More Than Meets The I
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
William Blake, Auguries of Innocence
Kurt has always had a crush on me, ever since I met him two years ago. He's seen me through relationship after relationship. He's really a great friend, and he's always been there for me. I'd be lying if I said I don't have feelings for him, but I've told him repeatedly that he's just not my type.
That's one of those ambiguities that most people wouldn't pick up on, but he asked for me to explain what I actually meant by my "type." I was a romantic, and I was waiting for my Prince Charming. I wanted to be swept off my feet. The truth is, I never really knew what my "type" was. That's when I had the dream.
I finally met the man of my dreams. Unfortunately, he was literally the man of my dreams, or better said, he was the man in my dream. I never met him in reality, but when I closed my eyes that night, I met him. He was so real. When I woke up, I began crying when I realized that it was only a dream. I had to face the pain of losing someone I love, without ever really being in love. All the burden and none of the benefit.
Finally, though, I had an answer for Kurt when he asked what I mean by my type: a tough, rugged, sophisticated man in a uniform, just like the one in my dream. Kurt was not tough, not rugged, and definitely not sophisticated. Being a struggling, unemployed poet, he hardly passes for a man in uniform. Kurt is the sweetest man I've ever met, but he simply isn't the man in my dream.
That dream was so real. That man was so real. I had to find him. I'll spare you the heart-rending details of the search that ensued, dating one cop after another, having my heart broken, and knocking on Kurt's door, crying.
I eventually became fascinated by the topic of dreams. I wanted an answer to my burning question: where is the man in my dream? I started reading books on the subject. I started with the strictly technical discourses, which talked quite a bit about the R.E.M. stage of sleeping, and the devastating effects that the lack of this state has on an individual's mental health. It was all very fascinating, but my answer was not there.
Then I began hunting down slightly more esoteric readings, everything from hallucination and hypnosis to tarot cards and astrology. All any of it ever did was confuse me even more. I finally decided that I needed some direction.
I found a psychologist by the name of Dr. Robert Reynolds, who specialized in dream psychology. I had several sessions with him. He started out by trying to convince me not to take the dream so seriously. "It was just a dream," he would say. Finally, he started sounding redundant, so he decided that I was going to stick to my guns--this dream was something I wanted to figure out.
This was when Dr. Reynolds decided to try hypnotherapy. He discovered that I was easily hypnotized but the first session was fairly uneventful. We explored my childhood, and found nothing of interest there. We explored some of my dreams, but we never managed to pull up the dream in question. When we parted that day, I agreed to maintain a detailed log of my dreams.
I told Kurt all about the hypnosis. He was pretty intrigued by the whole concept, and he said that he wanted to try it. I told him that it's not a ride at an amusement park. "It's serious stuff," I told him, "intended to solve serious problems."
"I know that," he said. "I have a problem that I want solved."
"What possible problem could you have?" I asked. "You won't find a job with it."
"Very funny," he replied. "I don't want to tell you the problem because you'll misunderstand it."
I pressed him to tell me what it was, but he continued to refuse. I started getting frustrated. I began raising my voice, something I rarely do with him. "We're best friends!" I yelled. "We're supposed to tell each other everything!"
"I know we are," he told me. "I will tell you eventually. Now is not the time."
I wasn't satisfied, but I knew I wasn't going to win, so I gave up.
A week later, I was back at the hypnosis again. This time we nailed it. I found the man in my dream. Since I was under the direction of the doctor, he was able to intentionally pull out some aspects which I missed when I had the dream. The reason is simple, he told me later. In my dream, I was busy falling in love, but under hypnosis, the intention was to extract details about this mysterious man.
Unfortunately, I was in pretty bad shape when he took me out of hypnosis. At first, I was resistant. Finally, when I came to, I began crying uncontrollably. It took me several minutes before I started to recover. I told him that I never want to experience that again. Being with the love of your life and then repeatedly, forcibly being torn away has got to be some psychologists' twisted idea of Hell.
He agreed not to take me into that dream anymore, but he said that the session did bear fruit. "You provided several details of his personality, which I wrote down."
I looked at his notepad, and I read the description of the man in my dream. I know this person. This perfectly describes someone I know. It can't be true. The person I described in the dream is Kurt.
I told my doctor this, and he said that it's important that he meet Kurt, and maybe even hypnotize him as well.
"You're in luck," I told him. "Kurt has expressed interest in also trying hypnosis."
I was pretty upset by this whole thing. This was supposed to be about me. About me and my dream, not Kurt. Nevertheless, I gave Kurt the doctor's number. Of course, I never told him about the details protruded from the dream.
The next week, the doctor was excited to see me. "Your friend Kurt is a very interesting case," he told me. "He too is extremely easy to hypnotize. When I hypnotized him, I asked him to describe himself and instead of doing so, he described a man in uniform, much like the one in your dream."
"I get it now," I said. "Kurt is playing a game. He's trying to win my heart by convincing me that he is in fact the man in my dream."
"I doubt that's true. I'm a very experienced hypnotherapist, and I can tell when someone is faking it. This was a very real perception of himself."
This is getting too weird. "How can this be explained?" I asked.
"I'm an extremely objective scientist," he said. "I never use fabricated theories to explain rational occurrences. Sometimes, things occur which are not rational. The only theory that can explain a case like Kurt's is reincarnation."
I asked him for more information, but he told me that he's done all that he can. He's a doctor, and he does not believe in reincarnation, so he refused to continue this line of reasoning any further.
But I did want to continue that line of reasoning. I joined a group of people who all claim to have past lives. Most of them were pretty silly and unbelievable, but I was able to get the number of a reincarnation specialist by the name of Marcie.
I called her, and she was happy to see me. When I met with her, she immediately insisted that she wanted to see Kurt. I told Kurt about this, and he agreed to go.
"Is now the time that you can tell me what problem you went to see Dr. Reynolds about?" I asked.
He fidgeted for a bit and finally answered. "The problem was that I've always felt like more than one person. A part of me was a poet, but another part of me had an overwhelming urge to bring justice to the world. This part of me wanted to be," he hesitated for a second and avoided my eyes, "a cop."
"See," he said, "I knew you wouldn't believe me. After hearing about your dream, I couldn't tell you about this part of me, because I knew you wouldn't believe me. I knew you'd think I had ulterior motives."
Well, I brought him to see Marcie. She put him under hypnosis and I sat and watched, with Kurt's permission. Sure enough, he described himself exactly as the man in my dream. He knew details about this man that I never told him, that he couldn't have known, things that I never told anyone, things that I kept completely to myself.
"What is your name?" she asked. He hesitated for a bit, then he began to studder. "Tu, Tom. Thomas, lu, Linburg," he answered. She also picked up on things like news stands. She asked him what the date was on the newspapers, but he had trouble reading it from the distance he was at. "What is the name of the newspaper?" she asked. "Um, New York Times," he replied.
When Marcie took Kurt out of hypnosis, she said that this might be a case of reincarnation. She sent us to the library in search of a man on the NYPD named Thomas Linburg. We found nothing.
We returned to Marcie, dejected. "That's quite alright," she said. "A lack of information tells us just as much as information, sometimes more."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"It may be that there has never been a cop in New York by the name of Thomas Linburg," she replied.
Now I'm really confused.
"I have a theory that reincarnation spans much farther than mere individual past lives," she explained. "It could be possible that Thomas Linburg is in fact not a single person, but a collection of people, all of whom make up Kurt. I am in contact with several spiritual gurus who agree with me on this theory and were able to greatly expound on it. The theory is this: we are all connected on a very basic level, at a level much deeper than most of us ever dare to explore. I have learned of several ways of unmasking this level.
"People have used meditation for centuries as a means of unmasking this level, but they're barely able to scratch the surface. I've spent my life researching this, and have been able to devise several methods for completely unmasking this level. The experience lasts for only a few seconds, but it feels like hours. The insight gained from the experience is profound, to say the least.
"The key ingredient is a root which the indigenous cultures of Mexico and the American Southwest used for generations, called peyote. I discovered it when I first read the words of William Blake: 'If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.' This describes perfectly the gist of my research. Subsequently, I found a book by Aldous Huxley called The Doors of Perception which introduced me to peyote and its active principle, mescalin.
"Of course, mescalin is only a catalyst. What actually brings about the experience are the various methods I've devised, which I've called 'cleansing,' paying homage to William Blake. The methods all appear on the surface to be various forms of meditation, but I assure you that a lot of research and much trial and error has gone into these practices. They're far more effective than traditional meditation.
"Unfortunately, the process is not easy, nor quick. First of all, there are several methods because there isn't a single method which works for everyone, so it will take some trial and error to discover which method is right for you. Second of all, the timing for the mescalin is crucial. Introducing it before the subject is experienced and disciplined in their abilities to cleanse their conscious perceptions will be extremely ineffective, and possibly even detrimental. Without the discipline of the cleansing, it would feel like a very confusing hallucination. It takes a very long time to find the right cleansing technique and master it, usually at least a year or two, sometimes even longer. If you really want to understand your dream, this is the best way to do it. It will take a lot of time, but it's worth it."
We tried all of these methods, but they all seemed extremely boring, and didn't seem to bring forth any understanding. Marcie continued to assure us that we were making progress, so Kurt and I decided to work at the cleansing. We spent weeks on it, to no avail, and we considered giving up. We spent months on it, and we considered giving up. We spent three and a half years on it, but we never gave up.
A lot can happen in three and a half years. I completely forgot about my obsession with that silly dream, and I definitely gave up my fetish for rugged men in uniform. Looking back, it all seems very childish. I was living in a fantasy world, brought on by the cinema, instigated by Disney. I began to realize that there's no such thing as Prince Charming. He doesn't exist, and even if he did, he would be pretty boring. How many glass slippers can you have? How many pumpkin carriages can you ride in? Nothing ever ends "happily ever after," and these fairy tales always conveniently leave out the details of "ever after." When all is said and done, you have to live with your Prince Charming. My tough, rugged, sophisticated Prince Charmings in uniform were always very exciting at first, but my "ever after" was never very happy.
Through working with Kurt, after doing the cleansing exercises with him every single day, I began to appreciate him far more than my mystery man in uniform. Slowly, I started realizing that Kurt was everything I had always wanted in a man. The only thing he wasn't was a mystery man from my dreams. I always had feelings for him, but I always suppressed them. Slowly, I stopped suppressing them, and I realized that I had fallen madly in love with him a long time ago.
When I finally expressed this to him, his reaction was very unexpected. "I knew that all along," he said. "I was just waiting for you to realize it yourself."
Three and a half years after our first cleansing practice, we began to experience some very odd sensations. I was attuned to everything: the air on my skin, the noises outside, my breathing, Kurt's breathing. After a while of this, I became so attuned that I sensed that there was an ant crawling across the room.
Startled, I opened my eyes. Kurt opened his at the exact same time. Our eyes darted to the corner of the room, and sure enough, there was our ant.
"It was amazing," I told Marcie. "Not only did I sense the ant, but so did Kurt, at the exact same moment in time."
Marcie wasn't nearly as surprised or scared as I was. In fact, she seemed extremely pleased. She told us to keep working at it, and when we experience such things, she said we should embrace it instead of fearing it.
It kept happening. One time we were able to sense that there was a bee outside, even though the window was closed. I stopped being scared and I decided to follow the bee. I was able to feel it buzzing all around the house, and eventually, back to the hive.
When we told Marcie about this, she smiled. "I think it's time for the mescalin," she said. "What you've been experiencing is only a surface glimpse of what you will experience with the mescalin. You have learned to open the doors of perception, but what is inside is very deep indeed. Too deep to see with the naked eye. Think of the mescalin as a pair of binoculars. Like binoculars, mescalin is only a magnification tool. They allow you to see much deeper than you could before, but the actual seeing is done by you. The main work is what you've been doing for the last three and a half years. You know how to cleanse the doors of perceptions, and now you're about to see what's inside."
We ingested the mescalin and began our cleansing practice. What followed was the most astounding experience of my life.
First of all, we became connected. We were experiencing all the same sensations, feeling the same things, seeing the same images go through our heads.
We no longer felt like ourselves. We felt as though we were living the lives of other people, all of whom somehow made up this character that Kurt called Thomas Linburg. We didn't just experience parts of their lives, we experienced all of them, from birth until death. Once they began dying, then things became even more interesting. We began living lives of non-human organisms--plants, trees, insects, dogs, badgers, even viruses.
Then our sense of time disappeared, much like what William Blake wrote: "hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour." With our sense of time falling away like skins of an onion, our minds became flooded with everything that is living or has once lived. We found ourselves connected to billions of Thomas Linburgs of various names, all over the planet, all the way from ancient times to present day. We realized that our experience as Thomas Linburg was more than just a single person.
Then our sense of separation disappeared. By this point, there was no such thing as Thomas Linburg. Names were meaningless, for they depend on separation. Names are used to identify separate things, but this is a great hoax. The boundaries between these things are arbitrary, and our assignment of these names depend on perception alone. In this stage, this perception disappeared, and there were no separations. Everything was a single organism, living and breathing, and it was nameless.
We were in a constant flux, perpetually changing form. It has no center. It is a web of interconnected forms. Many humans think that they are the center of it, the controller of it, but nothing could be further from the truth. Humans are just as connected to it as all the other forms. Humans are formed from proteins, from carbon, taken, or more accurately, borrowed from past life forms which have decayed. Then they die and the cycle starts all over again.
We weren't merely experiencing this cycle, we were experiencing the process as a whole. It was all just one big system, always a human, always a plant, always a tree, always a virus, each form changing into each other. In fact, at this stage, there was no such thing as a separate human. We no longer saw skin as a boundary. At this level, there is no place where the skin ends and the air begins. From this perspective, there is no such thing as birth and death. Everything is merely changing forms.
In our next stage, we realized that this was not a large process by any means. In fact, it's quite the opposite. It is a small process, the smallest actually. This is happening at every level. Every atom, every electron, proton, and neutron all have this process within them. Everything is formed from this process, living or otherwise. We began to feel ourselves not only as a part of all life, but as rocks, dirt, water, stars, and comets. We also felt ourselves as steel, plastic, glass, buildings, airplanes, cars, and computers--these all come from the same source, and are not less natural than anything else. Humans have influence in shaping their environment, just as birds do when they build nests. At this stage of our meditation, we felt the unity of everything, living or otherwise, and we realized that there is no boundary between "natural" and "artificial." In this stage, all is part of the same process. It's all one thing, merely changing forms at a constant rate.
We went from that small process inherent in atoms and electrons into an even smaller one, infinitesimally small. We were smaller than humans could ever dream of measuring. Even at this level, we were just as complex as when we started. Our size was actually meaningless. Small and big are just perceptions--they are entirely subjective. At this stage, it made much more sense to say that we were getting infinitesimally small and infinitely large at the same time. We saw the world in a grain of sand.
Next we felt all of this within ourselves. This entire process was happening within every single part of our bodies--our brains, arms, legs, feet, fingers. It was in the blood in our veins; it was in the neurons in our brains. It was in each and every cell in our bodies. We saw each cell as an entire factory, itself living and changing forms. There were billions of these little factories in our bodies, all serving their own ends, but working together they are unintentionally serving our bodies. Some cells, which were cancerous, worked to destroy our bodies, and we saw antigens attacking them, flushing them from our bodies.
We saw that this is actually how our entire universe functions. We are all living cells within a living body, each of us constantly changing forms. We are each serving our own ends, but working together we are also unintentionally serving our host, this great body of which we are all a part. Some of us are like cancer cells, working to destroy our host, and sure enough, we see several antigens being released to flush these rogue cells: disease, famine, social disorder, rape, murder, hatred, war. Each of these are antigens working to blind us and incapacitate us so these cells may no longer serve as a threat to our host.
This is how our entire universe functions, it's how each of us as cells of this universe function, and it's how the cells of each of us function. All of this is happening at every level at every point of the universe as well as our bodies. We found ourselves able to look at it in one way as the entire universe, and in another way, our own selves, our own lives. We started to focus on our own selves. Then we began once again acknowledging the delusion of separation, and once again, we were two separate people, awakened from our profound and deep state.
We both stared at each other, not sure what to say. We said nothing, for we knew that no words could contain what we had just experienced.
Marcie asked us what happened. We must have sounded like we were crazy, babbling stuff about atoms and the universe and being connected.
"You saw the world in a grain of sand," Marcie said finally, smiling.
"Yes!" we both exclaimed simultaneously.
"Did you find out who Thomas Linburg was?" she asked.
"Well, it was kind of strange," I said. "It wasn't just one person. There were so many parts to him, but then we realized that names were meaningless, just arbitrarily assigned to things that people mistakenly view as separate."
"That's what I suspected," said Marcie. "Names are arbitrary. It could have been Thomas Linburg or John Doe or Bob Smith. Kurt was just trying to make sense of who he saw himself as under hypnosis. Thomas Linburg was merely the name Kurt chose for the lives he felt within him. When pressed for a name, he made one up. That explains why he stumbled when I asked for his name. I bet he did the same for the newspaper. The only thing that seemed concrete was the fact that he was a cop."
Marcie paused for a few seconds. "What details can you tell me about this Thomas Linburg you became when you were meditating?" she asked.
We gave her lots of details, but they were all so confused and mottled.
Marcie decided to hypnotize Kurt once again. She explored Thomas Linburg in depth, she sifted through life after life. We dug up a bit of information about each one, but nothing really of consequence. We did, however, find one interesting connection: they were all "cops" in one way or another. They all fought for justice in the world. Some were soldiers, some were sheriffs, some were police officers, some were judges.
"None were writers," Kurt said when we explained this to him after he awoke from hypnosis.
"What on earth are you talking about?" I asked.
"None were writers," he repeated. "All of the people we found fought for justice in the world, but they all used the sword, not the pen. Edward Bulwer Lytton once wrote that, 'beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword'."
You gotta love Kurt and his notorious ability to spout off random quotes.
"I will be the first to fight with the pen," Kurt said with resolve. At that moment, Kurt decided how he will use his writing skills.
I was still confused. "I still don't understand," I said. "Who is Thomas Linburg? Who is the cop from my dream?"
"Isn't that obvious?" asked Marcie. "He's Kurt, of course. It was Kurt that you dreamed about."
I became flooded with realization. This makes so much sense. "Do you mean to tell me that it was Kurt that I was in love with all that time?" I asked.
Marcie cocked her head. "Can you really think of the word 'love' in the same way since experiencing what you both have so recently?" she asked. "There's no such thing as Kurt or Thomas Linburg or you or me. We are all one and the same."
That's a good point. Just as we have a new perspective on self, nature, and the universe, we must also expand our perspective on love. What most people think of as love is usually a very narrow and superficial idea of "this person gives me what I want."
Our experience took us to different levels. Likewise, our perspective on love can be seen from different levels. At the surface is this selfish idea of love that most people have. One level deeper, you lose the idea of self and you no longer focus on them giving you what you want, but instead both of you giving each other what you both want. At this level, their happiness is your happiness. At the next level, you go deeper than just a two person relationship. You go to the level where it's meaningless to love only one person; you must love all living creatures. They are all connected; they are all a single organism. Like Ernest Hemingway says in For Whom The Bell Tolls, "no man is an island." To love is to be a part of this organism, to share completely with that organism. Pleasure and pain in any part of the organism is felt by the entire organism. At the next level, you go beyond the living and you see that love is the main operational component of the entire universe. Minerals, atoms, molecules, all work and share together in infinite ways. Harmony. At the deepest level, this is what love truly is.
By now I suppose everyone is going to think that we've become new age kooks, or that we're in some cult or something, talking about some "spiritual experience" we had while meditating. Now I know how a lot of spiritualists feel. They experience something that is very real for them, but seems outlandish to others. Of course, people always try to find ways to downplay things they don't understand. It makes them comfortable to not have experienced such things themselves.
Yet all that we've experienced is perfectly natural. There was nothing supernatural or spiritual about it. We didn't transcend nature and walk among the gods. We never floated toward the light to get a glimpse of Heaven. All we felt was a myriad of new perspectives on the same things we see everyday. Instead of seeing only the surface of things using our eyes, we saw things at deeper and deeper levels, through a channel that is connected to everything. Just as a muscle is developed through exercise, just as a mind is developed through education, our ability to use this channel can be developed with practice, not because it's so complex, but because it's so simple. It's the most basic part of all "cells" in this universe. It is so basic, in fact, that it can be easily cluttered with complexity, eventually to the point that we forget we had it. In this respect then, it isn't really learning, but an unlearning.
I will not lie and say that Kurt and I lived "happily ever after." We've had problems. He is not perfect and neither am I, but we love each other, and now we see our love from a much wider perspective. We also have a bond that few share. Through our profound experience, we discovered that pleasure and pain are one in the same, like two sides of a single coin, or like a cycle. The universe and all cells within it constantly struggle toward happiness, and the cycle starts over. Everything in the universe is like that, and my relationship with Kurt is no exception. We always struggle toward happiness, and the universe struggles with us.
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