Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category
“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.” William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
My sophomore year of college was to be the time when my mind opened up to the question that started this process I am sharing with you now. My life to this point was about small things, personal things and I had not yet begun to ask the questions that would lead me to the beginning of life’s journey. I was about to begin to clean my own doors of perception and peer into the world of mind, spirit and consciousness.
It all began with my Intro to Philosophy course. All of a sudden I was whisked into a world of questions with no grounding into what was real. The ideas that first caught my imagination and seemed to make the most sense to me were found in the existentialist writings of Albert Camus and John Paul Sartre. I could feel their sense of loneliness and despair, but there was a deeper message that spoke to my inner being; that existence precedes essence, that I am an individual responsible for my own thoughts and that life has no meaning save the meaning that I give it. I grabbed on to these ideas and began to expound on them in my other classes, including these existential ideas into my writing for my Literature class for one, getting an A and special mention for my explanation of Ralph Ellison’s book “Invisible Man“. This gave me confidence that I was on the right path.
The next most important happening in my spiritual awakening came by way of my brother Roger. He gave me a book that opened my mind up and spoke to me in ways that I was unable at the time to fully grasp but that would begin me on a lifetime spiritual journey that is still in progress. The book was “The First and Last Freedom” by J. Krishnamurti. This was my first experience with non-Western thought and with a man who had a grasp on life that made sense to me but seemed just out of my reach. It did however fit right in with some of the Existential teachings I had been studying and I was caught by this quote in the introduction to the book;
“Clarity is not the result of verbal assertion, but of intense self-awareness and right thinking. Right thinking is not the outcome of or mere cultivation of the intellect, nor is it conformity to pattern, however worthy and noble. Right thinking comes with self-knowledge. Without understanding yourself you have no basis for thought; without self-knowledge, what you think is not true.”
As I am rereading this text now as I am writing this I can see why it had so profound an effect on me, but the words mean so much more to me today as I am listening from a different place. Get a load of this simple statement;
“To transform the world, we must begin with ourselves; and what is important in beginning with ourselves is the intention. The intention must be to understand ourselves and not to leave it to others to transform themselves or to bring about a modified change through revolution, either of the left or of the right. It is important to understand that this is our responsibility, yours and mine; because, however small may be the world we live in, if we can transform ourselves, bring about a radically different point of view in our daily existence, then perhaps we shall affect the world at large, the extended relationship with others.”
The whole idea of Philosophy was to know oneself and to that end I was beginning to ask the questions and to search for the meanings and as a result I changed my major to Philosophy. I also was interested in how man developed and who we are as a race so I made Anthropology my minor course of study and so the course of my college career was set. I had no particular destination in sight but I was on my way.
One of the first chances I had to use my new knowledge came in the spring of my sophomore year. The Vietnam War protests finally reached the LaCrosse campus and my new friends were eager to cut class and hit the streets. They tried to persuade me to join them but I had done that already and I saw the futility of trying to change the system before I had changed myself. I was now on a different path and where that path led I did not know nor could I imagine what people and experiences awaited me.
With Christmas just 21 days away, the topic of love is on my mind.
We are constantly bombarded with ways to show our love, but not much will be said about what love is, so I am happy to give you my two cents on the topic.
From my perspective and life experience, most of what we call love is really just selfishness. It is mostly about us feeling good about ourselves. We say we love another person when they are behaving in a way that satisfies us. They make us happy when they fulfill our needs, but when that stops we fall out of love, or worse, we become angry and look for another person or thing to satisfy us. This kind of love is all about me, but love, real love, is never about what’s coming to me. It flows from me.
I didn’t come to this conclusion as an intellectual exercise but from a lifetime of trial and error. What I have discovered is when I looked to another to satisfy my needs I have ended up sad, disappointed and a couple times, divorced.
You see, looking for love in a feeling has led me to judge my relationships based on that feeling and that is not love.
So what is love? Love comes from within and flows out, asking nothing in return. Think of a flower in your garden. It gives off its beauty and fragrance to all who pass by without concern and without the need to be repaid.
Love is always in the present. It never asks “what have you done for me lately?”
If this is love, you could love anyone and everyone. Love is always in the present, never in the past. This is why I can love all three of my wives. I don’t need or want to be married to my first two, but I love them just because I choose to. They don’t even have to love me back, even though I think they do, because I am not looking for anything from them. I love them because I choose to love them. I love Sandy in the same way. I choose to love her. I choose to call her my wife and I choose her every day as the one I want to be with.
This is a love that flows from a knowledge that I am loved, not by some other person, but by myself, by God and by the universe I am connected to. This is a deep well to draw from and one that is freely available to all. So this day and every day, draw deep, open up the flow and you will look on everything with delight, just because you choose to.
Last month I started you on the journey of my life with a look at my family and my first possible encounter with God. Today I want to move ahead a few years to my high school days.
As I was finishing up the eighth grade at Calendonia High School in Caledonia, Minnesota my dad came to me one day and asked me if I might be interested in going away to a private boarding school called Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin? I am not sure where this idea came from or why they had chosen this particular place but I thought it would be a great adventure and had no reservations what-so-ever, so I said yes. Now some people might think that this would be a form of punishment or wonder why their parents would want to get rid of them, but I knew I was loved. They wanted me to get a good education and we were at a stage in my father’s business life where there was enough extra money to make this happen. I would be the first child out of eight to have this opportunity and I was eager to make it happen.
As I discovered, Wayland was a co-educational prep school so I was even more excited as I had recently discovered the wonder of kissing and reveled in the prospect of having a girl friend who was from some place other than my home town. I had been quite popular in the schools I had attended so far in my life and I was confident that this would be no different.
Life at Wayland was a lot different than living at home. We lived on campus in dormitories, we had to wear a coat and tie to classes and meals, could only leave campus for a couple hours on Saturday and if we were “cordially” invited to attend an event, your attendance was mandatory.
My confidence was high as I started that first week. My parents dropped me off with my trunk full of clothes, all permanently marked with my name so they could be sorted in the laundry where we dropped them off each week. I met my roommate and got comfortable in our room in the basement of Wayland Hall, a building constructed in 1855 with just a few updates in the years since. Each of the four floors of Wayland Hall had a bathroom with showers that we all used. Needless to say, in 1964 Wayland Hall was the boy’s dorm. The girls lived in Warren Cottage, just on the other side of the athletic building and gym.
That first week was exciting and I began to scope out the girls in the freshman class to see who I might ask out to the first mixer on Friday. There were some very pretty girls to choose from but I wanted Kay Wagenknecht. Kay was petite, blonde and I was sure she was the going to be my girlfriend for four years.
I was full of confidence and I bravely approached her on Wednesday of that first week and asked her if she would go to the mixer with me. To my surprise no one had asked her yet and she said YES! I was sure that I was on my way.
Now, as you know, I came from a small town and the school I attended for fifth and sixth grades was in a building with just four classrooms with four teachers. Each teacher taught two grades at once; first and second, third and fourth, fifth and sixth and seventh and eighth. I lived a pretty sheltered life and grew up with just a couple neighbor kids and spent most of my time on the river or in the woods.
The kids at Wayland had grown up in much larger cities like Chicago, LA, Denver and Minneapolis. They came from huge schools with populations of 4, 5 and 6 hundred kids in one class. I had no idea how sheltered I was and how deep the water was that I was about to jump into, but I was about to learn.
Friday came and I was still excited about the prospects for the evening. I went to Warren Hall and there was Kay waiting for me. This was going to be great. I remember entering the gymnasium where the mixer was held but from there the rest of the night is still a bit of a blur in my head. I was this shy kid from Minnesota surrounded by a couple hundred outgoing athletes, artists and just plain scary people. I felt like a minnow in a tank of barracudas, helpless and about to be someone’s lunch. I don’t remember how soon it was before my “date” had disappeared but soon I was alone and left to find some other minnows to swim with, just to stay alive.
This was pre Breakfast Club, and Heathers but some of what they capture was my next four years; confined to one of the lower casts at Wayland. Not that we weren’t just as smart as most of them, but we lacked that “something special” that would allow us to hang with the cool kids. You know these people; they are the athletes, cheerleaders, artistic people and politicians. Those of us who were not outgoing or talented in some way still found our niche though. We were the game players, the experimenters.. the non-athletes. We worked the sets at plays or maybe became a tree to get on stage, we got drunk or experimented with other mind altering chemicals on prom night, we knew how to pick locks and acquire pass keys so we could explore all of the hidden spaces on campus including hiking through the duct work in the gymnasium.
I don’t write this to make you think I was not happy at Wayland, to the contrary, I loved those years and the ability to explore a still bigger picture of the world I was about to enter. I was in the right place at the right time and this was my path and the whole world was about to encounter me.
More about that in the next addition….