Saturday, December 8, 2012

Paper for Creative Non-Fiction Class

To Die: An Essay of Death and the Mind and Things
“To die, to sleep -
To sleep, perchance to dream - ay, there's the rub,
For in this sleep of death what dreams may come...”
–William Shakespeare, Hamlet

“We are the naturalists, the collector of specimens.” I’m paraphrasing Aldous Huxley’s words.  To him, the human mind was our last remaining “Darkest Africa”. Sixty years after Huxley wrote “Heaven and Hell” things have not changed much. We are still scratching around in the dark, still looking for the door handle to the inner recesses of the mind. I’m there alongside the rest; I am the collector of specimens within this realm of the subconscious. No, not the subconscious; deeper still; as Huxley puts it, “The Antipodes of the Mind”.
In “Heaven and Hell” Huxley proposes that Heaven is within our own minds. I cannot agree or disagree with him. However, if he is right or wrong, the search may yield fruit regardless. And so, I go into the mind hoping for God or Heaven or both and preparing for some dram of enlightenment even if God or Heaven is not to be found.
 There is a point in a man’s life when he thinks of death and of what lies beyond the doorway. It is at this time when life takes a back seat, when the bags are packed and he contemplates the journey ahead, into the unknown. I’m sure I’m not dying, not anytime soon, I thought. But who can say, really? Life is so fragile; this bag of meat and bones is so… “mortal” that we can never be certain when it will expire.

Ludwig Wittgenstein a philosopher and professor of Cambridge says, “The real question of life after death isn't whether or not it exists, but even if it does what problem this really solves.” This is a rather profound statement. What purpose is there in studying the afterlife and the mind? So many men have lived and died without giving this question much thought and perhaps they are/were happier for it. But I can’t shake the words of Socrates from my head (perhaps these words were Professor Wittgenstein’s inspiration as well during his years of studying philosophy): “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I would add to that: the search for God, Heaven and the ultimate Truth is never in vain. I may even say that the finding of God pales in comparison with the search, or as the maxim goes: life is about the journey, not the destination.
It is obvious that we do not live in Heaven. Our consciousness is tuned, like a radio, into the physical world. We cannot survive in this world without the ability to maintain this state. And yet, is it too farfetched to think that we have the ability to change our conscious state? It happens all the time. You’re sitting on the bus, miserable, stuck in the reality of your situation. Suddenly, a fight breaks out on the bus, or the bus driver swerves, nearly missing a Coca Cola delivery truck and you’re now aware of something beyond your little world. Maybe it’s the survival instinct kicking in? But it’s another state of consciousness; one of many.
What does this have to do with the “Antipodes of the Mind”? There is an inner and outer world, just as there are eyes that perceive the outer world and eyes that perceive the inner world, just as a person suffering from Dementia or Schizophrenia sees things you and I don’t see. The eyes record and the mind translates. The inner eye records and the mind translates. What happens in the outer world really means nothing beyond what we “translate” it to mean.  
Bear with me. I’m juggling handfuls of sand right now. Abstract thoughts can be slippery sometimes. Am I talking about perception here, that to change my perception would lead to enlightenment? That is exactly what I am talking about. But wait, there’s more.
Huxley uses a number of examples; artists, poets, musicians, who see life differently. This isn’t just any artist, any musician, any poet, but rather those who have created something profound, that have seen the inner light of life, a glowing “is-ness” that is reminiscent of the Dharma body or natural law, the life of the Righteous. He continues to explain that we mere mortals can achieve this state through meditation, fasting (which is: robbing the brain of sugar) or … drug usage (more specifically hallucinogens: acid, psilocybin, mescaline, etc.).
Huxley theorizes that the mind comes equipped with a restricting device, a flow restrictor that funnels our conscious perception into that of the mundane for, as I stated before, the purpose of survival, the ability to function in reality. However, there are some born whose restrictors fail, leak by; they are savants or mad or both.
Let’s step back a bit. Beyond all of this reality, what we see, what we feel, what we perceive to be important, worth dying for, worth living for, is something else. This is my thesis. This is my point. And to call it Heaven doesn’t have any more effect on “it” than to call a rock a rock; rocks don’t care what you call them, they just are (or a rock “is”). To say God is to use a mortal word, a word of mortal consciousness, our default plane of perception, and words hold no significance beyond the veil of mortal consciousness. They are just tools us smart monkeys use to make sense of reality.
This is not entirely true. I meant it more as a stab at logic and science which are merely the ‘rules or observations of the sandbox’ and nothing more. You see, there are words or combinations of words (popularly known as sentences and paragraphs) that are divine, that create images in the mind, that can be perceived and translated in the mind and bring the reader/ listener to a state beyond. However, this is a bit off topic.
Let’s head back to Wittgenstein’s statement, “… what problem does this really solve?” What purpose does the Shaman serve? What purpose does the Poet serve or the madman? Will the knowledge of Heaven, God, the Dharma body put food on my table, cure me of incurable diseases, put my kids through college (I have no kids, so this point is moot)?  Maybe this is my thesis. Maybe this is my point.
Why does the actress in the horror movie walk into the dark room where there is obviously something frightening and dangerous within? We cannot be alive just for the sake of being alive. We cannot just survive. And so, here is the answer: meaning. Of course, “meaning” is just another question and the answer to that question is what I have been getting at all along, what does the man behind the curtain want with us? And how can we ever know what he wants if we cannot see him, hear him, communicate with him? And, to go back to a point I made earlier, is the answer the answer or is seeking the answer the answer. And so, I present to you the REAL answer. It isn’t meaning, at all! It is, rather, the enigma of HOPE. That is what we must cling to, climb, and pray we never reach the end of.
-D. Gage

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