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Ecstatic Study Guide, Part 3

(excerpted from the revised and expanded edition of
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia)

Strategies for plying a chronic, low-key, blissful union with everything you're not

1. My old philosophy professor Norman O. Brown would periodically interrupt his lectures, tilt his head upward as if tuning in to the whisper of some heavenly voice, and announce in a puckish tone, "It's time for your irregular reminder: We're already living after the end of the world. No need to fret anymore."

The implication was that the worst had already happened. We had lost much of the cultural riches that had given humans meaning for centuries. All that was going to be taken from us had already been taken.

On the bright side, that meant we were utterly free to reinvent ourselves. Living amidst the emptiness, we had nowhere to go but up. What remained was alienating, but it was also fresh.

Working from the hypothesis that you're living after the end of the world, what are you free to do that you weren't able to do before? Who are you free to be?

2. One of my favorite memories is gazing into my daughter Zoe's face just moments after her complicated birth. She had been through a heroic ordeal that scared the hell out of me, and yet she looked calm, beatific, and amused.

"She's part-Buddha and part-elf," I thought to myself as I held her in my arms. Gazing back at me, her shiny face blended two states I had never before witnessed together in anyone, let alone in an infant: elegant compassion and playful serenity. This revelation imprinted me like a blood oath and has informed my life and my work ever since.
Do you have a comparable memory? A time when a key to your destiny was suddenly laid bare? A turning point when you got a gift that has fueled your quest for years? Revisit that breakthrough. Then ask life for another one.

3. Many people sincerely think that they will be called before God to account for themselves on Judgment Day. If you yourself have held that belief, you can stop worrying about it. The fact is, according to a survey of over 800 dissident bodhisattvas, urban witch doctors, sacred agents, and undercover geniuses, that you are called before "God" on Judgment Day on a regular basis.

Since you still exist, you have apparently passed every test so far. "God" obviously keeps finding you worthy. You shouldn't get overconfident, of course. But maybe from now on you can assume that although there may be a world of pressure on you, that pressure is natural, merciful, and exactly what you need.

Try this experiment: For seven days, see what it feels like to be secure in your knowledge that you have passed the tests of Judgment Day many, many times.
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