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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 06/02/2003
Volume 2, #79

A lot of interesting stuff in my personal mailbox this week. Somehow, when things get a little complex, there seems to be a preference to communicate directly rather than via the Round Table. But I'm sure some of the questions raised in some of the letters are of interest to the rest of my readers, so let's look at the major details. From long-time visitor Chris, I received an interesting story indeed.. But let me just cite some of the major points Chris makes:
Tying this in to your column, or specifically the idea of "bi-polar disorder": I don't believe it exists. That said, I do think that it is symptomatic of another condition -- that of a very boring person. I mean, how dull does one have to be to only have two distinct personalities within them? I realize the "disorder" comes from the person's inability to handle their two dominant personalities -- maybe an inability to balance -- which all stems from the fact that your average person doesn't understand what a Personality really is -- an emerging independent consciousness.

(Reading that over, it doesn't make a lot of sense. Hope you can follow it -- I'm not sure I'm able to re-write it...)
Well, I can't agree more, Chris. It doesn't quite make sense. Because if it's symptomatic of another condition, then it has to exist. Without quibbling about language, however, bi-polar disorder exists all right. I've seen cases of it and cited a few here. Except that I didn't see it as a disorder either. Even in cases of extreme bi-polar disorder, as in multiple personality syndrome, which everyone knows exists, we generally find that the various personalities are efforts of the ego or the self (these are all questionable terms in various psychologies) to dispel the most extreme manic-depressive states. Usually, a depressive with mpd (multiple personality disorder) will try several different styles of manic states to work out of a depressive mood. These are essentially blips or variations within the greater up and down curve I described.

Questions like "self" and "ego" have no standing in some circles. The Buddhists don't believe in the existence of a "self", for example and in an earlier column, I referred readers to the massive psychological studies of the former UN General Secretary, the Buddhist, U Thant. But in our own terms, the word "personality" comes from the Greek "persona" meaning mask, and is generally taken to mean the mask we use to confront the world. Very often, behind the mask is a very different person or consciousness. These are sometimes very conscious states and sometimes habitual, as the "ego" tends to drop habitually into one personality and another. There are groups of people with whom and toward whom we present very different aspects of ourselves, as for example, when we're attending a scientific seminar with peers or when we're girl or boy chasing. But beneath these personae, of which we all share many, is the essential bipolarity, the rise and fall, the drum-beat of awareness. Sometimes we're not even up to chasing, of any kind. We're "bored" perhaps? Actually, nobody is "boring" unless you yourself are in a somewhat depressive state. Being bored starts from within. And we look to others on the outside to entertain us. I think we all suffer from a great deal of boredom. That's why we watch so much television. At other times, when we seem to have all the energy we need, we're not likely to be bored or to be watching television. But we might still read comics. Yeah...........

But Chris, you describe an interesting attempt to create another person within yourself, in fact, as you say, you do this often. And, further, you say, that people without several such self-created images, are boring. Although it sounds to me, as I suggested more of a sign of self-boredom. We do often and in many ways entertain ourselves with our minds.

But when you go on to claim that one of your images, a young girl, suddenly materialized in your presence in a public place, I find that I certainly cannot and will not dispute that. Simply on the grounds that I have myself experienced so many strange things, and have become aware of such experiences occurring more often than we realize, but which fall into no particular pattern and are essentially indescribable. If you've read AN UNLIKELY PROPHET, that was barely half of it. Read the back issues of this column for the serialized version of the sequel, A GATHERING OF SELVES. I'd like to get the two volumes published as a single two-part book. Any takers out there?

But when you suggest, Chris, that this gal you "created" might be a Tulpa, I draw the line. We already know what Tulpas are from the Buddhist tradition and literature and the testimony of many reliable western witnesses. Tulpas emerge from many long months of meditation, preceded by training. They are usually mischievous, unreliable and sometimes dangerous and those who know this Tibetan tradition will tell you that once a Tulpa has been created, it is wise to uncreate it. Finally, these activities are seen as sidetrips and games of the individual mind, essentially distractions from the eightfold path.

In this column I once mentioned a well known Hindu Swami who has the ability to materialize objects, baubles, jewels, trinkets, right from his hands. This gift of his has entertained many westerners, but the Swami is neither respected for his wisdom or regarded as highly developed. We all have strange gifts which we can cultivate, such as glowing, or levitating or creating solid lady thought forms out of our heads. So Chris, if you say so, why it's probably the case. But what's it for. Or, to refer to the question I raised in an earlier column, why create a tulpa at all? To do what with it? To prove the powers of the mind? Well, fine. But when you do that and maybe it helps you climb onto the upcurve when it dips too low, what then? Better to learn to ride the curve either way. Gnothe se auton...Know thyself, as Socrates says. And from that idea of self-knowing, I want to begin a discussion of a new letter received from Sam, another correspondent, who feels that Superman has inspired him to understand that his real interest, and basically it echoes a biblical goal, lies in helping others.

Not exactly, Sam. Because Jesus also pointed out (since you cite his example) that it's easier to love a friend and neighbor than to "love thine enemy". This requires real self transcendence. And when he says: "I bring not peace but a sword", understand that the sword is turned on oneself, on that view of self that cannot love one's enemy, or even has enemies. Mostly, the bipolar state comes into play here. At the expansive level, we are more capable of moving beyond the interests of our small selves and can feel things from the enemies' side. The Hebrew philosopher Martin Buber describes how he had placed a stick against a tree and was leaning on one end of the stick until after a while, he explained: "I could feel the stick from both sides." And that brings me back to Superman and his good deeds which Sam claims he has been inspired to emulate. This I certainly do not recommend.

Here's why, Sam. Superman the rescuer is indeed a "feel good" character. He's moral, he's vigilant (vigilanteeish too), he's protective. But he is a genuine do-gooder. That seems to be his whole purpose. He goes after this bad guy, that evil-doer, some urban gangs, various crooks and obvious villains. Even fifth dimensional ones. Small stuff, really. Warts on the surface of reality. The trouble is, he's what I call a "retail" do-gooder. What a waste of time and all that magnificent energy.

But the world is shuddering with real mass troubles. The earth itself is in the throes-- what with climate change, air pollution, plant and animal extinction, earthquakes and rising oceans, not to mention that hole in the stratosphere. And those brutal tribal massacres in Africa, along with mass starvation and disease. But we mustn't lose perspective. Superman has never taken a position on any of the major questions that plague mankind. Things like racism, lynching, unjust convictions, long sentences for minor offenses. He deals with particular cases in a particular story. And for an individual like you, Sam, to emulate Superman is a waste of energy. You can do more by participating in environmental causes, in group actions against bad laws, in movements that respect the earth and its needs.... nothing really flashy so people will watch you in awe, but joined with others, and without super powers, you can probably do more on that wholesale level than Superman does on the retail. Think about it. As for my view of Superman, as I noted in AN UNLIKELY PROPHET, he's us when we're at our best, fully integrated, and totally concentrated. That's the high point of the curve. But Chris, no human being can live at such a level all the time without burning out. We need to rest, to shrink back into the ordinary. Like Clark Kent.

I'll break off now. But send me more letters. I'll discuss them here. Most of you who read this column regularly have something interesting to say. And feel free to answer me back. I don't know everything, not yet. :->

Alvin

<< 05/26/2003 | 06/02/2003 | 06/09/2003 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.


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