Power always makes a cubic centimetre of chance available to a Warrior. The Warrior’s art is to be perennially fluid in order to pluck it.
Carlos Castaneda, “The Wheel of Time”, Penguin Books, Middlesex, England. ISBN 0 140 19604 8, page139.
Situations are essentially neutral, says Eric, it is up to us how we choose to perceive them. We can either become all self important and offended by them or see them as great possibilities for learning. In order to do this one has to be fluid and flow with an evolving situation. He reckons that if you let your intuition rather than your thinking guide you, then the flow of the universe conspires with you, in a helpful way. In this Chautauqua then, there has been fate and destiny and so much more already, that is not rational in the traditional sense and perhaps it is time to come back to the present for a while.
Yesterday evening I found myself waiting to have my nuclei flipped so that they could do a magnetic resonance image of my carotid arteries and my brain. They are looking for an explanation about why I lost consciousness in a meeting a few weeks back. Two nice gentle men and a lady ushered me into a lab like environment and asked me a series of questions to find out if I had any metal in my body. Then I lay for around about an hour, in a white plastic tunnel, trying not to move and so very aware of my breathing and, as soon as they advised me about swallowing, the build up of saliva in my mouth. I am quite large framed so the sides of the tunnel were very, very close. I could feel the cool plastic and the air, dry and artificial, being pumped over me. It was a space age meditation bed.
I was Harry Palmer in the Ipcress File as the machine whirred and buzzed all around me. The fields were switching the spin polarisation of my hydrogen nuclei. I wondered how this might be used for torture, specifically for a claustrophobic technophobe. I thought of how I had always hated enclosed spaces, perhaps the genetic legacy of those who come from a mining stock. I remembered how my grandfather had spoken of two feet seams and wondered just how he had managed to get the coal back from the face. How different this must be the clinical white and light, versus the dark dusty black hell he went to every day; and on how far I had come to lie still and not panic in such a space.
When I came out the ghostly spiral staircases of arteries twirled on the screen; that white ephemera was what carries the blood of this organism to my brain. Udon and soba, carrying the life force to my cortex. The operator moved the image around with his mouse rotating the arterial semaphore on the screen, some crazy French sixties art that might hold a clue, for me.
Standing up I was so very conscious of my size and now even today, no longer constrained, I feel in someway larger. Earlier in the day I had taken some of my blood and looked at it under a microscope. I watched the cells gather at the edge of the droplets, line up, elongate and clot. My blood, thicker than normal with a high red blood cell count, seemed to self organise right there on the slide. No power within directing it, they all knew what to do. They lined up as if to close a wound, they elongated and formed a barrier to the outside world and as time went on dried hard and fast. That stuff, there on the slide, is the same stuff as is in the white noodles. That stuff carries the oxygen that drives the factory of this organism.
Two days then to wait. Two days for a man on the other side of the world, to look at the images and let me know if all is OK. Two days to find out whether that dream of tumour has any reality on the physical plane. And, there is nothing that I can do about it, nothing.
So let’s continue with the Chautauqua. Eric and I have been mulling over stories quite a lot recently and he reminds me of the stories that I have told and that a lie told often enough becomes the truth. He says that people like stories, a narrative of a life so that they can make a sense of that life, so that they can bind you to that story. In effect people conspire with each other to build stories and present them to each other. People have his-story or her-story and that these are so much more self limiting than is easily imagined.
These stories tell us what is and isn’t appropriate to behave like within a given context and do not allow us to change. They keep us fixed and by focussing intent on the maintenance of these, they become stronger and more concretised. For example there are many stereo types and perhaps I could be one; a science academic for example, if I don’t behave as you might expect then you might get a little confused or even hoity-toity. Inherent in stereotype are expectations and discrimination. Eric says that we should point out that stereo has a feeling of both or two about it. In that if, because of lack of knowledge about me, you stereotype me as a nutty professor and then I act out the role of nutty professor, then we are acting in stereo. He says that stereotype comes a little way after archetype and both have some use in simplification and metaphor, yet these all limit.
His-story is something that we tell ourselves about our lives and each one has usually a small number of over-arching themes, which act as a synopsis for the outer presentation of a life, in a rather clever trick of self deceit. If I tell you my story often enough, you cannot help but relate to me in the context of that story, we then both conspire in the creating of a myth about a life and our interactions. Eric says that the majority of people get very uncomfortable when they can’t pin you down; at least to some extent and that they will go to massive perceptual lengths to make an interaction fit with the story related data they have on file, even to the extent of not seeing what is actually happening.
He reminds me of the fun we had when I first started eating steak in front of people after being such an evangelical, pain in the ass, vegan. From plastic shoes to medium rare was quite a leap both for me and others.
We all of us invest, sometimes quite heavily, in our personal his-story and continue to do so even when we know, deep down, that the bank is going to crash. We get more elaborate in our guise. As a child people always used to assume that I was shy, so I became shy. It was well practised and to an extent it suited me. It gave people an explanation why I always wanted time on my own. In time though it became a bit of a burden, people started to feel sorry for me. Their story and my story had caught up with me.
Eric points out that I have invested heavily in believing that there is such a thing as the Warrior’s path and this then in itself, is part of my personal history and if I truly practise the technique of not doing then I must not believe there is such a thing and that the whole shenanigan is illusion. The biggest theme of my personal history is that I am a little different from others and that somehow I don’t fit in with the world. This is my “precious”. It is a core story that I tell myself. I think that I first started telling myself this when I was six or seven.
I have tried and tried to fit in, yet I don’t seem to have the same needs and wants as others. Together we joke about the chameleon that blends with the background so as not so do the sore thumb. I did this to such an extent that I had no idea what the hell it was that I wanted or needed or desired. This too then is part of my personal his story; the karma chameleon searching for that ever elusive place where he might actually belong and fit. I thought I had it once.
Then, the seer said to me that I would loose everything that I loved. His perception about what I actually did love is retrospectively a little off the mark, perhaps though he knew at the moment of his utterance and it was what he actually meant when he said it. My apparent world then did fall apart.
Everyone has a precious and if you, in what ever circumstance, no longer share that precious and walk away, you have given yourself a stigma in the eyes of others. They cannot and will not understand your choice. People spend an inordinate amount of time building up a precious and assume that you must be doing the same. When you do the “sand castle” and bring it all down, they find it difficult to forgive you; you become the wastrel prodigal son blessed by gifts which when examined by you seemed hollow and are discarded. Those gifts were perhaps never truly given to you anyway, only loaned for another purpose, no one can really own anything.
In some cases the level of emotional black mail used to hinder one in an action that challenges the fabric of their precious world is high and people will hate you if you don’t buy it. On a recent course I gave for Ph.D. students, there was I, the ex-academic at a famous university, who has packed it all in, and done a Reggie Perrin, well almost. There they were aspiring towards admission into a higher degree of the arcane school of concrete thought. And they, they wanted me to still teach Chemical Kinetics.
My not “buying in” makes me heretic and as I have mentioned these are rarely welcome. The prodigal son is never truly welcome back at the ranch. The expat no longer really fits in when they go home. People can tell all sorts of stories once someone has gone, as long as the subject does not dare to come back and cause them to look closely at the facts by the means of his presence. In absence people can paint a more glorious rôle for them selves than they would dare do otherwise, inventing a new history with all the droit de seigneur of the victor to take advantage over the truth and, in so doing, tarnish it.
Now, I am pretty much away from all outside influences and there is perhaps a chance to not be the chameleon, to find that true authentic self where I do not need to please. For that also is a part of my his story, the one where I need to serve and please, to be a good boy and not upset the boat; though all my life I have in the end done this, upset the boat, even though I profess to the contrary. I have not been reason-able.
Eric reckons that there are two sure fire signs that people are trying to manipulate and that is requests to be helpful and to be reasonable. “Please be reasonable.” In an institutional context is an attempt to get one to buy into the norms of the institution and has behind it the threat of; “Look if you don’t do this you won’t be a part of the gang.” It is asking you to support someone or something else’s precious, to conspire with a personal, group or institutional history which is an outward laundered spin. Someone somewhere is making money, enhancing their reputation or whatever here; the unwashed clothes are kept well out of sight.
Eric reminds me of how I decided to leave the spin out company I co-founded; I threw them a curve ball. When we first started I had shares of a paper value of £2 million. The value of these was eroded through various investment rounds until it came to the last round. All the while various capital firms and people within the company were looking at things from a perspective of how to get as much wealth as possible from the company, and from a basis of fear and greed. I said that I wanted only my original £500 back and that the company had ceased for me to be an affair of the heart.
I said this just prior to a major fund raising, one of the major shareholders, me, had said that these shares had no value for him and that he no longer shared the values of the people running the company. In the end I met with the chairman and I settled for a larger amount. People were unwilling to believe what I did and why I walked away. It was the interaction with these people that was causing me to behave in a way that drained me and dragged me down, by having to watch my back all the time and use tactics similar to them, I was becoming like them and had begun to hate myself for it.
The promise of potential wealth hung over me as a cloud, preventing me from moving forward, that green field of sterling silver always there at the rainbows end as a back stop and I was vulnerable because of it. I let it go. I walked away. I was very unreasonable. It saved my life.
What then if the last vestiges of my precious are the concept that there is such a thing as the Warrior’s path and that for a short time I journeyed with those walking the same path. How much of what I have invested in all those choices would I have to let go of?
What if there is no Warrior’s path?
Eric says that people are very, very scared of asking big questions. The implications of truly big questions are truly big answers that change a whole way of being. People’s preciouses don’t like them to do that so they get the people to rig up all sorts of reasons why they can’t look at the precious. The first line of defence starts with that river in Egypt the Nile, or in other words denial. The precious tells us that we don’t have a precious at all, that we are rational deep thinking human beings.
Every one has a precious and in a strange way it is linked to self image and can act as a cornerstone to a life, an anchor in a sometimes turbulent sea. Even if people don’t really like their precious they cling to it, a familiar precious is so much more comfortable than no precious at all, just ask Gollum.
One of the many semi precious that I had was that people actually cared about me, bringing us sharply back to the 99% rule. I guess it has always been pretty difficult to get a grip on a fluxional person, the karma chameleon. It is a funny thing that I now place the responsibility for this on me. Why is that then?
What then are the big questions for me? I know them well and Eric reckons we should ask the I Ching about facing them.
So, to the I Ching!
“Please comment on facing directly my big questions.”
Chên below and Chên above; hence we have Chên, the arousing (Shock, Thunder).
There are no changing lines.
The commentary adds that the movement is so violent that it arouses terror.
Shock brings success
Shock comes – Oh!Oh!
The shock terrifies for a hundred miles,
And he does not let fall the sacrificial spoon and chalice.
Thunder repeated: the image of shock
Thus in fear and trembling
The superior man sets his life in order
And examines himself.
I Ching or Book of Changes, Richard Wilhelm Translation, Arkana Penguin Group, Middlesex England, ISBN 0 140 019207 7, page 197.
Thus there is a sense of the superior man keeping calm amidst all of the storms and rage and bowing to the will of Heaven. This has the potential to unzip everything and change my personal history, for ever. I must face those big questions.