Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Is This All There Is?

Let's see, it's 1994. I'm in my late 30s, but I guess you could say my life was basically over. Got my Ph.D. by 1988, completed 1500 post doc internship hours, licensed in 1991. That's when I was finally able to devote a little time to writing, so I published a few papers. What's left? I guess I could have kept doing that for the rest of my life.

A commenter yesterday mentioned that he couldn't wait to find out when, where, how and why I was denied tenure, but I was a clinical psychologist, not a research psychologist, so a university job was pretty much out of the question. I could have tried to get a job teaching at a professional school, but as I said, I didn't really have much interest in being a psychologist to begin with, let alone giving the same tired lecture year in, year out.

I was always bothered by this sense of "something more." I guess you could call it a sort of restless passion for eternity with ecstatic tendencies. Ever since I was I child, I could easily be taken "outside of myself," which is the literal meaning of ec-stasy. Isn't everyone like this? I don't know. They certainly don't seem to be. Or if they are, they tend to be on the sociopathic end of the continuum, with poor boundaries and a lot of undisciplined acting out. In my case, I suppose it was more like "acting in."

I was obviously already embarked on a kind of intense interior adventure, but it was starting to seem increasingly idiosyncratic, since I couldn't really find anyone else who shared my passions. Maybe it was time to just grow up and get over it.

As I mentioned yesterday, my wife's grandmother died in 1994, and we attended the funeral in New York. Afterwards there was a reception at the house, which is where I ran into the conservative Jewish mystic I mentioned yesterday. David must have been about ten years older than I. I don't even remember what connection he had to my wife's grandmother, but we initially got to talking about politics. Again, at that point in my life, I was still an unconscious moonbat, to such an extent that I was exactly like contemporary moonbats who feel completely free to attack President Bush in a public setting, obliviously confident that everyone feels the same way.

The details aren't important, but David calmly but firmly stood up to all my blather. Usually I prevailed in an argument by simply overpowering the other person, but this guy stood his ground and politely pointed out the fundamental errors in my thinking, even though I wasn't ready to hear them and reflexively held my ground.

But then we got to talking about my dissertation and some of the papers I'd written, and he took a deep interest. Rarely did I meet someone who shared my passion for cosmic wholeness, or who was familiar with the ideas and authors I was drawn to, but he was. He asked me to send him some of my material, so I did. A couple of months later he wrote back that he had read my papers, but

"not enough times to grasp every nuance; they are challenging reads inasmuch as we use different nomenclature to describe the same phenomena.... What struck me most about the articles was the conspicuous absence of the 'G-word,' as if this implicate-explicate phenomenon simply floated in existence without some type of origin, anchor or glue. For this reason, I don't regard Freud's secular 'deeper reality' as adequately deep, especially as it fails to encompass a separate intelligence partially ordering some brain functions. The strange thing is, I agree with many of your basic assumptions; however, it felt to me like reading a description of a large, grey quadruped with a trunk by someone determined not to say, 'elephant.'"

This was a good insight, for I suppose I was attempting to be a "rational" or "naturalistic" mystic. I didn't just have the "Jesus willies," but the "religion willies," and even "God willies." Therefore, he was right. It was as if I were writing about God and religion in the absence of God and religion.

He continued:

".... I am going to break one of my rules and offer unsolicited personal advice. I do so because a subtext emerged from your writing: your own spiritual quest. I know you are eager to experience spiritual enlightenment and I think I might be able to share a handy tip or two."

"Your powerful intelligence has already taken you close to illumination, further than most will ever go. However, these same powers of reason, analysis and skepticism, which feel so appropriate and natural, still seem to me to block your direct experience and integration of the non-rational, or implicate, if you prefer. (I base this presumption not only on your writing, but our conversation in which you expressed agnostic sentiments and used deprecating adjectives such as 'just' and 'only' to refer to the Creator of existence.) You have already made a conscious attempt to balance ego and intuition. Nonetheless, the ego still has further subordination to undergo to get it out of the way and allow the light of illumination to break into awareness."

First of all, I didn't believe the line about "your powerful intelligence has already taken you close to illumination, further than most will ever go." However, I suppose it did cause me to take my own ideas a little more seriously. As I mentioned yesterday, by that point in my life, I was beginning to be left with the distinct sense that "no one else I think is in my tree." I felt as if I were on this passionate adventure, but no one else seemed to share the passion, so I was beginning to think I was just a kind of hopeless eccentric, a Raccoon without portfolio.

There's obviously a lot more, but now I'm really late. To be continued.... unless this is just too self-indulgent....

37 Comments:

Blogger Van said...

Wylie E. Coyote action Pt. II - (Fingers slip from cliff edge)
"aaaAAAHHHHHhhhnnnnoooOOOO"
(dust ring appears below - "poof")
This all sounds very familiar. My older Jewish mystic guy has switched his picture to holding a baby in the delivery room though. Good disguise.

7/11/2007 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

It is quite strange how the deeper you dig into a subject, the closer you become with or to God. There is just no other way to explain the beauty and intricacy. And if by chance that is not the case, (which I don't believe is true), what is the point of anything anyway? Why would it matter? It seems pretty obvious to me but then again it is hard to find things right in front of your nose sometimes.

7/11/2007 10:28:00 AM  
Anonymous dougman said...

"Nonetheless, the ego still has further subordination to undergo to get it out of the way and allow the light of illumination to break into awareness."

That not only plucked all my strings, it struck a major freakin' chord.

"To be continued.... unless this is just too self-indulgent...."

Indulge, Indulge!

7/11/2007 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

Bob,

I'm curious as to your intuitional/emotional reaction to a man who knew you better than you knew yourself, a man who could see right through you.

7/11/2007 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger juliec said...

Self-indulgent? Not at all.

You may be higher up in the branches (or is that lower down?), but I think a few of us here are in the same tree, even if (like myself) we're just clinging to the trunk somewhere close to the horizontal. It's good (and extremely helpful) to see how you managed to climb so far.

7/11/2007 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger Smoov said...

dougman said:

Indulge, Indulge!

I second that. This is great stuff, Bob. Aside from getting to know you better--which we all appreciate--this sort of exposition of your spiritual path is fascinating and comforting in that many of us have felt like misfits for much of our lives, and hearing others describe the same feelings makes it clear we aren't completely nuts.

7/11/2007 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous dloye said...

"To be continued.... unless this is just too self-indulgent...." Yeah, terribly self indulgent. But G.. love you, the ride on your coattails has been better than a roller coaster. So if you're in a "how did I get here, and which way should I move now" moment, thanks for sharing the shaking. One more time, selfishly I hope it doesn't mean an end to the blog. For me it's a weird validation. Not that I've walked the same path, just a parallel one, and not nearly so far.

7/11/2007 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Smoov said-
"This is great stuff, Bob. Aside from getting to know you better--which we all appreciate--this sort of exposition of your spiritual path is fascinating and comforting in that many of us have felt like misfits for much of our lives, and hearing others describe the same feelings makes it clear we aren't completely nuts."

I concur wholeheartedly, Smoov!
Of course, we have to be a little bit nuts to takes the road less travelled, but a little bit nuts beats completely nuts every time.
And it's a good kind of nuts, because it's vertical nuttiness.

In other words, the nut doesn't stop here.

7/11/2007 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Van-
Bravo Zulu!

PS- Is Wylie E. Wile E.'s crazy uncle?

7/11/2007 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Lisa said-
"It is quite strange how the deeper you dig into a subject, the closer you become with or to God. There is just no other way to explain the beauty and intricacy."

Well said!
It is indeed strange. I believe it's the strangeness and mysteriousness, the mysticalness, that drew me deeper in.

Like Bob, I found myself basically asking "is this all there is? That can't be. There must be more, if I could only find it."

But like Lisa said, it's right there in front on our nose!

Man, I'm so grateful to be able to see and hear things that are so...I dunno the best word...maybe Holy will work, although it's much more than that.

And to realize that there is more than I'll ever completely realize, is Heaven.

I'll never again wonder, is that all there is? Because I know all there is is Eternal.
Therefore there is always more.

7/11/2007 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Bob said-
"I was always bothered by this sense of "something more." I guess you could call it a sort of restless passion for eternity with ecstatic tendencies. Ever since I was I child, I could easily be taken "outside of myself," which is the literal meaning of ec-stasy. Isn't everyone like this? I don't know. They certainly don't seem to be. Or if they are, they tend to be on the sociopathic end of the continuum, with poor boundaries and a lot of undisciplined acting out. In my case, I suppose it was more like "acting in."

Acting in. Ha ha! I love that line!

7/11/2007 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Man, between the willies, the Wilies and the Wile Es, I'm gettin' the heebie jeebies.

wv: klaihukv (Tongan curse)

7/11/2007 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

Dream Stream
coins in the river
whitewater wishing machine
ivy rubs the bank

7/11/2007 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Nomo-
But no mention of jalepenos (or suppositories). :^)

There's always a silver lining.

7/11/2007 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"The strange thing is, I agree with many of your basic assumptions; however, it felt to me like reading a description of a large, grey quadruped with a trunk by someone determined not to say, 'elephant.'""

Thank G-d for David! That was brilliant!

7/11/2007 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Dougman said-
"That not only plucked all my strings, it struck a major freakin' chord."

It sure resonated with me as well!
Great post, Bob!

7/11/2007 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Teri said...

It's fascinating for me as well. I have problems connecting to the mystical side. It's much easier for my husband, who was in a Maryknoll seminary in his teens. Hopefully, some of this will sink in and help me deepen my religion.

7/11/2007 03:12:00 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

Ben:
There are some words which should never share a sentence with 'jalapenos'.

wv:mzdum I dated her.

JWM
;)

7/11/2007 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

JWM-
Sorry, I should've specified.
Yesterday I used the phrase:
"Another offering from the jalapeno suppository of realityness", in response to a troll.

I should note I "borrowed" part of the phrase from a commenter at Ace of Spades, and then tweaked it a bit.
I have since returned said phrase to it's legal owner.

Phew! Glad I got the legal part taken care of.

I hope that...clears things up for ya. :^)

Incidently, I believe this is what Blue Oyster Cult was singing about in their "I'm burnin', I'm burnin', I'm burnin' for you" song.

WV: lqqrxq (confirms it).

7/11/2007 05:22:00 PM  
Anonymous cousin dupree said...

"And it burns, burns, burns, the ring of FIRE!"

7/11/2007 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Cuz-
Amen! Johnny Cash Gnew what I'm talkin' about.

7/11/2007 05:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Skully said...

I would like to add this health safety tip:
Too much 151 and kimchee will also have the same effect.

7/11/2007 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ahem. Ben, um...I'm sure we all appreciate the refresher, but I think when JWM said... "Ben: There are some words which should never share a sentence with 'jalapenos'.",
I'm pretty sure he had the " jalapeno suppository" pairing in mind. And as Cuz noted "And it burns, burns, burns, the ring of FIRE!"
I think we'd all really just rather put that whole imagery out of mind.

(shudder - please God, don't let any islambie types pick up on the idea)

7/11/2007 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Yes. Please keep going Bob.
David reminds me of a conservative mystic I met this past January. I’ll give you a hint. Name rhymes with Rob.

I think these are my favorite parts of his letter:
“I am going to break one of my rules and offer unsolicited personal advice.”
“I KNOW (emphasis mine) you are eager to experience spiritual enlightenment..”
“I might be able to share a handy tip or two.”

That last one may be the best. How adults are supposed to act when they know better. A gentleman. No need to beat someone over the head with something. Just offer, and hope they at least give it a chance. No strings. And he clearly cares very much what happens to you. He doesn’t just want to win the argument.

7/11/2007 05:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Jacob C. said...

Ben: I'm from Arizona. I've been there too. Not a pleasant experience. It feels like you've eaten, digested and excreted battery acid. One the bright side, it does things for a cold that compare favorably with garlic...

TW: ekecrrvq, the sound you usually make after eating a raw jalapeño.

7/11/2007 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Van-
Why are you pepperin' me with imagery stuff?
I can't be held responsible for vivid imaginations gone wild.
I'm just the messenger, you know?

I guess the message did...backfire, so I'm glad I gave it back to the Ace of Spades commenter.

He's really to blame. Actually, the troll that IGNITED him to say that phrase is the root of the burnin' backflash of methanic origin.

Is it gettin' hot in here?

7/11/2007 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks Jacob C...I think.
Good for colds, bad for...well, I think we all know what it's bad for, since you spelled it out in rather colorful terms.

Also good for the Preparation H company stocks, which I recommend buying shares in.

7/11/2007 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

This is bringing back fourth grade memories of a joke about the guy who grabbed the Ben Gay instead of the Preparation H: "and it burns, burns, burns, the ring of fire."

7/11/2007 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

This health tip can save you a world of pain:
DON'T USE Ben Gay BEFORE HAVING MARITAL...um, RELATIONS (or non-marital-ed)!

Secondary warning: EVEN IF YOU WASH YOUR HANDS AFTER USING IT.

WV: ifdipch (see?)

7/11/2007 06:19:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Fourth grade hemmies plus Ben Gay? Yeeouch!

7/11/2007 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"As I mentioned yesterday, by that point in my life, I was beginning to be left with the distinct sense that "no one else I think is in my tree." I felt as if I were on this passionate adventure, but no one else seemed to share the passion, so I was beginning to think I was just a kind of hopeless eccentric, a Raccoon without portfolio. "

Self Indulgent? Can't say as I give a (democ)rats patootie where it is or not, it does a Racoon good to read it. As Smoov said, it "...is fascinating and comforting in that many of us have felt like misfits for much of our lives, and hearing others describe the same feelings makes it clear we aren't completely nuts."

But then of course "...aren't completely nuts." might not completely square with current crop of comments concerns about jalapeno suppositories, battery acid, Preperation H and improper or ill timed Ben Gay usage (oo oo ooOOHHH!!!!)... but - that's the way it goes when hanging out on the cliffs of the One Cosmos.

Good view.

(Might want to bring a cushion though. Just sayin')

7/11/2007 08:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Late Convert said...

I think we'd all really just rather put that whole imagery out of mind.

Yeah, we need to put it all behind us.

7/11/2007 08:12:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Putting tiger balm on your lips instead of lip balm while tripping is also quite the experience....Farm Aid 1989, ahhh the memories....

7/11/2007 08:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Alan said...

late convert: thanks for the late night laugh!

Thinking back to my youth when I mistakenly used brylcreem instead of toothpaste, I now know it could have been much, much worse.

7/11/2007 09:05:00 PM  
Anonymous cosanostradamus said...

Along those lines, do not, I repeat do not eat a little poison ivy thinking that it will inoculate you for life. Do not let a well-meaning health wacko talk you into it.

You'd pray for a month of those jalapeno rockets instead.

Don't ask me how I know.

:-0

7/11/2007 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger juliec said...

Cosa - yikes, I can't even imagine how horrible that would be.

Speaking of things burning, back when I was in my first college I knew a guy who tried to get people in the dining hall to bet that he couldn't drink a whole glass (probably about 12 oz.) of Tabasco sauce. Someone finally offered five dollars, so he chugged it down, gasping and weeping. There was a stipulation - he couldn't eat or drink anything for five minutes afterwards. Within an hour, the agony was too much and the RA called Poison Control. After they stopped laughing, they looked up what we should do.

"Whatever he does, don't let him throw up," they said, still chuckling. The RA ran to tell him (the phone wasn't close to his room or the bathroom), and of course found him in the bathroom, praying to the porcelain god. He had scorch marks at both ends.

Ring of fire, indeed...

7/11/2007 10:35:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

A quite informative - or even instructive - piece of the past there.

To take Lao Tzu somewhat out of context: "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

And yes, there is a surprising number of trunks (and big, flapping ears) in the post-elephantine world. Go figure.

7/12/2007 03:32:00 AM  

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