Archive for the 'fantasy' Category


June 1, 2012

A couple of the other issues Gita and I discussed yesterday were what other people consider “fantasies” and other people’s worldviews.

The fantasies issue I’ve already mentioned in the context of talking about how different people consider their relationships on the astral plane.  Gita was rather more forceful about the harm people can cause through what they think are harmless fantasies, how thought forms projected outward have consequences.

We also talked about bandwidth issues — how some of us can pick up a lot of chatter out there and how we need to develop a spiritual practice that allows us to discern and tune out the noise.  It’s tricky for an empath, because the other person’s reality becomes mine, temporarily, and I need to be able to “spot” myself, to have a point of reference to my reality as a healer in order to maintain a more helpful worldview.  So for a while I may be experiencing the noise as the only signal if that’s what the person I’m interacting with does. I have met people who clearly prefer listening to the noise and interacting with it in ways to gratify themselves in a way that I find dangerous — like cruising or voyeurism or crank phone calls, to take a few examples.  It’s easier for these people to hide what they’re doing, but for people like me, there’s no significant difference between what they’re doing on the astral plane and if they were standing on street corners or planting bugs or placing calls with a telephone.

Then there’s the issue of different worldviews.  My own worldview allows me to travel much lighter than the worldviews of most of the people I interact with.  It’s not about happy and sad, optimism or depression, it’s along another axis.  This is where the problem of not having physical help enters in: if I have to get my help through going higher up into the cloud, then I need to travel very light.  If I’m interrelating and interpenetrating with people who have a worldview I experience as heaviness (a lot of ego issues, a lack of getting the self out of the way; often manifesting as a lot of defensiveness, bitterness, or judgmentalness), that makes my going up into the cloud more difficult.  To those people I want to say, “Either lighten up at your end or help me out here on the physical plane, if that turns out to be an acceptable option for both of us, or let’s agree to disengage — this isn’t working for me as things are.”

Gita pointed out that relationships can be conditional even when (my) love for the other person is unconditional.  I think I needed to hear that.


March 18, 2012

I wrote a lovely post on the possible relationship of erotomania to the story of Cinderella and to the perception of being the beloved child of God.  And when I tried to save the draft, it disappeared, except for the categories and tags.

[The “networking” got into the essay because I mentioned how encountering those goats at the res had reminded me of the saying that sometimes the circus really is in town and the hoof beats are those of zebra and not a horse, which then spawned an observation that there were 17 swans on the res today and a musing on how they do their social networking.  I was trying to figure out how to discern between delusion and low-probability events.]

Not requiring things to be better than they are

November 26, 2011

I enjoyed Joe Nocera’s column today, I thought the story it told was attractive and provided a nice view of other people’s lives.  My reaction to it was perhaps cranky and uncharitable, but I think my frustration with the genre of uplift goes beyond my own perhaps petty issues: there are ways of living many kinds of difficult lives without needing to conform to commonly accepted standards of happiness and success.  While I’m not addressing here the issue of lives wracked by experiences like war and rape, and I do want to acknowledge that some people are living such lives, I am addressing at least some of the lives that are not going to have fairy tale endings or even enough of what most people consider positive things to be comfortable.

Life can be full of external events that have negative impacts on us, and that isn’t going to stop, the way I see it.  In my own, I’ve heard that things are going to get better for so many years, and it hasn’t helped.  What has helped is that I have learned that things don’t have to get better externally for me to feel better internally (maybe other people know that before their lives become difficult, but I didn’t).  And it’s not that I make a break with reality and live my life in a fantasy world, either.  A lot of it has to do with shifting my perspective, with not taking adversity too personally (either by blaming myself or by blaming somebody else), with being clearer about what’s my responsibility and what isn’t, with finding emotional support through the less tangible forces of the universe when my fellow human beings can’t meet my needs (this is one reason I prickle when I read that the key to something or other I should have is human relationships — it’s a piece, to my way of thinking, but only a piece, and it’s a piece that seems to work differently in different lives), with framing things as challenges and trying to learn a different way of doing things from them instead of regarding them as intrusions that shouldn’t occur and trying to “fix” them in a manner analogous to breaking a piece to one of those complicated 3-D wooden puzzles in order to try to make it fit so the object can be put back together.

There are other tools or techniques, but these are the ones that come to mind right now, and my point was just to indicate what an alternative to a relentless insistence on uplift and happy endings might entail.

I also think this point is important, at least to me, to make, because other systems for dealing with adversity and looking at life seem to by definition leave some people in the dust, to reward some subset of people, however large, at the expense of the rest, due to their norms for what a life should look like, and while perhaps helping some people, make others feel worse.


What we see

October 16, 2011

I was at the Porter Square T stop in Cambridge, MA earlier today, and it was windy enough for the mobile sculpture above the station to catch my attention as I waited for the light to change.  I suspect that the structures are supposed to represent hot air balloons, but they’ve always looked to me like ice cream cones.

There was a song I used to hear on a children’s show years ago that had a verse, “‘Look there, Daddy.’  ‘What do you see?’ ‘I see a horse in striped pajamas.’  ‘No, that’s not what it is at all; people call that a zebra.’ ‘I see.  But it still looks like a horse in striped pajamas to me.'”

I can see the balloons, I can see the zebra, I can agree that the other interpretation is outside of the consensus.  But I’m not sure I’m willing to give up that other, alternative interpretation, either.

I think there is a distinction between one’s own idiosyncratic interpretation (in which I might put my ice cream cone interpretation) and participating in other ways of seeing that we don’t include in consensus reality.  A mild example in this second category might be interpreting a situation in which a self-help group insists on keeping a lot of old books in the bag members take turns carrying to the meetings, just in case they are needed, as representing that members carry around “old baggage” that probably should be jettisoned, too.

Spending time in non-consensus reality has its risks, both personal and social.  But I’m not so sure that our current version of consensus reality is so “accurate” itself that paying undue deference to it at all costs is the answer, either.  I sometimes wonder whether that wasn’t what Socrates was getting at.  I like to think that if instead of trying to get others to agree to see things in other ways, we just help other people develop themselves, eventually something will willingly shift, and we’ll get where we need to go with less risk in the process to the messengers.

Faith and fantasy

October 3, 2011

Somebody yesterday asked me to touch on how a person distinguishes faith from fantasy, and it occurred to me this morning that the person who asked me may have the additional difficulty of lacking “spiritual depth perception.”  If we use my dad’s sense that something spiritual emerges out of a combination of using both our emotions and our intellects to apprehend, then if the two aren’t working in tandem properly, like two eyes whose sufficiently different vision don’t produce depth perception, or two ears whose sufficiently different hearing don’t produce the ability to locate where a sound is coming from, I suspect it’s difficult to perceive the depth of “soul perception” — it could look as flat as a fantasy.

Fantasies tend, I think, to sound too good to be true, tend to have beginnings, middles, and ends — dramatic shape — and to include lots of causation.  Faith understandings, I think, are more about attitude, an on-going way of seeing the world and processing it, and processing it with less friction.  They flatten things out, I think, and make them more boring but less scary.  They do lead to a sense of relief, I think, though not a too-good-to-be-true wishful thinking: there’s always the universe (or God, or forces beyond us, or whatever) to guide us through, that we can’t figure something out ourselves is not a show-stopper — we can ask for spiritual help, and our next step becomes clearer.

I remember driving home at night once from a situation I had hoped would have given me some insight and support into a problem I was dealing with at the time, and it had had quite the opposite effect.  But on this drive home, I started cudgeling my brains about whether the problem would turn out to be big potatoes or small potatoes, and it came to me that it didn’t matter, that whatever potatoes it turned out to be, God would in a sense mash them for me and I would get through it.  No promise it wouldn’t happen, no offer of rescue or even help from other people, no promise it wouldn’t be difficult or painful, just some perspective that it’s more like a wave that may crash around me but will eventually dissipate.

Limitations of codes

September 13, 2011

David Brooks writes in the NYTimes today about how young people think about moral questions.  He seems to come out in favor of relying on traditional cultural frameworks for thinking about them.

When I lost a baby years ago (she’d be 26 now), I didn’t find any of the cultural frameworks available to me very helpful.  Judaism told me that unless the baby had lived 28 days, mourning rites were inappropriate, secular law treated her as a full-term baby, and my reality was somewhere inbetween.   Judaism doesn’t recognize my adopted children either, as I understand it, only the “mitzvah” of my caring for them.  These are not the moral issues at issue in “If It Feels Right …,” but to me they reflect what moral codes do — they reflect limitations as much as they reflect insights.

I ordered a book on hockey rules recently.  I used to turn on the TV when my parents went to the opera and left me alone, and I learned to tune in to hockey games because unlike the movies on late at night, they didn’t get scary.  But I never could figure out some of the rules, and that has been in the back of my mind for a long time.  Hockey, to me, is a fine context for a book of rules.

But I find books of spiritual understandings paraded as rules kind of like overly literal interpretations of poetry.  I don’t think mystics feel moved to foist their understandings on others, but rather develop themselves and go forth among others to interact with them as their understandings have helped them to be able to do.  I think the people who feel compelled to codify what they hear, need enough ego to want to do that, that their understandings are probably distorted, or at least we should be on our guard for that.  Much of what passes for spiritual experience seems to me to be confusing emotional fantasy with spiritual experience, or visions of the simple future with a spiritual experience.

I think some people think spiritual experience and enlightenment are flukes, that we should not aspire to them at all and navigate the human world without them.  The story of Adam and Eve could certainly be read in a way to support that.  But I think that would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  I sometimes wonder if that’s the position of people who struggle with participating in these experiences themselves.

Which brings me to my concluding point: should I assume that others should be on a spiritual path similar to my own?  I do believe that spiritual understanding does lie within each of us, within us all, and that it’s gaining access to it that is the challenge.  Should everybody be trying to gain access to it?  I think so, but I can see that until we do, we may need some amount of reliance on others’ understandings; I just don’t think we should mistake those for some kind of Truth, especially when they are necessarily translated into language for others’ consumption.  And I think that we should be open to the possibility that following others’ understandings may give us cover for not recognizing all the impacts of our behavior on others, and what we might want to learn from those impacts.


July 23, 2011

The story of the film “The Fifth Element” recounted by Charles Blow in his NYTimes column today sounds terrific to me, like a mash-up of elements and stories I’ve already heard before in spiritual contexts.  I like that it gets communicated among us in an art form rather than as a religious text — I think we respond to it in a healthier way as science fiction and a movie — with less fear —  and I’ll take that as a sign of progress of some sort.

Harry Potter, Narnia, Tolkien, et al.

July 14, 2011

I commented today in response to Frank Bruni’s column in The New York Times on the issue of trying to keep up with trends, but had I focused on the phenomenon of the Harry Potter series, I would have explained my difficulty with it, The Chronicles of Narnia, J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world, and other fantasy (and science fiction) series (Redwall, by Brian Jacques, comes to mind), as well.

I can’t read the stuff.  I try, or rather, have tried.  I like and can read more of C.S. Lewis’s nonfiction, although I spend a lot of energy trying to sort out what I think is true in what he says from what does not accord with my own understandings.  I respect the writing in these series, I have family members who gobbled them up (including my younger son, who has a movie ticket for “tonight” and read many of the Harry Potter volumes when they were newly released in one very long sitting, and my older sister, who read Toklien and Narnia avidly), I even was involved in some bedtime reading of the first Harry Potter book.

So, I once tried to figure out why I have what feels like an aversion to them.  I (this is probably my intellectual self speaking) think it’s because they come close to something that I see as important, but with details that differ and without understanding the significance of what they’ve glommed onto, and hence I see them as in an unwitting way perpetuating what I experience as a problem that needs to be resolved.