How and why we shape external life

Saturday, September 25, 2010

4:45 AM. Thank you for your able assistance; last night’s workshop on reprogramming robots went well, and I recorded the session, so I should be able to learn something on re-listening to it. All right, are we ready for more? I’m open for business.

You’ve done your workshop and now you have no other pressing engagement. Now it is time to work, hard, to put the book together. All summer you have worked at accumulating material, all summer and much of the spring, and now in autumn and winter comes shaping and communication. It isn’t hard and it will be fulfilling.

To do that I’m going to need a sense of the material rounding out.

Here is the key. When new material is breaking out in profusion and you feel old understandings becoming inadequate, that is the time to set out the older ones for what they will do later – that is, so they will not be lost.

Well, this seems to be such a time, all right.

And the setting-out of where you are will provide a firm base for future developments, as happened when you wrote Muddy Tracks. So – one more incentive, and a major one.

The idea we had – I can’t remember now who suggested it, you or me – that I invite friends to accompany me on the journey, was a remarkably good one. I’m enjoying my wagon-train community.

Yes, but now widen it, merely by invitation on your blog, to your newsnet and family lists, and on TMI Explorers.

Any advantage to a wider audience, an expanded wagon train?

Any advantage to selling books in larger numbers, or having more people attend workshops, or accomplishing anything?

All right, I get the idea.

Any advantage to actually spreading the word?

I get the idea.

Maybe. We’ll see. This represents a break in pattern for you, and so is a bigger step than you realize. As is the nature of steps in general.

Care to elaborate?

Of course, or we wouldn’t have brought it up, for nearly nothing that we say is ever for you alone; it all applies across the board. Stuff personal to you would probably be personal not because it didn’t apply more broadly but because you would be embarrassed or intimidated or inhibited by having us sharing it. And of course your safety valve is that you could always prevent us from writing it.

Any big step is more than you realize in advance, even if you realize in advance that it is a big step. That is, you may know that “If I can bring myself to do this, I will be overcoming a huge internal obstacle,” but even then you are unlikely to be able to sense what life beyond the big step is going to be. This is not a profound or complicated thought, but it is important to realize it. It’s the old story about maps and explorations. If you really move into new territory, how can you know in advance what it looks like? You may have maps drawn by other people, and they may be accurate maps, but until you go there, you won’t have had the experience of the place. How can you have had it? That’s the purpose of traveling instead of merely memorizing maps.

It is usually an illusion to think that your life is continuity merely because it is flow. Or perhaps we should say, flow tends to enhance your perception of life as continuity by dulling your perception of life as a series of segues. Or are you the same person in terms of values and ideas and understandings and experience that you were at age 15, say, or 30?

There is continuity, of course, but it is more a continuity of memory that assures you that you are the same person you were. But in fact continuity of memory is, in a sense, the main, nearly the only, way in which you might be described as being the same. For the rest, every new life circumstance brings more into play differing members of your person-group, changing the composition of the active members, which changes how you experience yourself, and how people experience you.

This is commonly experienced as a change (a continual change) in external circumstances. But as you were pointing out to your friends yesterday, external circumstances and inner circumstances may be regarded as two expressions of the same thing, which is why you will either be the perpetual victim of external events or the creator and shaper of external events by means of your shaping of internal events. Powerful stuff! And even if you know that you create (in effect) your external life by creating your internal life, you may continue to experience your life as if your externals were changing “magically” to meet your deepest needs. But how you experience it doesn’t matter, really; it’s a matter of taste. What is important is that knowledge – that practical knowledge – that you can control your life’s externals.

What may be less evident is that the goal of controlling your life’s externals, which seems so important and transformative before you get there, is in fact merely an unimportant side-effect. What? An unimportant side-effect, to be able to control your lives? Yes, because the change itself doesn’t matter. You’ve been shaping your lives right along. What does matter is that you know that you’re doing it, and how you’re doing it, and – most important perhaps of the three – why you’re doing it.

To know that you shape your external life, in a direct way unsuspected by your society’s dominant thought, which says that you are victims, is to know that you have nothing to fear.

To know how you’re doing it is to hold that pattern in your heads, and give you joy and peace that are not possible while you feel yourself the victim or potential victim of outside forces.

To know why you’re doing it – well, now you’re getting somewhere. Now you’ve gotten the key to the meaning of your life to you.

When someone is dead and their life is complete – Hemingway, for instance – do you think it matters to them that they took this turn instead of that turn, that they brought forth this set of threads rather than that set of threads at a given time?

I have a clearer sense of what you’re saying. May I?

Go ahead. You have the pen, after all.

If I’m hearing you correctly, you’re saying that the physical effects of our internal decisions are less important, because transitory, than the internal effects. But that’s seemingly the opposite of how you were saying it.

We stand amended. That’s what we are aiming at. Your lives are important, and so therefore are the circumstances of your lives. Never doubt that. But important how, and for what purpose? That understanding makes all the difference.

Sure, every step forecloses opportunities, but, as we’ve said, every step also brings new ones. It isn’t true, though it may look like it, that life is a progressively more constricted pen into which you have been herded. The reason it seems so, or can seem so, is that the externals are progressively less necessary in order to manifest internals, and it is in manifesting internals, by dealing with their projection as externals, that life consists.

Your life on earth is preparation. It is your life after you have shaped your mind – your soul – by choices made in the earth environment, that counts. So, as we said, your learning to control your life’s externals is mere side-effect. It’s worthwhile to do, freeing you up for more advanced tasks, but in itself it would be pretty useless, or let’s say would be of limited interest, like re-reading Hemingway’s schoolboy compositions or his early reporting as he learned his trade.

When you learn that your internal life is the important thing in your life, and the externals, though no less real, are there to support and illustrate the internal life, several life-affirming changes occur within you.

  • It teaches you that your physical life is an important experience that is only Act I; it is meaningless when seen only in itself (and of course the further acts are invisible from the physical standpoint, leading those who believe only in the physical to conclude that life is meaningless).
  • It teaches you that you are not alone because it’s impossible for anyone to be alone, regardless of externals.
  • It teaches you that your own life is endlessly fascinating if approached from a point of view that expects to see the miracles of the everyday. Your own life, not only other people’s. Hemingway is famous and you are not, so his life is obviously fascinating and yours is obviously drab, right? Enough experience of the internal world shows you that this isn’t, because it could be, true.

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