Week of July 22nd, 2021

To Live in Radical Amazement

"Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement . . . get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible. Never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed."

- Abraham Joshua Heschel, Jewish theologian and civil rights activist


 photo Picture16-2.png


FREE WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Here's a link to my free weekly email newsletter, featuring the Free Will Astrology horoscopes, plus a celebratory array of tender rants, lyrical excitements, poetic philosophy, and joyous adventures in consciousness. It arrives every Tuesday morning by 7:30 am.

Read past issues of the newsletter since May 12.

Read past issues of the newsletter from before May 12.

Sign up here for your free subscription.


 photo Picture24-2.png


NORMAL GLORY

"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."

—Rainer Maria Rilke

+

"The whole world is a series of miracles, but we’re so used to seeing them that we call them ordinary things."

—Hans Christian Anderson

+

"I will wade out till my thighs are steeped in burning flowers. I will take the sun in my mouth and leap into the ripe air, alive, with closed eyes."

—E. E. Cummings

+

"The whole existence is celebrating. These trees are not serious, these birds are not serious. The rivers and the oceans are wild, and everywhere there is fun, everywhere there is joy and delight."

—some guru

+

"For aren't you and I gods? Let all of life be an unfettered howl. Release life's rapture. Everything is blooming. Everything is flying. Everything is screaming. Laughter. Running."

- Vladimir Nabokov


 photo Picture16-2.png



https://tinyurl.com/BookshopPronoia





HISTORY OF PRONOIA: My most recent book is Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiing to Shower You with Blessings. No one else has written a book about pronoia, but others have worked with the concept.

In his novella Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, J. D. Salinger wrote about pronoia without using the word. “Oh, God," one of his characters says, "if I’m anything by a clinical name, I’m a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.”

The actual term "pronoia" was coined in 1976 by Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow, who defined it as "the suspicion that the universe is a conspiracy on your behalf."

Another early contributor to the concept was psychologist Fraser Clark, founder of the Zippies. In the 1990s he referred to pronoia as "the sneaking hunch that others are conspiring behind your back to help you." Once you have contracted this benevolent virus, he said, the symptoms include "sudden attacks of optimism and outbreaks of goodwill."

Neither Terence McKenna or Robert Anton Wilson ever invoked the word "pronoia" as far as I know, but they both added nuance to the concept. McKenna said, "I believe reality is a marvelous joke staged for my edification and amusement, and everybody is working very hard to make me happy."

Wilson offered advice about the proper way to rehearse a devotion to pronoia: "You should view the world as a conspiracy run by a very closely-knit group of nearly omnipotent people, and you should think of those people as yourself and your friends."

Without invoking the term pronoia, Paulo Cuelho added to its meaning: "Know what you want and all the universe conspires to help you achieve it."


 photo Picture24-2.png


NEW LANGUAGE

As a writer who appreciates the power of language to shape our experience, I'm in favor of questioning words and phrases that might be hurtful or oppressive to some people. In my own creative expression, I have made it a point to keep evolving my usage.

For instance, I no longer employ the words "pioneer" and "pioneering," because they are associated so intimately with colonialism, with the theft of indigenous people's land and destruction of their culture. Instead I might use the words "trailblazing" or "groundbreaking" or "innovative."

I'm not saying that you should do as I do; am merely stating my personal choice.

I don't necessarily agree with every organization's list of words to be avoided. For example, I don't have a problem with the use of the term "spirit animal."

Some say that this is a cultural appropriation of a Native American concept. That's not how I understand it. In fact, pretty much every culture in every part of the world in every historical era has had ideas about animals that serve as guides and helpers.

For instance, some of my Polish ancestors regarded the cuckoo as the spirit creature associated with Zywie, Goddess of health and healing.

Furthermore, "spirit animal" is an English term. Native languages use Native words.

Nonetheless, to honor the wishes of those indigenous people who do regard "spirit animal" as taboo, I instead employ terms like "power creature," "medicine animal," "medicine creature," "spirit creature," and others.

I don't mind coming up with new ways to say things. Indeed, it's the writer's job to be innovative in using language.

+

Brandeis University published a guide about oppressive language. In general I like it, although, again, I don't agree with it all. What do you think?

From Brandeis: "Identity-based oppressive language includes a range of word and phrases including potentially lesser-known slurs, unhelpful euphemisms, and exclusionary words and phrases. Important to note: the appropriateness of some identity-based language varies between insiders and outsiders of a group."

Read more.

And here's more from Brandeis.

+

One person has told me she doesn't like the Brandeis recommendations. She says she is tired of having to censor herself.

Here's how I reply: I don't regard it as censorship at all. People who use language consciously are eagerly alert for the opportunity to evolve the way language is used. They enjoy transcending numbing idioms and worn-out figures of speech so as to stimulate fresh thoughts with an invigorating use of words.

Why should we be attached to using terms that are boring, inexact, and fall-back excuses for lazy thinking? I'm not.

+

Poets and imaginative writers coin new words all the time, in every language. They're helping us outgrow outmoded ways of thinking and feeling!

Have you checked out that hotbed of language reinvention lately?


+

"Crazy" appears on the Brandeis list. For me personally, "crazy" has always been a very positive word. "Crazy wisdom" is one of my life-long studies. But I am considering dropping "crazy" from my vocabulary, since it may indeed be offensive to some people in ways that it's not for me.


 photo Picture16-2.png


LOVING THE PROBLEMS

Why do we focus so intensely on our problems? What draws us to them? Why are they so attractive? They have the magnet power of love: somehow we desire our problems; we are in love with them much as we want to get rid of them.

Problems sustain us -- maybe that's why they don't go away. What would a life be without them? Completely tranquilized and loveless . . . There is a secret love hiding in each problem."

—James Hillman, The Essential James Hillman: A Blue Fire, edited by Thomas Moore


 photo Picture24-2.png


PIECES TO OTHER PEOPLE'S PUZZLES

"Everyone carries with them at least one piece to someone else's puzzle." So wrote Lawrence Kushner in his book, Honey from the Rock.

In other words, you have in your possession certain clues to your loved ones' destinies -- secrets they haven't discovered themselves.

Wouldn't you love to hand over those clues -- to make a gift of the puzzle pieces that are most needed by the people you care about?

Search your depths for insights you've never communicated. Tell truths you haven't found a way to express before now. More than you know, you have the power to mobilize your companions' dreams.


 photo Picture16-2.png


LOVING THE CHANGES?

Whether you're a fan of a monotheistic God or a pluralistic Goddess, you've undoubtedly noticed a deeply rooted quirk about the Divine Temperament: an extreme fondness for change. The Creator really likes to keep things moving right along.

Earlier in my life, I bore a grudge against this incorrigible inclination. But after repeatedly having my karma crumpled for resisting it, I realized I'd better get used to it. In recent years, I've come a long way in retraining myself to be cheerfully cooperative with the primal flux.

As a reward, the Cackling Goddess (my current favorite name for the Sublime Mystery) has blessed me with a relentless series of opportunities to prove how well I've learned my lesson. She just keeps throwing changes my way, daring me to adjust with as much skill and grace as I can muster.

And you?


 photo Picture16-2.png


You could think of mindfulness as wise and affectionate attention.

—Jon Kabat-Zinn


 photo Picture24-2.png


15% REBELLIOUS RAGE, 85% COMPASSION AND CELEBRATION

Tending to my sanity and being in compassionate service to the world require me to be in a chronic state of rebellion.

But here's an important caveat: While the rebellion can and should be partially fueled by anger at the consensual mass hallucination that's mistakenly referred to as "reality," it must be primarily motivated by love and joy and the desire to bestow blessings.

A healthy proportion, at least for me, seems to be 15% rage, indignation, and complaint, and 85% compassion, celebration, and lust for life.


 photo Picture24-2.png


SEEK OUT THE LOWER REACHES

The alchemists said the magic formula for enlightenment was Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem, or "Seek out the lower reaches of the earth, perfect them, and you will find the hidden stone"—the treasured philosopher's stone.

Jungian psychologists might describe the process this way: Engage in a relationship with the wounded and sickly parts of yourself, refine them, and you will awaken your hidden divinity.

+

"The great epochs in our lives are at the points when we gain the courage to rebaptize our badness as the best in us." —Friedrich Nietzsche

+

Jung: "Whoever loves the earth and its glory, and forgets the 'dark realm,' or confuses the two (which is mostly what happens), has spirit for his enemy; and whoever flees from the earth and falls into the 'eternal arms' has life for an enemy."

+

The Bible quotes the radical first-century religious activist Jesus Christ as follows: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." Sounds like he had a good strategy for working with his shadow.

+

In the New Earth, it won't be your material wealth that will win you the most bragging points. Nor will it be the important people you know or the deals you've swung or the knowledge you've amassed or your mate's attractiveness.

What will bring you most prestige and praise in the civilization to come will be your success in transmuting lead into gold—how thoroughly you have integrated your shadow and tapped into its

+

"Suffering can't be avoided," James Broughton told Jack Foley. "The way to happiness is to go into the darkness of yourself. That's the place the seed is nourished, takes its roots and grows up, and becomes ultimately the plant and the flower. You can only go upward by first going downward." —James Broughton, as told to interviewer Jack Foley, All: A James Broughton Reader

+

"It is by going down into the abyss that you recover the treasures of life," wrote Joseph Campbell. "Where you stumble, there lies your treasure."

+

In her book Zen Miracles, Brenda Shoshanna defines the shadow as the unacceptable aspects of ourselves that we dump into our unconscious minds. As we avoid looking at that hidden stuff, it festers. Meanwhile, we project it onto people we know, imagining that they possess the qualities we're repressing.

The antidote to the predicament, says Shoshanna, is to "eat our shadow"—haul it up from out of the pit and develop a conscious connection with it. Doing so not only prevents our unacknowledged darkness from haunting our thoughts and distorting our relationships; it also liberates tremendous psychic energy.

+

The goddess Hecate lives in the underworld. According to poet Robert Graves, she is the mistress of sorcery, "the goddess of ghosts and night-terrors, of phantoms and fearful monsters." On the other hand, he notes, Hecate "presides at seed time and childbirth; she grants prosperity, victory, plentiful harvests to the farmer and rich catches to the fisherman."

How can a single deity embody such seemingly contradictory archetypes? Graves: She symbolizes "the unconscious in which beasts and monsters swarm. This is not the living hell of the psychotic, but a reservoir of energy to be brought under control, just as Chaos was brought to cosmic order under the influence of the spirit."

+

Robert A. Johnson. writes: "It is also astonishing to find that some very good characteristics turn up in the shadow. Generally, the ordinary, mundane characteristics are the norm. Anything less than this goes into the shadow. But anything better also goes into the shadow! Some of the pure gold of our personality is relegated to the shadow because it can find no place in that great leveling process that is culture.

"Curiously, people resist the noble aspects of their shadow more strenuously than they hide the dark sides. To draw the skeletons out of the closet is relatively easy, but to own the gold in the shadow is terrifying. It is more disrupting to find that you have a profound nobility of character than to find out you are a bum. Of course you are both; but one does not discover these two elements at the same time.

"The gold is related to our higher calling and this can be hard to accept at certain stages of life. Ignoring the gold can be as damaging as ignoring the dark side of the psyche, and some people may suffer a severe shock or illness before they learn how to let the gold out."

—Robert A. Johnson


 photo Picture16-2.png


HOW TO BE YOUR OWN PROPHET

I suspect that none of us has the capacity to foretell the future of the human race. No one -- not psychics, not doomsayers, not intelligent optimists, indigenous shamans, no one.

There is a strong case to be made that this is the worst of times, and an equally strong case that this is the best of times; a strong case that everything will collapse into a miserable dystopia and a strong case that we are on the verge of a golden age. It’s impossible to know in any “objective way” which is “truer.”

Anyone who asserts they do know is just cherry-picking evidence that rationalizes their emotional bent. The variables are chaotic and abundant and beyond our ken.

In the meantime, I'm doing what I can to create a golden age.

P.S. The best way to prepare for the unpredictable is to cultivate mental and emotional states that ripen us to be ready for anything:

* a commitment to not getting lost inside our own heads;

* a strategy to avoid being enthralled with the hypnotic lure of painful emotions, past events, and worries about the future;

* a trust in empirical evidence over our time-worn beliefs and old habits;

* a talent for turning up our curiosity full blast and tuning in to the raw truth of every moment with our beginner's mind fully engaged;

* and an eagerness to dwell gracefully in the midst of all the interesting questions that tease and teach us.

Everything I just described also happens to be an excellent way to prime yourself for a chronic, low-grade, always-on, simmering-at-low-heat brand of ecstasy -- a state of being more-or-less permanently in the Tao, in the groove, in the zone.


 photo Picture16-2.png


LOVE IS BEING STUPID TOGETHER?

"Love is being stupid together," said French poet Paul Valéry. While there's a grain of truth to that, it's too corny and decadent for my tastes.

I prefer to focus on a more interesting truth, which is this: Real love is being smart together. If you weave your destiny together with another's, he or she should catalyze your sleeping potentials, sharpen your perceptions, and boost both your emotional and analytical intelligence. Your relationship becomes a crucible in which you deepen your understanding of the way the world works.

Think of an example of your closest approach to this model in your own life. Then formulate a vow in which you promise you'll do what's necessary to more fully embody the principle "Love is being smart together."


 photo Picture24-2.png


YOUR THIRD

Imagine that the merger of you and your best ally has created a third thing that hovers near you, protecting and guiding the two of you.

Call this third thing an angel. Or call it the soul of your connection or the inspirational force of your relationship.

Or call it the special work the two of you can accomplish together.

And let this magical presence be the third point of your love triangle.


 photo Picture24-2.png


Picture 27 copy Picture 27 copy Picture 27 copy Picture 27 copy Picture 27 copy Picture 27 copy Picture 27 copy Picture 27 copy Picture 27 copy Picture 27 copy Picture 27 copy Picture 27 copy Picture 27 copy Picture 27 copy Picture 27 copy Picture 27 copy