Here Robin is hanging a sculpture in his backyard for pictures used in his brochure. The sculpture won First Prize in Sculpture from the Plymouth Art Guild in 2006.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
"Life is short and of uncertain duration. Plus, in a hundred years, no one will remember who you were. Seize the day, seize the morning, seize the hour, seize... right... now!"
The Course helps people get clear about who they really are, what they really wants out of life, and how to go about getting it. It does this by helping the student understand his or her fears, then acknowledge and take responsibility for his faith in himself.
The Course is in three parts. In the first part, the student learns how human beings actually function, as opposed to the way society tells us and insists we believe we function. In the second part, he learns how he actually functions, as opposed to how he has been taught he functions. In the last part, he learns how to resolve inner conflict and get into consensus. It is this consensus that then enables him to identify and achieve the life he truly wants. When students begin The Course, they are tyrannized by fear; by the time they complete it, they’re guided by faith in themselves. As this occurs, they become more pro-active, as opposed to reactive and, as a result, more effective and fulfilled.
The first part of The Course also deals with the untruths inherent in language, abstractions, and the rules and conventions of society.. When the student begins The Course, he is in the habit of acceding to a variety of external authorities. As he looks at this, he comes to see that events don’t actually determine experiences, experiences determine events. Events occur; we perceive them in a limited and biased way; we interpret our perceptions based on our pasts; and we then respond to our interpretations of our perceptions of the events, rather than to the events, themselves. In fact, acquiescence is a choice and we are always our own sole authority. This breakthrough in understanding is experienced as a liberating epiphany.
In the second part of The Course, the student looks at the way his interpretations of his past experiences have led to his particular assumptions, how those assumptions have determined his present, and how his present will determine his future. In the process, he discovers that yearning for things is not the same as working for them, and trying to do things is not the same as actually doing them. As these insights are integrated, he becomes better able to acknowledge and take responsibility for both his strengths and limitations, which makes him stronger and less limited.
In the second part of The Course, the student comes to understand and appreciate himself more than ever before. In the last section, he acknowledges and takes responsibility for his spiritual or transcendent self. As he does this, he learns to open to, attend, or listen to himself, others, and the world with fewer intrusive thoughts and bias. He also comes to realize that this quality of pure attention is the essence of love, and that in learning to listen in this way he has learned to love – himself, then others and the world. In the process, he also learns to expect and ask for the same quality of attention/love from others.
Basically, what the student who completes the process has done is vanish the context of fear and hatred, and create a new context of faith and love. In doing so, he ceases contributing to the problems mankind faces, and begins contributing to the solutions to those problems.
Robert Leaver teaches The Course to both groups and individuals. Different formats are available but the standard for individuals is one 2-hour class per week with 2-3 written assignments between classes. The process takes anywhere from three to eighteen months, depending on the student’s willingness to choose to acknowledge and take responsibility for his faith-in-self.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Many years ago, I subscribed to a wonderful little weekly entitled Manas. Full of short, elegant essays on philosophy, education, art, and people, Manas was a treasure. One week, it introduced us to the German poet, Novalis and his term for our spiritual selves, our Transcendental I. "Ollie," I thought when I read it, "You are my Transcendental I. Nice to meet you."
That was back in the 1960s. In 1980, when I dropped out and went to ground, determined to understand the secret to life or die trying, I began making notes on my sense of our Transcendental I. I was reading extensively in religion, philosophy and psychology at the time and my sense reflected the wisest things I could find this aspect of our psyches.
This is my sense of the Transcendental I:
Your Transcendental I is your innermost being, your Highest Self, the God that lives within each of us. Your TI is IT in the sense that it is your access to ultimate Truth.
Your TI understands that life is completely absurd. While the rest of your Personae think experiences are serious and important, your TI knows that nothing is important. Your TI reminds you that all experiences come to an end. IT is awakened from the seriousness and importance of experience.
Your TI understands that nothing exists outside of Consciousness, and that Consciousness, itself, is nothing but a passing phenomenon.
Your TI understands that your body, like the stars it sees, is nothing but a record of the past, and that your mind is nothing but memories and associations.
Your TI understands that nothing is necessary. Even life. The universe is not "ultimate." Nor does it hide a great fact. There is no secret to be learned. It doesn't matter what you do; therefore, do what you please. If you do what truly pleases you, you will discover that what pleases you is listening with an open mind to your selves, to others, and to the universe outside of yourself. Such listening is reverence for the experience of life. It is the purest form of love. What better way is there to spend our time here?
Your TI understands that in order to realize the present in all its fullness, you first have to transcend your sub-selves and yourself. Your TI is the part of you that is leading the rest of you to self-transcendence. IT understands that in order to self-transcend, you must surrender and listen. First, you must surrender and listen to your Fears. Then, you must surrender and listen to your Faith in yourself.
Because your TI has understood and achieved this awakening, IT is free of the past and future. To IT, all phenomena are theater, a source of joy and delight.
You will know your TI by the fact that IT is always full of humor. When you understand why, you'll understand how.
Here's Part II following my earlier post re Jung and his spiritual self, Philomon...
On my thirteenth birthday, my mother took me for a ride and told me that I had been a twin but my brother had died shortly after birth. It was very upsetting for me because we lived way out in the country, my father was away all week, my mother was occupied with my three sisters, and I was often lonely. I spent a lot of time at my secret campsite by a brook back in the woods with my pony, Thunder, and our dog, Benny Beagle.
My mother told me that when my brother died she and my father decided to give me both of the names they'd chosen. I was named Robert, after my father, and Oliver, which was my twin's name, after my mother's father. I remember wanting to know whether I was born first or second, whether I was Robert or Oliver.
That night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I became very sad and started crying into my pillow. Then, for some reason, I started whimpering "Ollie, Ollie, Ol-lie." Somewhere along the edge of sleep, he responded. He told me that he was there, always had been there and always would be. When I asked him what had happened, he paused, said he wasn't used to language, and would have to find the words to describe it. He then explained that God had decided to send me out into the physical world but to draw him back from that world into the spiritual realm. He said it was kind of an experiment, something God wanted to try out. Then he told me that from that day on he'd be available to me as a spiritual guide or self, and I could call on him at any time, and whatever I asked him he'd always tell me the Truth.
And I have called on him. Not much at first, because I didn't really want the Truth, but more and more as the years have gone by. All I have to do is think, "Ollie," and he answers, "Yes," and we start right in. He doesn't tell me what's going to happen in the future, mind you, but he's very clear about how our world works. One thing about him is that he doesn't tell me what to do. Nor does he talk in terms of right or wrong. He says it's not his job, because, from a purely spiritual perspective, none of that stuff matters. Gallaxies come and gallaxies go. He says, basically, that life is short and of uncertain duration, and I can waste it or make the most of it.
"So, Ollie, do you have anything to say to these good folks?"
"Sure. Tell them they've all got their own Ollie and they can call on him or he
In January of 1913, at the age of 38, Carl Jung wrote his last letter to his friend, Sigmund Freud. In it, he said
"I accede to your wish that we abandon our personal relations, for I never thrust my friendship on anyone. You yourself are the best judge of what this moment means to you. 'The rest is silence.'"
Later that year, after eight years as a lecturer at the University of Zurich, Jung resigned his post. About his resignation, he wrote
"At the university, I was in an exposed position, and felt that in order to go on giving courses there I would first have to find an entirely new and different orientation. It would be unfair to continue teaching young students when my own intellectual situation was nothing but a mass of doubts."
Jung then began what he called a "self-experiment." Over the next six years, he tried to understand and come to grips with his own unconscious. He transcribed his experiences in the "Red Book," a folio bound in red leather.
During that period, Jung had a recurrent fantasy of an old man whom he called Philemon. He had many long conversations with Philemon. Later, in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, he said about Philemon:
"He said things which I had not consciously thought. For I observed clearly that it was he who spoke, not I...psychologically, Philemon represented superior insight. At times, he seemed to me quite real, as if he were a living personality. To me, he was what the Indians call a Guru... Philemon and other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and h their own life. Philemon represented a force which was not myself."
About that period in his life, Jung went on to say:
"The years when I was pursuing my inner images were the most important in my life. In them, everything essential was decided. It all began then; the latter details are only supplements and clarifications of the material which burst forth from the unconscious, and at first swamped me. It was the 'prima materia' for a lifetime's work."
What is truth? As any neurologist will attest, if there is such a thing as truth, we humans sure don't have the capacity to recognize it. As any linguist will tell you, we humans learned abstraction at about the same time we learned language, probably 30-50,000 years ago, and we've been abstracting at an accelerating rate ever since, to the point where we've reified many of our most common abstractions. We've made our symbols more real than the things they symbolize. "Truth" is such a reified abstraction.
And, as we use the term, it is either what we, as individuals, believe, or what is generally believed by a credible set of people. It is true for me that there is no such thing as linear time. It is true for most people that there is. And there you have it. Neither of us has any proof.
How do you find it? The individual finds truth by crowning untruth as his truth. In other words, you choose it. Though we like to pretend they're well reasoned, our choices of truth are based on emotion and, thus, arbitrary; when we feel differently, we may well choose an alternative truth. This means that no one is locked into any truth - unless he chooses to be locked into the feelings that gave rise to it. This is what's so heartbreaking about fundamentalists - they're all suicide bombers, sacrificing their lives for exclusion. Such a waste.
How do you recognize it? Since, if there is such a thing as truth, we humans don't have the capacity to comprehend it, we can't recognize it. All we can do is pretend, which is precisely what we've been doing since we came up with the abstraction. The delusion may lead to our extinction, I'm afraid, but there it is. IIWII.
I recently spent 5 days alone. All by my selves. The first day, utterly played, I wept, intermittantly, all afternoon and into the evening. When I wasn't weeping, I was too exhausted and dazed to think.
The second day, I felt lighter but still terribly confused. The most I could get to was that the past 5 years have been exceedingly trying.
On the third day, I made a list of the experiences that had so depleted me. Many wonderful things have come into my life over the past five years, but there has been much pain and loss, as well. At the end of my list, I wrote "Our deteriorating environmental, political and social circumstances."
On the fourth day, I began reflecting on my list in preparation for restructuring my life. As I did, I realized that the last item on my list was much more significant than I'd been aware. Our environmental, political and social circumstances are, after all, the context within which the other experiences unfolded. And talk about pain and loss. Accordingly, I moved it from last to first on my list.
On the fifth and final day, while listening to the news on NPR, I realized that all the news, everywhere, is invariably sad and anxiety producing. Then, I remembered something I read in Harpers about capitalism. It was that business creates a need and then tries to fill it with a product. And I saw that as we, the consumers, have become more savvy about advertising, specifically, and the true nature of capitalism, in general, the business community has escallated from creating needs to be satisfied, to creating problems, which, they tell us, possession of their products will at least ameliorate.
The media being owned by big business, the way news is packaged and presented has been contaminated by this tendency to create problems. When I am sad, I tend to indulge myself; when I become anxious, I tend to seek solace in things. On my second and third days, without thinking about it, I bought some things I'd long pined for over the internet, spent extra money on good food for myself, and rented movies.
It is becoming clear. The 20% of America who are running our late capitalistic system are desperately strip-mining for the last of the big-time profits. To this end, they are creating problems without regard to life, community, or even civilization; they are making depressing, anxiety-fostering theater out of the problems to stimulate consumptionm; and they are leaving their customers broke, psychologically and spiritually as well as financially.
I'm not sure how much of this is conscious, much less a conspiracy, but it's happening, and that's all that matters. It is the context within which we're living ourlives in this pre-Apocalyptic period. It is a context which penalizes imagination. Witness institutional reactions to non-conforming creativity, especially in the three traditional pillars of our society, the family, our public school system, and our churches.
It's like some old horror movie, perhaps "The Matrix". They're everywhere. The Goodyear blimp flew low over our house yesterday, causing Edie to cry out and hug my leg. I held her but I couldn't bring myself to tell her, "It's all right." Because it isn't all right. The reason they're everywhere is because they're using pawns who either deny or don't know that they're pawns - teachers who test to the exclusion of listening; churches which push status quo dogma; police who enforce business-inspired laws.
What to do? All I know is that the system thrives on a depressed, frightened, fragmented citizenry living a pell-mell lifestyle. Got to slow down. Less stimulants. Got to stop, look and listen before responding. Got to give my Ching a ring, as Ken Kesey once put it.
Here's a story from long ago in my quest. Enjoy…
Four years after my revelation on the flight back from Europe, when I was in the process of leaving my wife and children, and was out of a job to boot, I went to see an old friend whom I considered a particularly wise man. George was in his late 50s at the time. Earlier in his life, he'd been through a series of breakdowns. They'd been rough, costing him a marriage and his career as a psychiatrist, but he'd come out the other side. I went to see him because I felt he KNEW things. You could see it in his eyes. Also, he was utterly fearless, which meant he'd be straight with me.
He was living in a stone house built by a 19th century tycoon on an island off the coast of Maine. I drove up to Bangor on a dark, November afternoon and he met me and flew me out to the island in an old twin-engine Cessna. After a wonderful baked haddock dinner at one end of a huge wooden table in his kitchen, during which we talked about the old days and traded news of mutual friends, we retired to the living room, where we sat in big wingback chairs on opposite sides of the fire.
"So," he said when we were settled in, "what's on your mind?"
I told him my story, admitted to being confused and conflicted, and asked what he thought.
"You want the truth?" he asked with a crooked little, half-faced smile. "Or would you prefer a brandy?"
I told him I hadn't driven 6 hours and flown over open water in his converted grocery cart just to get plastered.
He stared into my eyes for a few seconds, taking my measure, and said "All right. If it's the truth you want, I'll give it to you. But you have to promise me something."
I said I was desperate enough to promise him anything he liked.
"I want you to promise you'll pay attention."
I assured him I would.
"No, I mean absolute attention. I want you to listen as if your life depended on it."
I told him it might and again assured him I would.
"Good," he said. Then, he paused. After a few seconds, he asked, "Are you listening?"
"George, I'm listening, for Christ's sake."
"No," he remonstrated. "You're not listening. I mean REALLY listening. I mean listening with a completely open mind. I'm talking listening with absolutely no bias, no predisposition, no distracting baggage from your past, nor fear for your future." He let the idea sink in. "Think you can you do it?"
I thought about it. Listening without bias? What did that mean? I'd sought him out in the hope he'd help me sort out my past so I could face my future. Yet he was telling me I had to forget all that. I asked him how what I was about to hear could help me if I had no context for it.
"You'll see," he said. "Trust me."
I told him I did trust him. Then, shrugging, I said, "Okay, what the hell. Geronimo!"
"Good," he said. "Let's do it."
Time passed. He didn't speak. He got up and poked the fire, then sat down again. Still, he didn't speak. He just stared into the fire. After a while, he steepled his hands, rested his chin on his thumbs, and squeezed his nose between the tips of his index fingers. Then he shut his eyes.
All right, I thought, this is some sort of test. He's probably waiting until I've put everything else out of my mind. I'm going to do it. I shut my eyes, too, trying to conjure up an image of pure listening. A gust of wind blew down the chimney. Outside, I could hear the n'oreaster whistling through the hemlocks. For some reason, hearing the wind in the trees led me to think about the top of a giant sequoia, the tippytop, and the highest single cell in the entire tree. I imagined it, 300 feet up, completely unaware of either the vast bulk pushing it from below or the sky into which it was being thrust. I imagined what it would be like to be that tiny cell. Through darkness and light, baking sun and crystallizing cold, utter stillness one minute and the pandemonium of a windstorm the next, and all the while, imperceptibly, at the rate of perhaps a foot a year, ascending into the heavens.
After a while, I heard George get up and leave the room, then come back and sit down again. When a log settled in the fire, it sounded like the roof collapsing in a burning building. The sound came into me in slo-mo, a 3-act play.
Time stopped. I was there in the chair, yet I also wasn't. I felt I was on the verge of sleep, right up against it, so close that I could be asleep by the time I'd finished choosing it. I didn't choose it, though, because I'd already made my choice. I'd chosen to listen and I was doing it with every ounce of my being.
"Well?" George finally asked.
Startled, I opened my eyes and looked over at him. The fire had burned low, causing the light to grow dim, and his head was back in the shadow of the wing of his chair. His eyes reflected the pale yellow light of the hardwood coals.
"Well, what?" I replied.
"Did you get it?"
"I don't know. Get what?"
"The solution to your problem. The answer to your questions."
"Well, actually, I haven't been thinking about my problems."
"What do you mean?"
"When you sat down, shut up, and listened, your problems vanished. That's the truth you asked for."
"That's it. The Buddhists call it 'mindfulness,' or 'bare attention,' or 'getting out of your own way.' It's all you have to know and now you know it."
When we first moved to Vermont, I had a friend who was a first grade teacher. We met cross-country skiing. I skied with our dog, Luke, as a way of exploring the territory. We usually had to break trail but one afternoon we came across and followed the woman's tracks, ending up at her house. Luke made friends with her dog, Emily saw us and came out, one thing led to another, and the four of us started skiing together.
Emily was in her mid-thirties, tall and lean and remarkably fit. I couldn't keep up with her. She was a good sport about it. She'd go on ahead, then stop and wait, and we'd have steamy cocoa while I caught my breath.
I asked her about our local schools, which led to an ongoing discussion about education, which, in turn, led her to invite me to sit in on her class. I was ambivalent about it and did so to please her more than anything, but it turned out to be an extraordinary gift.
She had 22 students in her class. I think she had an assistant, perhaps a volunteer, but she was alone the day I visited. There was no problem, the children obviously adored her and she was in complete control. I sat off to the side in her round-back spindle desk chair.
She was teaching addition. The children had their workbooks out and were earnest and attentive. Emily walked up and down the rows of tiny desks, bending over or crouching down to offer encouragement or make a suggestion. She touched every student, either gently on the back or lightly on the shoulder. Some, she touched before addressing their lesson, others afterwards as she was moving on.
I noticed that one student, a thin, dark-haired boy at the back of the room, was distracted. He slid his workbook off the side of his desk and watched it fall to the floor. When the boy next to him whispered something to him, he kicked his workbook aside, leaned back and slid down in his chair. When the boy next to him whispered something else, he said, "Shud-dup!" and turned away.
Emily noticed the boy. She tried to make eye contact with him, but he was having none of it. So, Emily returned to the front of the class and said, "All right children, put your workbooks in your desks now and take out a piece of clean paper. I want you to draw me a picture. Draw your favorite animal. This is just for a few minutes, and then we'll go back to your arithmetic. But right now, I want to talk to Henry."
That got Henry's attention. He turned sideways in his chair and put his hands under his head as if he was curling up in bed. Emily walked back to him, grabbing an empty chair as she went, moved around Henry, and sat down so that they were face to face. She was too tall for the tiny first grade chair; it looked like a milking stool under her. But that didn't bother her. Bending forward so that she was about a foot from Henry's pouting face, she smiled and asked softly, "So, what's on your mind, Henry?"
Henry didn't want to engage but he didn't have a choice because, having asked her question, Emily refused to move or speak. He looked around, trying to think of or find something to distract her, but Emily held him with her eyes until he had to look back at her. When he did, he didn't speak at first, but Emily was patient. When he finally spoke, his voice was barely a whisper, and when Emily responded her voice had fallen to the level of his, so I couldn't hear their conversation.
I could watch their interaction, though. Emily asked him questions. In the beginning, his answers were monosyllabic and he looked away a lot. But the more questions Emily asked, the longer his answers became and the more he made eye contact. Henry obviously had a serious complaint about something.
They talked for perhaps 2-3 minutes. Emily spoke the most at first but as Henry's answers grew longer, her questions became shorter and less frequent. Finally, she sat up straight and said, "Good. So, do you want to say anything else?"? Henry smiled sheepishly. "No? Okay, let's get back to arithmetic." I didn't hear Henry's response but after giving it he reached out his foot, slid his workbook back to where he could reach it with his hand, and bent over to retrieve it.
"Good boy," Emily said, standing up. "If you want to talk again, just raise your hand and we'll make a date." Then she touched him as well, and I realized that it was the first time she'd done so. She patted, then rubbed his back ever so briefly. I couldn't swear it but it seemed as if Henry straightened up slightly in his chair. She replaced her chair and returned to the front of the room. "All right, class," she said without missing a beat, "show me your animals."
Later, when we discussed the incident, Emily said she felt lucky to have such a cooperative class. "Because that's what teaching should be," she added. "Children should be listened to - really listened to. It should be a civil right, the right to be heard. Because that's when we really start becoming individuals, when we say who we are and then have to consider what we've said."
"One day, Korzybski was giving a lecture to a group of students, and he suddenly interrupted the lesson in order to retrieve a packet of biscuits, wrapped in white paper, from his briefcase. He muttered that he just had to eat something, and he asked the students on the seats in the front row, if they would also like a biscuit. A few students took a biscuit. "Nice biscuit, don't you think", said Korzybski, while he took a second one. The students were chewing vigorously. Then he tore the white paper from the biscuits, in order to reveal the original packaging. On it was a big picture of a dog's head and the words "Dog Cookies". The students looked at the package, and were shocked. Two of them wanted to throw up, put their hands in front of their mouths, and ran out of the lecture hall to the toilet. "You see, ladies and gentlemen", Korzybski remarked, "I have just demonstrated that people don't just eat food, but also words, and that the taste of the former is often outdone by the taste of the latter."
In simplified form, the "essence" of Korzybski's work was the claim that human beings are limited in what they know by (1) the structure of their nervous systems, and (2) the structure of their languages. Human beings cannot experience the world directly, but only through their "abstractions" (nonverbal impressions or "gleanings" derived from the nervous system, and verbal indicators expressed and derived from language). Sometimes our perceptions and our languages actually mislead us as to the "facts" with which we must deal. Our understanding of what is going on sometimes lacks similarity of structure with what is actually going on. He stressed training in awareness of abstracting, using techniques that he had derived from his study of mathematics and science. He called this awareness, this goal of his system, "consciousness of abstracting." His system included modifying the way we approach the world, e.g., with an attitude of "I don't know; let's see," to better discover or reflect its realities as shown by modern science. One of these techniques involved becoming inwardly and outwardly quiet, an experience that he called, "silence on the objective levels."
Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon developed the Intelligence Quotient test in 1905 in an effort to track French school children. By 1952, when I took the test in the seventh grade, the concept of measurable intelligence had been embraced throughout the developed world. But I knew nothing about that. I was getting As and Bs and feeling acceptably smart. Sometimes they had us take tests, but it was no big deal.
Lewis Mumford's mother directed that her tombstone be inscribed, "Here lies the mother of Lewis Mumford." My mother was the same way about me when I was a boy. She once told me it was her dream that I'd become a world-renown surgeon, so famous that my hands would be on the cover of Time Magazine. I shook my head but I didn't roll my eyes, laugh out loud and give her a noogie on the upper arm the way I should have.
Parents weren't told the results of their children's IQ tests in those days but, as a favor to Mum, Mrs. Muller, my fourth grade teacher, made it her business to learn and pass on my score. I don't recall what it was, perhaps 100, 110. Whatever it was, it upset Mum so much that she finally had a talk with me about it. She sat me down and explained that, alas, I wouldn't be pursuing medicine, or law either for that matter. She was sympathetic and solicitous. She assured me that I'd find my niche and be all right. But she was also emphatic. Her final words were, "You can always go into business like your father."
Well, I loved my mum, and I trusted her completely, so from that day on, I believed I was dumb. My father didn't try to disabuse me of the notion. He got a great kick out of telling me, "You don't have an inferiority complex, you are inferior." He was just kidding, making a joke about complexes, but it stung just the same. I became so convinced of my stupidity that when I got a satisfactory grade, I assumed it was a mistake. Schoolwork became increasingly more problematic. Whenever I encountered the slightest difficulty in a subject - languages in high school, sciences in college, and statistics and computer science in graduate school - I'd fall into a slough of despair and be unable to focus. On my physics final in college, for which the only preparation I could manage consisted of fanaticizing about how I might cheat, I got a 14 - scaled up from a 9.
At the same time, as I was being passed along from year to year, I began to think I might be developing a facility for fooling my teachers. We called it a "snow job" in those days. I reasoned that since my father was a salesman, perhaps I had the gift as well. As the idea evolved from a premise to an assumption, I made an effort to refine and improve my ability to snow people. As I did, I also became aware of the importance of keeping my IQ a secret. Deceiving and keeping secrets from people is not a good way to build self-esteem.
And so, time passed and no one asked about my IQ, and I managed to get into and through a good secondary school, college and graduate school. With my MBA, I then got a job as a trainee at one of the best banks in the country. In due course, my superiors smiled on me I was promoted to Loan Officer. I received a formal letter of congratulations from the president of the bank, at the end of which he said I should report to the personnel office to complete the requisite paperwork. Henry Mower, a wonderful, helpful man, was the Vice President of Personnel who had convinced me to join the bank, but when he told me the paperwork included an intelligence test, I became visibly distressed. It didn't help that he assured me, "It's routine; certainly nothing you need to worry about."
Having no choice, I took their test. Then I waited for the bank psychologist to schedule a meeting to review the results with me. I don't know how it's done now but in those days only a licensed psychologist could interpret and deliver test scores. The morning of my appointment, I was so anxious I persuaded my wife to accompany me. To further help me deal with the anticipated exposure, I wore a bright yellow Merimeko tie.
The psychologist put on his half-lens glasses to read my results, then took them off and held them while explaining my score. "Well," he started, "I guess the first thing I should say is that you have a 140 IQ. That's genius level, high enough to get you into Mensa if you're inclined to that sort of thing." I leaned back in my chair, put my hands behind my head, stared at the man and smiled. Son of a gun, I thought, they must have mixed up tests. Either that or I've fooled them, too.
The psychologist went on to explain what it meant to have a high IQ. He said I could do things quicker than most people, but that the facility would have no real bearing on my success. He told me the president of the bank wasn't as intelligent as I was, but that he probably worked a lot harder. The point was that, he said leaning forward for emphasis, the determining factor in my success, as it was for everyone, would be my motivation and commitment, not my relatively high IQ.
At the end of our conversation, the psychologist said I might want to ask myself if I really wanted a career in banking. When I asked what had prompted his comment, he pointed the stem of his glasses at my tie. He explained that banking required a certain amount of decorum or conformity - after all, a banker's first responsibility was to protect his depositors' money - and if I wasn't willing to adopt a conservative lifestyle, beginning with my attire, perhaps I wasn't cut out for the field.
Between the psychologist's office and the elevator, I decided to disregard my first test score and believe the second. In the car, I kissed my wife and whispered in her ear, "Your husband is a genius."
I was 29, reborn as a genius. No, actually, my reaction has been more complicated than that. For the first six months, I did think of myself as a genius. If I thought about it while shaving, I might wink at my image in the mirror. But then, when I acknowledged that I couldn't accept the second score to the exclusion of the first, I decided the whole IQ thing was nonsense. Much later, in my fifties when I started reading the MIT psychologist, Howard Gardner, I agreed with his premise that there are a number of types of intelligence, none of which is easily measured. The only thing I can say with certainty about my intelligence is that since the seventh grade, when it comes to taking tests, I am well below average. My mother set up an external authority, that authority found me wanting, and I have never, to this day, recovered from it. I dread reaching the age when I have to retake the written portion of my driver's test.
Don't let other people tell you about who you are.
As children, we're told that we don't know anything, especially our place. But that's not true. We understand the world and our place in it. We understand that the universe is an amazing and mysterious place, far beyond our power to comprehend it. We intuit that life is an adventure and in order to get the most of the adventure we have to attend to, experience and appreciate as fully as we can.
In understanding this, we are above our thoughts about the world and our role in it. Those thoughts, conclusions and assumptions simply don't matter as much as our fascination and wonder. We dwell in "Wow!"? more than "Why?"? We listen without predisposition, motive or bias. And life listens to us in the same way. This is the essence of Transcendent Love, this quality of attention.
We know. And then we forget. As we grow up, we actually grow down, from transcendent to subordinate.
We forget that while the universe created us, upon our creation we thenceforth create the universe.
We forget that the stars we see are not really the stars, but their long, curved tails of light. We forget that we can't step into the same river twice. We forget that everything is like the stars and the river, constantly moving, changing, new and unique, always ahead of and different from what we perceive.
We forget that we are not two; that things are not separate and autonomous as they appear, but that all is related, of common origin, relative, complementary and, thus, connected. We forget that starlight depends on darkness, wet on dry, prickles on goo.
We forget that we try to stabilize our world by recreating it, by ignoring differences and assuming similarities, because our fear of the unknown causes us to want to experience things as patterned and coherent.
We forget that we name, associate and reason: we abstract. We kill with reductionism that we may live, thus reduced. We forget that whatever we say a thing is, it isn't; that the finger pointing at the moon is neither the moon nor the "finger."? We forget that our language makes us what we are, that we have a 10-cent vocabulary with which to describe $10 experiences of $100 events.
We forget that we're limited creatures, that we cannot know what's really going on here on Planet Earth. We cannot know what events really are because our senses are limited and biased by our environment – the environment to which they've adapted and within which they've evolved.
In the process of forgetting our limitations, we also forget that our assumptions are limited. The most absurd assumption is that of objectivity. We forget that events don't determine experiences, experiences determine events.
Forgetting how we're limited is one thing. To forget how we're limited is to forget content or what we're dealing with. It causes us to misinterpret events and respond inappropriately. But forgetting that we're limited is far more serious. To forget that we're limited is to forget context, our very nature. When you lose sight of who you are you cease being able to distinguish truth from falsehood, the real from the unreal, love from hatrid.
The philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, said "The present state of the world and the whole of life is diseased. If I were a doctor and asked my advice, I should say: Create silence."? Silence is the space in which we listen to ourselves, and it is by such listening that we remember.