We have, for generations, used the power of storytelling to teach one another about ourselves and the world around us. By far the best conversation mechanism we have, a good story can explain how many things can come together to create something bigger and more meaningful.
Whether we describe a biological process, a math theory or even a personal experience, we love to tell and be told stories. We long for the meaning, the point – and often that point reveals something about ourselves that we can trust. Whether or not we know how the story ends, if we can understand the guiding principle, the underlying emotional value, we believe in the story.
Understanding this core idea provides a certainty that keeps us not only engaged in the story, but gives us something stable we can latch onto. That certainty is something we so desperately crave in life, for our biggest fear is actually “uncertainty” – not death as many have proclaimed. Even “death” is a certainty.
Life is unstable. The universe is unstable. Things are constantly evolving, constantly moving, constantly changing. And as a composition of “stable” elements in this universe, we inherently crave more stability. It’s how we got here in the first place. Molecules combined together to form more stable molecules, stronger as a group than individually. So here we are, billions upon billions of years later, a result of the constant process of molecules seeking out other molecules to bind them. It’s more than just in our DNA, it’s the very fabric that makes this universe possible.
Because this is who we are, we will innately grasp anything we can when we’re scared. Even if everything around us is also uncertain, we still grab onto something, like people grasping slippery logs when they cross rivers. Even if the wood is vibrating rapidly, you’ll still grasp it. Even if you’re both falling uncontrollably into a deep abyss, you will STILL grab onto it even if it’s just as uncertain as you. You must grab onto something else as you hurtle through the chaos, even if what you grab onto is just as uncertain as you. And as we seek partners in life – friends, spouses or other – we hope they will stabilize us even though we subconsciously know they are just as unstable as we are.
The only real fear as we evolve forward is that of the unstable molecules… the ones that hold us back from building something bigger and more stable. But the universe is chaotic – it’s never easy to tell which molecules are unstable. Chances are slim, really, unless you can learn and then know what you’re looking for – and in that case, your chances improve on deciding which molecules are the stable ones. Timothy Leary has this great quote that I often reference in my talks: “Throughout human history, our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos.” This is why understanding yourself is so important, for you are your own guiding principle in your life story. Know who you are and you know better how to approach life’s obstacles; it gives structure to an otherwise chaotic ocean.
In recent months, as I’ve moved into a new life for myself, I’ve become more aware of two different states of consciousness. I first discovered this one night in an altered state of consciousness in which I observed a conversation between two parts of my mind:
1) the analytical, logical side that was perceiving and analyzing the surroundings – the lights, the little noises, the movements, etc. – and was so desperately trying to figure out what was going on. To this side of me, it seemed imperative that I understand what was going on so I could then piece together what had been going on, so as to make a judgement call on how the story would play out so that I could make the right moves, so that I could feel some stability.
2) Then there was the other voice that I felt but didn’t logically recognize. It was my mind running on its own, free from the confines of the rational reality. I forget all logic and reason, fall lifeless into the hands of my own self and journey into my own psyche. This voice was pulling me away from my physical surroundings, away from my analytical mind and perceptions and dragging me down a wormhole in space (that’s, at least, how i perceived it).
More often than not, the logical/rational voice wins the battle. The universe is a scary place and without that logical, rational side, we would be completely susceptible to the hostilities of the environment. Consider, for a moment, that had you only the “dreamer” voice all the time, you’d be completely vulnerable to the hazards of the outside world. Unable to process anything other than the pure emotion within you – no logic, no reason – you would only feel the simplicity of joy, sadness and fear. In some ways, this simplicity seems positive, as it is unclouded by the complexities imposed by our own rational, fearful side which craves stability.
I’ve trained myself over time to be able to let myself drift into the dream-like state and maintain awareness of doing so. In letting go of my rational side, I forego whatever mental frameworks I have about the way the world is and how it works and am free to explore what could be. I go through biological experiments wherein I try to control my perception of the dream state. For example, I notice that I see double, so then I become aware that I’m seeing double and try to move the images closer and further apart. Then other times I notice strong colors so I try to control what color pattern I see.
And when I concentrate, I’m actually able to get myself to see what I had in mind. I can’t help but laugh, for it’s an amazing feeling to actually see yourself, feel yourself, and, for that moment, be content living entirely inside your own exciting world.