Last night I received an email message from one of my dearest friends, Ellen, saying, and I quote, “Sure are strange times but they are so interesting . . . you were going with Steve Beckow?. . . I was somewhat surprised.”
I presume she meant “going to what I call the good (space) ship Neptune” and that she was surprised I would be so foolish — to even admit that I wanted to go on such an ill-fated “trip” — one that, I never tire of mentioning — was planned to launch on the very day that the planet Neptune went into its home sign Pisces!
Well, I’m surprised that Ellen doesn’t remember how long I’ve been a student of foolishness. I will jump off any cliff once. From each jump, I learn. As Neitszche once said, “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
I just realized that my new little dog Shadow (my beautiful little white Emma was killed in a car accident last summer) also jumps off cliffs. Or at least he did once, soon after he came to me as a shelter dog who had spent his first two years with a homeless woman in her car. We were in an open meadow that borders married student housing on the Indiana University campus. I had let him off his leash; he was roaming the perimeter and had disappeared from view. I called him. All of a sudden he appeared, standing on a five foot stone patio wall! — whereupon he glanced briefly down, and then sailed, horizontally, off the wall, landing without mishap and continued running. Whew! Had he gone head first, he might have broken his back. Shadow knows how to surf the air.
I fancy that I do too. Or at least, no cliff has killed me yet! And each one, as I jump off it, offers a exhilarating view of the universe that I had not, prior to when I let go of everything to enter the full reality of this one present moment now, ever encountered. It’s as if, only by going for broke, do my eyes snap open to even vaster vistas.
The exhilarating Gedanken trip to Neptune, for that is what it morphed into, will reverberate through my body/mind/spirit for a long time and I thank Steve Beckow from the bottom of my heart for that splendid opportunity.
A few days ago, I spent an hour with Mark, another good friend. Unlike Ellen, whom I have known for 40 years, Mark and I forged an alliance a few years ago, when we worked as members of the Core Group that initiated Bloomington as a Transition Town. Mark was also a member of a local Evolver spore during the same time.
As we sat at my kitchen table drinking tea, he told me of his journey this past year, when he disappeared from public view. He said he went underground. That he had been disappointed with the progress of both Transition and the Evolver group, and his disappointment had led to a dark night of the soul.
Mark is right in that the Transition movement here has not developed according to the expectations of the Core Group. However, as I told Mark, my response to this fact that we both agree on differs utterly from his.
Moreover, Mark was not aware of the Trillium Horticulture Project, which began in earnest only a few months ago; this is an enormous, long-term project that fuses and carries forward a number of Transition initiatives.
Transition, in short, has morphed, mutated, and it may continue to do so, in surprising ways.
For me, Transition is an experiment, as is/was Evolver, as is the GANG garden, and the GANE ecovillage, and the Occupy movement, and the US empire, and the UN, and the Mafia, and any other social creation. All are specific “forms” within which we foolish humans attempt to contain and organize, more or less “rationally,” the endless mysterious flux of phenomena. Some forms “last” a long time, some don’t. Short or long, most forms morph in surprising, unexpected ways. I see human-created forms as waves upon the noumenal sea of consciousness; some waves are strong enough to push through the mind and heart into physicality, some are not; we are continuously working with waves of all kinds, both alone and together.
For me, in order to maintain balance and equanimity, it’s crucial not to identify with any particular form or wave. Rather, I sense myself as one center of awareness in the ocean of consciousness, carried in fast or slow, weak or strong currents, settling to the bottom (like Mark, for the year), bursting through the surface (like a celebrity, or like a brilliant flash of insight), and creating, together or singly, wave upon wave upon wave.
Sometimes the seas are calm, at other times stormy. During these turbulent years when (explosive, revolutionary, inventive) Uranus is moving into exact, tense, 90° alignment with (primal, powerful, death/rebirth) Pluto (2012-2015), we feel the ocean as choppy currents swirling this way and that, the surface crowded with little and big waves — all of them experiments — crashing into each other, chop chop, chop. So very much is happening on so very many levels, and it’s hard to make sense of any of it, beyond our feeling that an old world is dying as a new world being born.
I’ve carried this experimental attitude towards life for decades. It started back when I was in my early 20s, married, with young children, and a shy, obedient “saintly” Roman Catholic. One day I decided to to try an experiment, the first of my life. I decided that I wouldn’t go to church for three Sundays in a row, to see if the “guilty” feeling that I expected to engulf me would fade over time. If it did fade, then I was prepared to think of my “guilt” as conditioning, rather than conscience.
And if it was conditioning, I would let Roman Catholicism, the fundamental structure that had ruled my life, go. You can imagine my trepidation as I woke up that Sunday morning!
Well, you might guess what happened. All the while during that hour when I usually went to Sunday Mass I kept checking in with myself. And even on that very first Sunday, I felt no guilt. None whatsoever! That floored me. Instantly, the scales dropped from my eyes. Never again did I “go to church on Sunday.”
I was astonished by just how much I had let conditioning govern my behavior. And, it turned out, the conditioning wasn’t even there! It was just a mind-trip I had put myself through.
That was the beginning. Over the following year or two I tried out a number of other experiments, with the attitude that whether or not any of them “work” as expected is not as valuable as finding out whether or not the experiment changed me, and if so, how. As time went on, I realized more and more that whatever “set up” I create for any experiment, that’s just an initial impulse, the spark to a flame, or a push set in motion, and who knew how or where it would end. The point was, to just start, just begin, and see what happened. Above all, trust the universe, for being — is benevolent.
Finally, I began to see my very life itself, as an experiment. So go for broke. And try not to make the same mistake twice. Learn as much as I can while creating, enjoying, and releasing, ever new forms of aliveness.
Today I went to a 2 p.m. theatrical production of “Bill W and Dr. Bob,” which portrayed the early history of Alcoholics Anonymous — the fascinating launch of a “form” that is still gathering energy after more than 70 years. And yet, its initial years involved huge and protracted struggle, as you can imagine; for both Bill W. And Dr. Bob were long-time active alcoholics who had to get sober themselves before they could join together, and only then could they hope to recruit even one more drunk to their new way of addressing addiction, by telling each other their own personal stories.
So best not to judge the power or longevity of any form by how difficult it is to begin!
In 1989, I dreamed of a big black bird cawing on my shoulder, cawing, screeching, “Wake Up Wake Up It’s Time It’s Time!” The dream woke me up. Instantly, I identified this bird with the archetype of the Crone, and the impulse from the dream was so strong that within days it had coalesced into a newsletter that grew into the magazine Crone Chronicles: A Journal of Conscious Aging, That magazine went on help activate thousands of older women in a new/old way. Its successor, Crone: Women Coming of Age, continues still.
Many other forms that I began, or was involved in with others, faded by the wayside, or felt like chop chop on the sea. or morphed into other forms. I include my marriages here, four of them — four forms, four cycles: six years, two years, one year, and twelve years, respectively, and in that order. The first three closed with divorce, the fourth with my husband Jeff’s death, in 2003.
When living a peripatetic life, it helps to have a view of the world that is not linear, but cyclical, composed of intersecting, interlacing, interwoven circles, cycles inside cycles. I see experiences as stones thrown in the water to create widening concentric circles, each jostling up against other currents, other waves, other circles. Since I think of time and space in cycles, it’s easy to have an experimental attitude, because every time/space cycle, no matter how short or long, has something to teach us about who we are and are becoming.
In truth, I’d call Mark’s year of going underground its own cycle, its own experiment, and it changed him. He’s not sure how, yet. Life continues to unfurl, pushing up form after form after form upon the ocean of being.
Rudolf Steiner: “We must study what proceeds behind the veils of world history; otherwise every account of the flow of history remains a jumble of external, seemingly fortuitous happenings. But they are not fortuitous when their background is known and understood; they become so only if men refuse to recognize their background. They throw up waves, as it were, of which man believes that each is separate and distinct from the other, whereas the truth is that they all surge upwards together from the depths of an ocean. In reality, processes in history are waves thrown up to the surface, into the sphere of man’s life, from the depths of a spiritual sea of world evolution. In each historical fact we should perceive one such wave, and abandon the belief that one wave arises fortuitously by the side of another. Each wave — that is to say, each historical fact — arises from spiritual depths of that historical evolution which flows onwards eternally, from age to age.”