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I Don't Have That Kind of Courage

by Claude Needham Ph.D.

For your information, here is a bit of email extracted from my inbox.

And, on a different note, I read your little story about breathing plant sperms and eating animal corpses. I would lie if I said I enjoyed reading it, but I must say, it is well written -- however I cannot resist mentioning that I find it rather Calvinistic not to say obsessive compulsive regarding the underlying mindset. I was very impressed by Alfred Döblin's description of the death of the German Kaiser Ferdinand in his novel "Wallenstein". Döblin vividly describes in this sequence how Ferdinand went into transit by morphing into a rotting tree trunk at the end of his life (and enjoying it). The way he describes it sounds very familiar in a Bardo sense. It gives a very strong and credible taste of a certain "embrace" by nature at terminus (and of course, during life). When I read it, I even started to familiarize myself with the idea of eventually slipping into the cool decaying womb of the Earth. The whole book, "Wallenstein", is an amazing visionary trip through the bloodsoaked and wild convulsions of the 30 year war in Europe. I wonder if it ever got translated into English. I actually doubt it, since it is almost unreadable in its wild and luscious style in German. (Thomas Mann and G.I. Gurdijeff are monosyllabic studderers in comparison -- regarding syntax, not content). If you can get your hands on an English translation, I can highly recommend it.

Matthias

 

Well, Matthias, I actually don't have the courage to be as insane as I might otherwise be. Oh, I toy with other points of view from time to time -- mostly from the safe fulcrum of the scientific mind. I may push around a few verbal equations, seeing what new and potentially enlightening formulations I can stumble across. But to actually believe my ramblings for much longer than it takes to put them into a text editor.....not sure I have that kind of courage.

What courage you say? When I take a more bizarre than usual formulation and hold it -- resting lightly in the palm of my mental hand -- that tickles the funny-bone. But, then like a man standing next to a cliff-edge I tease myself.

"Why not do it?", a little voice teases me forward from below. "Why not jump?", it prompts in thrilling delight as i lean the slightest millimeter toward the edge. Only in this case the little voice is teasing me on to jump into belief.

And just like that same man standing next to that cliff-edge a wave of panic sweeps through my body when for the briefest of moments I'm not totally convinced I wouldn't do it.

So like all of those men that you don't find on the canyon floor, I move away from the edge -- just to remove any temptation.

How do those that believe do it? Where does the courage come from? For doesn't is take courage to embrace something that may work its way like an acid deep into your sensibilities loosening your very grip on all you hold to be true.

I don't mean belief in simple things -- like UFOs and cable television. What about the really great leaps of faith -- the wonderfully steep mental cliffs?

For example, I've heard rumor that there are folks walking around with courage sufficient to believe that the truth of "how it was" descended onto one particular man in the form of writings etched into pages of gold forming a metal missal homing-in like a scud rocket. That takes a bit of courage.

Even so, I wonder if those folks would have metal equal to this other cultish group I've heard tell of. Get this, they actually ascribe to the notion that some guy living a couple millennium ago made a deal with this other guy. The deal being that if the first guy suffered enough, allowing himself to be ridiculed and murdered by a mob, then the second guy would forgive the any and all debts of everyone from that day forth. No debt, clean slats, books clear -- just so long as the debtors knew about the first guy and agreed that he did in fact suffer a whole bunch. Admittedly there's a few missing details, but that's the gist of it.

Why would that take courage you ask? Well, think about. Just as soon as you start to believe something as outlandish as stuff like that, you have to ask yourself: "What else might start to make sense?" Who knows what might lodge itself into your awareness categorized as "the way it is"?

You can't trust yourself. You might even find yourself believing in things like a two-car garage or breaking the herd into individual family units limited to a single parental matrix living only with direct progeny ignoring the needs of forebearers now too aged to hunt and gather independently. Yes, bizarre as this notion is, if at first you start to believe you may find even this making sense.

Or, perhaps as the brain softens and your hold on the experience/belief paradigm weakens you could find yourself making the leap of faith into a chasm of belief that the world is made entirely of clockwork mechanisms set in motion by events precipitated in the infinitely distant past rushing forward without spirit or non-phenomenal foundation. That nothing is occluded and that all purposes are reducible to simple mathematical reason devoid of presence or purpose.

You could find yourself leaping from a cliff and falling face forward toward a distant impact with the vision of all flora, fauna and environment as being empty matter spinning endlessly in a boiling soup of physio-chemical musical chairs.

Who has the courage to step over that edge?

I don't have that kind of courage.

 
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