I’m trying to learn how not to be a ventriloquist. As should we all. Isn’t one of “Me” (or “You”) enough? Why are there, like Edgar Bergen and his wooden sidekick Charlie McCarthy, two people performing on the mental stage where we play out our lives?
Maybe more. I’m still trying to figure how many of me there are (or is) inside of my cranium. Seems like there should be only one, given that I go by the singular name of Brian.
Yet that other guy, who I’ll call “Charlie” in honor of my ventriloquismistic Ed Sullivan show memories, sure seems to be a part of me also. I hear him talking inside my head all of the time. About the only time Charlie shuts up is when I try to catch him in the act of doing his schtick.
Then he’s a no-show. Makes me wonder: am I my own ventriloquist? If so, who is the dummy and who is the performer? Is the person wondering right now “Is Charlie really me?” really me? Or…oh my God...is Charlie so skilled he’s doing the wondering about himself as well as the talking?!
It’s pretty damn confusing. The only way I’ve been able to get close to figuring out who’s behind my mental gabfest is akin to restoring order in a noisily unruly kindergarten. Everybody back to your seats! Shut the fuck up! Don’t talk unless you’re called on!
(Well, for obvious reasons pre-school teachers don’t throw in swear words. But since I’m talking to my own personas here, I like to get salty with them.)
Almost universally, respected teachers of spiritual and mystical subjects say that establishing silence in the classroom of the psyche is important. Absent that, you don’t know what the hell is going on.
The jibber-jabber could be deeply meaningful—a message from God, Tao, Buddha-nature, whoever—or it could just be Charlie joking around again. Until we figure out who is behind the thoughts that speak to us almost incessantly, it doesn’t make sense to trust them.
Especially not when those voices make such dramatic claims. “A glorious life after death awaits if you believe.” “Have faith and all things are possible.” “God loves you.” Nice ideas, but what evidence is there that they come from any other source but Charlie?
Who, I’m beginning to strongly suspect, is none other but me when I’m absent-minded. That is, I throw my own mental voice in moments of unawareness. Then I respond to my conversationalist as if he was actually a separate being. Not a dummy, because I’ve lost track of how those words I hear in my head were mouthed.
“So, what do you think? Should we have that leftover lasagna for dinner?”
“Good idea. There’s just one piece left. Better grab it before the wife does.”
“Excellent advice. I like your style!”
“Back at you, buddy! Let’s eat.”
I talk with myself like this a lot. During my meditation time, though, I get some glimpses into what’s going on. Also at times throughout the day when I either am absorbed enough in something to stop talking to myself about it, or when I consciously attend to the mentally repeated mantra that is the focus of my meditation practice.
Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy couldn’t both talk at the same time. Neither can Brian and my own “Charlie.” I’ve found that when I’m attentive to speaking a sound inside my head, Charlie shuts up. He only comes to life when I drift off into unawareness.
So, extrapolating my personal experience to cosmic proportions (one of my favorite activities), I conclude that 99.9% (maybe more) of religious revelations are meaningless crap. Just as my conversations with Charlie are.
I don’t know nothing about nothing when it comes to God and such. I know this because there isn’t a genuinely divine thought in my head when I’m actively aware of my spiritual non-awareness.
It’s only when I let Charlie start jabbering on his own, saying whatever pops into his wooden mind, that I can delude myself into believing that I’ve got my act together.
I’m pretty darn sure that my ventriloquism-inclined psyche isn’t very different from other people’s minds. With possible rare exceptions, those great revelations about the nature of God that fill holy books come from an all-too-human mind, just like mine, unaware that it is blabbing to itself.
Internal ventriloquism is a skill we need to unlearn if we’re serious about hearing what reality has to say. Charlie needs to shut up. Silence, I suspect, is akin to godliness.
And maybe exactly the same.