June 12, 2013
I’ve had a life-altering experience in the past twelve hours that I don’t know how to describe.
It has components to it which, while passing through the experience, felt like coming unglued, dissolving some important part of my persona or constructed self, being seethed, (1) encountering kryptonite, being lashed to the mast, or walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
Those are the only words I’ve been able to find that describe it, match the experience, or connect with it in some important way.
It’s happened twice before and I’ve called it a “stress attack.” I’m not aware of how to describe the subtle feeling that comes over me but it feels to me as if I’m falling apart and I haven’t in the past been able to navigate through it without being “talked down,” so to speak. But this time I got through it on my own, even though it felt like I would not survive.
I cannot describe the feelings. They are flavorless and colorless. It was like encountering anti-matter to me, nothing that I can wrap words around, a yawning chasm rather than an adversary or a condition, a gaping valley in my life that I somehow walked through and survived. That’s all I can say about the experience.
However I can also say that I recognize the sobered, life-altered look on Glenn Beck’s face in this video. I have this nagging thought that whatever he went through is similar to what I also just went through. It’s a human experience, not an experience that just some people go through. It involves seeing something that is basically out or wrong and departing from it.
It’s a show stopper – no, a life stopper. At worst a person can jump off the nearest bridge in the face of it. At best, one can stop going in a forward direction in some vital, life-altering area of life and go another way. I think that’s what’s happened to Glenn.
I almost think that, without going through this experience that I’m referring to, one does not change direction in that life-altering circumstance or way. I can tell you what the vital, life-altering direction was for me, but it may be different for you. It’s the altering of life that’s important, not the specific direction one alters life in or the way one accomplishes it.
When I say what I’m about to say next, I’m not sure I’m saying “why” I felt the way I did. I know the direction I stopped going in. Let me call it “conflict and retribution.”
Conflict and retribution is a direction our society is or has been going in. It’s a condition that has been carefully cultivated by the press, entertainment industry, religious institutions, advertisers, everyone who has led social opinion up to now.
Our social way of being sees us either promote conflict and seek retribution or else not lead in the ways of peace and forgiveness. We’re either promoting the one or else at least allowing the one to continue by not going in a direction that leads away from it.
Either way we don’t contribute to the world’s peace and forgiveness. The Middle East is the epitome of this way of being. Conflict never stops there because both sides are constantly seeking retribution.
The direction I’m now going in, having come unstuck and allowing the experience to be, let me name as peace and forgiveness. I’ve crossed an invisible Rubicon, made an abrupt right turn in my life. I’m frankly glad and consider myself lucky to have simply survived the experience and not to have thrown myself off that bridge.
During this experience, I saw very clearly that, if there was to be peace and forgiveness in the world, in my world, it would have to come about because each person, in his or her own life, not only chose to have peace and forgiveness but actually, positively, actively went first in initiating peaceful and forgiving action.
And not just once, but time after time, day after day. People would have turn away from conflict and choose peace.
Without people going first along the road to peace and forgiveness, the world itself, which was caught in this inertial flow towards conflict and retribution, would not see peace and forgiveness arise.
There can be no peace in a person’s world for one who actually, positively acts to promote conflict and retribution. Whether or not peace reigns in the world itself, it will not reign in that person’s world.
And, if it does not reign for that person, that person will not see it reigning in the world at large. In their world, there will be only conflict and retribution – actual and seen.
Yesterday, in the grip of this experience, I saw that I had to step away from conflict and retribution and actually, positively, actively choose peace and forgiveness. There was no escaping the need to make that choice.
I had to step off what was for me a social carousel. I had to turn around and essentially swim upstream. I had to leave the social current of conflict and retribution that we all seem to be immersed in, whether we know it or not, and stop allowing it to carry me downstream.
I had to wake up from the nightmare, as John Enright might have said. (2) The real nightmare in my society – in our shared society – is the social current that carries us in this direction.
I made the life-altering decision to “go first” or “lead the way” in the path of peace and forgiveness. Without someone going first, no one bucks the current.That’s why we drift as a society towards violence, conflict and war, led by authorities who have fooled us as to their own intent. Their intent has been to win control and dominance over the mass of us.
I immediately saw steps to take. Refraining from judgment, refusing to swim with the current, and actively, awkwardly taking steps towards peace were the first steps I saw as I strike out in what is for me a new direction. That may sound so obvious to some people as to not need me to say it but it doesn’t show up as at all obvious or easy to me.
I may look like a sleep-walker to one who is swimming with that current, as Glenn Beck looks. Only I will know that my somnolent-seeming behavior is the epitome of awakeness. To all the rest I may seem like a dreamer.
As I visualize myself putting one foot down ahead of the other and taking a step in the direction of peace and forgiveness, I feel the imagined current of the social climate of conflict and retribution engulf and resist me. I feel myself bucking that current. I feel all manner of criticism coming at me – accusations that I’m somehow naive, a “New Ager,” a flower child, an unrealistic dreamer.
And the willingness to appear that way and keep going in the same direction even though I see myself as vastly out of step with what I consider to be my society is the look I imagine I see on Glenn Beck’s face. I cannot imagine a circumstance before now in which I would have said that Glenn Beck and I share a common experience, but I think we do here. I’m adding a video of Glenn’s earlier career to illustrate the distance he’s come.
I feel embarrassed saying what I’m saying and I probably will choose to spend the rest of this day away from people and just firm up my resolve to keep walking in this direction before re-entering the social stream.
If I don’t withdraw and stay away for the nonce, this insight that I’ve arrived at by walking through the valley of the shadow of death, by coming unglued and just being with it rather than dismissing it and “getting it together” or else throwing myself off that proverbial bridge, will be lost. I’ll sweep myself away in feelings of being socially awkward and out of step, of being too fearful and socially tied in to sustain my resolve and maintain my direction.
I hope I have the wherewithal to post this because it represents to me the equivalent of saying I will no longer follow what I perceive to be a socially-sanctioned direction in life: that of actively promoting and contributing to conflict and retribution.
(1) Boiled in milk.
(2) John Enright, Enlightening Gestalt: Waking Up from the Nightmare. Mill Valley: Pro Telos, 1980.