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Saturday, February 25, 2017

THE GRAND SCHEME


The Greek playwright Euripides is considered the "father of the stage." He started writing at the age of eighteen and in the fifty years that followed he wrote ninety or so plays. The most tragic of the poets, Euripides more than any other Greek tragedian is quoted by philosophers Plato and his protegee, Aristotle. Unlike many of the writers of his day, Euripides took little part in politics and war. A gloomy recluse who never laughed, he wore a long beard, lived alone and hated society as well as the company of women. He lived in a cave in Salamis, alone with his books and a beautiful view of the sea, where he could be seen "all day long, thinking to himself and writing, for he despised anything that was not great and high."

When I decided to be a writer around the age of twenty-three I told my mother that I wanted to be like Euripides. She opined that I was much too social to go it alone, and with my looks and general charisma I should not deprive society of my society. A mother's love. There's nothing like it. She was my biggest fan, and always put my intentions first. And twenty years later I find myself in the shoes of Euripides, alone with my books and my thoughts and my lovely view. And with little inclination to write. Maybe I'm still grieving. I spent half of yesterday going through old photo albums. I saw so many pictures of my mom taken over the decades. And I saw her not just as my mother but as a woman. So much love in her eyes. Such strength! The fantastic parties. The lovely home. She helped us with homework and endured my brothers' antics and my father's moods. She kept our family together, and with apparent ease. The woman existed for her family. Which is why she was in so few pictures. She was the one behind the camera. Then a letter from the funeral home came and reminded me of the normal stages of grieving. And I began to cry. How I miss my mom! When the pain gets too much, I remind myself that it is possible to love others the way I wish to be loved.

But is it possible to be two places at once? If not, then how can you say that while dreaming you are visiting astral realms and interacting with friends both alive and dead while your body lies sleeping in bed? If your soul is "out and about," who is keeping your physical form alive? The Greeks said that death was proof of the immortality of the soul. Soul and body together equal life. At death the soul departs the body, which ceases to live. So clearly the soul is the key to life. 

So if you can't be two place at once, what about God? When you think of God, perhaps you think of a personal deity, some powerful being who may have created the Universe, keeps things running smoothly, pronounces judgments, dispenses punishments and rewards, answers your prayers, etc. But if God is all that is, which the traditional definition also posits, then limiting God to an individual being however powerful is to take his omnipresence, and with it his divinity, away. For if God exists somewhere in heaven, then he is somehow other.

If the Creator is separate from his creation, then he is not all that is. The injustice of suffering is predicated on this notion of separation. How can God let us suffer? being the frequent refrain. But this complaint rests on the fallacy that God is somehow other than us. If God is all there is, then the one suffering is also God. And if God wills all that is, then the suffering is meant to be. You may have forgotten the why of suffering. Which it is up to you to divine. Unless you chant with the beer drinkers, "Why ask why?" But I can't think clearly when I'm high.

Only a God that is everything is the Universe - as well as any alternate realities that may exist but which we cannot see except in altered states of mind such as come with the ingestion of psychedelics - only such a God is synonymous with the Universe, which is synonymous with all that is. And if God is everything, existing everywhere simultaneously, then he is countless places at once. He is you and he is me. How can God be both of us at the same time? How can God feel my feelings and yours, simultaneously? Think my thoughts and your thoughts too, as we think them? If we were to make love, God could then be said to have sex with himself. And if you are female, then God is a woman too.

Heady stuff. The mind with its mental acrobatics. Speaking of mind, and its constructs. Time and space are merely figments of the imagination, without independent reality of their own. Consider that in dreamless sleep your mind subsides into unconsciousness. You are in a state of no mind, and in this state of no mind, you have no idea of place and time, which is to say extension and duration. You have no idea where you are when you're asleep. You are everywhere and nowhere. You have no concept of time when you are asleep. When you awaken you haven't a clue how long you have been in bed until you look at your watch or glimpse the sun's light shining through the window and say, "Ah, it's morning, I must have slept through the night." But if it's still dark outside, then there's no reliable indicator of the duration of your slumber. Whether ten minutes or ten hours, it's all the same to the unconscious mind. 

Because time doesn't really exist. Nor does space. And...newsflash: nor does the mind, or you the individual! But nothing can be created from nothing. And if you exist you always will, you say? Is this true? At death the particles that compose your body will endure as molecules and atoms in space. But you, the individual, with thoughts and feelings and opinions, will sooner or later subside back into the realm of eternal rest. I find this thought comforting. But I really like to sleep.

In any event, how can you say your soul is eternal when the Universe has only been around for 18 billion years! What about before the beginning of time? If you existed before the creation of the Universe, then you are timeless, existing outside of time. And this state, as we've shown, is analogous to deep sleep. Do I sound like a stoner? Stoners do like to sleep. Imagine if I smoked weed!

On another note, how my dog loves to smell urine! He is a connoisseur of stench. He lifts a front paw to better perceive the subtle notes I guess, and starts almost lapping at the air as though to get a better taste. And I think, how ridiculous to take so seriously something so trivial as another dog's waste. And I resist the temptation to give Max an impatient tug. What if our actions are like so many instances of pee-sniffing - to angels, if they exist; or to God? If what I take so seriously, writing or not writing, is as trivial in the grand scheme as Max's favorite pursuit appears to me, then I shouldn't take it so seriously. I shouldn't take anything so seriously. Even grief. Thanks for the pep talk.

So, given that at death or at some point thereafter the individual you will shatter into pieces and you will merge with the Oneness that the Buddhists call the Void and the Hindus the Self, source of all: given this, wouldn't it be fantabulous to break out of your personality and become universal in nature while still alive? I believe this is possible. All the sages have done so. Figures like Christ and Buddha have shown us the way. Common traits linking these exceptional individuals are charisma, a sense of humor and startling originality. 

To become like these godmen, watch everything you do, say, think, feel. Drive a wedge between who you think you are (self) and who you really are (Self). Sink the wave of personality back into the sea of totality. Shatter what is typical and predictable within you. View yourself as somebody else. Psychologist tell us that we can almost always read others like a book but often lack awareness of our own true motives. So see yourself as other and take notes. With practice, all traces of your personality will vanish and impersonality - originality, universality - will take its place.

Ah, Euripides! Despite his general misanthropy, the playwright par excellence was beloved in life and in death. His writing implements were purchased with gold and enshrined in the temple of the Muses. 

Maybe that's what I need to see this writing thing through to fulfillment. A muse!

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