From conception to death, we are constantly changing. The universe keeps changing, starting with its mysterious birth about 13.7 billion years ago. Along the way the atoms were born and the galaxies spawned, and about four billion years ago planet Earth saw the huge change called life, which began a new history of changes. That led to another whopper in the universe called consciousness, and then I wrote this and you are reading it.
Okay, that was fast. But you get the idea. Against the backdrop of this cosmic spectacular, it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine that we can with a little effort change and improve ourselves. In fact, I get giddy thinking about what we might become, we whom a poet called “the paragon of animals (and). . . in apprehension how like a god!”
But life is also enormously conservative. The conservative cockroach has been around for millions of years, and the prospect of its continued survival, even in the event of climate or nuclear catastrophe, makes us look like losers.
In us soulful humans, the creative and conservative trends are at odds; we like security but yearn for change; are comfortable with our habits but bored silly by the sameness of things. At night in dreams we go on great adventures; but during our waking day we bow down before the ordinary.
So are we upwardly mobile in matters of consciousness? Do we swear by the conservative drift of life or by the code of adventure? Knowing there are two opposed strange attractors pulling on us, we have to choose. What shall it be? The way of creative advance or the way of the cockroach?
The former is rough but rife with wonder; the latter easy but relentlessly dull.
Still, just by thinking of our humble beginnings, we can afford to face the universe with attitude. We have reason to assume a confident spirit. Life may have started with diatoms and amoebas, but eventually it gave us Johann Sebastian Bach and Mae West.
Still, we are, each and all, stuck in some temporal, cultural niche, and wed to our wart-ridden personas. We may feel the urge to transcend—that itch for new horizons—but we hesitate. We feel the impulse to make a radical move, and in our back-pocket sits a device linking us to seas of information.
But something is missing—tips on how to think, act and live in a sinking world. Information does not entail insight, guidance, or wisdom.
It’s a growing predicament. The accelerating influence of scientific technology is sweeping up our lives, destabilizing and imposing the need to constantly re-adapt—bracing perhaps, fine for the rich elites, but for the rest of us, jolting and disorienting—if not fatal.
Millions of refugees and migrants are wandering all over the planet, searching for bare survival, lost in the cracks of uncivil civilization. Endless wars, spreading famine, atrocities galore cover the Earth while psychopathic billionaires spew falsehoods into our faces, nonstop.
How do we deal with the zombies who serve the death-instinct that is getting turned on and gearing up for Armageddon? The new arms race is a fearful display of mass possession among the nations, especially the nine who possess nuclear weapons. The nuclear states are robbing from human services to feed an insatiable murder industry and its spiritually ugly investors. From the perspective of an alien observer, we seem to be marching lockstep towards doomsday, digitally distracted and pharmaceutically stupefied.
Common sense, reason, appeals to good will and even appeals to our deepest fears don’t seem strong enough to knock us out of this lethal trance. Calm down, I say to myself. Nature is full of hidden potentialities. Yes, but sometimes they have to be pried open, either by some large-scale effort or by means of a life-threatening crisis. The energy locked in an atom will not yield to soft blandishment; it needs to be cunningly blasted out.
Oliver Sacks, in his book Musicophilia, tells of a physician who was struck by lightning; who, as he recovered, found he had somehow become an inspired musician. His life was completely transformed. He had no idea of the genius asleep inside of himself. Call it a freak accident or a grace of nature or whatever. But it happened.
Another grace of nature nowadays is the near-death experience. The story of neuro-scientist Jill Taylor has become canonical; her left-brain was quashed by a stroke, which induced an experience in her of transcendent bliss and insight. She was never the same again; she changed radically—in the root of her being.
The near-death experience is a course in higher education. The author of Proof of Heaven is a neurosurgeon; Eben Alexander had a near-death experience that blew his whole scientific materialist credo to smithereens. The same is true of Marjorie Woolacott, another brain scientist, as she reports in her paradigm-busting book, Infinite Awareness (2016). Point is: People can change, and dramatically, and often as a result of the worst experiences we might imagine, like nearly dying.
So, even in the absence of a reliable local shaman, priest, rabbi, sage, or great tradition, we can suddenly open up, and the veils of junk consciousness be torn away. A while back there was an epidemic of angel reports, and before the nightmare of 9/11 began, I kept hearing about channeling, about aliens visiting all kinds of folk everywhere, and about visions of the Virgin Mary. Now and then I even heard reports of lifeless statues that were seen to bleed or weep or cause milk to de-materialize. It does seem as if there were some unknown agency at large trying in the most devious and sometimes shocking ways to wake us up to a new dimension of reality.
Our own unaided will to self-transformation is weak. But, leave it to our whimsical universe, sometimes we are overpowered by transcendent forces or events. Jung said that UFO phenomena are the fall-out from Nietzsche’s declaration of the death of God. And so we project our inner drama of loss, psycho-kinetically, into space in the form of a flying saucer.
Harvard psychiatrist John Mack investigated people from all walks of life who claimed to be victims of alien abduction. Mack’s books argue that the phenomenon involves some kind of instruction or initiation—a very interesting kind of change, for sure.
Change agents can visit us in dreams when our minds are freed from the constraints of commonsense. In the flow of events that is life or in our dream stories, we sometimes snatch snippets of meaning and weave the tale that wants to unfold itself.
Possibilities for change abound as long as our eyes are at least half open. We can ignore the hints being doled out and pass up the invitation to revise our part in the great play of life. In that unfortunate case, we remain stuck somewhere, in a rut and changeless. Hello brother cockroaches!