Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"The Illusion of Death Does Not Affect What Is"

Monday night two friends and I joined others at the Triangle Philosophy "Meet-up" at Porter's Tavern in Raleigh to watch the award-winning documentary, Flight From Death. (It was fun!) The documentary was three years in the making, photographed in eight different countries, and features an all-star cast of scholars, authors, philosophers, professors and researchers in a film that is thought-provoking, entertaining, and creatively unique.

Once the film began and I listened to the professors speak about Ernest Becker, I vaguely remembered hearing about him many years ago. I never read any of his work, but remembered reading about him, and others' views of his work. Along with so much else, that information faded away in my mind's ocean. Becker is said to have written about the "science of human kind." NOW, I am very interested in the science of human kind! I enjoyed the video, and the questions we can ask ourselves, as thinkers, are necessary to changing our way of being together in the world. What are we to do with life? Are we a viable form of life? What is the root cause of human aggression? Social scientists' experiments reveal more to us about our behavior and motivations, and if we are open and interested in self-knowledge, we will learn a lot from them. They talk about how we create illusions to give meaning to our experience; how we create and turn to the symbolic when our literal world fails us; the idea that remembrance is the way we deal with the brevity of life. We use illusions to hide facts or to better explore facts, depending upon our way of thinking. They talk about how reminders of our own death affect our behavior. They talk about "consciousness." Yet I don't know how they define consciousness.

As always happens, after seeing the video, I began to see everywhere phrases and symbols and behaviors which related to what I was made more conscious of in the film. For example, later that night I picked up the best-selling novel (Civil War setting) Cold Mountain from my bedside table before going to sleep. I flipped open to a page and read, "And, too, Inman guessed Swimmer's spells were right in saying a man's spirit could be torn apart and cease and yet his body keep on living. They could take death blows independently. He was himself a case in point, and perhaps not a rare one, for his spirit, it seemed, had been about burned out of him but he was yet walking. Feeling empty, however, as the core of a big blackgum tree. Feeling strange as well, for his recent experience had led him to fear that the mere existence of the Henry repeating rifle or the eprouvette mortar made all the talk of spirit immediately antique. His spirit, he feared, had been blasted away so that he had become lonesome and estranged from all around him as a sad old heron standing pointless watch in the mudflats of a pond lacking frogs. It seemed a poor swap to find that the only way one might keep from fearing death was to act numb and set apart as if dead already, with nothing much left of yourself but a hut of bones." (22) Then I remembered something else I had read in the book before: "What would be the cost of not having an enemy? Who could you strike for retribution other than yourself?"

Death is the truth of our design, I heard a spiritual philosopher say. I've been thinking of this since watching the video. Listening to an old tape by Kathy Oddenino, focused on "Loss, Death, and Grief," I hear the words, "The illusion of death does not affect what is." This tape has helped me to think about the energy of change as I feel the levels of sadness about my Dad and the challenges he lived. It's fantastic. To live the good within us is to live the god within us. I have been learning the cost of not having an enemy, as I continue to study Spiritual Philosophy. The cost is simply the knowledge of "good and evil." Back to the Garden!

Spiritual philosophy defines consciousness and teaches us to "know ourselves," asking questions and continuing to know ourselves as energy living in matter, our "intelligent design." Each cell within me tells its own story, and the congregation of cells within me lives its own "joyful noise," or cacophony, harmony of spheres, all constantly in motion. Today I've felt the effects of mind-expanding conversation, not enough water, a little too much wine, and the wonderful release that tears can bring. I feel the life within me change as I think on these things, as I move and do, and with each smile that overrides shadows. I hear the birds expressing themselves in their wonderful ways. The soldier Inman may rest in peace as we do, when we truly study the science of humankind and let our self-knowledge lead us into new relationships as we learn to love ourselves. The way of human growth is to transition through our feelings of loss into the energy our true love.

I enjoyed the Triangle Philosophy adventure, the questions, the lively conversation with inquiring minds, and am going to look up Ernest Becker!

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