40 Year Anniversary
Today is the 40 year anniversary of the final zlooping of those strange tubes in the back of my head.
It's a wierd thing to celebrate, I must say, but a bookstore in England asked me for anniversary dates, and came up with this one. Does one sing happy anniversary to silence … in silence? Candles maybe: "true light to true light" as the Nicean creed has it?
What it does get me thinking about though is the effect of something like this. What it was was the beginning of a life.
It was the start of a lifetime of being silence at some level. Founded there was silence. And the silence in itself never did change. But its breadth into my life changed. What began quite localized in the back of my skull grew and grew, experientially "taking over" the back half of my head, then the whole noggin after, what 15 years? Eventually it spread out beyond my skin like a glow or aura of a foot or two. At some pont I could not sense an end to it.
Then, of course, it found its way into the world, becoming a kind of connective tissue between me and trees or yellow shafter flickers, and eventually even a city landmark like Madison Square Garden. Again, to get a sense for this, read Enlightenment Ain't… all very interesting. All very fetching.
But as I sit here today, 40 years later, what I am most aware of is not the silence itself. That becomes the new norm so consistent as to be boringly there. No what I'm aware of is that that transformation became the orienting basis of my whole life. For better and for worse.
It led to a curiosity about my own life. It led to graduate school and endless papers. It led to a fascination with such experiences, and experiences like them. It led to some 10 books and teaching and delivered papers and … well you get the idea.
But in leading there, it led away Away from the paper business I could have inherited. It led away from doing music, which could have been an interesting life. It led away from my natal Judaism (which was never as oriented towards the mystical, though I learned of Kabbalah much later). It led towards a financially more modest life, but a life of more introversion and reflection than I might have otherwise known.
And it led towards friendships I cannot imagine developing. Spiritual experiences of this consistency and depth call for relationships of similar depth. As the book says someplace, Silence beckons, ever so slightly, always towards depth. It challenges us to let go of every lie we tell ourselves. It calls us to conceal nothing, no secrets from ourselves. And then it beckons some more towards the authentic, towards the real.
“Don’t give up,” it whispers. “Don’t stop until you’re entirely open. No kidding, don’t quit.”
And so I have learned to love, probably more deeply than i would have known how, otherwise. I have found depth of friendships and colleague-ship and loves that I can't imagine discovering in some other life I might have lived.
But it has meant that I write books that probably concern issues that aren't for everyone, and ask questions that sound pretty peculiar to most folks, and look for contact and vulnerability that might be embarrassing to most folks.
40 years. If nothing else, it's been an interesting fulcrum for a life.