Spirit Journey

“The degree of necessity determines the development of organs of perception in man… therefore to increase your perception, increase your necessity.”

― Idries Shah, The Way of the Sufi

A brilliant short video on the tumultuous process of becoming a complete personality.

 

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“We are so convinced that past evils must repeat themselves that we make them repeat themselves. We dare not risk a new life in which the evils of the past are totally forgotten; a new life seems to imply new evils, and we would rather face evils that are already familiar… Hence we cling to the evil that has already become ours, and renew it from day-to-day, until we become identified with it and change is no longer thinkable.”

–Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

 

 

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I’m discussing the idea of control. For example, controlling ourselves, our social scene, romantic life, work issues and money.

There are several common variations of what we call Control. They differ sharply in meaning though each is intended for the same use. When we use the word Control about our lives it resembles one of these descriptions:

Dynamic or Responsive Control: The healthiest and happiest, also the least like the conventional meaning of control. This is a person who responds to life’s problems like a good tennis player responds to the match: Her moves are alert, timely, and proportional. She handles each problem as well as she can and doesn’t get distracted by grief over missing one or waste energy chasing a ball she could never catch.  This person has confidence in themselves and knows that spontaneously handling everything as it comes to you is the only way to win. This style accepts incoming serves without protest as the core of the game, in other words as a basic truth about life.

The negative alternative is Anxious Control: There are several substyles to the spectrum of Anxious Control:

  1. Tense-Jumpy-Irritable Anxious Control – This style is stressed out just under the surface at all times. Problems scare them into hypervigilance and this generates “false positive” problems. Sadly this means they experience way more problems than people who aren’t on such high alert.  Their moves are nervously alert, premature, and disproportionate on the “too big” side. They lack confidence in themselves and each problem costs them deeper emotional stress than necessary. Their response to incoming serves is bitter/resentful. “I knew it!” Oddly, they don’t put much focus on improving life in ways would generate fewer problems.
  2. Big Picture Prudence Anxious Control – The main difference between this one and the previous is time and space. BPP takes the long and global view of potential trouble. It embraces systems of avoiding and minimizing problems.  None of that is pathological in itself, it shows good sense if it is in balance. The negative imbalance appears when fear and dread are the motivators and try to control EVERYTHING. Their moves are suspiciously alert, their timing is preemptive, and they are disproportionately risk-averse. There is a fundamentally negative world view with a dislike/distrust of anything that they cannot control. At the extreme end, this style avoids love, growth, and change. Their response to incoming serves is to manage them remotely or avoid them entirely.
  3. Helpless, Fatalistic Anxious Control – Utterly lacking confidence in themselves this style expects failure and allows it to happen through passivity and by telling themselves it doesn’t matter anyway. They grieve over their weakness but can’t find any way to address it. They avoid many problems by not trying or risking. They don’t bet on themselves. This approach can be global or limited/specialized to areas like love or work. Some, for example, might be highly accomplished in their career and helpless/fatalistic toward ever being loved. Their approach to incoming serves is wistful and sad as they passively let them go by. More rarely they take a feeble swing fully expecting failure.

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A recent exploration. Icons, archetypes, personifications and energies.

 

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The title is reputedly what the intellectual swashbuckler and psychological pioneer William James found he had written down during a drug-induced revelation of ultimate truth: “Overall there is a smell of fried onions”.

In his essay “Subjective Effects of Nitrous Oxide” he wrote:

“only as sobriety returns, the feeling of insight fades, and one is left staring vacantly at a few disjointed words and phrases, as one stares at a cadaverous-looking snow peak from which sunset glow has just fled, or at a black cinder left by an extinguished brand.”

Flatland

We descend from ecstasy to the ordinary world as if “Whatever goes up, must come down” applied equally to airplanes and inspiration. Emotionally and psychologically it is as if Newtonian physics rules our inner lives. If there is a version of gravity in there I think it’s the inevitable return to the linguistic/rational level of human reality where we conduct all our business with each other. The human mind surfaces here when submerged and re-lands here after being elevated. This is the homeostatic balance of our kind, the default neurological coordinates of return from highs and lows. Notice that highs and lows aren’t being critically evaluated, merely suppressed as not conducive to social intercourse. The default settings for humanity are designed to function as the center of a common Venn chart, an area where we all overlap despite other differences.

This realm of normal life is completely dominated by words and concepts as if they were the fundamental atomic forces and structure here. Concepts and words (within a general logic framework) are everything here from the solid ground to a breathable atmosphere. The human community is contained within this verbal\conceptual structure but only a few even recognize its existence: Water isn’t perceived by the fish. Within this domain, we don’t usually feel limited or cramped but only realities that can be sealed inside words or concepts can exist here. These can be considered, shared and exchanged, but only, like a nerd’s action figures, if still sealed in the original container. Flatland is a reality composed of things with no objective reality, it is equally Plato’s Cave and Keanu’s Matrix.

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I’m like a ridiculous little boat, tossed about by my own weather, and praying the storm will end.

Everyone is an assembly of voices, and inner life is their discussion. Our flaws and weaknesses are the voices we listened to more that we should have. Now, when they speak we mistake their voice for our own. These are the voices that confidently led us into every catastrophe. You can slowly change by recognizing this, and opening talks with the ignored and forgotten ones.

When longing is unbearable it becomes a prayer.

The facet of a child that has been damaged beyond the natural repair of time doesn’t grow up but freezes there. It is nonetheless bound unbreakably to the grown-up responsibilities it was always destined to bear. This is the source of the mysterious, exhausted crying you can sometimes silently feel coming from the heart of someone nearby.

Hugh Miller

 

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