I confess, first, to feeling silly addressing you like this—o dear me! Forgive my lack of pleasantries, you know most of all how I can be a lousy pen pal. You have as much time for correspondence as I, but here we both are. On a walk outside in the near-silent Berkeley hills, I was transfixed temporarily by the thought of truly following through with this sort of letter. This type of gravity is not new to me, but indeed the desire to make it stick cannot be confined to the illusion of the future. I humbly but urgently request your attention and compliance, for there is no better time than the Now to expect the ideal life for yourself.
It’s a loaded statement (metaphysically disingenuous, even) to say that it makes no difference whether you approach Truth now or later, because what I mean is that it makes no difference to me. I have seen that it makes every difference to you, and the urgency with which you approach Truth may be the salvation of your dignity and vitality. Is love real? Prove it by caring less about more and more about less; quantum phenomena politely cooperate with Sir Isaac Newton without overriding him. Postpone nothing of importance; Insh’Allah is a surrender, not a plea.
Image Credit: David G. Baker
You may at times identify your humanity in neither knowing nor doing, but you know also that there is much to do. Death as eternal rest is pure not-knowing. With neither stigma nor glory, simply acknowledge the fatal attraction of submission to inertia. Being “transfixed temporarily” describes an organic orientation towards the resistance of hope, but the illusion of temporality-in-general is delicious only as the fleeting salve of being able to tolerate not-knowing for a brief while. Our culture gives us little opportunity to encounter not-knowing without shame, but the wisdom of the middle path is accessible even if it is also for sale.
It can be frightening to lose control, but inexperienced pilots ground airplanes by over-correcting. Laugh earnestly at determinism; the answer is still in the question after all these years. Regardless, even philosophy should be approached with restraint. Everywhere there is excess, indulge in restraint. Everywhere there is fear, allow it to catch up with action—but only if it is able to keep up. The Shadow smiles constantly, encouraging and patronizing at the same time.
Human beings may not be rats in a maze, but we are the sorts of people who watch rats run mazes. A skepticism against (or disdain for) behaviorism will prove healthy in a quest to understand psyche and truly help people beyond the victim-blaming and awful monetization of today’s clinical psychiatry. However, such disdain will not render you invulnerable to conditioning. Remember Cialdini’s turkeys, the trigger features and the fixed-action patterns. Remember Death in Tehran, Jung in the Orient, Freud in Vienna: Joseph Campbell would be pleased to see how classically your efforts to evade the inevitable continue to bring it to fruition; of course the hero suits you; the terror of relatedness will be met with opaque defenses. Dr. Newton permits you to be either powerless or blameless, but not both.
In Portland, you asked hotly—with smoke in your lungs and stars in your eyes and blood in your ears—are we all actors on a stage? Or, are we chemicals in a flask? Well, what do you know now? With all due respect to participant observation as a research method, acting inside of a flask with as much theater and chemistry as possible is the opposite of a well-controlled experiment. Catch your breath: Maslow’s idealism was misguided, but not misplaced; man cannot survive on metaphor alone.
“Catching my breath is the term I use when the world gives up on me/ Can you love or not? The truth finds all of us eventually…”
The breath is the Duality, it tastes exactly like metaphor and survival. It takes in the chill of there and warms it to here without holding on. Even now, I’m afraid to say what I mean to you. I’m afraid to hurt your heart, to take responsibility for the wounds of which neither one of us can remember the origin. I’m rambling because I don’t have time to argue over specifics, and holistic thinking provides the perfect cover for that. Indeed, the specifics can be summed up with each breath: there is no eventually, and there never will be.
Self-loathing is also a defense mechanism; it grows increasingly absurd, until its filthy waters cloud the drowning truth. I’ve adapted the Gestalt prayer for you with regards to negative core beliefs: “Deliver us, Fritz Perls, from all resistance, and forgive us the delusion that our trespasses are significant.” You learn nothing from refusing to forgive yourself, except how to paradoxically excuse yourself from responsibility. Self-compassion is courage; be brave for both of us.
Synchronicity and paradox may cease to amaze, but only in the way that No-Religion ceases to worship. The path of least resistance may be to acknowledge resistance and struggle constantly against it, like the relaxed firmness of ideal zazen postures.
“Those who can’t do, teach” is funny when said about P.E. teachers, but it’s not funny at all about mental health professionals. Humility is not a surrogate for courage, and empathy is not a function of vocal tone or body language, but emotional gait instead. Do you know what I mean? I mean that it’s unethical to even wonder why your clients won’t do what you yourself won’t do, let alone ask them to try.
Boredom and panic are polar extremes of taking yourself seriously. If you should ever depersonalize, study the imagination of boundaries until you remember to breathe. Take care of yourself, let that be what you’re doing right now. With all its relentless associations, approach your brain with caution and curiosity and gratitude and gentleness or not at all.
Man’s search for meaning is about meaning it. There is nothing stupid about being stupid, only inauthentic. Intend to speak truthfully, but do not mistake speech for truth. Find peace in passion and charm in chaos. To take responsibility today for tomorrow is prayer, not platitude—Insh’Allah.
You don’t need to write back if you don’t have time, but do let me know if you have questions. I write to you because I cannot become you. Most of the time I am aware that I love you, but I am always concerned for you–even (if not especially) in my sleep. Again, take care of yourself, let that be what you’re doing right now.
Image Credit: David Buckingham (Los Angeles, CA)
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