“You see what you want to see and you hear what you want to hear”. Rock Man to Oblio
As I was leaving Casa de Fruta, a few days ago, I stopped at the Chevron station to check the tires. The left rear was low, so I put some air in and then took off east along the Pacheco Pass, stopping at a Walmart in Los Banos for supplies. As I checked my pocket, getting out of the cab, I couldn’t find my wallet. I realized that it must have fallen out of my back pocket, while I was scrambling around with the tires. I retraced the 35 miles up the pass. No sign of the wallet at the air station, so I went inside and asked. The clerk said he didn’t think so, but automatically opened a drawer. There was something. He pulled it out, looked at it and said, “Yup. That’s you”. Talk about two sides to everything.
By late afternoon, I made it to BLM land, just south of Yosemite. Early in the morning of the next day, I saw that the left rear outside tire was completely flat. I am embarrassed to admit that I had neither a heavy-weight jack nor a suitable lug wrench. I had bought, in the first week of my travels, what I thought was a jack. It was actually a pair of jack stands. I had been relying on CoachNet, which had come to my rescue twice before, so I called them. Juan, at CoachNet, did note that I was a little far away, but he called back to tell me that Safe Towing, out of Fresno, would reach me in about an hour and a half.
About four hours later, Kurt and Shannon show up in a beat-up pickup truck. They have been married for 31 years, living in Fresno and Bakersfield. Kurt is a mechanic, Shannon handles the paperwork. We chatted for a bit, then Kurt set to work. He noticed right away that he did not have the correct size lug wrench. He mumbled something about ‘they’ having neglected to tell him that it was an RV … even though he found me immediately. I pulled out a little compressor that I bought at a Walmart a year ago, but I had, for some obscure reason, disassembled. Kurt put it back together and, using the generator, we powered the compressor and pumped air back into the tire, up to 70 pounds. It took a little while. Kurt agreed to call me the next morning at 7:00, since I was doubtful the tire would hold.
First thing the next morning, I checked. The tire appeared to be holding. I drove around the gravel lot. Must have been something with the valve. These matters contain an element of mystery for me. I checked it twenty times that day. Never did hear back from Kurt. Just another day on the road. Being from the North of England, I was looking for the third trouble. They come in threes, it is said. Maybe it was going to be when I tried to get back up the hill.
I have spent sixty-nine years trying to be right and trying not to be wrong. Now I see it’s more a matter of what works and what doesn’t … in the long run. Smart people would have had a lug wrench and would have tried replacing the air first. I might have, if the compressor had been working. I had taken the outlet valve apart for some reason … and then lost part of it. I had bought what I thought was a replacement, but I had not had the confidence to put it all back together. Kurt assembled it and attached the tire pressure unit. I can take apart a sentence syllable by syllable, but mechanical systems are like another language to me. I am far too ‘right-brain’. I don’t have the kind of imagination that puts parts together in 3D. It has been a long process, discerning inside what is a natural inclination and what is a learned process. Finding the lack of engineering talent was an easy one. Subtly, I aspire to it like some people want to go to Heaven. But for me, in this lifetime anyway, it’s never going to happen.
The best explanation of the left brain – right brain state of the art science I have seen is by Jill Taylor (A Stroke of Insight). She explains that the right brain is connected to the universe and consciousness at large. It works in pictures. The left brain is the inside-outside interface with the world and works with words. Right brain deals with ‘whole’ impressions and is the realm of archetypes and myths. The left brain looks to connect the bits and pieces and fit into the world. The communication between the two is what our lives are all about. Julian Jaynes tells the story well in his book about the origins of the Bicameral Mind.
I grew up learning to be ‘David’. That took a while. I’m not sure I ever did it properly. Along the way, I have been distracted by internal glimpses of something more going on, just beyond where I can sense. This was a saving grace for me. I had no real sense of home as a kid. Touching non-duality is like the experience of Love. Feeling a part of something so big, it is everywhere. For a moment, there is no this and that, no judgement, no good or bad, no right and wrong. No me. Only union. What works these days is for me to represent that. But no one, except a monk, can stay in that place … and get anything done. There is nothing to hold in memory. That’s why it takes faith. We need reminders. It’s ironic, writing a book about something that is impossible to know.
I have faith that there is a resonance. There is a pattern to follow, if I want to rise up out of this conditioned self. What has to break down is the illusion that life is a subject-object deal. This works as an operating assumption in the handling of things, but it’s useless in a field where the observer cannot be separated from the observed. It’s easy to see it as an impossible task. How do I use grammar to see beyond grammar? How can ‘I’ be the subject and the object. With the discoveries of quantum physics, we are having to come up with new words, otherwise we have no way to think about it.
As with everything, it’s making the effort that matters. As I rode around the Northwest in my little Tioga, I was often faced with choices. To go to north or south, to this park or that. To leave now or later. What didn’t work was not choosing at all. It’s difficult to just squat on the road. I have to do something. Why be on the road if I don’t want to make the effort? Stay home and stay safe. (Where is home now anyway?) Last year, I found that the good pictures were often an hour shuttle ride and a two-hour hike away. It took me four days to get to the eclipse last year. For a single moment. Sometimes, on entering a new park, I would make every possible wrong turn first. I knew I would get there, if I kept making the effort, because there are limited ways to go wrong in a park.
Sometimes it didn’t work out at all. I missed the light, in one way or another. I didn’t mind, because I did all I could. It’s taken a lifetime for me to see that not trying is the travesty. In the smallest of ways. It’s so easy to project ahead and see how something’s not going to work or is not really necessary. Common sense tells me it will never go exactly the way I think. Experience whispers that, if I start something, things will change because I started something … it’s already out of my control. If I’m not prepared to be uncomfortable, I probably won’t go there. I used to berate myself for not stepping up to a be a better person. Now I see that it just wasn’t time. I wasn’t ready. I had to clean up the mess first. That has been my style. I had to have nothing left to lose.
Growing up for me has been a process of owning my intentions. As I realized last summer in a torrent of feelings, what I really wanted wasn’t always pretty. The words were often a disguise. If I don’t own it, I can’t discard it. I have come to see that is how it works. Just thinking about it, being mighty in my own mind, is an experience that is safe from the slings and arrows. Manifesting those intentions, bringing who I thought I was into being, was risky business for my sometimes oddly still fragile self-image. As I changed social situations … over a dozen schools by the time I was 15 … the most consistent identity I developed was that of the outsider, although I always tried to fit in … like learning a new game. Deep down, I was scared to reveal who I really was … what I really wanted … not being clear about it myself and having no idea how it would go over and with others. That’s when it grew. The intention to hide.
As I sat there in the morning, watching the rising sun light up the hills above the little Redinger Dam south of Yosemite, I could see how inside, I withdrew certain precious feelings from the world at large. I learned to rely on the outside for clues on how to be. Blissfully ignorant of my own role in custom-processing that information. With no clue about how I was emotionally projecting everything, my being became the world’s fault. How I really felt leaked into what I thought I was seeing. There was no escaping who I was. The only way back to feeling connected with everything is through that personality. Who I really am is the looking, the wondering in the first place. The impulse behind the words.
In first grade, I was taught that the basis of all communication is the sentence. A sentence is made up of a Subject and a Predicate … that Subject has to be doing something. Out of the gate, we learn that there is ‘I’ and then there is everything else. Early on, we step out of the union with everything and begin separating stuff. It is a necessary step, if we are to get on in the world. Not learning to connect the bits and pieces leads to getting run over by a bus.
Taking that grammatically constructed world apart is not for the faint of heart. Historically, many lose their way. When the journey is successful, the abyss of ‘no meaning’ must be crossed. On the other side is the understanding that it’s all up to me. Some want that role. Some don’t. Those who do must come out of hiding.
Rudolph Steiner called it “sense-free” thinking … freeing perception from the learning stage, terms designed to operate on things and deal with outward impressions. To him, the brain (beyond the extension that is the eyes) perceives ideas, just as the retinas perceive frequencies of color and the eardrums perceive sound waves. For Steiner, the spiritual world existed objectively, in a range beyond our normal senses. He, like many others, emphasizes the requirement of genuine effort to make a change. For Steiner, this is the origin of free will.
It’s easy to drift off into this world of ideas in the right brain, sitting back, feeling the light breeze coming off the lake, lightening the summer sweat on my forehead. The first meditation I learned, from Thich Thien An, was to just sit and watch my thoughts. I still do that, virtually every day. Sometimes the thoughts are wrapped up in emotions and are hard to see clearly. Sometimes thoughts flower from emotions, almost more of a feeling. And sometimes, thoughts just occur to me. The left brain wants to modulate the energy emerging from the right brain, to get it under control, to shape it, keep things the same. The left brain wants to identify stuff. Put things in their place. Having worked so hard to create a picture of the world, it is not giving up without a fight. Still, the only way to be aware that I am moving forward, is to be aware that I am leaving something behind.
As I write this, I am sitting in my little Tioga, watching the sun rise through the huge pine trees at Dutch Flat. I have come here for a couple of days to be sure of the tire situation, before I move on, which I have to do because I can’t afford to stay here. One reason I’m here is that it is close to free BLM land in the Sierra foothills. I was very good at making money, once upon a time, when I was raising a family. Had to be done. These days, it doesn’t matter. I want it to matter. But it doesn’t. So I change everything else accordingly.
I am coming to see that guiding my life by these subtle senses is an occupation for artists and the elderly. Artists feel obliged to share their view of what may be invisible to others, through their inspiration. Old folks like me have taken decades to add up what is going on. I can see how, when I feel dissatisfied, it is because the left brain can’t find the right fit. In my mind, I can see myself returning to the wrong size wrench to turn the screw. Over and over. It must have worked, somewhere along the line.
Older people have had to make that left-brain interface with the world work in some way. Maybe they have settled in and closed the door. It is their right to do that. What I am discovering is that what I have felt so far in my life is a tiny, tiny slice of what’s possible to experience. It is a long process, deconstructing the templates that I have been using to bind time. Can’t let them go without paying a price. That price is any sort of certainty about what will happen next. Some older people are not so bothered by that.
I have been on the road for almost two years. I am leaving behind who I used to be … or how I used to present myself. The roles I used to play are long gone – teacher, salesman, husband, even father. I am back to being a drifter. A drifter in a larger world. What time something happens is not as vital as it used to be. Where I am can vary and I don’t mind. Maybe that’s what we should do when we get old. Let the younger folks know, it’s ok. Things may not go the way you want, but what do you know? Everything changes, as you will come to learn, however hard you try to keep it the same. Relax. Make a genuine effort to bring that flow that rushes through you to life and everything will take care of itself. It is the effort that counts. Growing up is not a comfortable path. Being accountable for every perception goes against the conditioned urge to be right all the time.
This morning I’m not sure if the constant hum I hear is the traffic on Highway 80 or the wind brushing through the tall pine trees. I can’t tell if the energy I feel around not-knowing what I will do tomorrow is fear or excitement. I suppose I can call it what I want. Underneath it all, this morning I am glad to be alive. Being alive means to me being connected to Nature, being part of the bigger picture. A tiny part. Re-presenting the whole.
As a character on the life-stage, I fumble around quite a bit, often not getting this or that part right, not conjuring the correct reality, not knowing what I really want. On that path, I never got the proper handle on seeing things in a linear way. I am certainly in that place now. When my mind settles down, into the subtler spaces, I can feel the sense of who I am spread out into frequencies just beyond my senses. I get lost in the larger forces, the energy making up the other 99% of the spectrum. All around me. All the time. How can that not be home?