a kitten with opposable thumbs, and you appreciate God's mercy.

Now, although we really had no explicit expectations, this is not what I had envisioned when I was forcing Mrs. G. to eat all those Omega 3 eggs during her pregnancy in order to enhance Future Leader's brain development. Nor is it the purpose of attachment parenting, the point of which is to lavishly indulge (so to speak) the infant on the front end so as to create a strong and secure foundation on the back end.

Now, Future Leader has always been bright, funny, and very engaged, but perhaps not as "centered" as one might have hoped. But in the last two weeks, something in his brain development clicked into place, and it has been a wonder to behold. He is suddenly calm, centered, and able to imaginatively play by himself and sustain his attention for hours instead of seconds.

Yesterday I took him to the park, and it was the most extraordinary thing. He got out of the stroller, calmly walked over to the little motorcycle (which is connected to a spring so they can rock back and forth) and just sat there. For 45 minutes. I sat there with him perhaps 15 - 20 feet away and just watched. It was not as if he were bored. Rather, he was totally engaged, calmly observing the swirling activity round him, checking out the other kids, looking up at the clouds, occasionally looking at me, smiling beatifically, now and again rocking back and forth.

It is difficult -- probably impossible -- for me to convey, but there was such a calm but palpable presence radiating from his interior, from the inside out. I could actually feel it coming out of his eyes and entering mine -- which triggered immediate laughter on my part -- as if it were a literal exchange of energy (which I believe it was) tickling my insides. If you've ever noticed the difference between the eyes of a reptile and the eyes of a mammal -- say Mike Tyson vs. a cow -- you know what I'm talking about. In the latter, you can "see" a more developed kind of consciousness.

As I have mentioned before, one of the things that characterizes human consciousness is the ability to "mind read," that is, to experience the interior of another. This is the whole basis of empathy, of counter-transference in psychotherapy, and of intimate communication in general. It is why words may be unnecessary in a particularly deep relationship, because you can directly relate "interior to interior."

As a matter of fact -- this is a bit of a tangent -- I am quite sure that this factored into my relatively late-in-life desire to have children. I was never part of a big family, in that my father's side is back in England, while there are just a couple of distant cousins on my mother's side. I lost my parents when I was a relatively young adult -- yes, I looked under the refrigerator -- and two of my three brothers are estranged from me due to issues of their own. Still, I very much enjoyed that unglishable feeling of what it felt like to be a part of a family when I was growing up -- the wordless "interior connection," so to speak -- and I knew that children are the last word in wordless connections. It was as if one day I woke up and realized that this dimension was missing from my life. The issue was not so much children per se, as the interior connectedness they engender, if I may put it in a weirdly clinical way.

Anyway, as to the cosmic significance of all this, I cannot think of a greater gift that a parent could bestow upon a child than the firm and secure presence of a calm center through which life may be lived from the inside out. Most people live their lives from the outside in, which is what causes the frantic, lifelong search for something that will finally bring peace and tranquility. But as all religious traditions teach, this calm center cannot be found in the horizontal. Rather, you will only become further lost and entangled. The prodigal son, and all that.

It is the difference between the dispersal and the centration of consciousness. For example, when one thinks of Jesus, or Buddha, or Lao Tsu, it is unthinkable that they were possessed of a restless, externalized, and dispersed consciousness. In fact, I imagine that to have looked into the eyes of Jesus would have been literally -- for how could it not be so? -- to have looked into the very depthless center of creation.

Not to conflate spiritual categories, but this is also true, to a lesser extent, of any genuine saint, guru, or spiritual teacher. As I have mentioned before, I keep a number of darshan pictures and photos on my desk, and consult with them on a regular basis. And when I say "consult," all Raccoons should know what I mean and not think me bonkers.

According to Schuon, darshan is not just "the contemplation of a saint, or of a man invested with a priestly or princely authority," but "the contemplation of the Divine in nature or in art." It is "the visual assimilation of celestial qualities; the ideal being the coincidence between an object that manifests beauty or spirituality and a subject gifted with nobleness and depth, hence gratitude. And this is also the quasi-alchemical meaning of sacred art in all its forms."

For example, this is the whole point of the ikons of Orthodox Christianity. In his wonderful book The Orthodox Way, Bishop Kallistos Ware notes that the seventh Ecumenical Council of 787 proclaimed that "since Christ became true man, it is legitimate to depict his face upon the holy ikons; and, since Christ is one person and not two, these ikons do not just show us his humanity in separation from his divinity, but they show us the one person of the eternal Logos incarnate." Eventually we may even realize that "Christ is looking at us through the eyes of all those whom we meet."

Ware writes of the more general principle embodied in the ikons: true mysticism involves the discovery of "the extraordinary in the ordinary," the ability to "see all things, persons, and moments as signs and sacraments of God." In our spiritual vision we see things in their metaphysical transparency, as "each points beyond itself to him who made it."

The task before us, according to Eckhart's disciple Henry Suso, is "to see the inward in the outward": 'He who can see the inward in the outward, to him the inward is more inward than to him who can only see the inward in the inward." This is to "look at nature with the eyes of Adam in paradise," to see "that the whole universe is a cosmic Burning Bush, filled with the divine Fire yet not consumed." Or, to quote Eckhart himself, "He who abides always in a present now, in him does God beget his Son without ceasing."

I am always puzzled by atheists and other materialists who downplay the significance of the earth and of human consciousness, as if Kepler or Darwin actually succeeded in displacing the human drama from the very center of creation. True, if one looks at the cosmos horizontally, then the "temporal center" would be approximately 7 billion years ago. It is impossible to say where the "spatial center" would be -- apparently it is everywhere and nowhere -- but all we know is that the edge is billions of light years away in every direction.

However, if we view the cosmos vertically and hierarchically, then human beings are obviously at its very center -- as the heart is the center of the body, humans are the heart of the cosmos. Or, to be perfectly accurate, being that we are in the image of the creator, we represent "the center at the periphery," as Schuon has written. If you imagine a pyramid or a cone, then the vertical center runs from the tip to the base, not along the base. It is this vertical center that human beings are privileged to inhabit at one point or another along its continuum.

Evolution in the spiritual sense -- as in Saint Paul's three-part evolution from infant to child to man -- involves increased interiority and centration as we ascend vertically. As this occurs, the dispersal of consciousness that is responsible for "maya," or attachment to the unreal, is naturally countered. In other words, an inevitable consequence of our dispersed consciousness is that we will more or less frantically search for our center at the periphery. The one is a function of the other.

Likewise, as we increasingly locate, develop, and live within our center, we inevitably discover that it overlaps with God's peaceful center, which is sat-chit-ananda, or being-consciousness-bliss, or love-truth-beauty. I hope it goes without saying that this kind of "self-centeredness" has nothing in common with narcissism, which appropriates the "radiation" of others in order to create a false center within the narcissist. The narcissistic center feeds on others, while the true spiritual center radiates and nourishes others.

Which is why it was such a delight to see Future Leader radiating from his newly developing center.

*****
Don't panic. Let the game come to you (click to expand):

"Looking into the eyes of eternity."

28 Comments:

Blogger Smoov said...

If Bob did nothing but endlessly elaborate on our relationship with God and the cosmos--thousands of posts over decades to come, each illuminating subtly different, partially overlapping areas--then barely a word would be wasted. Gradually the circle will expand. In my own far more limited way I have begun to spark interest in heretofore purely horizontal men and women through trying to expound Bob's views, and by recommending the Coonifesto.

There is endless room for convesation about the Divine.

2/17/2007 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, by all means spread the word, as the ever-unpopular Coonifesto is now down to #122,647 on amazon....

2/17/2007 08:04:00 AM  
Anonymous walt said...

I did not arrive at OC with much understanding of Christianity in general, and none at all of Orthodox Christianity. With your many references, and after reading Cutsinger's book about Schuon, I've started to learn a little about the Orthodox traditions. Bishop Ware's books are among the handful I chose. (He is also prominently featured in Gifts of the Desert, by Kyriacos Markides.) Of course, I am glad that you recommend his books.

I know that you have shown Robin Amis' book A Different Christianity on your sidebar for a long time, but in your writings, seem to prefer the works of Mouravieff. Any comment?

2/17/2007 08:29:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I actually found Mouravieff through Amis. Although Mouravieff has some helpful things to say, as always, one must sort the wheat from the chaff.

2/17/2007 08:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Biker Lady said...

The Wonder of a Child. They have so much to teach us if we will only stop, look, and listen.
If allowed, their eyes radiate their joy back to you and you will be blessed. Ignore this visual meeting of the minds and something tender and wishful can be lost forever. Each child has something very precious to teach us if we "will" it into being.

2/17/2007 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

"An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For whoever is least among you all is the greatest." (Luke 9:46-48 TNIV)

Beautiful post today Bob. Thanks.

2/17/2007 08:49:00 AM  
Anonymous juliec said...

"..true mysticism involves the discovery of "the extraordinary in the ordinary," the ability to "see all things, persons, and moments as signs and sacraments of God." In our spiritual vision we see things in their metaphysical transparency, as "each points beyond itself to him who made it."

I have to say I felt a bit goosed when I read this. As an artist, I feel drawn to paint people (and the occasional beloved animal). When I was in art school my specific thought process was specifically to try to find the extraordinary in ordinary people; I don't recall reading that anywhere, it's just what I felt driven to paint. I actually went through a phase where I would find a picture of my family member which reminded me of religious iconography, and try to paint it that way. Thus I did one of my little nephew on my stepfather's lap, the looked like a Madonna and Child, or one of my sister holding her daughter, who was flopping backwards and obviously laughing, as a sort of Pieta (but without the sadness). Yes, they were a little funny but what I was trying to get across was not a mockery of religion or faith, but rather how ordinary people can still express some of the divine.

I haven't done a painting like that since then, but I still try to keep that thought in mind when I'm painting.

2/17/2007 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

roadside greeter board:
jesus said come ye children
blink and you miss it

2/17/2007 09:34:00 AM  
Anonymous walt said...

Bob,

For another perspective on your boy, try www.egreenway.com/meditation/stand.htm
and click on "Practices".

Looks to me like he's "a natural!"

2/17/2007 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

>>the wordless "interior connection," so to speak<<

I think that's why it's so very important to choose words, language, expressions as carefully as possible. Words, if profligate, do disperse consciousness and attention. If chosen with care - if we allow words and speech to emerge from spiritual depths - they then enhance consciousness, they actually convey the power of silence.

2/17/2007 11:38:00 AM  
Anonymous GLASR said...

It's the start of a cold, ya know rhino virus type.

2/17/2007 11:47:00 AM  
Anonymous juliec said...

Robinstarfish,

Funny that you posted that (on your site) Wednesday - it's so appropriate for today.

(I love that picture, btw - is Dwarf the name of the town or just the church?)

Bob,
I wonder what thoughts are going through the Gagboy's little head? Is it a sudden leap of self-consciousness, or perhaps an epiphany of wonder at the world?

2/17/2007 12:02:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

I should like to mention one thing mister and missus G certainly have demonstrated - the all-important factor of the parent's attitude regarding the bringing of a child into the home. Sure, I think most parents would say their parenting responsibilities are important - but just how important it is might be lost on most.

I happen to think that a parental attitude toward the establishing of a truly spiritual home environment attracts advanced souls looking to be born, those for whom earthly environments conducive to spiritual progress are a bit hard to find. And lord, do we need such souls.

Even if one doesn't believe in "pre-natal life" as I do, the importance of a genuinely spiritual upbringing - and the importance this could have to the world - can never be underestimated.

In a better world - in our future, I hope - all homes will be so spiritualized and the children that emerge from them will be bearers of the Light.

2/17/2007 01:29:00 PM  
Anonymous GLASR said...

Forgot the ;~)!

2/17/2007 01:32:00 PM  
Anonymous logosaustralis said...

Thanks to Bob & Van for the references on liberalism ( Van - the link you provided is amazing).
Hope you are all surviving the winter blast up there in the northern half of the planet - take care & keep warm.

2/17/2007 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger ximeze said...

Bob & Siblingsunderthepelt:

I'm musing about the possible relationship between quantum mental/interior leaps & physical manifestations.

You wrote of how the change in Gagboy is palpable. Wondering if is in some way related, perhaps inversely, to his having been so ill recently. Not that the illness/virus caused the leap, but that the budding-leap "caused" the illness.

I'm not at all clear in my head & likely in writing about this, but I'm thinking if the extra-ordinary (to me) personal "quantum leap/synthesis/clarity" that I experienced this week. It too was precursed by physical manifestations, just not of the viral kind.

Some sort of corner has been turned & the physical stuff is "desoving." I can pinpoint it to the moment when I read your Navel post earlier this week & had that hinky magnet/spiral experience.

Ditto the interior/mental landscape. Something is different there too: a clarity that was not there before. Almost as tho scales or hard, crusty stuff, has been loosened, now able to fall away.

There have been discussions here, before now, about physical manifestations of the descent of consciousness.

Thoughts anyone?

2/17/2007 02:30:00 PM  
Anonymous sawdust said...

You really do have to pay attention to them. So few people, in my experience, at least, realize just how much potential is there. Lately, however, I sense a change for the better. By that I mean a difference from when I was a child, and that more attention is paid to the child's actual capabilities, usually a lot more than some would think.

I have two daughters, 31 and 28 years old. They are both a source of never-ending joy, and I think to myself that I may have screwed up a lot of things in my 58 years, but it seems that we did something right on that job. Satisfaction comes in many forms, Few, very few, give more than looking at your children, and thinking, "That is my child, and I am so proud of her.

Honestly, most of the credit goes to their mother, sad to say we lost her in 96. Cherish the time now, Bob. It will be over far too soon. Looks like you're off to a good start.

2/17/2007 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ximeze,
Nothing of the scale you're describing. I had the feeling of a 'pop' at the base of my neck followed by the feeling of a ... flow, kinda like a pressure nozzle on a hose shooting up my neck... lasted a few moments, had me thinking a few mortality related thoughts for a while, but not in the vivid fashion you mentioned. If I remember right, I had a cold and was sitting in my cube at work, which made for a lull in my coding for a time, but other than that, no explanation or help I can offer....

2/17/2007 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Today's post has had me deep in thought all day, but beyond what Smoov said at the top of the comments, I can't pin them down.

These two in particular have me going though:

"Most people live their lives from the outside in, which is what causes the frantic, lifelong search for something that will finally bring peace and tranquility."

and

"I am always puzzled by atheists and other materialists who downplay the significance of the earth and of human consciousness, as if Kepler or Darwin actually succeeded in displacing the human drama from the very center of creation. "

Hmm.

BTW - Great pic of Future Leader - I suspect that those eyes are seeing Dear Leader with his hands full in the teen future!

2/17/2007 03:44:00 PM  
Anonymous uss ben said...

Ware writes of the more general principle embodied in the ikons: true mysticism involves the discovery of "the extraordinary in the ordinary," the ability to "see all things, persons, and moments as signs and sacraments of God." In our spiritual vision we see things in their metaphysical transparency, as "each points beyond itself to him who made it."

The extraordinary is what you are posting today, Bob.

That's also where mysticism leads.
That which cannot be spoken precisely.

It's a common cord among Raccoons as we mischieviously muster good character to honestly realize Truth.

Clarity is bound to follow and head us off at the pass.
We are bound to embrace clarity with gratitude, for clarity is a valuable asset as we continue to seek, learn and grow, aligning with truth to keep our principles intact.

It's a continual realization, although we don't always realize it.

2/17/2007 04:36:00 PM  
Anonymous ms. e said...

How To Be a Self-Centered Baby and Develop an Interiority Complex

"Direct your eye right inward, and you'll find
A thousand regions of your mind
Yet undiscovered. Travel them and be
Expert in home-cosmography."
               
                                      -    Henry David Thoreau
                                           Walden

And what is it that you do ms. e?

"Oh, I'm a home-cosmographer.
How cool is that?"

2/17/2007 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

Julie,

Dwarf is a real town in Kentucky, not far from those Dukes of Hazard boys. According to the painting on the side of the only store, it's the center of the universe. Who am I to argue?

Robin

2/17/2007 08:20:00 PM  
Anonymous juliec said...

Cool! For some reason, that makes perfect sense to me...

2/17/2007 08:35:00 PM  
Anonymous ms. e said...

"Goodnight Moon"
Goodnight Coons

2/17/2007 08:47:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

It's both congenial and mischievous. A delightful combination.

2/17/2007 08:48:00 PM  
Anonymous GLASR said...

Ok, clicked to enlarge this time around. Get a golf club AND a hockey stick in that child's hands! I've seen that look before - it's all GOOD, very GOOD.;~)

Don't worry about the wife, when she sees him learning to skate, holding onto that chair as the coach skates backwards encouraging him to churn, churn, churn(or whatever euphemism he uses) she'll melt! Uh, um, ah, well, just a thought.;~)

2/18/2007 01:13:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Universe center is Dwarf
tribute to Waylon
Home of good ol' boys

2/18/2007 02:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Jacob C. said...

Bob: It wouldn't surprise me if, twenty years from now, you ask Future Leader what his earliest memory is, and it turns out to be sitting on that rocking horse in the park.

I distinctly remember learning to talk, at the age of about 10 months - the frustration of not getting it right seemed to be what pulled my conscious mind into awareness. I seemed to be thinking, but not in words, since I didn't know any yet: I'm trying. I can't get it right. -- I?!?!?!

2/18/2007 12:57:00 PM  

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