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The Blessings of Change

(excerpted from "Glory in the Highest," an essay in the revised and expanded edition of Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia)

One of life's great bounties is its changeableness, which ensures that boredom will never last very long. You may underestimate the intensity of your longing for continual transformation, but the universe doesn't.

That's why it provides you with the boundless entertainment of your ever-shifting story. That's why it is always revising the challenges it sends your way, providing your curious soul with a rich variety of unpredictable teachings.

Neuroscientists have turned up evidence that suggests you love this aspect of the universe's behavior. They say that you are literally addicted to learning. At the moment when you grasp a lesson you've been grappling with, your brain experiences a rush of a natural opium-like chemical, boosting your pleasure levels. You crave this experience. You thrive on it.

So the universe is built in such a way as to discourage boredom. It does this not just by generating an endless stream of interesting novelty, and not only by giving you an instinctive lust to keep learning, but also by making available an abundance of ways to break free of your habitual thoughts.

You can go to school, travel, read, listen to experts, converse with people who think differently from you, and absorb the works of creative artists. You can replenish and stretch your mind through exercise, sex, psychotherapy, spiritual practices, and self-expression. You can take drugs and medicines that alter your perspectives.

And here's the best part of this excellent news: Every method that exists for expanding your consciousness is more lavishly available right now than it has been at any previous time in history.

Never before have there been so many schools, educational programs, workshops, and enrichment courses. Virtually any subject or skill you want to study, you can. You don't even have to leave your home to do it. The number of online classes is steadily mounting.

Travel is easier and faster than ever before. A few days from now, you could be white-water rafting along the Franklin River in Tasmania, or riding on "the train at the end of the world" in Tierra del Fuego, or observing Golden Bamboo lemurs in the rainforest of southeastern Madagascar.

If you're on a budget, you can jet to exotic locales for free as an air courier, or you can travel cheaply as an eco-tourist, enjoying the natural pleasures of distant climes without demanding luxurious accommodations or expensive night life.

Let's talk about the Internet's role in helping the universe discourage boredom. Remember, it's still very early in the evolution of this budding global brain. But already it provides you with instant access to a substantial amount of all the information, images, and music ever created. And in another few years, the sheer entirety of the human mind's riches will be spread before you like a gargantuan feast. It's not yet true that every book ever written and every song ever recorded and every film ever made are accessible online, but it will be true sooner rather than later.

Today, without leaving your chair or spending any money, you can enjoy Kandinsky's painting "Improvisation No. 30" or archives of the Krazy Kat comic strips. You can listen to a Vivaldi concerto or a Black Sabbath heavy metal anthem, and you can read the history of the Peloponnesian War or the myths of the Tlingit Indians. You can hear Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech or watch a short film of the Three Stooges throwing pies in the faces of high society matrons or pore over every poem Emily Dickinson ever wrote.

For many of us, few freshly minted glories are more glorious than the Internet's prodigious gift of song. Thanks to the magic of electronic file transfer, there has never before been so much great music available, and from so many different cultures and genres, and so cheaply.

Enhancing this blessing has been the recent revolution in recording technology, which has made it possible for musicians all over the world to record their compositions at low cost. We not only have much better access to all kinds of music, but have far more new music to enjoy as well.

One further development has pushed our relationship with music into the realm of crazy goodness: portable MP3 players that allow us to listen to the burgeoning abundance of tunes anywhere and anytime we want.


Exposing yourself to the expressions of other people is an excellent way to play along with the game of life's perpetual invitations to change yourself. Those of us who are alive today are extremely lucky, since our moment in history provides more opportunities to learn from other people than ever before.

Another phenomenon that helps us respond to and keep up with the universe's restless creativity is self-expression. And it so happens that our era is also the champion of all eras in that regard. So claims Clay Shirky, an expert in the social and economic consequences of the Internet. In a talk he gave in May 2009, he said that we are currently witnessing "the largest increase in expressive capability in human history."

The invention of the printing press in the 15th century provoked an earlier revolution. A second major upgrade in the capacity to communicate came with the telegraph and telephone. The third was ushered in with the arrival of recorded media other than print: photos, recorded sound, and movies.

The fourth arrived when the electromagnetic spectrum was mobilized for use in broadcasting sounds and images through the air. But the fifth revolution, says Shirky, is the biggest of all. The Internet is not only becoming the vessel for all the other media, but has effectively ended the monopoly that professionals have had in getting their messages out. Now everyone can speak to everybody in a variety of modes.

Google says it has indexed over a trillion unique URLs on the World Wide Web. Technorati, a search engine for blogs, has catalogued well over 100 million blogs, and that figure does not include at least 70 million Chinese language blogs. Add to this plenitude the amateur creators who contribute videos to Youtube and similar websites. Count up the thousands of authors who are self-publishing their books, the independent filmmakers making low-budget movies, the aspiring photographers on, the hordes of podcasters and Web-based radio stations, and the musicians who are not signed to contracts with record labels but are recording songs in their home ProTools studios. Factor in the millions of people discussing their intimate details on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

While there are still masses of pure consumers who are content merely to absorb the creations of others, the Internet is bringing us closer to the ideal proclaimed by the Burning Man festival: "No spectators!"

Will there come a time in the future when everyone on the planet will have his or her own node on the Internet, complete with blog, podcasting, and video feeds?


As we play along with the universe's conspiracy to liberate us from the suffering of boredom, we can call on a widening array of healing strategies, psychological insights, and spiritual practices. The Internet isn't solely responsible for the universal spread of formerly local or regional ideas. The dissolution of hidebound traditions has also helped expedite the increasing availability of inspiration from everywhere, along with the growth of international trade, the explosive expansion of the entertainment industry, the ease of long-distance jet travel, and the omnivorousness of the news media. Globalization has a lot of downsides, but this isn't one of them.

And so Chinese acupuncture and Ayurvedic medicine from India are making inroads into mainstream health care in North America. The influence of Buddhist thought on psychotherapy in recent years has been huge. A spiritual seeker who's curious about how other cultures have communed with the divine realms has easy access to the esoteric tantric secrets of the Hindus, alchemical texts that were previously only available to scholars, the Santo Daime sect in Brazil, and the songs and stories of the Yoruba tradition.

What's even more unprecedented is that any of us is free to mix and match modalities and techniques from a variety of systems. Here's transpersonal psychologist Roger Walsh, writing in the IONS Review: "This is the first time in history that publicly acknowledging that you follow two or more distinct spiritual traditions would not have you burned at the stake, stoned to death, or facing a firing squad. We tend to forget what an extraordinary time this is, that for the first time in history we have the entirety of the world's spiritual and religious traditions available to us, and we can practice them . . . without fear."

And so I am very sure I will not be arrested, sentenced, and burned at the stake for engaging in an orgy of spiritual anarchy. Ready?

I hereby invoke Brigid, Celtic goddess of the undying flame, and ask her to unleash thrilling clarity in your heart about a dilemma that has vexed you.

I summon Bast, Egyptian goddess of play, to help you intensify your search for meaning by having more fun.

I pray to the spirit of Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist, that he might inspire you and your lover to achieve hierosgamos, the sacred marriage, thereby creating a bond that inspires your community and galvanizes you both to express more of your own beauty than you would be capable of alone.

I draw on the power of Tiphareth, the central sphere on the Qabalistic Tree of Life, to assist you in becoming the gorgeous messiah you were born to be.

And I offer a bribe to Laverna, pagan trickster goddess, in the hope that she will steal one of your inhibitions and ignite your dormant genius.

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