This morning, a return to the more personal and practical—if ever a wizard can be said to be focused on the truly “practical” for any length of time.
Yet, indeed, even a wizard such as I may be drawn down to the lowly temporal by the petty circumstances and trivial victories and defeats of the definitively short-sighted (and now short-lighted) day in question. From the mountain straight back down to Earth at times I am compelled, ignorant yet again of Monadnock or anything else. Even this, Emerson promises in advance: “Thou dost supply/ The shortness of our days.”
When a person builds up for themselves a sufficient number of days, sufficient to seem to them perhaps many different lifetimes, or at least many different volumes in a very lengthy faux-epic series, they often gain a certain unintentional ability to partially inhabit worlds and volumes that no longer correspond with the present reality unfolding before their eyes. The world of the mind is a very convincing, persuasive, and at times even seductive one, and it is rare that we even notice that part of ourselves—even if it be a large part—has absconded to Someplace Else, or perhaps Some Other Time.
My days and weeks are extremely full, and I don’t mean that my calendar is booked solid with social engagements. My days and weeks are too full, full of enough water that large waves always seem to be sloshing over the sides and spilling down to who knows where. I—as you—can be forgiven for slipping into habitual perceptions that are a little bit off the mark. It is understandable that huge chunks of my brain forget what is going on this year, or what has happened to change what was going on in some undefined past year. It is not always realistic (pun intended) for my limited daily processing capacity to recognize consciously that walls or distance has grown silently between myself and an old comrade, even when the walls or distance can objectively be said to be painfully obvious. It is to be expected that I don’t have room enough in my “virtual memory” (to use a Windows malfunction metaphor), when considering locations of special significance, to recognize who may live there now as opposed to who used to live there then.
There are times when, through no fault of my own, I probably appear to any outside observer to be carrying some banners of certain causes or virtues that are long since dead and disappeared. To know all this and still be helpless against its gravitational pull is an extremely frustrating position in which to be.
It can also be jarring as well. There are moments, often at or around major seasonal markers in the calendar or traditional feast seasons, when the real reality raises its head in such a way that it cannot be ignored. Gerald doesn’t live in the house he used to live in ten years ago. Other people live there now. Not only is Gerald somewhere else, but you think about that house with Gerald in it more than Gerald himself does. Gerald’s moved on, but you haven’t. There’s a pause in the crushing and occupying forces of one’s normal daily life that allows additional factors to be considered, and that’s the kind of thing that is startling and disturbing when it happens all of a sudden.
Is my entire way of thinking—the foundational facts I don’t have time to think about so I take for granted, true or otherwise—based on some major inaccuracies and miscalculations? What are the implications of this, if so? What the hell have I been doing out here all this time, anyway?
All right, well, just like when your car starts spinning on a patch of ice, the best thing to do is try to avoid panicking like that. The violent concern is misplaced, anyway. None of these petty “white” delusions are going to drastically change the way you live your life, no matter how dramatic or stark they may seem in the moment. What I have to remind myself constantly, and that I will pass along to you is this: the conflict is not between the real and the fake, the deluded and the objective, the true and the false, but is instead between competing methods of perceiving what we know as time.
Even if you think you aren’t as crazy as this wizard might admittedly be, I can assure you that your brain lies to you all the time, if not in exactly the way you might think. It’s your brain that’s telling you that time is fixed and linear—that there’s beginning, middle, and end, that moments progress one on top of the other, one after the other, always forward, onward into uncharted seas and lands. None of this is any more “objectively” or “realistically” true than the belief that Gerald still inhabits the house his parents owned when we were all in the third grade together. In fact, it may even be less objectively, realistically true.
Everything in nature and the solar system and the cosmos is cyclical. Everything, including time, is formed into a circle, not an arrow-tipped line.
It is our brains, not objective reality, that perceive the things that seem to be going on in front of us as in a different category from the things that happened before and the things that are going to happen eventually. It boils down to a narrow (but nearly universal) definition of the present, because it denies the objective reality that outside of our petty and limited consciousness, positively everything is present, all at once.
No, we’ll never be able to experience it this way. Not during this present incarnation, at any rate. But if we want to be wholly honest in living, the actual nature of things is necessarily important, whether we can feel it or not. Nothing happened, nothing is happening, nothing will happen—everything happens. It’s all ongoing, all the time. Round and round again. Nothing ever erased, and perhaps nothing ever added. Just all.
Think of a vinyl record album. Even if you’re too young to have primarily used records, you know what I’m talking about and (hopefully, at least) you have a vague idea of their basic mechanism. In case you don’t, the record spins while the needle from the record player rides around along grooves that contain information that the needle relays as music. The record album itself is reality. The whole record album always exists. Our limited perception, in turn, is like the needle, reading and playing but one note at a time. But just because the tiny needle reads and plays but one note at a time does not mean the rest of the record is not present. It has to be, or the needle would have nothing to ride on.
Your spirit is bigger than the needle utilized by the constrictions of your brain, and the reason you get too busy to process certain areas of the world in a manner recognizably consistent with the present is because your spirit (often operating largely in the realms of the unconscious) doesn’t have to operate within the “rules” of illusory fixed and linear time. If it seems that portions of yourself are operating in the past, it’s because the past hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s not just with you, or all around you, but it is you. One part of you, one part of a broad spirit, a tall and wide spirit, that operates on a broader, taller, and wider plane than we are used to encountering. Other parts, I can safely guess, are operating in the future as well, but those things are less obvious since you aren’t yet aware of what already happens in the days “ahead.”
So there is no need to disparage ourselves if we fall into a melancholy state upon being confronted with the fact that the rules and reality of the day in front of our eyes are not consistent with the expectations of the world produced by lingering non-linear truths in our brains. This is one of those times when two contradictory things can be true at the same time. It’s your spirit, the spirit that’s part of the cosmic song, that’s bigger, way bigger, than you think it can possibly be.
My spirit is tall as the mountain, wide as the seas, and contains far more than seems possible or manifest in what I typically consider the present. The same is true of you.
One last thought, regarding something I mentioned briefly before, that being the carrying of banners for lost causes. If ever this is something that brings you concern and self-doubt, I urge you to read Journey to the East by Hermann Hesse. It’s like one hundred pages long, double-spaced. You can read it in one sitting. It teaches us that sometimes, if we believe a cause to be dead and disappeared, and respond by turning our backs and busying ourselves with something else, something that’s still with us and in front of us, it turns out that the cause never went anywhere—it was we who disappeared and even died. It’s an important caution against abandoning the principles you’ve innately developed within.
Take heart, and know not only how large your spirit is, but how broad in scope the whole of everything can be. Then step back and marvel at your chosen position within it, whatever limits it may hold. If I may be permitted one final Emerson quote (for this week, anyway), it would be this:
“Monadnoc is a mountain strong,
Tall and good my kind among,
But well I know, no mountain can
Measure with a perfect man;
For it is on Zodiack’s writ,
Adamant is soft to wit;
And when the greater comes again,
With my music in his brain,
I shall pass as glides my shadow
Daily over hill and meadow.”