Something quite impossible

And one thing I have learned, or I’m learning – I think I’m learning it – is that your life is not a story. So when something like this [tumor] happens to you, it’s kind of futile to go back through your life and ask, “What did I do wrong? Was it playing with the asbestos dust in the construction yard? Was it the carbon tetrachloride used to kill the butterflies? Was it daily Cannabis for 28 years?” —Terrence McKenna

I have always had some crazy stuff going on with my spine: scoliosis, herniated discs and disc degeneration, pre-mature curvature of the spine, one leg longer than the other — all since I was a wee little tyke. A real sob story, I know, haha. But in truth, for these among other reasons, I thought I was going to die or end up living in seriously reduced circumstances a few times in my life. Those were pretty scary passages of time.

The interesting part about almost dying, or sensing your innate mortality or whatever, is that the typical things in life that pissed you off, the people you hated or were afraid of, they just float away and become totally irrelevant things. The only things that resonate with you towards the end are the honest feelings of personal integrity, the fleeting nature of every experience, the well-being of those close to you, and so forth. Obvious stuff, but all the obvious things escape us when they aren’t hammer-smashed into our direct perceptions and experiences by our life circumstances.

The unorthodox North American mushroom-ayahuasca philosopher Terrence McKenna apparently spent many years traveling all over India, looking for esoteric truth, but all he found was “old-man wisdom”. Ahaha, of course, he could’ve just hung out with Jhanananda, but no… he spent his days tripping like crazy on the strongest psychedelic drugs possible. He did do an interesting cultural service by recording his trips in very concrete terms and concise language, and even came up with some interesting ideas about 2012, time, space and aliens. But eventually he was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor in his mid-40s. The thing is, being given 6 months or so to live totally changed his perception of the world. All of sudden, things like an insect moving across the ground became amazingly beautiful to him.

We never see this stuff until it’s shoved in front of our faces. That recognition of impermanence is the beginning of that “old man wisdom.” It’s a horrifying thing, and yet liberating from those desires for a fleshly pleasure and permanence that absolutely cannot exist. It is ultimately revealing and yet I’ve known friends who absolutely cannot deal with the consequences of mortality, were horribly inconsolable on psychedelic drugs and then spend their waking/sober moments trying as hard as possible to push death and mortality out of their heads. Not just pushing it aside to be productive, but actively forcing themselves to deny it. What a disturbing way to live.

Life is short and when you live as though every moment were your last, it becomes a lot more meaningful and bittersweet. Then you’re generally a much nicer person who uses their time more intelligently. Still, what’s amazing is that so many folks can read Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich and somehow not take its message to heart…

‘Maybe I did not live as I ought to have done,’ it suddenly occurred to him. ‘But how could that be, when I did everything properly?’ he replied, and immediately dismissed from his mind this, the sole solution of all the riddles of life and death, as something quite impossible.

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2 Responses to “Something quite impossible”

  1. Some bits of meditation, or in my case Taiji, practice seeing in such a way. Eagle vision, as we call it, as precise method of using peripheral vision, stimulates perception in some of these ways. These nights, the crickets massage my mind in the midst of form, lifting me with their sounds to new heights. Oh what a great life, living is.

    I like your article (I will read more of your writing) I like your take on Terrance M.

  2. Hey Steven, good to hear from you again.

    Yeah, I feel like an initial awakening stage in life/meditative/religious disciplines is when your peripheral awareness expands to meet everything. In other words, you and everything share the same body.

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