I enjoyed my 45 minute or so BlogTalkRadio conversation with medium Marcel Cairo yesterday. We were supposed to talk about Science, Spirituality, and Spinoza, which we sort of did.
The archived AfterLifeFM show is here. To hear me in my (somewhat muffled) glory, scroll down and click on one of the symbols to the right of "Dismantling Dogma." The arrow thingie fires up Windows Media Player.
Alternatively, I'll share my memory of some conversational highlights.
This is the third time Marcel and I have talked over the Internet. We've got a thing going. As a medium, Marcel obviously believes in the afterlife. Me, I'd like it a lot if I will live on after my physical death. Who wouldn't, so long as it isn't in a hellish state?
But I don't know if I will. So I float in the unknowing zone between belief and doubt, wanting to be open to the possibility of existence beyond the physical, yet having no proof that this is a reality rather than wishful thinking. To me, this is the most honest and practical way of living my life:
Accepting that until I know something, I don't know it.
So I told Marcel that every morning I spend some time meditating. My habitual pitch to the "universe" (my way of referring to the totality of what's real) goes something like this.
Hi, it's me, Brian. If there's anyone or anything hearing me, other than myself, I'd be pleased to get to know you. I have no idea who or what you may be. Jesus, Buddha-nature, Allah, Jehovah, angel, extra-terrestrial intelligence, God, Zeus, guru…I'm clueless. And ready to be surprised. Like Jodie Foster said as she was waiting to be transported somewhere, anywhere, by a mysterious force in Contact, "It's a go!"
I don't know which direction to go myself. Yesterday I said that the best I could do is surmise that ultimate reality is much more likely to be found within rather than without. Spinoza makes scientific sense when he says that there is only One Thing happening in the cosmos.
He called it God, or Nature, or Being. Three words for the same thing that can't be encapsulated by words. It's everywhere and everything. We're all a part of it. Or perhaps more accurately, we are it. Thus to look for this truth outside ourselves is to miss where it could be found.
I mentioned that it's strange (or maybe not so strange) that if there's a reality beyond the physical, it's so damn difficult to discern. You'd think that the foundation of the cosmos would be just a touch more evident. However, scientists can't put their finger on a Theory of Everything either, despite a tremendous amount of trying.
This leads me to the conclusion that a soft touch is better than a crude reaching out. My meditation now is essentially an effort to stay on a pivot point that allows me to turn in any direction. Belief. Disbelief. Faith. Doubt. Higher. Lower. East. West. Death. Life.
Last night Laurel and I had our second Night Club Two-Step class. Like Tango, the man is supposed to be the leader 100% of the time. At one point Lora, our instructor, went over to the sound system and brandished a remote control.
"See this, guys?" she said. "This is yours in dance. You get to decide the moves. Use it!" That's a challenge. An equal challenge, for the women, is to not anticipate what the lead is going to be.
Laurel and I would get into practicing a series of moves, a pattern. After a while I could feel her edging ahead of me, taking a step before I'd led it because she thought she knew what I was going to do.
Bad girl! Laurel was admonished for this when Lora took on the man's role while demonstrating a move with my wife. Lora stopped Laurel in her tracks and said, "What are you doing? I didn't lead that step."
Applying this lesson to dancing with the entire universe rather than an individual person, Spinoza taught that everything that happens is necessary. It's determined. There's nothing outside of Nature, or God, that could exercise an influence on the universe.
Thus you could say (and Spinoza does) that God/Nature always does the leading, and we the following. Einstein agreed, holding that free will is an illusion. He echoed Spinoza's view that we are aware of what we desire to do, but unaware of the causes that lead us to have that desire.
So it makes sense to strive to be a good follower, sensitively attuned to the forces acting upon us both from within and without (understanding that if the universe is indeed a unity, actually there's no without).
We become lighter on our feet, trusting that we're in the arms of a partner – God/Nature/Being, to use Spinoza's terms – that will lead us truly. Our faith is that we'll be led to do, think, feel, and perceive the right thing, even though it isn't possible for us to know ahead of time what that will be.
Such is the balance that a dancer who's a good follower has.
She returns to her center after a move is led, not anticipating what will happen next, ready for anything, sensitive to the lead that may be felt either subtly or overtly.
She floats in an zone between faith and doubt – confident that she will be led appropriately, but not knowing where or how.
Know the strength of man,
But keep a woman's care!
Be the stream of the universe!
Being the stream of the universe,
Ever true and unswerving,
Become as a little child once more.
Yet keep humility.
Be the valley of the universe!
Being the valley of the universe,
Ever true and resourceful,
Return to the state of the uncarved block.
--Tao Te Ching, chapter 28
(Here's another version of those verses, with some nice commentary.)