Not long ago I was in a conversation with someone who had read My Significant Other is the Kosmos, the book I had self-published 6 years ago. I was relating to him some of the evolution of my experiences since the time of publication, and I could see from his expression that he was, in that moment, just beginning to 'grok' what that tale was pointing toward. As I concluded he paused and simply asked, "Does one have to suffer so much for this to happen?" He was obviously referring to the deep and painful existential crisis I had passed through preceding the arrival of the energies (you may remember at the time suicide was looking a bit warm and fuzzy to me). All I could think of to say in reply was that it was absolutely necessary for me, and for more than a few whose accounts I had read of, though not for all; but beyond that I had no clear idea.
His question has indeed been something I've often pondered over. I can only speak for myself here concerning the need for suffering, yet with the aid of hindsight and a recent unexpected insight that came to me I may be able to offer up an explanation that resonates with some.
The surprising insight appeared just after I had written the first draft of this posting. a draft that was disappointingly rambling and incoherent, even if it did hold the germ of the idea I was aiming at. It came in the form of yet another dream: in that dream I was at work in an outdoor setting adjacent to a museum. A scissor-lift was needed for the museum, and I spotted one parked in the middle of a bridge high over a river. I got into the lift with the intention of moving it into place, but as I started the machine it somehow went into reverse and quickly backed off the edge of the bridge into thin air. I found myself falling straight toward the water below. I didn't panic; rather, I simply prepared myself for the impact. What I didn't prepare for was the fact that I was wearing a heavily laden tool belt, and when I plunged into the waters the weight of the tool belt dragged me down - I couldn't swim back to the surface. As I was desperately trying to undo the belt, sinking ever further into the depths, I realized I was done for; then I realized I was dreaming. I woke myself up.
This was a disturbing way to start the morning, and the dream haunted me throughout the day. It just made no sense, had no apparent connection to current events in my life. It wasn't until the next day, after I'd gained some distance from the frightening nocturnal event, that the light bulb turned on.
Some context is required here. In the period before my existential crisis I was working at a museum, running the exhibition installation department. An unfortunate series of events led to a work of art being damaged. My immediate supervisor, who was not inclined favorably toward me to begin with, took that opportunity to justify firing me. Now, we've all been fired at one time or another, and we've all bounced back. But a curious thing happened within my psyche; something that, once again, is obvious in hindsight but was opaque to me at the time. It seems that the museum work I was doing was a major factor in my personal identity, more than I admitted to. I took great pride in my competence. The yanking out of that piece of myself was the catalyst for a startling domino effect: one after another the dominoes that formed my identity, my sense of who I was and why I was in the world, simply began to tumble down in a ghastly dance, and I could only helplessly watch the catastrophe unfold. By the time the process worked through to its finish my personality was simply emptied out ( and I assume not in the sense the Buddhists point to).
I guess I was ripe for it. However, the extent and swiftness of this emptying caught me by surprise like a kick in the gut, and I was clueless about how to move forward. Painful indeed. Of course I was at first desperately pointing my finger outside myself as to the cause of this predicament, but after a period of time it became apparent that it was indeed all on me. So I grudgingly came to own the mess that was my life, and there I began the slow crawl out of the black pit.
But this wasn't yet the onset of the energies. I was still emptied out, still bewildered; but the kick-in-the-gut pain of it had relaxed. To borrow a dream image a friend related to me once, it was as if I had been cast out into a broad and endless ocean, no shore in sight in any direction (and certainly not that further shore of Buddhist fame). But I had owned my predicament, and because of that I could at least tread water - after all, the tool belt had been jettisoned. Which was the irony the dream of the fall from the bridge pointedly illuminated - my identity, symbolized by the tool belt I often wore installing museum exhibitions, had been dragging me underwater, drowning me. And now it was gone.
That was the necessary condition for the emergence of the energies - because I was emptied out and defenseless something new could enter and begin the process of refilling. And it was on that fateful August morning that a mysterious force rushed into the vacuum...and it felt like unbound fullness.
To be continued...