Excerpt from Missed Perceptions: Challenge Your Thoughts Change Your Thinking
Living Life's Mystery
I was coming to the end of a best selling novel and knew what was going to happen. The villains were about to get their come-uppence. The downtrodden would be released from the oppression of their persecutors. The meek were about to inherit the earth and the nice guys to get rewarded. I knew all this as soon as the characters and their dilemmas were introduced. Yet, I kept reading through the five hundred or so pages that remained in the book.
Why bother? It certainly wasn't for the beauty of the writing, which was functional rather than beautiful. In fact, it often annoyed me with its repetition of phrases, as if the author periodically ran out of words. It wasn't for the plot, which was obvious and fulfilled its predictability to the last page. Ironically, I kept reading for the mystery.
This was not a who-done-it for me; it was a how-done-it. The how was not the practical how of the plot. The author made that clear with each line. For me, the value of the book was in the how of the spirit. How low was the antagonist willing to go to achieve her self-serving purpose? How strongly could the protagonist hold to her ideals? How would the numerous other characters impact on the main players? How could I apply their lessons to the passage through the pages of my own life? It made me realize that all authors, regardless of their genre, are essentially mystery writers investigating the mystery of the universe.
And what an intriguing mystery it is! Even in the most benign settings where there is no crime, where nothing seems to be happening, there is mystery. What is the link that connects us with each other, with all life? What animates us into existence and releases us out of it? How come, in the vastness of the earth's populace, no two people express the exact same vision? How do we each understand and interpret our purpose of being?
As science progresses, many of the physical mysteries are becoming opened for exploration. The genome project provided a microscopic map of the DNA that delineates a human being. From that, scientists are already discovering gene markers for diseases like diabetes and Alzheimerís disease. Will medical treatment become less drug-oriented as we learn to cut and splice genes? What will be the effect on the economy? How will the population of the earth change? Will we be creating different kinds of people? Will we need to reexamine our concept of aging? This is a dynamic mystery with clues that would have been considered a madmanís ravings not so long ago.
Outer space and deep sea explorations have resulted in an awareness of the possibility of life as we don't know it, that is, in a redefinition of what constitutes life. Tiny thread-like cell fossils discovered in the fiery core of the earth bring into question our determination of when life began. All this doesn't solve the mystery but rather adds dimension to it. We are opening the door of the universe crack by cosmic crack. The light that shines outward through that crack merely indicates how much more light there is yet to be seen.
Science deals with that sliver of light, but it may be the mystics who are able to walk through the opening because they don't see the door to begin with. Throughout the millennia, mystics have been revered and feared. They dared to see the light behind the door to universal awareness. Often that required the use of esoteric rituals and knowledge that was transmitted from master to disciple. There have always been those, however, who have worked through the mysteries on their own. Zen Buddhists seek enlightenment through disciplined meditation. Some find prayer, both formally prescribed through specific religions and informally through individual practice, a way to cross the threshold. Many of us have insights into the mystery in the brief flashes of insight that impinge upon our consciousness. They might be frightening for some, exhilarating for others. There have been ages of enlightened thought and periods when the door has been slammed shut and bolted.
And so, the questions keep coming as the mystery continues.
How can we know, for example, without the benefit of caller ID that a specific friend is calling before we answer the phone? It is a common experience but it defies common sense. Where are the wires, the channels, the satellites, the pathways that allow thought to be transferred from one person to another?
How is it possible that when we need something, it presents itself to us? A friend needed a match to complete a craft project but could not find one. She looked throughout the house but there were no matches to be had. In the mail that day, she found a free sample of a lighter, from a company she never heard of, without any promotional material. No one in her family smoked so she was not on any tobacco company lists. She figured it was the universe answering her call and happily completed the project with the use of the mysterious lighter.
How is it that our lives seem orchestrated in ways that become apparent only after all the music of the individual sections play together? It is odd how the different aspects of our lives are in concert with each other while we are consciously unaware of it. Dreams give us symbolic clues to be deciphered. Chance encounters direct us onto paths we didn't know existed. Extreme pain in one area opens up incredible joy in another. In retrospect, the dreams make perfect sense, the encounters are understood, and the pain becomes a blessing, an unexpected, although not necessarily welcome, introduction into unsuspected strengths. All seem parts of a cohesive, if unobservable, whole.
How do the right people find us when we are in need of answers? There is an expression from Yoga that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. The mystery being, just who is a teacher? The universal concept of teacher is much broader than our states certify as qualified. A teacher is anyone who has great influence on our lives. If we are open to learning, anyone can be our teacher; a professor, a baby, a homeless person, a stranger, a recalcitrant child, a cashier in the supermarket, a drug addict, a bully are all qualified teachers for the right situation.
And the universe being what it is, mysterious, it makes no distinction between people and nonpeople as teachers. Can a thing teach us when it is inanimate? Why not? Illness is often cited as a great learning experience. It needn't even be a thing. Haven't we all been given messages through our feelings? Intuition registers in gut feelings and other nontangible awarenesses. When we evaluate the information passed on through our varied physical sources and reap the consequences in pleasant or unpleasant ways, we learn to trust those sensations.
Each day is an episode in the mini-series of life. Some see it as a comedy, some respond to it as tragedy. For others it is a gothic romance or perhaps a self-help manual. For me, it remains an exquisite mystery. The truly good mysteries have lots of red herrings thrown in, diversions that draw oneís attention from the salient clues, as our daily activities tend to do. What is really important?
It comes back to the "how." How do we recognize the diversions and how do we deal with them? Or is life itself the diversion from something else, a cosmic red herring? How do we feel about that?
Perception Challenge # 13
Write Your Own Novel
Everyone has his or her own book inside, being written daily. We frequently donít recognize it as we are so wrapped up in the drama of living. People often assume that writersí characters are the writers themselves. That is partly true because we write what we have assimilated through experience. But we also use that experience to make up characters and try out different personalities, to step back from life and observe. One trick novelists use to bring distance to their subject is to change the facts of their characters. Male becomes female, young becomes old, perky becomes petulant. We can use this trick to cast light on our own stories.
Try this. Next time you find yourself in an emotional situation, pretend you are a writer and that the problem is happening to one of your characters. How would that character solve it? Then give the problem to another character with a different personality and perspective and see how that one resolves it. Does looking through other eyes help you get insight into your dilemma?