As I write this, I’m within a half hour of having had an illuminating experience that has suggested itself as a proper opening to what I hope is a humorous yet worthy series of thoughts about how I came to be where I am, in space, time, and being. Maybe it’s an ego trip, but what isn’t? At a minimum, I hope you have a few laughs, some insights, some “ah hah” moments, and enjoy the trip. I’m writing this for both of us, and I can hear my ego saying, perhaps for all of us.
I was taking what is now a daily walk around over a hundred rugged remote private acres which we are fortunate to live next to, on our own seven acres in a remote part of Santa Fe county. Usually I am with my dog Giordi, and we both look forward to it and enjoy each other’s company, although we are not always together on the walk. He likes to roam, and I like to go from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. I would like to be more like him.
I have several general routes I take (no paths, all is wilderness), and in two years Giordi and I have covered most of this area may times . Giordi of course is familiar with every blade of grass, rock, weed, scent, and other unknowable and sometimes disgusting things. Coyote scat seems to give him a special thrill. Today I decided to see if I could get lost and find my way back, knowing that this was not possible, but my Mind is a funny thing, sometimes untethered to what I call my Self.
And so, on a bright sunny day, I started my walk toward a very different area, changing my normal route, and was enjoying the seemingly new venues and views and different ways of seeing the territory. Nothing much seemed to be going on in my mind, all was pleasant, when I realized suddenly that I did not recognize where I was. I think the shrinks call it cognitive dissonance. Of course, I knew generally, but not specifically, where I was. I’m one of those people who is most comfortable surrounded by certainty, as many of us are.
This amused me, and I continued to walk, and I began to wonder if my experience was actually different this time. By this I mean: Was I actually seeing things the same and processing them differently, or was I in a different area all together, and where would I go to get back to where I started?
Then with a shock I realized that I did not recognize where I was, yet I knew I was okay, and it would turn out okay, and I had likely been here before, but just didn’t recognize it. It to me was weird and disturbing. It was an unexpected shift of consciousness in which the familiar became unfamiliar. I was uncomfortable but intrigued.
I thought I’d extend the experience as long as possible, and wandered thoughtlessly - as much as possible - in many “weird” directions toward places that looked somewhat familiar (same type of scenery), but were totally new experiences for me. I became excited and fearful at the same time, my thoughts raced to all the possibilities and results of being lost, and at having become temporarily disoriented. Was something else at play and was I really lost, although I knew I could not possibly be? My mind bounced around, and I sought to extend the experience, and at the same time wondered if I were finally losing my mind, or was something else going on? It was exciting and a bit unsettling to this engineer steeped in data, information, logic, and certainty.
This sort of thing continued for a while, and I at last realized I knew where I was, and to my amazement had the most depressing feeling at that realization: All the wonder and joy and excitement of the new places were gone, and I was back to the same old bliss I had always experienced.
I was disappointed, and sought to regain what I had lost – that early bliss. I actually mostly regained that previous feeling, and continued the walk for quite a while, deliberately going where I had thought I had never gone, and it all seemed totally new to me, the excitement began to build, until I came out to a place I knew that I knew.
But I was no longer disappointed, and wondered: Could a person actually live their whole life that way, and if so, what would that mean? Would any one even want to?
As I re-read what I have just written, the words make little sense to me in describing my thoughts jumping around, yet they came pouring out of me, into what was left of my mind, with a great sense of profound wonder and uncertainty. It actually seemed as if I had entered an alternate universe, which once experienced, alters one’s sense of reality and perception forever after.
Some might call this enlightenment, some might call it silly or crazy or childlike, and I think it was all of those.
Now I am what Werner Erhard (founder of “est”, or just Google him) used to call a “smart rat,” in that I have figured out a way through the maze of life (as laboratory rats are used in experiments to see how fast they can get out of a maze), and was pretty good at it until I abruptly realized I was still a rat, albeit an educated smart one. The operative phrase here is “smart rat in a maze” in case you miss my point.
If you have already put down the book by now, too bad. It might get more interesting.