Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Austerrific Moment (my first blog post 3 years ago)

On MySpace three years ago today, I posted my first blog entry ever. It still expresses something that feels true to me, so here it is again:

I always dig it when these things happen: Last weekend, I had just eagerly retrieved my copy of Paul Auster's 2003 novel Oracle Night, months overdue on loan to my sister, and begun reading it for the second time. I had only progressed maybe a dozen pages, enough to revive my memories of the book's delicious, convoluted mysteriousness -- its novel within a novel within a novel, in which men encounter chance events that lead them to the limits of themselves -- when I put the jacket flap between the pages to mark my spot and laid the book aside, to be continued later. That night, I went to a party at a lovely little cabin in the woods of the Catskills and met several strangers, among whom was an interesting man -- I'll call him "A." -- who spoke about his "former life" in New York City, where he had published a prestigious photography magazine whose name was familiar to me because of my own history with art photography. The following day I indulged my curiosity and looked up the magazine on the Internet; I only knew A.'s first name, and could not find it on the magazine's website. But with some help from Google, I deduced that his story was true. On the website, under the heading "Artists A-Z", I read a couple of Forewords by the editor (A.'s former wife). I noticed that they had published a number of fiction pieces, and the first link on the list was Paul Auster. When I clicked on the link, it opened an excerpt from Oracle Night, familiar because I had just read those very same sentences. The excerpt ended at the precise spot where I had left off reading the day before.

This may seem like merely an odd little coincidence, but I felt deeper currents flowing. My sister was with me at the party, and she had, just weeks before, left her husband and moved from their nice suburban home into a small apartment. She didn't reveal that to A., but a good part of our conversation with him was about making big life changes: the death of one's old life; the birth of one's new life. As I (and many of us at the party) had done, A. had left his city existence for an entirely different kind of life in the mountains, where an unexpected set of country joys and struggles replaced the old urban set. But the synchronicity at work was not about city vs. country living, but about the deeper mechanisms operating when a person makes a bold commitment and leaps from one life to another. In the realm of soul, it is as literal a death and rebirth as is the process going on at a cellular level every day, by which our bodies entirely recycle themselves every seven years. Its closest analog is suicide: a conscious rejection of the status quo in favor of the mystery. And quantum reality suggests that if we could see beyond "death," it would be revealed as just another life transition perhaps not much bigger than moving from the Lower East Side to the Catskills. So there we all were, A. and I and all the rest, a houseful of suicides chatting, while on my endtable at home, Auster's book was sitting with jacket-flap marking the synchronous page. That page was where the narrator, a writer, was beginning a new novel based on an obscure episode in Dashiell Hammet's "The Maltese Falcon," in which a man narrowly escapes an accidental death, suddenly sees his mundane life in a new light, and, on a radical impulse, leaves it behind -- job, family, and all. Auster's novel-within-a-novel then begins its own imaginary investigation, carefully following a parallel thread in the same philosophic fabric.

Concurrently, another parallel was at work. For the past few months, I had been reading and thinking a lot about the nature of the universe, through the lenses of both quantum physics and ancient wisdoms, contemplating the way that the macrocosm and the microcosm are mirrors of each other. We live in a fractal world; whatever scale we choose to observe, the same patterns are visible. The atom is analagous to the solar system; each cell running its errands in the ecology of a human body is analogous to the full individual filling a role in society. Each of us watches from the center of our own world in this omnicentric universe, surrounded by texts inside of texts inside of texts, which spiral both directions into infinity as they busily scroll out their storylines in full Everywhereness and total Simultaneity in the fabric of space/time. So when Auster tells his tale of a novelist telling a tale that includes another novelist who has told a tale about a man who sees the future, he is capturing a truth about the unity of reality and giving us clues for predicting our own futures in the spiral of time, whether for good or ill. It seemed like perfect coincidence to me that the topics on my mind were suddenly before me on the page.

Auster has said that although occurrences like this are constants in his life, they are essentially meaningless. I disagree. In my opinion, they are evidence that, while our everyday lives may be wrapped up in the myth of Three Dimensions plus Time, and in the illusion of our own separateness from everything else, there is a deeper truth. All events and objects and sentient beings in this omnicentric universe are One, and are occurring in the same infinite Now. What we call "physical reality" is totally unverifiable; all is perception, and each of us perceives from his own center. Like the widely separated particles in the nuclear physics lab, dancing in tandem with an invisible connection, tiny flickers of energy in the quantum field occasionally reach the surface of our awareness in a manner that we, with our limited view, can only interpret as "coincidence." And mind-body medicine has shown us that thoughts and feelings are events in the field just as truly as are molecules undergoing chemical reactions. Synchronicities are the rhymes in the poem of One Reality. If you're tuned in, they're everywhere.

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