A Writer’s Journey

Reflecting back over the years of my life now has taken on a wholly different character and sense of urgency. Each time I sit down to write these days, I am reminded by all of the objects surrounding me that the accumulation of years has also resulted in an enormous accumulation of memories and souvenirs of the many experiences of my life.

There was a prolonged period when I barely had even the shortest amount of time for such reminiscing, and I told myself over and over that the objects and documents and articles that I set aside would one day be a rich resource for writing about the times of my life. 

It seemed urgent to take this approach at that time since there were so few opportunities to review the important aspects of my experience of life. I feared I might lose the thread that would lead me back through the labyrinth of time when I finally was able to withdraw from the relentless burden of obligation to generate income.

$CoMmEntU

Even now, as I type these words, I am still not entirely certain that my intention to review the important objects which surround me will result in a sufficiently satisfying conclusion that will allow me to let go of them.  There are so many thoughts all jumbled up in my mind already—the flood of a lifetime of thoughts and memories often seems to overwhelm me—even as I attempt to organize them and convert them into some sort of coherent expression.

My online blog, “John’s Consciousness,” began as an earnest effort to begin to formulate the foundation of a much larger work.  While my current life is finally less crammed with the immediacy of unavoidable daily tasks for the most part, the daunting volume and immensity of the accumulated objects and documents weighs heavily on me. 

At first it seemed to me that all the efforts at preservation were primarily for my own benefit, and while I wasn’t certain about the specific motivation being employed at every moment, in the back of my mind, I supposed that the why and the wherefore would become evident upon review at some later time.

Looking back now over decades, there were many instances when I was either forced to choose a path at a crossroad or when I had to make a conscious, deliberate choice as I approached a crossroad, when I also found myself wondering if I was making the right choice. We cannot know with certainty, at any given moment, the full range of consequences which might ensue when making such choices, and we must often rely on some intuitive or instinctive inclination.  The perspective of time is needed to compare our achievements with whatever hard lessons may have resulted, in order to evaluate our current circumstance. Even though those hard lessons may have subsequently resulted in some benefit, it may not be sufficient to mitigate regrets.

Recent events and current circumstances have pressed me to reflect with much greater intensity on the balance of the costs versus the benefits, and it seems to me that there has been a reasonably fair balance between them.  We cannot reverse time nor can we untangle whatever confusion or uncertainty governed the circumstances surrounding any choice made in the swirling maelstrom of the past, but this acknowledgement hasn’t yet dissuaded me from meandering from time to time through the perennial realm of what might have been, or its close companion—what still might be possible.

Dwelling on anxiety over what might have been isn’t especially helpful, but traversing the road leading to what still might be possible is no cakewalk either. Whenever we project ourselves forward into the realm of what might still be possible, we are often limited by what we have already experienced as a starting point, so we must be able to somehow suspend our expectations based on previous experience in order to move forward.  What we sometimes describe as “thinking outside the box,” may provide the necessary degree of difference in our thought process, but it also requires an additional degree of willingness to venture outside of our comfort zone in important ways.  Such measures also require a degree of courage in treading a path previously untried.

In all of my deliberations thus far, I have steadfastly applied a deliberate effort to forge a new approach to the path forward, and aside from helping me to recognize just how difficult it can be to move ahead in this way, it has been suggested by my experience that failure is one of the best teachers, as well as an absolutely necessary component of any true success, which eventually appears when we make an earnest effort to forge ahead.

In the weeks to come I will be reviewing some of the components and accumulated memories, stories, documents and objects that I retained as souvenirs which surround me in my writing space, as I attempt to sort through them and decide which of them to keep and which of them I can safely let go.

Hopefully, in the process, my readers and visitors might find some benefit for themselves from following along with my struggle to sort it all out. As I happen upon important topics suggested by this review, I may veer off the beaten path for a bit to elaborate and/or mitigate the process, just to keep it interesting.

Looking forward to sharing this part of what continues to be a challenging journey with you all…..John H

Enriched Beyond Measure

View of the lake in the Pennsylvania mountains

Several times during the year, I have recently been able to enjoy the exceptional privilege to be invited to my sister’s lakehouse in Pennsylvania, occasionally for family gatherings, and sometimes simply for the pleasure of a visit. As someone who savors opportunities for communing with the natural world, over many years now I have also learned to appreciate well the bounty available in the mountains and woodlands as an avid camping enthusiast. I have written about my experiences in this regard several times in this blog, and posted photos of some of my favorite locations.

View of the lake in the Moreau Lake State Park in Saratoga County in New York

Far from the maddening crowd, completely removed from the daily grind and the routines of everyday home life, spending time out in the woods is always a welcome respite, which has very few of the creature comforts of life in our modest home, but is so rich in the benefits of being outdoors among the natural landscapes in the northeast corridor of the USA, that it outweighs any inconvenience or extra effort required to sustain whatever amount of time that is possible to participate in the cherished time away.

Creek along the Cascades Trail within the Jefferson National Forest in Pembroke, Virginia

My good friend and fellow blogger Anthony at zenothestoic.com recently inspired me to revisit a particularly important and relevant episode in my writing life by referencing the famous book by Henry David Thoreau called, “Walden.” In so many ways, Thoreau’s account of his years living in his “cabin-in-the-woods,” exemplifies not only the many benefits of spending time in solitude in the natural world, highlighting his extraordinary ideas about what constitutes “necessary” with regard to living well, but also presented him with numerous opportunities for personal growth and raising his awareness of what truly matters in life.

Sign at the site of Thoreau’s cabin next to the pile of stones left by visitors from all over the world

Visit to Walden Pond, Concord, Massachusetts, April 25, 1998

Sitting by the shore of Walden Pond, I experience an odd sense of euphoria. Dashing behind passing clouds, the sun, when it emerges, feels warm on my face, and the air is filled with the intoxicating aroma of the surrounding woods. It is early afternoon and there is barely a sound to be heard, aside from my footsteps crunching rhythmically along the stony path leading to the site of Thoreau’s original cabin. A gentle breeze stirs the tops of the narrow pine trees, which now sway in a graceful natural ballet.

At the edge of the pond, in the cove just below the site, I set up my camera to capture an image of myself, standing in the spot where I imagined Thoreau himself must surely have stood once, possibly admiring a glorious spring day like this one. A guided path for visitors to the site ends abruptly at the edge of the cove, and I am left to discover my own way. Surprisingly, there are no other travelers whatsoever on this path, and I am alone as I approach the famous pile of stones near the markers delineating the boundaries of the Walden hut.

Imbedded in the ground, a stone memorial is carved into the foundation for the cabin’s chimney, discovered in 1945 by members of the Thoreau Society. A wooden sign stands near the memorial displaying the well-known quotation pictured above.

The view of the pond from where the cabin once stood gives a good indication of why Thoreau selected the location. Near enough to make good use of the water, but not so near as to be exposed to any hazard, the dwelling sits in the high ground providing both seclusion and an advantageous sight line to the shimmering pond.

Standing in the very place where the words were written, Thoreau’s descriptions of the surroundings and the pleasures of solitude come vividly alive for me, and I am nearly hypnotized by the symphony of sights and sensations that surround me. I sat for nearly an hour, soaking in the experience, savoring the beauty and serenity of Walden Pond.

Included in the preservation efforts of the area by the Thoreau Society is a replica of the Walden hut, built at the Walden Pond State Reservation in Concord, which was constructed according to Thoreau’s descriptions and plans. He used mostly recycled wood and building materials from pieces of an abandoned shanty, hand-cutting many of the components, reportedly spending a whopping $28.12.

Along the return path, I paused periodically, reluctant to relinquish the moment. Turning to the panorama one last time, it occurred to me that I had not managed to make this pilgramage until the age of 44, the same age as Thoreau when he died in 1862. The writer in me grinned widely. Perhaps he was with me this day, whispering encouragement to continue writing. I drove away enlivened and enriched beyond measure.

Jung’s Psychological Reflections at Year’s End

“Without consciousness there would, practically speaking, be no world, for the world exists for us only in so far as it is consciously reflected by a psyche.  Consciousness is a precondition of being. Thus the psyche is endowed with the dignity of a cosmic principle, which philosophically and in fact gives it a position co-equal with the principle of physical being.  The carrier of this consciousness is the individual, who does not produce the psyche of his own volition, but is, on the contrary, pre-formed by it, and nourished by the gradual awakening of consciousness during childhood.”  106:528

As each year comes to a close, I generally try to spend some time reflecting on the events and experiences contained within that time frame, with the hope of gleaning some measure of progress brought about by my efforts to better understand and appreciate my place in the world.  This past year has seemed to me to be as tumultuous as they come, with a number of epic challenges, difficult days, and wondrous moments of life-affirming experience, all wrapped up in both inspiration and exasperation.

Many of these experiences and events are deeply personal in nature, and involve aspects of my life which are clearly relevant to my topic here at “John’s Consciousness,” and while I have tried to include those which fit this description as much as possible in my blog posts during the year, I frequently find myself reluctant to do so, mostly because I prefer to express the deeper meaning of these events, rather than the particular events themselves.  My main goal is to present my ideas in a way that might inspire others to consider their own lives and to reflect on their own experiences, rather than to simply describe mine.

Jung’s words at the top of this post are particularly powerful in my mind because they address one of the central themes of my own work—which is that the nature of physical being and the nature of our non-physical being are co-equal, and must carry the same weight in any comprehensive explanation of our human nature.

The collection of essays and quotes in the book I’ve been reading this year, “Jung: Psychological Reflections—Collected Works 1915-1961,” is rich with material for anyone wishing to explore the subjective experience of consciousness.  His extraordinary insights and intellectual discipline in addressing the most important aspects of understanding our true nature as human beings results in some of the most compelling ideas I’ve ever encountered regarding our inner lives.

In particular, I have been struck by Jung’s concept of the archetypes of the unconscious—primordial symbols, images, and possibilities of ideas, inherited as members of the human species, Homo sapiens, which are of particular interest to me personally, since I have had numerous encounters with my own “unconscious contents,” and have developed some of my own ideas based on my appreciation of this interpretation by Jung.

“The great problems of life…are always related to the primordial images of the collective unconscious. These images are balancing and compensating factors that correspond to the problems which life confronts us with in reality.  This is no matter for astonishment, since these images are deposits of thousands of years of experience of the struggle for existence and for adaptation.  Every great experience in life, every profound conflict, evokes the accumulated treasure of these images and brings about their inner constellation.  But they become accessible to consciousness only when the individual possesses so much self-awareness and power of understanding that he also reflects on what he experiences instead of just living it blindly.”

69:373f

Part of the reason that Jung’s words are so compelling for me, is that I have a fascination already with prehistory—before there were established religions during the Neolithic epoch, which began around 20,000 BCE, when some of the most interesting cave paintings were being done, although some were created as much as 35,000 years ago.  Looking at the development of humans during that time and moving forward, we see that agriculture appeared around 10,000 BCE; irrigation and agriculture began in earnest in Mesopotamia around 5,000 BCE; the megaliths at the Stonehenge site began around 3,100 BCE; and the Neolithic period ended around 1,900 BCE, right before the beginning of the Bronze Age. 

My fascination with prehistory stems partly from observing how the trends taking hold in our modern world have clearly resulted in the loss of the concept of mystery that the early humans accepted as simply being part of the way of our existence—explanations of the strange and inexplicable in prehistory had none of the restrictions or prejudicial roadblocks of modern thinking.

We tend to suppose in our current epoch that we have surpassed our prehistoric ancestors in every way, and while modern life does have an enormous advantage in almost every area of knowledge and accumulated wisdom, we seem to have lost that unfettered capacity for consideration of the mysterious and ineffable, so matter-of-factly assumed in prehistory.  Jung describes the archetypes as:

“Living symbols that rise up from the creative unconscious of the living man.  The immense significance of such symbols can be denied only by those for whom the history of the world begins with the present day.”     69:202f

We cannot lose sight of the existence of the mysterious and elusive aspects of our very human nature, for to do so would cut us off from what constitutes the very essence of our foundation as a self-aware and cognitively talented species.  The early humans, in spite of possessing the very same physiological structures in the brain, took thousands of years to blossom into creatures with the capacity for creating symbolic representations of objective phenomena observed in the world included in the early cave paintings.  It took thousands more years to develop grammatical languages to express those concepts, and thousands more years to develop writing.

As always, we are limited in our ability to describe our ineffable aspects and inherited foundational sources, since they are, in important ways, transcendent of the physical universe, but with a sustained and determined approach to the subject, we may eventually break through our current limitations.

I look forward to continuing to do research and to consider these ideas more fully in the coming year, and wish to express my gratitude to all those who visit and comment here at John’s Consciousness.

Wishing you all the best in the coming year!

The Benefits of Unexpected Outcomes

In the maelstrom of our daily subjective experience, within the confines of our everyday reality, everything seems so familiar. Unless we are on a vacation or traveling to an anticipated change in location, we awaken each morning and assume that the familiar will resume.  And of course, it generally will.

We usually do not question what is familiar.  During the course of a typical day, we do not challenge our perceptions of our reality…Usually.

But we must. The realm of possibility is infinite.

And how do we know?  Well, we normally infer that what we witness taking place in the temporal world has a degree of predictability, based on our previous experience, but we are also aware that even the tiniest variation of the familiar can, under certain conditions, precipitate a radical departure from what has taken place before that moment. It doesn’t always end up as a radical departure, but it CAN.

Every nuance of experience can have components that are both familiar and unexpected, and oftentimes, what we expect becomes what we experience…until it isn’t.

Variables and potentialities can occasionally confound us and alter our experience.  We cannot know, at any particular point, which variables may affect the outcome, and which will only delay or imperceptibly alter the result.  All we can really say is that our reality is generally composed of variables and potentialities that are sometimes combined with what is familiar, as well as with what is commonly thought to be a matter of chance.

We see it all the time.  Some variables involve practical temporal circumstances.  The car breaks down. Traffic prevents arrival as expected. Power failures happen unexpectedly which prevent actions or reactions to take place. Flights are cancelled.  We are unavoidably detained and miss a window of opportunity.  We are delayed in equal measure with other events, which, in spite of the delay, begin just as we arrive.

We plot and plan with relentless precision and occasionally get it just right, but at other times, in spite of our relentless efforts, something goes WRONG.  Sometimes, despite our efforts to avoid mishaps or diversions, something goes wrong, which unexpectedly ends up precipitating something that goes very RIGHT. What traditionally might constitute a diversion from the path, under normal circumstances, may end up being the very thing that needs to happen in order to achieve our intended goals.

Statistics often paint a picture or tell a story.  Usually, when a sufficient number of the same actions produce similar consequences, predictable results can typically be expected.  However, history is replete with examples of unexpected results from previously predictable outcomes.  The smallest variation of temporal circumstances can either result in no significant change in the ultimate result, or it can end up altering the landscape of life for centuries to come.  There is no way to know for certain.

There are ways, though, to improve the odds in our favor if we employ the “three I’s.”

Imagination

Utilizing our imagination isn’t just for storytelling and creating works of art. It is a vitally important aspect of the learning process and for discernment generally.  What is it like to be another person?  What will happen if we don’t attend to important matters?  How can we overcome enormous obstacles or solve complex problems?  We must imagine that something is possible before it ever will be.

Intuition

Without flexing our intuitive muscles, it becomes much more difficult to manage our confrontations with the unexpected.  There are often subtle signs or vague intimations of the nature of our experiences hidden beneath the surface of our everyday reality.  Our natural inclination to pick up on them can be honed with consistent practice; numerous failures to recognize them can be instructional upon reflection.

Word Cloud by www.epictop10.com

Investigation

No one is born knowing all about the nature of reality or can become an expert in every subject. There simply isn’t time over the course of our lives to understand it all, but we can investigate and take advantage of the experiences of those who came before us, to supplement our individual experiences with knowledge gained by other experts.

For those who are blessed with at least nominally functional sight in both eyes, seeing what transpires in the world, depending on their viewpoint, can be either uplifting or painful. It is generally thought to be an advantage to see well with both eyes, and in most circumstances this seems like a reasonable assertion.

Unfortunately, there are also extreme cases within which one might actually wish to “un-see” a terrible sight, or perhaps regret having to deal with the memory of what was seen. It’s not always the case that “seeing is believing,” either, and we know that the eyes in our heads can be fooled through “slight-of-hand,” or other optical illusions.

We often neglect to associate what we see with our eyeballs with what we see with our “inner eye.” We process our visual experiences inside our brains, and may see things differently utilizing that miraculous instrument, if we give it our full attention, and combine our experience with the intellectual and cognitive capacities of our “inner eye.”

In spite of life’s numerous challenges, with careful planning and consistent effort, we can feel relatively optimistic about the outcome of our experiences.  These actions can provide a degree of confidence in our own expectations, and in the expectations of others, that our efforts will eventually yield predictable results.

Work hard; save your money; and eventually you can afford to make financial choices that advance your goals.  Faithfully attend classes; study hard; avoid skipping important tasks related to your course of study; and eventually you will obtain a diploma or achieve other advanced educational goals. 

Relentlessly pursue the attainment of a greater understanding of what perplexes you; confer with experts; research relevant subject areas of a quandary, and, at some point, you will at least begin to understand it better.

There is an argument to be made for both dedicated effort to achieve a particular goal, and implementing a degree of spontaneity in our actions along the way, in order to reap the benefits of unexpected outcomes, made possible by engaging the realm of possibility, which exists at all times, within the parameters of our daily subjective experience.

Our three eyes—the two in our heads, and the one inner eye, combined with the other three “I’s”—Imagination, Intuition, and Investigation—can ultimately improve our experience and enhance our understanding.

Searching For An Opening to the Spirit

I know it’s pushing the limits a bit psychologically and cognitively to grasp explanations about the nature of circumstances, which you may not have personally experienced, and you may not know exactly where to begin, but with patience and applying our talents for thinking and reasoning, I believe it is possible to gain some greater understanding of “genuine experiences,” as described by those of us who have some familiarity with them.

The general nature of life itself should, by now, be broadly understood to consist of a variety of levels of experience and being, and to include more than what can be easily detected or ascertained by our five senses. It should also be obvious that life is comprised of characteristics of much greater complexity than what can be satisfactorily described or demonstrated scientifically, but in order for you to open yourself to the transcendent, it is still necessary to comprehend, at least in some general way, the nature of physical existence.

In my case, the awakening to the spiritual path happened a bit in reverse, and I recall having a number of extraordinary experiences as a very young child that seemed to me, even then, to be from a source outside of my own physical existence.  Naturally, I could not comprehend fully the implications of those experiences at that time, but neither did I question their validity or their importance.

To me, they seemed quite normal as experiences went, since I had no basis for judging them beyond the subjective experience of their occurrence, and assumed quite understandably that everyone else was having them also.  It wasn’t until I began school and my indoctrination into Catholic orthodoxy at around age six that it suddenly became unacceptable to acknowledge any extraordinary experience as anything other than “God’s mystery.”

I’ve written a couple of times about the way my thoughts and early childhood notions were suppressed by a fairly strict religious upbringing, and how I was often told not to concern myself with such “imaginings.”  All those years of suppressing my own thoughts eventually contributed to the “explosion” of unconscious contents that Jung described as often occurring “abruptly,” when we finally reach some sort of boundary condition psychologically.  In spite of this intensely restrictive environment, I still continued to experience a number of moments when I felt overwhelmed by a sense of “otherness” toward my inner world, even some occasionally striking events of precognition; the sense of the presence of invisible energies or individuals, or an extraordinary feeling of deep connection to other individuals in my limited temporal circle.

There were also several “out of the body” experiences during moments of extreme danger or tension, including one that occurred during a fall from a thirty-foot scaffolding platform in high school, where I remember floating above my body listening to the teachers telling others that I was dying. Once I even heard an inner voice of a girl, of whom I was not physically aware, as she was approaching me from behind saying to herself, “I hope you still want to be with me.” Imagine my surprise when I turned to see her standing there, and when I answered, “Yes, I do still want to be with you.” I thought she had said it out loud—until she asked me “How did you know I was going to ask you that?”

The events in Massachusetts in 1973 are a great deal more complicated in their explanation and description, and it has taken me decades of research and exploration to even be able to say that I am beginning to appreciate just how complex the explanation of the nature of our subjective experience of human consciousness must ultimately be. 

To say that my experience in the autumn of 1973 suggested the influence of a transcendent source is quite an understatement.  Jonas Rice was, in so many ways, a kindred spirit; a brother from another mother; another soul with whom I shared a great deal more than a fleeting sense of connection or an out-of-the-body experience.  It always seemed to me that during those episodes, we occupied the same physical space in some way, and there were moments when it felt as though I was seeing through his eyes, and at other times, that it was simply a presence which seemed to be guiding me or steering my attention.  Whether any of that actually explains my experiences is far from definitive for me, even today, and although they seemed objectively real to me at the time, as a rational person, I must acknowledge that the true nature of that connection is still really, to some degree, “unexplained.”

The explosion of our unconscious contents, when it occurs in the way Jung described it, can be inexplicable in any sort of satisfying temporal terms, precisely because our unconscious mind is, itself, quite mysterious and usually inaccessible subjectively. In my case, the eruption was so violent and it affected me so intensely physically, that nailing down the full explanation naturally resists logic and normal reasoning. If you’ve read that portion of the story well, you may recall that a fair amount of what I wrote was not legible at all, and my attempts to transcribe what was legible, were hampered by the feeling of complete and utter confusion that I felt afterwards.

The name Jonas Rice was a guess on my part about those two words as they appeared on the page, but when I stood at the tombstone in the center of Worcester, the paralysis in my body was real and my rapid heartbeat and inability to catch my breath were frightening.  I was having a panic attack and it shook me to the core.  I still get goosebumps when I think about it.

 If you look back thoughtfully through the events of your own life, you also may actually be able to discover that you may have had some version of experiences in this regard, which, though not as severe, still point to a non-physical aspect to our nature as cognitive sentient beings in a physical universe. Perhaps you suddenly got a hunch about where you might find a missing item which was in your possession days before, or experienced a pleasing sense of delight at a particular moment for no apparent reason.  You may even have felt particularly bad or good about the circumstances of someone you knew or someone you love, even though you had no real sense of what was causing it, or why it was particularly good or bad to them. 

Our personal sense of intuition is commonly influenced by our own experiences of such events, but applying the memory of our experiences is not always sufficient to explain an intense feeling or a particularly keen sense of the suffering of another.  You may not have ever associated your heightened awareness of these types of things with any sort of transcendent source, but if you dig a little deeper when you experience such feelings, it often becomes more apparent that the circumstances alone really don’t completely explain why you feel the way you do.

Opening yourself to the possibility of transcendence—placing yourself deliberately on the path of greater understanding—is the first step toward recognizing why you once found yourself engaged in a conversation with your friend on the question of whether or not God is real, or how it is that you recall an extraordinary experience years or days ago, when you sensed the urgency to initiate some unexpected response to an event, leading you to take a different path on a particular day, which resulted in that unusual experience.

Should you decide to investigate these possibilities as they relate to your own life, don’t worry about having “meaningful questions,” or “coming up blank,” when you consider the relevance of particular experiences right away. This is new territory for anyone who hasn’t previously contemplated the nature of subjective experience. You will be expanding your realm of experience simply by looking into the subjects you are encountering.  When a question arises in your mind, you will know that it is time to ask it, and to explore the subject further. Until then, you should keep searching and reading and thinking.

I am very glad to be sharing my experiences with the visitors and readers here and recommend that you take the time to explore these ideas on your own and investigate the subjects surrounding them; you will eventually come up with ideas of your own that you will want to explore.

To anyone who asks me, what I recommend as a means to increase their understanding is to begin writing in a journal, recording whatever random thoughts or feelings or ideas come to mind. Even if, in the beginning, nothing particularly interesting or helpful comes up, eventually the practice itself will yield new thoughts and may, upon reflection, stir those questions, and you may even find new avenues to explore.

The Spiritual Journey Continues

The story of my life is now about to expand into a whole new direction and the events that brought me to this place and time, for some mysterious reason, have resulted in a whole new path, which became evident after receiving a request for me to perform a wedding ceremony for a beloved family friend.

“Me?”  “You want ME to marry you?”

During a virtual facetime meeting, due to Covid restrictions, the happy couple explained that they considered me to be the most spiritual person they knew, and that I was also the only person they knew who already did what they were about to do, which is to bring together two families, and start one of their own—together.

Combined with the long term relationships between many of the participants in this ceremony, it was clear that they looked at me as someone with a degree of wisdom that I could share, and get them off to a good start.

Not everyone thought it was a good idea, but most of the people I consulted thought it was fine. I embraced the opportunity whole-heartedly. I did my research, followed the instructions and spent time training in the areas of interest, applied for the certification and received it several weeks later.

I am officially an “Ordained Minister,” registered and supported by the Universal Life Church, located in Seattle, WA.  I am legally entitled to marry people and to perform spiritual services as requested or which may be needed in any given circumstance.

It’s a non-denominational organization which is promoting the spread of spiritual awareness, revival, and promotion, without imposing or exclaiming any specific dogma.  Each of us, if we decide to explore such an idea, must discover that place where we can see ourselves as spiritual beings, and while there are many different paths one might pursue in the interest of their own spiritual well-being, each of us must ultimately seek out our own resource for spiritual guidance as well, and continue to search until we locate one which either resonates with us personally or which might be recommended by others we respect. 

When the importance of this opportunity finally began to sink in to my incredulous psyche, I started to dig down a little, down through the deeper levels of consciousness, and when I came up for air, I had to confess to myself that the choices I made, and the life I have led, didn’t exactly fit the common description of what a minister’s life usually looks like.  I felt as though I was both on the edge of a cresting wave, and suddenly realizing that I don’t know how to surf very well.

I didn’t think I was worthy of the honor, not because of any deficit in the requirements, but because I didn’t see myself as someone who earned the privilege—at least—not at first.

As time progressed, I began to see a vague sense of coherence in the way my life was unfolding, and accepted that these developments might actually be necessary, in order to step off into the next phase of my evolving life!

So be it.

I decided to embrace this moment now—this one—the one I am constantly experiencing inside my head.  When events like this occur in our lives, we have to recognize why it’s not a good idea to dwell on the past, but also not to forget the important lessons our experiences provided.  It’s also becomes important not to look ahead to the future with anxiety or well-defined expectations—but also to realize that sometimes we still need to plan and prepare.  We need to adapt and overcome, when necessary, but still hold close to our values as people.

One day, all of this will likely be understood in a way that could not possibly be understood at this moment. The perspective of time is necessary, since what occurs may not be clear at the time when it happens, and it may require additional distance in time and circumstance to become clear.  In retrospect, some of what we conclude initially will make sense and some of it may not, but the lines which summon us to the task of greater understanding, all originate within us. 

In order to gain in perspective and illuminate the components of a broader understanding, it is important to be able to quiet the mind and, to some degree initially, to let go temporarily of our attachment to the temporal.  This is not an abandonment of reality, nor is it in any way a compromise of our most essential self.  It should be thought of as simply setting aside our attachment to surface matters, just long enough to allow ourselves to approach more closely our innermost being.  Each aspect of our humanity is equally important to honor and to attend to as a part of the fullness of our lives.

Our current 21st century way of life tends to emphasize the immediate temporal circumstance and, in doing so, can subsequently lead to a tendency to gravitate away from our deeper selves—to embrace a state where we avoid apprehending any sort of deeper meaning in favor of a less satisfying surface existence.  We sometimes fail to appreciate just how much we can gain from exploring and expanding our point-of-view to include a fuller range of human experience.

The world is rapidly changing now and trying to keep up with the latest trends and the explosion of information technology can obscure the path toward our inner life, by becoming so pervasive in our daily lives that there simply isn’t time to absorb it all.  The pathway becomes so clogged up with surface matters and distractions of every sort that it eventually prevents any substantial progress from being made.  Less concern for achieving any sort of deeply personal, spiritual, or philosophical appreciation for our inner lives can result in spending much less of our available energy and time on anything that might otherwise lead us toward a greater understanding.

An essential effort in the service of achieving a degree of balance in our lives includes giving deliberate attention to both the wider range of our very human nature, of which we are all a part, as well as attending to our inner world—the world which is not technically inside of our bodies—but rather, outside of our temporal experience of the world itself. 

It is truly challenging to contemplate such an essential aspect of our humanity, which is also beyond the temporal boundaries of our bodies. We spend so much time in the early part of our lives becoming familiar with our subjective experience of being alive as a human person, that we tend to associate the physicality of our bodies and the relentless stream of thoughts which occupy our minds with our essential “self,” and only after many years of life experience does it become possible to begin to understand that life is much more expansive and complex than our own individual experience indicates.

Unfortunately for many of us, early childhood often consists of indoctrination into some form of religious doctrine and practice, which is often well-intentioned and earnest on the part of our caretakers, but which can sometimes cloud our thoughts, rather than lead us to any degree of enlightenment. This certainly was true in my case, and although I was very fortunate to encounter many deeply spiritual experiences along with the religious regimen, I often found myself at odds with those same doctrines and practices.  It seemed there were always many more questions than answers available to me along the way.  It wasn’t until I was an independent young man that I finally found myself free of those restrictive beliefs, and able to pursue my own inclinations spiritually.

I struggled greatly with my relationship with my parents as a result of my independent explorations and pursuits, but the struggles were necessary and ultimately led me to a much greater appreciation of my own deeply spiritual nature. 

I am now about to embark on a totally new spiritual journey as a mature man and as someone who will be considered in a whole new light from anything I have ever done before. 

Life Revealing Itself

There is a movement taking place within me and around me as the year progresses toward the autumn and winter seasons.  It’s creating a degree of both anticipation and trepidation, which I find a bit unsettling.  Even when we are anticipating the arrival of something wonderful, it alters our outlook if we are paying attention well enough, just as naturally as when we look ahead with some anxiety toward uncertainty or disruption in our immediate circumstance.

It has always been like this for me. Even as a young man I recall both the excitement of the arrival of new experience, especially when it is expected to be of a positive nature, as well as the fear brought about by not knowing what will happen, or how I might endure adverse circumstances.  In my early youth, I was always reacting to whatever circumstances prevailed at the time, and rarely had any time to prepare myself or any idea of how to deal with those circumstances, beyond what I could conjure on the fly.  

I was notoriously impulsive and spontaneous in most every circumstance, and often acted without thinking things through, no matter what the outcome might potentially be. This approach to living my life occasionally served me well when the outcome was advantageous in some way, but more often than not, my lack of sophistication and inability to mitigate my impulsive nature caused either me or someone else a degree of difficulty that was daunting in one way or another, and it took me many years to begin to understand why I always seemed to find out the hard way that my choices needed to be less impulsive. 

Joining the military at age 20 was a turning point like no other before it, and although it forced me to implement a greater degree of self-discipline, once I became more confident and successful in that environment, I still wasn’t completely able to let go of my spontaneous nature altogether.  I had finally stepped back away from the precipice of chaos, at least enough to be more measured in my actions, and the overall percentage of advantageous outcomes increased dramatically.

As a mature person in my thirties, it became a necessity to become more consistently reliable since I had become a parent to small children, and while I was able to provide for them sufficiently in the main, I constantly struggled with my own well-being in the process.  Throughout my working life, even when I had achieved a reasonably stable and prosperous level of income, I constantly had to submerge my personal interests so as not to endanger the well-being of those in my care.

This constant back-and-forth condition was both frustrating when it held me back, and equally compelling when it led to a burst of progress toward my personal goals.  The contrast between the two conditions was maddening at times, and there were moments which tested my resolve in both directions. It took me until well into my fifties to settle down enough to manage my general outlook in a way that didn’t undermine either my daily obligations or my personal well-being.

I know now, after many years of study and contemplation of the subjective experience of human consciousness, that in order to understand it and to move toward it, we need to realize that whatever the source of consciousness may be, it goes much deeper, and is more meaningful and profound than we currently suppose.  This search I have been on all these years has clearly been aided by my willingness to be open to the experiences of my personal journey, even with all of its starts and stops—even with each step forward and back. 

Just as it seems now, in consideration of our current understanding of the laws of physics and quantum theory, that the physical universe which we observe and study is reliant upon unobservable phenomena and additional dimensions outside of our direct perception—in part—a manifestation of non-material aspects—so too now, does consciousness appear to be, at its source, non-material.  The difficulty then becomes, trying to discern how the non-material aspects of the universe and of consciousness affect the physical world and interact with our daily waking awareness of our existence.

Many philosophers and neuroscientists wish to express the phenomenon of consciousness as an emergent property of our brain physiology, and in doing so, eliminate any other possible avenue of exploration and explanation.  We can certainly sympathize with this inclination in view of the enormous progress of the physical sciences generally, and of neuroscience specifically, that has been made without invoking any additional layers of existence or positing immaterial forces or energies that may contribute to the full understanding of both cosmology and consciousness.

Over the decades of my existence, what has consistently led me to be convinced to the contrary has been my own profound inner sense of something taking place within me, which informs me about my existence, in addition to my own personal physical experience of the world.  To the extent that I have studied the physical sciences and the laws of physics, and read and listened to a host of great thinkers of human history, nothing I have encountered along the way has been sufficient to dissuade me from concluding that my own personal awareness—my own subjective experience of existence—my own consciousness—is perhaps the greatest source for acknowledgment and discernment about my existence that I could possibly hope to possess.  There could be no more reliable source of inspiration or self-awareness for any of us than our own subjective experience, and while none of us is infallible or omnipotent, no other aspect of our awareness is more certain than our own experience of existence.

Anyone with generally good health and a reasonably stable physiology experiences their physical existence through the five senses, and processes the signals sent to their brains from the central nervous system as their waking consciousness, and so long as these physical systems remain nominally functional, our experiences of the world can be stored in memory, we can learn new skills, and generally remember most of the important knowledge we gain through experience.  The mechanisms of brain physiology are indeed wondrous and fascinating to study, and without these important functions operating correctly, our ability to be aware and to be able to experience our existence can be compromised. One need only look to the pathologies present in the human population from disease, genetic defects, and serious injuries to the brain, in order to appreciate the importance of these systems in providing us with access to a functional and productive subjective experience.

What may not be quite so clear is the full understanding of how it is exactly that these functions are accompanied by our extraordinary subjective awareness.  My whole life has contained an array of experiences and a keen sense of awareness of a level of existence that cannot be described in temporal terms, and several key experiences have provided me with an affirmation of my general notion that I have carried with me throughout, that everything we see, everything we do, every act, every nuance of experience, is made possible by a source which cannot be defined in material terms alone. 

Especially during times of profound sadness and exquisite joy, during any of the many extreme circumstances that occur in our lives, we are more readily able to sense our closeness to this source if we are open to doing so. 

Even on a much smaller scale, when we encounter other individual human spirits, with whom we immediately feel a sense of connection, even if they don’t recognize it themselves, we may become aware of our connection to THEM, in a way that is so clear and so deep, that we are able to sense something existent within them that connects us with no ambiguity at all. 

The feeling of being connected to other like spirits, even when it is immediate and without precedent in our experience, can overwhelm us at times, making it terribly difficult to ignore, or to dismiss it as some sort of response to a biological process or instinctive reaction within us.  In my experience, reviewing these episodes of connection that have occurred so often in my travels, gives me good cause to suppose, that what we generally attribute to basic instincts or biological imperatives, or even to our physiological responses to stimuli, all of it may well be a manifestation of an ineffable source which subsequently allows us to “instinctively” lean toward the awareness of non-material aspects of life in the physical universe.  When we fall in love or when we feel enormously compelled to seek out certain situations or individuals or when we follow a hunch or are obsessed by certain ideas, all of these are indications of a connection to something larger than ourselves. Since we only have a limited range of responses that we CAN give, we tend to associate the brain’s activity as being the source of those responses, rather than recognizing the possibility that the source might be something else entirely.

When The Path of Destiny Calls

We do not always choose to arrive on the path of destiny. We may avoid it at times it if we are determined to do so, but at some point, no matter how desperate we become or how clever we are, one way or another, the path will find us.

Occasionally, if we are truly on the path, the universe will rise up to meet us, and join us on the path. It may walk awhile with us, or it may visit unexpectedly for a short time and then go away.  It may linger without saying a word, but when we walk our true path, the universe walks with us, even though it is a manifestation of something much greater and grander still.

Some may wish to suggest that the universe is already pretty darn grand just as it is—just as we see it. When we look up at night through our telescopes in the backyard or through a powerful earth-bound telescope or even while reviewing the feed from the Hubble Space Telescope, we will see a universe that is beyond grand—beyond a comprehensive description—defying all of our attempts to describe it. Because it is so vast, it contains vast quantities of the mysterious, and the wondrous, and the beautiful.

What we sometimes refer to as “the soul,” or “the spirit within us,” may actually be a reflection of the mysterious and profound transcendent aspect of the universe.  We are a part of the universe, and the universe is a manifestation of something truly bigger than the grandest view through any telescope.

Along with everything we recognize and understand in that view, considering the universe even as a temporal physical structure, fully understanding the way it works seems, at least currently, to be beyond our grasp.  Of course, even our vague understanding of what we can actually observe, even considering the parameters of our current cosmological knowledge; we do understand that what we DO know is only a fraction of what there IS to know.

A materialist view takes the position that what cannot be demonstrated to exist physically, or as the result of a physical process, is either irrelevant or based on speculation or supposition, and while we must acknowledge the limited ability of the scientific method to confirm the existence of phenomena or principles that are immaterial, this inability is not, in and of itself, a definitive indication that such aspects do not exist.

BECAUSE such aspects are not demonstrable empirically, in my view, increases the likelihood that they DO exist. Let me explain.

Let’s suppose for the moment that immaterial and ineffable aspects of reality are ESSENTIAL to our physical existence, and although they cannot be unambiguously demonstrated to be a part of our substantial physical reality, over the centuries, it became widely accepted that they do actually exist.

Our subjective experience of consciousness would be far less mysterious, and it would be taken for granted that these immaterial concepts and components are simply part of the foundation for the broad spectrum of human experience which includes them. 

Under these conditions, the whole history of human experience, the enormous volume of literature, philosophy, religious ideas and inspirational scientific discoveries, all of it, would be considered a part of the unfolding of our experience of the world, and justify all of our efforts to enhance our survival, in order to gain a greater understanding of our place in the universe.

Now suppose that none of these ineffable elements and ideas have ever existed; since the dawn of modern humans, no other explanations were ever entertained for any reason.  Only physical laws and demonstrable scientific ideas would be considered as being possible to explain the world and the universe.

Suddenly, our actual human history would no longer make any sense at all.  Tens of thousands of years of that history would not contain an overwhelming volume of expressions of those aspects that have been recorded in every epoch, every culture, and every geographic region of the Earth since the dawn of modern humans.  Reports and descriptions of such ideas would never have been made, and through the millennia, there would be only life and death and taxes. No reason to dream or hope for anything other than survival while we live, and no cause to ponder or wonder about anything until we die.

In such a world, our actual human history would be completely incomprehensible.

Unless we humans eventually discover some future method of explaining through the scientific method what is now considered “ineffable,” it only makes sense to approach these ideas with an open mind, and consider what might actually be possible. The main obstacle, as I see it, is the reluctance of many individuals to even entertain the concept of any sort of immaterial principle existing in the first place.

I get it.

Anyone with no experiential encounters with something bigger than themselves, with no sense of an existence beyond the temporal world of the palpable and the graspable could be blamed for being reluctant to embrace such ideas.  Many materialists will cite “Occam’s Razor,” as the most reasonable approach to the most vexing issues in philosophy and science, which posits that the simplest and most basic approach to explain any phenomenon is usually the right one. While it is reasonable for those with no commensurate experience or encounter with anything beyond the five senses, to be skeptical of an existence or a feature of reality that is not accessible to science, simply because there may not be an empirical solution for the mysterious is, in my view, insufficient as a rationale to disregard other possible explanations out of hand.

Every experience and part of the path of my life up to now has been a preparation for and a prelude to what will now follow.  Had my life taken a totally different path; had there been no spiritual awakening or serious temporal disruption to my otherwise ordinary life; had any of the pivotal events in my life turned out differently or had the resulting chaos resolved itself in some other more agreeable fashion, it is likely that none of the words I’ve written over the decades would have been recorded in any of the thousands of pages, represented by the numerous journals and digital files that I currently possess.

My life contains a piece of the answer.  The events of my life have been part of a constant struggle to pursue the answers.  The arrival of the Jonas materials back in the mid-seventies was pivotal to bringing me to a place where the answers would eventually begin to be revealed.  All of the years since then have contained elements and components and pieces of the understanding that I continue to seek to this day.

The path of destiny is something I have eagerly sought to follow, and in equal measure, feared to tread upon.  There have been times, when the path led to events and moments, that were as brilliant as they were desired by me, and at other times, which brought me to my knees in despair at my inability to follow in a way that it seemed I needed to go.  The conflict within me would often swing wildly in opposite directions, and just as some degree of progress was being made, I would find myself paralyzed with either fear or uncertainty as to my course.

I struggled greatly with the pull of opposites. Going in the direction it seemed I needed to go, often presented such a challenge to my temporal life, that I was unable to commit to a particular course of action, and events in my temporal life often led me to pursue actions, which inevitably brought me to an awareness of essential elements, and precipitated startling revelations that were impossible to ignore.

The story of Jonas, as it has been revealed to me through the years, is an attempt to express not only the extraordinary nature of my connection to the ineffable and to the spirit of life, but as a metaphor for the struggle that we all face when the path of destiny calls.  None of us can simply ignore the urgencies of temporal life, even when the draw toward our destiny is as compelling as mine was in the early days of my awareness.

As often as I pressed myself to surge forward into the abyss; as difficult as my temporal life became at times; in spite of the profound and formidable compulsion that descended upon me during those times—I was often thwarted in my attempts to override my personal interests sufficiently to abandon my responsibilities.

Within my own personal subjective experience of my own consciousness, it was often crystal clear to me what it was that I needed to do in order to satisfy the demands of my destiny, and it was rare that my own personal inclinations were at odds with the path as it was revealed to me.  Had I been unrestrained by the circumstances of my personal responsibilities, many times the choices I would have made, would have been of a wholly different character. 

Countless eons passed without awareness being possessed sufficiently in our species in order to develop an adequate mechanism for expressing that awareness. Even when the early hominids had acquired sufficiently complex brain architectures to support awareness, there was no established process for expressing it.  It took many thousands of years of development to acquire that capacity, and tens of thousands more to devise methods of coherently expressing what was taking place within us, utilizing the acquisition of our newfound self-awareness, supported by the evolutionary architecture inside the brains of our fellow human ancestors.

A Writer’s Dilemma

MIDWAY upon the journey of our life

I found myself within a forest dark,

For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

 

Ah me! How hard a thing it is to say

What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,

Which in the very thought renews the fear.

 

So bitter is it, death is little more;

But of the good to treat, which there I found,

Speak will I of the other things I saw there.

 

I cannot well repeat how there I entered,

So full was I of slumber at the moment

In which I had abandoned the true way.

 

But after I had reached a mountain’s foot,

At that point where the valley terminated,

Which had with consternation pierced my heart,

 

Upward I looked, and I beheld its shoulders

Vested already with (the sun’s) rays

Which leadeth others right by every road.

 

Then was the fear a little quieted

That in my heart’s lake had endured throughout

The night, which I had passed so piteously.

 

And even as he, who, with distressful breath,

Forth issued from the sea upon the shore,

Turns to the water perilous and gazes;

 

So did my soul, that still was fleeing onward,

Turn itself back to re-behold the pass

Which never yet a living person left.

 

Dante Alighieri – excerpt from Canto I – Inferno

Translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Illustration by Paul Gustave Doré

 

 

It is often true for me, and I suppose for most other writers as well, that it is sometimes difficult to settle down enough at my writing desk or at the keyboard to give sufficient consideration to my thoughts, and so several years ago, I began to record myself dictating them into an audio device, which produced results in a way that writing with a pen or typing on the keyboard had been occasionally less effective at capturing.  The problem soon became that I had recorded so many episodes and created so many sound recordings, without taking into consideration that I would eventually want to sort them according to the subject.  Certain ones were used quickly for one reason or another and that works out when it happens, but now there are so many, I felt the need to begin to review them and figure out a way to categorize them.

 

Some of them are just rambling thoughts, some are about subjects that are not precisely within the framework of my current writing and are less useful in that way, but every once in a while something appears that astonishes me, or by some coincidence, fits perfectly within that framework and in that sense alone it has made it worthwhile to use this method.  I think it’s interesting that many of the recordings are personal and are either reminiscing or pondering “what-ifs,” or just ideas for what might become content that I could use for some future fiction project. 

 

 

I’ve written chapters with my voice that are completely a fabrication of my wandering mind or maybe a reflection on an actual memory in the bare essence of the experience, which I then embellish or expand upon, sometimes as a means of indulging my creative urgings, sometimes as a way of expressing what MIGHT have happened had I gone down a different path.  Once the juices start flowing, it’s hard to turn them off. I have a fairly active imagination and I have plenty of vivid memories of past events; I can remember the way it felt to be in those moments very well and sometimes I am surprised when I read what I wrote later.  The level of detail is occasionally stunning to me.

 

In the process of a recent review effort, I came across a particularly surprising account, recorded while I was engaged in a long distance conversation which included the opening lines to Dante’s poem, “Inferno.” The poem itself is a huge endeavor that encompasses a wide range of ideas, and which offers the reader the opportunity to explore many different aspects of the human condition, but for me, the opening was a suggestion of how purposeful reflection can illuminate potential solutions for even the most daunting of challenges.

 

 

Over the years I have accumulated a number of extraordinary experiences which took place within remote areas of forests, while exploring pathways across mountains, and in various nature preserves, many of which became openings to the ineffable world within. Dante’s references to the “forest dark,” the “things I saw there,” the “mountains foot,” and the “heart’s lake,” all leading up to “my soul, that still was fleeing onward,” resulted in the following record of reverie, recorded one night by the fire, while inhabiting the “forest, savage, rough, and stern.”

 

 

“I completely opened myself and listened. I could feel the very essence of your emotion. There wasn’t much time left to linger, and I wanted to embrace you—to reassure you.  It seemed you had sensed this and stepped toward me deliberately.  Without saying a word, I gestured with my arms my openness to such a suggestion, which you accepted without hesitation. 

 

As I held you close, I whispered words of comfort and had already determined that the embrace would continue for as long as you wanted.  Without warning, a sense of astonishment overtook me as your inner world collided with mine.  I unambiguously sensed the presence of your spirit clearly as mine opened immediately to welcome you there. It almost felt like a blending of the two—our souls were touching.  For those few brief moments, I experienced what I could only describe as the feeling of bliss.  Our embrace was warm and firm—offered and accepted equally without condition. 

 

 

After what felt like a sufficient duration to impart a sense of comfort, we both loosened our grasp just enough to pull slightly away. I still had my arms around your waist and your hands were resting gently on my arms, as our eyes met.  I felt a truly visceral connection between us.  Our faces were briefly only inches apart. I stared directly at you for maybe thirty seconds and I did not want to turn away.  Even though words probably weren’t necessary, I still somehow felt the urge to express a willingness to be available whenever the need might arise for such an exchange in the future.  You grinned widely in gratitude, and I sensed a lessening of the sadness which brought us into that moment in time.  

 

I could barely bring myself to leave you.  I stood nearby for several minutes, almost unable to move. I had trouble focusing.  At the last possible minute, as I pushed open the door and waved, I hoped that you could feel intuitively what was in my heart at that moment—I don’t want to go!  We only came together briefly in each other’s arms. The moment was fleeting, to be sure, but all the more precious because of that. 

 

 

There is more between us than what meets the eye. We have both traveled through the ages—through the eons of time—in order to meet here in this time.  We agreed before we abandoned our previous lives that we would be together in this life.  The connection is undeniable.  The years it has taken to come to fruition, the profound sense of connection which occurred immediately upon our appearance, and the subsequent recognition of love as a grace or gift, are impossible to deny.  When my heart rises, I know that it is you.  I gaze intently into your eyes. The mere sight of you raises me up and I find myself once again.

 

You used to sing to me.  You knew I would recognize that voice when I heard it.  That would be the sign that you were here.  I never could have known how challenging the future would be, nor how complicated my temporal life would be.  Somehow you knew that I would find a way to you, no matter how long it took—no matter what sacrifice was required.”

 

 

These words strike at the very heart of the river of consciousness, and it is almost painful to acknowledge the power of these sentiments as I recorded them, but they ring so true that I cannot help but do so.

 

Recognizing that love is a “grace or gift,” and not a natural entitlement of our humanity is urgently needed in our modern society. Understanding that we must somehow find a way to yield to our most urgent longings, even recognizing that they may be neither ultimately fruitful nor fully possessed, is a truth rarely emphasized in the general population these days. We routinely see individuals desperately trying to possess them, and refusing to submit to them, often with tragic results. We are flawed beings, we humans, and often refuse to acknowledge what is patently obvious, but this brief expression of longing forced me to confront this truth.

 

 

While the sense world alerts us to the visceral embodiment of love through our intense desires, the sense world only points to something far grander and more vital in our experience of life. Even just the emotional power of the grace which inhabits these experiences, points to the spirit which is foundational to that grace, and the ebb and flow of life and love, is fundamentally a result of the same rhythms which point to the foundations of formulating the meaning and purpose they serve.

 

We must have some reinforcement or confirmation in our lives in order to appreciate that even the deficits and struggles of life must be included in order to arrive at the affirmation that it is “an incomprehensible gift just to be alive.” Such a conclusion may be much more challenging to someone deprived of basic needs or afflicted by some of life’s more daunting challenges, but it is the same struggle we all have based on the myriad possibilities for each life.

Hope Springs Eternal

 

 

 

                                                                        “Hope” is the thing with feathers—
                                                                       That perches in the soul—
                                                                       And sings a tune without the words—
                                                                       And never stops—at all—

                                                                       And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
                                                                       And sore must be the storm—
                                                                       That could abash the little Bird
                                                                       That kept so many warm—

                                                                       I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
                                                                       And on the strangest Sea—
                                                                       Yet—never-in Extremity,
                                                                       It asked a crumb—of me.


                                                                       Emily Dickinson – 1861

 

 

 

Anyone paying attention to the state of affairs in America recently knows well the challenges we have had to face these days, some of which we share with the rest of the world like the global pandemic and its economic fallout, and some that are uniquely American, not the least of which has been a terribly divisive and contentious election process this November.

While these issues have often seemed to dominate the relentless range of available news in the world’s media outlets, they often haven’t fairly and accurately represented the broad range of positive and noteworthy efforts by innumerable individuals that have accompanied those difficulties. News organizations tend to emphasize the more sensational aspects of these events generally, and in order to get a more balanced perspective, it seems that we must not only temper our exposure to such reports these days, but we also need to dig a bit deeper for sources of information that can provide additional input to help us gain that greater balance.

 

 

Emily Dickinson provides us with a good starting point in her poem, which begins with “Hope” is the thing with feathers, immediately leading us to infer a metaphorical association, as a feature which “dwells inside the human spirit,” according to an analysis on http://www.litcharts.com, and which was “written to honor the human capacity for hope.”

You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief in America when the news came that there would be a change in our national leadership, and while there has been an unfortunate lack of acknowledgement by everyone in the positions of influence regarding the ultimate outcome, there can be no doubt that the tide has now turned back toward the preservation of our democracy, and away from the deliberate efforts to undermine the collective values enumerated in our founding documents.

Beyond these pressing considerations of our current national circumstances, there are other concerns that require our attention, which are much closer to our hearts and minds as members of our extended families and local communities. This morning, as I slowly rose to waking consciousness, there was an echo of a particular theme upon which I have been ruminating of late, and it played subtly over and over in my head, prompting me to sit down at the writing desk to capture whatever I could of the momentum I had built as I contemplated the start of yet another day.

 

 

There can be no greater task for us as living beings than to achieve a degree of urgency in recognizing just how tenuous and fragile our existence might become if we do not attend to our individual lives as being a part of something much greater than the daily machinations of national governance or to the selfish tendency of some to restrict their concerns to a more narrow-minded viewpoint. Our fortunes clearly do rise and fall together in important ways, and unless we can step back to some degree from the limitations produced by such viewpoints, we may eventually find ourselves in even more dire circumstances than those which might have prevailed had we not done so.

Right within our own very personal environments now, we have come face-to-face with the necessity to avoid close contact with others in order to keep us safe from a deadly virus. The very structure of our social lives has been disrupted in a myriad of ways, and as we observe the necessary precautions to preserve our health and restore a sense of normalcy, we have begun to see much more clearly how important our personal connections to others have been all along, and their absence is keenly felt.

Our family gatherings and typical celebrations have been relegated to sharing in the much less personal venues of video images and exchanges made available through the internet. While these options have their own sort of appeal by providing opportunities to actually SEE each other and to interact when being together in person is not possible, the visceral experience of proximity with other human beings is immediately raised to a level of appreciation that we hardly knew would figure so prominently in its absence.

 

 

As the year slowly winds down, we reflect on the astonishing parallels of this absence, to those which we experience in a variety of situations of loss. We miss the proximity and the personal interactions with those we have already lost over the preceding years of our lives, having accepted as far as we can the unavoidable aspects of age, accident, or illness, as well as the inevitable changes which occur as a result of the variety of fluctuations within relationships of every sort. If we are even minimally aware of the importance of our social relationships, we quickly appreciate the significance of the consequences wrought by the pandemic.

Our celebrations this holiday season will be severely limited in comparison to other years, and perhaps there might not be any better circumstance for regaining our perspective on the importance of being able to interact with our close family relations and our dearest friends. We can no longer take such relationships for granted, and once the threat of illness from the virus subsides, we should not forget the sense of loss we now feel.

 

 

A few years ago, as I documented in a previous posting at year’s end, I wrote a scripted scene which my niece and I performed for my immediate family at our annual Christmas gathering. Within that text, I included this excerpt, which now seems prescient.

“There are so many reasons for me to have hope for the future, however long it might be for me. In spite of the sometimes unceremonious departures from this life of others in the same neighborhood of age as mine, I have seen the brightness of spirit that filled many of the moments of their lives, and I am heartened beyond measure to have shared such a range of wonders with these bright spirits, that it begs the question for me…What contribution have I made…and what might I still contribute in the days to come… especially at this time in my life, when every morning is a gift, and every effort requires the presence of hope.”

May all of my readers and visitors here at John’s Consciousness embrace the spirit of the holiday season, no matter how you celebrate it, and my wish for you all is a prosperous and healthy new year to come. I look forward to sharing with all of you in 2021 and thank you all for your continued generosity and kindness as this year winds down to a close.