I know I haven’t written in here in a while. I was going to say, I found a new form of speaking of being lost. But the form found me. Letters have often been like maps. And in them we create and are able to see what we otherwise couldn’t because there’s a voice or an ear to respond or absorb. This third-ness can create a space to wander in ways we never could alone. Below is the beginning, no, the start, of a new way of expressing a way of lostness. The idea of setting up a blog between me and my former sociology professor came into being before this note. We have been in communication on and off since leaving my undergraduate education. Here is the first, after the initial beginning, letter. For each post, I will put up the call and the response together.
I want to write to someone who might appreciate…I’m not sure if anyone does or will…
Since as long as I remember, I’ve had a very ambivalent orientation toward spirituality, which I am hard pressed to define precisely at this second. For now, spirituality refers to the non-material, non-linear (even non-temporal), and non-strategic experiences that tend to exist inside of us, although we see external reminders and extensions (proof?) while in a “spiritual state.” Such a state provokes a feeling of closeness to a higher power, to use a conventional term (employed in 12 step groups) so that one in a spiritual state feels connected to something/someone bigger than him/herself.
Spirituality also provokes particular emotions that we identify, conventionally, as love, acceptance, willingness, and even fearlessness. It involves several simultaneous and paradoxical orientations–self awareness/selflessness; surrender/grasping; interior awareness/exterior strangeness…
People also reach a spiritual state via substantive/material objects–texts, drugs, physical stances/positioning, utterances, guides–provoking another paradox of attaining the spiritual via the material…or perhaps merging spiritual with material (as in “a spiritual molecule” as some scientists put it, those who study the effects of psychotropic drugs).
What, from my limited human perspective, becomes involved in a spiritual experience?
Setting–the literal, physical, symbolic, and safe place in which an experience occurs.
Disposition–the mental and physical readiness of the person to experience “a difference that can make a difference.”
Substance–the external and implicitly objective artifact that inspires an internal transformation.
Guidance–the care, observation, and mentoring provided by an other (or others) as one experiences spirituality.
Duration–the uninterrupted sequence of experiences required for spirituality.
I’m interested in how substance use (usually coded under the broad term, psychedelics) coincides with spirituality (which again, still remains ill-defined)…many people I talk to who have reported inspiration from such substance use emphasize the experiences while “under the influence.” It seems to me, such people approach spirituality from an extreme substance-bias, ignoring the importance of setting and guidance in particular. Even when setting and guidance become relevant, they seem taken-for-granted as auxiliary to the substance itself.
But most of all, I believe I am ready for a true spiritual experience…I want that. I have little-to-no interest right now in romance, drugs (in and of themselves), and even books. My interest in what I write for (a ver limited) sociological audience has waned considerably. I want to teach, but to be much, much better at it. I want friendship–true, true friendship that involves deep shared histories. I am afraid of what I really want and then seek other, more superficial substitutes, including isolation, to mask my desires. Why do I fear such things that seem not only harmless but fully human? Why do I fear myself?
We got back in touch…do such things merely happen or do they “happen for a reason?” On the surface, both, probably…but does something deeper get involved? I want some people in my life always…as a water wheel turns and returns to a point where I identify my existence…but people are not water wheels and our desires do not remain at the same points…
I keep reading the poem you sent me…it beckons me but I’m not sure where…or why…another hint…
One of my sisters-in-law is bright and extroverted, but has a low tolerance for ambiguity…she wants all things “spelled out.” I know many people who call for step-by-step reasoning…ranging from the brilliant to the idiotic…however accomplished, they lack intuition…you seem so opposite of that–obviously, you’re brilliant, but you seem to require so little in order to get the gist…and yet, you’re the person to whom I end up writing a lot…maybe it’s my contrariness…I sense a person wants more and I become quiet…I sense another needs no more and I elaborate…
I do think we are in touch for a reason. And I like to think there’s
no such things as “getting back in” touch, because I think we always
were. Even before we were. This is where people like your sister-in-law
Some people need drugs. Or sex. Or even learning. The latter I’ve come
to understand has been a crutch for me. This wasn’t pointed out until
I had an almost psychotic breakdown at Sarah Lawrence–spending 12
hours in the library all day, writing, or trying to, or reading. Then
taking philosophy class, which, ironically ended up saving me, only
because my professor has “been there and back.” She recognized my
pattern. I was so in my own head and searching for exactly that:
enlightenment, or spiritual experience, when all I was doing was
running away from reality, Reality in itself IS a spiritual
experience. But we often are “drugged” with the everyday. And I don’t
mean the act of walking to and from or visual experiencing the world,
or driving our cars or talking to people. All those are and can be
enlightening. But our minds shut off to the moment. I don’t know why.
I don’t know. Maybe because if they didn’t have that mechanism, we’d
never be able to function as a society. We wouldn’t be able to “turn
off.” We’d all be whirling dirvishes and then that itself, the
spiritualness itself, would become so anti-spiritual. No extreme
should exist. But SOMETIMES they do. Sometimes we are lifted out of
our bodies and into a different kind of seeing or knowing.
But back to my point about almost losing it. I was using learning and
searching as a distraction. What I thought was the path was really the
roadblock. We can’t TRY. That’s the hardest part. And I say that with
hesitancy, because there is a sort of amount of trying to be done.
Trying in the way that we have to try to not be numb. It’s as though
we just have to set it out there, in motion. Put the thought out
there. And remembering to remember the power of intention. That sounds
new-agey and probably doesn’t make sense. But there is a reason for
ritual. Ritual didn’t just appear as a norm in societies for no
reason. There’s always a spiritual backbone to every behavior. I truly
believe that. For example. What I’ve found that works for me is
chanting. I have a chant in sanskrit and I use the mala, which is what
the rosary was modeled after, with 108 beads. Each bead, you say that
chant. I have no idea of the language. All I know is that I am keeping
an intention in my mind and setting it into motion for 108 counts. 108
because someone thought somehow that was not too long, but long
enough. Is there a special meaning behind the numerology? I don’t
know. I think that digging too deep into WHY of rituals or WHAT of
rituals is another way to find a road block, which I also say
hesitantly because I am an advocate for educating the self. But
education can quickly become a blinder, too.
I am not making sense and I am jumping from topic to topic. It is
late. I rode bikes all afternoon, which made me think of you and your
walking. That right there, without you knowing it, is a spiritual
practice, a sort of ritual. We all have them. Because I believe
intuitively and innately, we ARE spiritual beings.
And you’ve set in motion already a large part of what you’re seeking,
just by speaking it aloud (or typing it) to me. Well, mostly to
Why are you scared of yourself? Why are any of us? That’s the thing
most people don’t realize. The thing we are most afraid of is the
self. I think because we know we are more powerful and complicated and
intricate than anything else out there. Why are some people in awe and
afraid of the dark, or of space, or of the unconscious or of another
human being or a race or tribe? Same. Or even of their own life and
death? It’s all wrapped up right there inside of us.
Then people use religion and ritual and distorted senses of community
to distract from what we already have right inside of ourselves.
Then they seek to look beyond that, sometimes, and use drugs or anger
or control or sex or power or money to get to or manipulate a
false-sense of reality. A false sense of what they are really looking
for–themselves (and thus the spirit).
Keep talking to me. I don’t know where I’m going either. I don’t know
anything. And that is the best part. But we all need each other. And
you intuitively already understand that, which is wonderful. And
scary. And often why you may hide away. I do the same. Mostly in my
own head or in books and sometimes with distractions. Because the
scariest door is to the self. So we swallow the keys and complain of
being lost. And then we get to the point where we don’t even know we
are lost. We think we’re more than lost, actually, we think there’s no
where to go. Or that there is no journey at all. But there is a
journey, and there is no journey. At once it’s all right here and
I can’t speak of anything with certainty. All I know is that my BEING
knows something. But I may never know it.
Eventually, though, we will. But by that time, most everyone will be
on the other side of the mountain and the winds will be too high and
will carry our words to the infinite silence. The people on the other
side, possibly, were never meant to hear. Though I think somehow they
(we) do in a way that hearing is silent.
My heart hurts mostly because I can’t try. And yet I do. And I want.
And I desire. And these things are distractions, but they also move me
forward. Nothing is good or bad. But we’re hard-wired to be afraid.
There’s a reason for that, too. Fear has a purpose.
I’m afraid no one will hear me. And when I say that I really mean that
I may never hear myself.
Keep talking to me.