Relativity, and my twin companions: death & abandonment
By the time I hit my early twenties, death was striking pretty hard at my immediate family. By my late thirties I was enrolled in martial arts.
My youngest sister had died in a gory school bus accident. My other sister died a premature death, suffering from extreme alcohol abuse.
After some years, my mother literally fell over dead on Easter Sunday morning during church services. She was seated at the church organ, and without warning she collapsed headfirst onto the organ keys on the last note of the song. My stepfather was steps away. He and my mom were guests in another church, invited to present some inspiring Easter music. He was busy singing a solo of God’s praises, while she was accompanying him on the organ… until she died at the very end of his song. The song was about escaping the suffering of earth, and joining the Lord in the rewarding heavenly realms. And just like that, she was off to be with the Lord. He died a few years later, joining her in heart issues. They were both still in their early sixties.
My natural father had abandoned us in the 1960s, a minister, who suddenly disappeared from our lives forever. By the time I was in my early forties, it was just my brother and me.
Decades later I discovered my natural father had died in his eighties. He had married twice since we had last seen him. Paradoxically, he had become known in his community as a guy who loved kids. He ended up being surrounded by people who called him Dad. The irony seemed a bit bleak, particularly since his first wife and two of his forgotten children had long preceded him in death. But, on the other hand, he had clearly found ways to excel at being a father.
My point is that death and abandonment had become familiar companions, long before I’d lived half my life.
So, while understandable, it still seemed rather odd when those close to me occasionally ruminated among themselves that these two foreboding companions of mine had permanently scarred both me and my brother. There was speculation that it had caused my brother and me to become psychologically imbalanced. And then, when we both became involved in consciousness research, the drumbeats of those gently spoken accusations became far noisier. Understandable, I suppose.
Our studies led us into the so-called spiritual realm, because consciousness is ultimately, after all, an exploration into the intangible, into the deeper reaches of the mind.
The intangible has, I discovered — as have many before me — a way of distilling how the mind thinks. It forces us to consider that things which seem absolute and certain are often relative and varied. If forces us to confront uncertainty, and to try to find stability in an utterly relativistic universe. Where anything can shape-shift, at any time.
This kind of ambiguity can be both unsettling and liberating. In the film ‘Contact,’ Jody Fosrer’s character experiences a heavy dose of this. How could she possibly explain what she had experienced? She couldn’t even begin. What she was able to articulate and share was a shadow of what she had experienced. And how could she possibly reconcile her experiences, and resulting fundamental changes in perspective, with everyday living? She couldn’t. She was left with the certainty of her experiences, in a world of science and so-called objectivity.
Similarly, mine became a world of paradox, intertwined with numerous, often unspeakable realizations. They were unspeakable because they were typically, confoundingly unrelatable.
Realizing the relativity of things often depends on perspective and circumstances, doesn’t it? And, disturbingly, it can also depend on the mind’s intention. It gives new meaning to the saying, “I think. Therefore, I am.”
The gnostic Gospel of Thomas states,
“Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all.”
This concept — that of being simultaneously disturbed and amazed — is one of the pitfalls and joys of explorations into consciousness.
Of course, as a young man I had no knowledge of such things. What I possessed at the time, however, were the personality characteristics and curiosites that would later drive me into deeper and deeper esoteric pursuits. Curiosity and initiative of the mind, present long before death and abandonment had invaded my family, were to become my lifelong twin companions.
And so, it was with this kind of unexercised mind and undeveloped curiosity, modestly packaged in a quiet, unassuming and skinny young man, that I had somehow surfaced in my first Jiu Jitsu class.