You know, don't you, that I feel it incumbent on myself, from tiime to time, to keep you abreast of the latest news to hit the world of science, as reported in 'The New Scientist'? If you didn't know, you do now. I expect no thanks, I regard it as a public service.
A recent issue concerned itself with the topic of reality. More specifically. The length of the present moment. “Easy,” you might have thought, “A moment is a fraction of a second surely? Besides, ” – I think this too – “How can it possibly be measured?”
Turns out, it can. Furthermore, it's three seconds long. I was, and remain, flabbergasted. Three seconds seems like an age.
I am compelled to reveal more! Three seconds is the length of time it takes the sac of neurons we call the brain to construct reality from the mass of sensory data we feed it. Heavens to Betsy! What is going on up there in your head for that three seconds? Evidentiy we're not ALL floundering about waiting for reality to kick in, so the brain must be doing an amazing job of maintaining an illusion of dynamic continuity, and yes, an illusion it surely is. The brain gives us it's best guess, and we run with it.
My world turned upside down when I learned that I am more than 99% pure energy. Compress the nuclei of my atoms into a solid, and you get a lump the size of a grain of salt. Practically pure energy can get away with appearing remarkably solid, but there you are, it isn't, or anyway, not so much. Couple THAT with the three-second reality gap and Bob is no longer your uncle, because:
We are not, it seems, all that we seem, not by a long chalk,. We are pretty much pure illusion.
I was going to write about being a Storyteller. I glance up at the title and wonder how I'm going to get back to my topic. Dive straight in must be the best course, bearing in mind that I've wasted so much of your time getting here.
Whatever you think about yourself is a construct of reality based on your brain's best guess with the stuff that might be real enough once it's processed. You have three seconds every moment to intervene. What are the stories you have constructed to tell about yourself?
Look, I know I shouldn't be saying this, and please don't think I'm encouraging you to deceive yourself or others, but if your story doesn't bring you happiness, alter it.
At least give it a go. Reality is a highly questionable commodity, so don't be satisfied with what you don't want it to be.
Usually, I am fairly upbeat. I have an amazingly contented life – I really do. Enough of everything, a fantastic family, and some wonderful friends – so much to feel good about.
Today, I am allowing myself the luxury of reflection, and I am rather disappointed with myself.
It started with a spat with a friend over our differing political perspectives. I climbed on my high horse and … Well, it hardly matters. In a measured response, my friend suggested that we, both moderates, have failed as citizens by leaving the arena and allowing bigotry to dominate public debate.
Yes, but. I don’t want to. I read the views of extremists with distaste. Furthermore, I can see that any attempt to put forward a moderate opinion is greeted with, at the very least, derision. Politicians don’t help, the polarisation of debate makes our Parliament painful to watch.
We know this, it hardly needs reiteration. The question is … Is there anything I can do about it?
Three days later…
One of my favourite manoeuvres to write my way out of a block is to write a list:
(With bullet points)
# I joined a comment site in order to inject a little reason. (Guardian cif ‘Belief’) In three years I commented three times. I was trying to join in a game with the big boys. I got knocked over and I went home. Moderation just isn’t as sexy as rage.
# I try to do good works. Sometimes I succeed. At least in making myself feel good.
# I go to church, and say some pretty hot prayers. And I meditate, at least once a month, whether I need to or….
# I try to be helpful, I aim to be kind, I place a premium on compassion and sometimes I get away with fooling people into thinking that this is WHO I REALLY AM.
WOW! That got me over the hump. But the bottom line is, ‘who I really am ‘ is complacent, self-serving
and cowardly. I’m not worried by that, particularly. I get by. I’m probably too old to change… 🙂
‘So,’ I tell myself, ‘Let’s have a look at what you can do to be a bit more authentic.’
(Talking to myself reminds me that I exist. Sometimes, this is important, I find.)
Pause for thought,,,,
Easter is as Christmas to me now.
I remember, with a half-sad smile,
How once it was: to live
Yes! Yes. I shall stand before the fire
And sing of god-dead and hope-failed
Then, again, in wonder
Shout the Exsultet, that
Great and ancient hymn and,
Know, yes, KNOW
That beneath my new-born wariness,
Someone stirs, and calls:
“Arise, my darling,
My beautiful one,
Come with me.
See! The winter is past; the rains
Are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth: the
Season of singing has come.”
Easter is paradox to me. I have a belief in Presence that is so deep, that it cannot be touched. Though no longer conventionally religious, I will take part in the great Vigil of Easter, and be blessed. The quote at the end of this poem is from the wonderful Song of Songs.
I am good.
I refuse to be named
In your harsh words,
Or inhabit the terrible worlds
Inside your head.
You, who know me, and have
Touched part of me
Or cried. Listen!
It’s good. All good.
I am good
When the sun shines
And I am pleased
With you, and Everyone,
When I am fed, and loved
And have cause to smile.
I am good
When I am mad at you
And at me
Greed and the killing.
It’s that – and disease,
And children dying – Yes
It’s death that gets to me.
As it must, and all of us.
I am good
Because I see
With more than these eyes
And can walk upright-
Even in my petty
Which I am –
Sometimes, yes, often, I Am
I am good
Because on bright days
I laugh and life’s a dance
And I give you ALL
What you want, because
I want to.
Oh! and how I smile!
I am good
Because I am made
In the image of God.
All of THIS
All of me.
I had to have two goes at it: this is because I am not prone to giving up. This stubborn adherence to the unlikely, the improbable and the hard to swallow is my one weakness. (Ho ho ho)
The ‘it’ to which I refer in my opening shot, is a book: ” The New Earth: Create a Better Life” by spiritual teacher and winner of my Peter Pan look-alike award, Ekhart Tolle.
The first time round, I found myself, after just a few paragraphs, in ‘hard to swallow’ mode. I am not THAT sceptical, in fact just the opposite: it’s scarily easy to lead me on and catch me out investing trust in the most outlandish propositions. I’ll believe anything, and usually do.
I once gave myself a migraine ranting in full-on indignation at the television set over an EU regulation specifying the length and breadth of carrots, the piece coming complete with the presenter holding the mould into which carrot seeds were to be sowed, in order to ensure compliance. It was a hoax. it was All Fools Day, and I came top.
I’m not stupid, however, so I have to believe that intelligence and gullibility are not mutually incompatible. I like being a trusting softie, it keeps me smiling, and out of as much trouble as it gets me into.
Yes, I’m rambling. Let me take a sip of my tea and…
In the back of my mind sits ‘Number 45′ in my ’99 Things To Do Between Here And Heaven’ book: ‘Write A Statement of Faith’.
I have been a Christian since the date of my baptism which was in November 1950, and as I was only six weeks old at the time, I like to think some kind of pre-bap agreement had me covered even earlier.
I believed nothing at six weeks, of course, and in the course of the following fifty years or so, I came to believe A LOT. Sometimes, I even acted on my beliefs, with a startling caveat. I never really swallowed hell. Or punishment of any kind. I nodded in the direction of it, and never wasted my breath opposing it, I just knew at a deeper level that a God who spends your whole life telling you he loves you, then throws you into a fiery pit because he caught you out doing something you didn’t ought to have done, which he allowed you to do, didn’t add up.
I don’t know that the insights into the incomprehensible world of the Spirt that I gained from Ekhart are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, I don’t even know if ‘right or wrong’ works with the unknowable. I guess you just have to go with the intangible, but ever-present inner witness, that whispers a silent, ‘Yes!’ and warms your heart. You may not be comfortable with that concept, but you know it’s there. Recognising its Presence is the beginning of awareness of your spiritual evolution that has nothing to do with hell, and everything to do with truly knowing who you are, and what your purpose is.
Ekhart writes that your purpose is to bring consciousness into the world. To walk through your day fully aware, totally present, not harking back to the past, or concerning yourself with the future. There’s more, lots more, but that, I think, is enough.
Is he onto something really big? I don’t know. How could I? I do know that a lot of what I believed for more than fifty years served no useful purpose whatsoever. So my Statement of Faith, when I get around to writing it, isn’t going to be very long.
I have to come clean. I don’t believe in Fluffy-God.
I did. Once or twice, when the sky was cloudless and I didn’t know very much. I was about ten, I think. Or thirty.
I have been following up on some of the inspirational people who Tweet at me. And I have come to believe in a Collective Unconsciousness.
I have found lovely mums with big hair and big hearts revelling in the Beatitudes who strive to be pure in heart and deserve to make it.
I have found skinny, bald prophets who have found emptiness through wanting nothing, and I am happy for them.
I describe, you understand, I do not criticise.
It makes me think: thinking does me good.
I started thinking when my friends began dying off. I was younger then, and embarrassingly selfish. How dare they leave me? Fluffy God got a good kicking, let me tell you. And when my family started dying off too – well, I ordered him to pack his bags and leave.
That’s when I discovered another embarrassing thing about myself… . I’m not cut out To Be An Atheist. So what now?
I wish I knew. I’ll have to think some more about THAT.
One chill day, fifty kilometres from Umtata, I watched a scrawny child fill a plastic bottle with filthy river water to sell by the roadside. I just watched. She haunts me sometimes, this little girl dressed in rags. I ask myself, ‘Why didn’t I try to do something? There are many things I could have tried to do, but I couldn’t move.
I couldn’t take it in. That’s the truth of it.
This little one, wasn’t part of my world, she didn’t fit, she couldn’t be happening. This is what Collective Unconsciousness does to religious people. Fluffy God doesn’t allow this. IT CAN’T BE HAPPENING.
True God, I think, and I think there is one, opens our eyes to the suffering of others, and whispers, ‘Go on, TRY…’ He doesn’t need religious institutions, or religious people. She just IS.
I think you’ll have to shout a bit louder.
A really really sensational series of books that hit the US best-seller lists a while ago, were Donald Walsch’s. ‘Conversations With God’. I read all three.
I read them with interest and a great deal of enjoyment, because this chatty God, who answered all Donald’s questions with commendable frankness, was a very likeable Divine Presence.
I read them with a great deal of scepticism because this new revelation of All-Holiness said some pretty radical things.
At the end, it all came down to: Love the things you desire, and they will be drawn to you. That’s it – You have created who you are, and you go on doing just that, so create something you REALLY want to be.
Lots of people will attest to having pulled the Universe into their hand, and become richer, better-loved, more beautiful, more gainfully employed and with better health… And good luck to them.
I never tried it, not once. Maybe I Am who I really want to be?
Or lazy. Yes, lazy. Think about it: if I had more money, I’d be obliged to find ways of spending it, if I ruled the world, I’d need to find things for people to do, if I were young and beautiful, I’d be beating suitors off with a stick… All too much trouble, I’m afraid.
Somewhere deep though, something stuck. This must have been the beginning of my belief that you can believe what you like and get away with it. Ultimately, the realisation that God as Revelation, is Open To Negotiation.
I watch my lovely fundamentalist friends having not too much fun at all, tying themselves into knots trying to reconcile into one indivisible truth, the revelation of God as a vindictive old tyrant, and a universally loving Spirit.
Either? Neither? Or Both?
It’s entirely up to you.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Alongside reading the New Scientist on the nature of consciousness. I’d love to watch my own neurons fire, I think that would be pretty amazing, but what I observe from looking at pictures of other people’s, is, that the subconscious sorts everything out, then the conscious bit ( let’s call it ‘you’) just does as it’s told. I tell you it’s pretty scary stuff. The subconscious self makes quite a lot of it up as it goes along, so the reality you think you’re experiencing, isn’t really real at all. And, furthermore, holds together what you think of as ‘you’ for about three seconds.
THREE SECONDS. We are all about three seconds long, which is no time at all if you ask me.
I have about 2.5 seconds to let my subconscious inform me as to where we’re going with this. Ah yes, Talking to God.
You want to capture a few Hittites and batter their brains out? In about three seconds time, God will tell you to do it. You want to love your neighbour as yourself? Ditto.
God! I hope I’m wrong!