The Letters Part 3

Subject: who am I

Sent: 2/18/97 6:55 PM

Hi Laurabear,

Hope you're enjoying the holiday. Laurie passed her certification exam (trumpets sound here), and she and Andy are coming over for pizza--which I just ordered--and they should get here about the time Eve gets back from a client.

I've been trying for days to figure out how to send you an image file without its requiring you to have Photoshop to open it, and I still have a couple of things to try. What is your word-processing program? Some of them can open an image

file if its in the right format. Anyway, I decided I could type out the quotations I was trying to scan in for you in less time than I've spent messing with aol.

The book that got me started was WHO AM I, by Jean Klein. He says some things incredibly well, but at the same time he's a little over the edge in the New Age department at times, which means you have to speak the language or just pass over certain parts. He also has a few more opinions than one might like on a variety of subjects. So for several reasons he can be hard to understand--Eve could never get very far with him, although she hasn't tried for a few years, and might do much better now.

Here's a couple of passages to give you an idea (its in question/answer format):

“Q. You say there is no other but you cannot possibly say that there are no differences between people. I have my character and capacities just as others have theirs.

“A. You live in contraction, thinking of yourself as an individual. Where do the terms ‘me’ and ‘mine’ find meaning? When you really look into yourself you cannot say the body belongs to you. You are the result of two people and each parent had two parents and so on. All humanity is in you. You are what you absorb. You eat vegetables, fish, meat, and these are dependent on light, the sun, warmth. The light is related to the moon and the stars are all related. There is nothing personal in us. The body is in organic relationship with the universe. It is made of the same elements as everything else. The composition of the elements varies but this variation is almost negligible in human beings. There may be differences in structure and color but the constitution and functioning are the same in all of us. There is nothing personal in the heart, liver, kidneys, the eyes, ears or skin, nor in the elements which build patterns of behavior, thinking, reactions, anger, jealousy, competition, comparison, and so on. These are the same emotional states. The body-mind functions in a universal way and the care that has to be taken is the same in all.

“You must understand and co-operate with the body. It is ignorance of the mechanism that creates conflict. Inquiry can only be carried out in daily life. Your mind and body are reflected in your behavior from morning until night. Your attention must be bipolar, observing the inner and outer fields. Relationships are the mirror in which your inner being gets reflected. Be aware that you are a link in the chain of being. When you really feel this, the emphasis is no longer on being individual, and spontaneously you come out of your restriction. You do not live in isolation, in autonomy. In relatedness is the fore-feeling of presence.

“Q. So the individual does not exist as an isolated entity. But does not the personality exist as a unique part of the whole?

“A. The person is really only persona, mask, but it has come to be synonymous with the idea of an individual, separate and continuous entity. The personality is not the constant we imagine it to be. In reality it is only a temporary reorchestration of all our senses, imagination and intelligence, according to each situation. There is no repetition in life and each reorchestration is unique and original like the design in a kaleidoscope. The mistake is to identify with the personality, to conceptualize it in memory and then take ourselves for this collection of crystallized images rather than letting all emotions, perceptions and thoughts arise and die in us...”(WHO AM I?: THE SACRED QUEST, Jean Klein, compiled and edited by Emma Edwards, Element Books, 1988, pp. 20-23)

That should give you an idea. I still love parts of it and the way he says some things, but there is a paradox in what we've been calling the unity thing. It is perception without words, and there is no way to describe what it means with language. And yet, there is no way to communicate about it without words--that's how we communicate. Everyone who tries to talk about it has their own vocabulary and frame of reference, derived from the culture they grew up in, and that effects the words they use. All words, however, fail to do it justice--even saying that it has something to do with unity--"the minute you open your mouth it has already gone past; all the way to Korea."

So Jean's words aren't the same as mine, although I think the best of them are about the same thing; and sometimes one set of words is better for one person, while another set of words do a better job of "pointing at the moon" for someone else.

Laurie and Andy came in the middle of my typing, so now its the next day that I'm finishing, and its past my bedtime already. Hope you're well.

Take care of our toes,

Love, Norm

mountainside with trees, rocks and flowers

Individual Rocks, Trees, and Flowers, or One Mountainside?

Subject: Re: who am I

Sent: 02/24/97 6:08 AM

i didnt forget about you normbear! i want to write you a really good letter and that would take me some time. i want to sit down and get all my thoughts together cuz ive been having the elephant trouble latley- i always see how part of what youre saying relates to whichever situation i am in but i can never remember or think through the whole thing. but somehow, reading your words makes things better for at least the time being. i am yawning myself to sleep at this keyboard. i hope the pizza was good and tell laurie congrats and say hi to your toes and eve love laura who isnt even sure she has toes anymore

oh yoda says hi too (i just saw the late show with my brother :)

Subject: kabuki

Sent: 02/27/97 5:53 AM

hey normfozziebear

fozzie rules! so does the word "kabuki".

i loved those quotes by jean klein- they are indeed very similar in thought to what you said although im not sure i would have understood them without knowing what you told me first alhough i think i could have figured it out anyway.

i have a question though: jean says that we must understand and cooperate with the body. What does (The quotation omitted here refers to watching our minds and the situations they are reacting to. It becomes fairly clear in the discussion in this and the following letter. WHO AM I?: THE SACRED QUEST, Jean Klein, compiled and edited by Emma Edwards, Element Books, 1988, pp. 2-3) mean? the rest of the paragraph seems to say that when we somehow get in touch with our unity sense, we will feel connected and that will be relfected in our rlationships. but that quote says that we must be aware of our conciousness all the time which im assuming is what you meant when you said that by watching our minds flicker from thought to thought we find that nothing is ours, everything is connected to the outside, and in my experience im the most happy when i "lose my inhibitions" and don't think about stuff like what my mind is thinking. jean is saying that if you are aware of your mind, you lose your restrictions? i get it but not completely i dont think.

i have more stuff to write, but i think i will write you it later. i have been reading over all the old emails and i keep finding more stuff and i go over the stuff i already learned. i am so happy - i just got a TWELVE page letter from my friend in Israel plus a whole bunch of pictures with funny comments on the back from when he and his freind stayed with me this summer. the bad part is that his dad died- i felt so sad for him. plus he was kind of upset for those 72 soldiers killed in the helicopter crash.

well ill leave you alone for now - but the force is always with you! i was watching that movie and the force kind of reminded me of the unity thing- what do you think? im no force expert however.. say hi to any worms you pass. and the sun too.

love, laura! (with an exclamation point today) ps. i loved when you were consoling me about my screwed love life and you said "The flowers were all swaying in the breeze, whispering, 'oh if Laurabear could only see us now.' The whole universe is crazy about you - hang in there." THat sounds so lovely. I wish i could see it norm! Im just having trouble. i have been using words my whole life, i wish i didnt have to be taught using them but i have.

Subject: boogaloo

Sent: 2/27/97 9:40 AM

Hi Laurafreebear,

Inhibitions are an inescapable part of living in society. You can't pee in the aisle at the Safeway or you may find your social life extremely limited. Even if you don't get caught, someone will have to clean up after you or else someone could slip and fall right into the cantaloupes--disaster! So control yourself!

The reason alcohol appeals to so many people is that it frees them from their inhibitions, and relieves the tension of constantly monitoring their behavior so that they don't go beyond the narrow boundaries imposed by social living. There is tension involved in the monitoring itself, and there is tension in worrying about WHO ONE IS in relation to the boundaries. If we have deviant impulses or thoughts there is a great deal of worry about whether they might leak out into public behavior. We might be disapproved of, people might not like us!

With Jean's bipolar attention, we note the situation we are in, and we note the way our mind responds to the situation. We become aware of how our mechanism works, how we give ourselves approval or disapproval based on our reactions, and how this approval or disapproval is derived from the values we have been taught. We come to see that while many of the rules are necessary in order for us to live together comfortably, they do not define who we are, and that who we are is beyond any set of rules or definitions.

I used to say that I wanted to be as crazy as possible without getting locked up--being crazy meant being free from the rules. In fact, the rules give us more freedom than we usually allow ourselves. We can boogaloo through the aisles of the Safeway till the cows come home, and while we may get some funny looks, we will not get locked up unless we boogaloo into the Cheerios display and knock everything off the shelves.

The biggest limitation on our freedom comes from our need for approval. There is an old Chinese saying, "If you can't do it for yourself, how can anyone else do it for you?" The person who is giving me approval is only another human being like myself--why should their opinion matter more than mine? In watching our mind work we come to understand who we are--we are incredibly complicated and wonderful organisms--and we are all in the same boat. The person who disapproves of me is worried about being disapproved of themselves--just another scared little animal trying to find a safe hole. I understand WHY they need to approve or disapprove, because I've watched myself enough to learn how the system works.

Once we learn how it works we can use it as necessary without taking it seriously--without FEELING inhibited by it. I don't pee in the aisles of the Safeway, and I don't boogaloo there either--I might distract the other shoppers and THEY might run their carts into the Cheerios. But my heart is in a constant state of boogaloo, and when I'm around people who can't be offended, you should see me dance!

Our friend, Gail, was over the other night, and we got to talking about Zen, and Eve commented on how articulate I was on the subject. It occurred to me later that most of the things I was saying were a rehash of things I'd written to you, and if I seemed articulate it was because I had practiced with you. Do you know about massively parallel computers--large numbers of chips working on different bits of the same problem--that's what we all are.

I'll leave you with another bit of Jean: “The mind must be informed. When you accept that you are what you are looking for, the mind no longer projects an ‘outside’. As long as you are looking outside yourself you suppose a separation. All effort automatically creates isolation. Explore with ease not by will and force. Let yourself be invited, be attracted. You say ‘I am looking for truth.’ But it is truth that looks for you.”(WHO AM I, p. 113)

This is the first of four weeks vacation for me, and I'm up to my eyeballs in projects, mainly trying to rebuild the laundry room so I can use it for a darkroom. Eve and I are going south for a few days, soon, when she feels better. Hopefully there will be lots of worms, and lots of sunshine--we'll be very busy saying Hi to everything.

Take care of yourself, Laura! (with an exclamation point every day)

Love, Norm

backlit jade plant

In the Sunshine State (Mom's Garden)

Subject: more questions

Sent: 03/03/97 4:20 PM

Hey Norminthesunshinebear,

Four weeks of vacation! you must be excited. have fun in the sun if you end up going down south. And keep working on your eyeball projects :) would it help in sending pictures if i had a different address. we have a local service "cyburban link" that we use for our web service cuz aol's stinks but we have one address there. it looks like the standard netscape mail thing to me.

I was thinking this : Is everything really taught to us? THat's what you were telling me, right? I pretty much believe that the individuality thing has been taught to us, and probably most of our preferences. But how can everything be taught to us? What about the whole genetic thing? Arent we supposed to get a lot of stuff in born from genetics and wouldnt that point to an "I" really being in charge? And what about dreaming? I always notice that i go to sleep when i stop paying attention to my thoughts. if i was streesing about something, the thoughts would whirl around in my head and i would pay attention to them so it would take me a lot longer to go to sleep. but when i go straight to the weird, trip-like (dream-like) thoughts, that's when i go to sleep (like when the people you are thinking about start doing things that didn't happen- that's when i know im about to fall asleep). so this would point to when the "I" stops monitoring the thoughts, (maybe it goes to sleep?), then there is an I? did i explain that very well? feel free to say to me : "what in god's white puddin are you talkin bout laura!"

How does zen help us deal with moral arguments? This new one about cloning has really got me stumped. I guess I am asking too many questions and not trying hard enough to feel the unity sense.. but your not supposed to try, as jean says. I dont see how i can though, i really am a daydreamer- everytime i tie my shoes it's like my mind rockets off into outer space (or into what that boy really said to me the other day or what that girl was wearing etc). I have recently figured out for myself what you said about other people's approval or disaproval- it's really weird that you mentioned it. I was thinking, probably cuz of something you had said to me about everybody being connected, that all the people who i was sort of scared of at my school or the people that i thought i was different from or the people who i wanted aproval from were all the same as i - they needed love friends etc.- and they really arent that different except for the way they dress and the act they put on (the persons who they thought they were -that whole identidy thing you were talking about really applies in high school). some of my friends look down on all the "freaks" in our school ,the name people give the kids who dress in black all the time, but i talk to them and they are nice and just regular people - i tried to explain this to one of my friends but im not sure she grasped it. im still not sure im able to lose all my inhibitions all of the time- i can some of the time, and i never have gotten drunk or anything, im not sure how i would use a "bipolar sense". could you elaborate or give an example of that , normybeary? if i said prettypleasewithsugarontop :)

so im home sick but i really dont feel that bad right now. i couldnt go to sleep last night- coughing and stuff, but i probably could have gone to school. ah well. no big loss- i think mont, my art english teacher, was hinting that he was going to take a three day ski vacation anyway so he probably wont be there either. our school play is this week. Very Big Deal, as Holden would say. Practicaly a fourth of our school paticipates- im an usher as always. i like it cuz you dont do anything and all my buddies are on lighting so i hang with them and then i get to see the show for free and go to all the cast parties too. i always feel like a part of something really good when the show goes off well- our productioins are extremely professional. Joe (my bro) is the sound guy. well, thats enought "shooting the bull" (Im reading Catcher in theRye right now)

BYE :)

say hi to the whole world this time, do you think you can handle that normbear?

love laura

Subject: correction

Sent: 03/04/97 8:03 PM

Dear NormEbear

I like the sound of "Normy", like a fuzzy warm norm bear.

I wish to correct a question in my last letter which i figured the answer to cuz i just wasnt thinking straight at the time. I asked you if everything is

really taught to us- but i was thinking as a person agian (that darn old habit) : ) i forgot that the stuff that influences "i" to make decisions also includes stuff like genetics. i hada problem a guy rejecting me for a prom date and i asked myself why i was sad because i had already intelectualy convinced myself that he wasnt a good prom date anyway but then i said, it's my hormones , and once i realized that's what was making my mood bad it started lifting right away - sort of like that bad acid trip you had once -the mind switched from the sad part to the happy part :) morally, if drugs or alcohol make your mind stay in the happy part, why are they so bad? i know you have had a big problem with them over the years but i cant work it out in my mind. or maybe it wasnt a problem - just part of your life for a while?

my friend has been depressed over all this stuff we learn in existentialism - the stuff that was getting me down before i started learning stuff from you. i tried to explain some of it to him but there seems to be a lot and i dont know where to begin!

well, i hope you write soon, normybear because uhhh well i cant think of a reason.

i know, just to say hi to me! or my toes... (no not that again!)

Love Laura

Subject: we're back

Sent: 3/6/97 11:00 AM

Hi Laurabrightbear,

Hope you're feeling better. You are very smart to answer your own question like that--before you know it you're going to have all your own answers and I'll never hear from you except at Hanukkah and Passover :-)

The problem with alcohol and other drugs are that, although they can give you a temporary feeling of enlightenment, when it wears off you may know a little something more about yourself than you did before--if you're lucky; many people learn nothing at all--but you really don't know how to proceed toward that feeling without drugs, so you take them again. As time goes on the effect diminishes, so you take more and more, and in the meantime your general skills for coping with life are deteriorating, and you don't want to work but you have to find a way to pay for the stuff, and there's the dark cloud of knowing that your lungs and liver, etc., are not going to be able to deal with this stuff forever, and its a downhill spiral.

So if you're lucky, some day you can get off the treadmill and begin to learn what you might have been learning all along if you hadn't been using drugs--how to be free and happy all the time without the side effects. There are some of us who have to learn things the hard way, who won't take anyone else's word for it, but believe me, it is the HARD way.

I sympathize with your friend's existential depression. There are lots of ways of thinking about life, and it is easy to get all tangled up in a lot of conceptual thinking and overwhelmed by it all. There is no way to figure all the possibilities in advance--what if I do this, what if I do that? It can be very difficult to realize that all the doubt and confusion and depression are just in our own head, in our tangled thinking, and that the answer is simply to stop and look around and say, "What is happening at this very moment?" If there is something that needs doing, then do that, and if you can't decide what to do, then, as they used to say in AA, "Clean the kitchen floor." Or clean your room, and pay close attention to every little particle of dust that you move.

It takes a certain faith to believe that the really important things that need deciding will wait till you finish cleaning your room. Some people are unable to make that leap of faith--they think they have to make all those "Very Big Deal" decisions first, before they take time for those picky little details of life like brushing your teeth, but it is hard to think clearly when you have a toothache. Some people, (like me), have to keep banging their heads against the wall till they come to the conclusion that it might be worth trying an alternative approach. Sometimes all we can do for them is hang out being happy, offering an example that happiness is possible.

It is wonderful that you can see through the all-black clothes to the human being underneath--empathy is a great gift for everyone involved.

We got back last night from a wonderful few days down around Monterey. Its good to be back--on with the projects!


Normy--some of the guys at work call me that. I don't think its good for my way-cool macho dude image :-)

Subject: no ordinary high school girl

Sent: 3/7/97 9:52 AM

Hi Lauramazingbear,

I was in a bit of a hurry yesterday, and I wasn't totally satisfied with the email I sent you.

First, I didn't take the time to tell you how amazing it is that you were able to recognize the activity of your hormones in the Great Prom-Date Incident. It is very difficult to put our current upheaval into perspective when we are in the midst of it, and it sounds like you made the shift pretty quickly--this is no ordinary high school girl we are dealing with!

The point of cleaning one's room is that by DOING something, no matter how trivial, and trying to pay attention to whatever it is we are doing, we have a chance of teasing consciousness out of whatever rut it is in--depression, anxiety, anger, etc.

While this diversionary tactic can be helpful, it can be even more helpful if we have been exposed to the idea that happiness is available no matter what is going on or what we are doing. The popular culture creates a lot of noise and excitement about the options it is promoting as the keys to happiness--big bucks, exotic cars and houses, beautiful lovers--and its easy to think one is missing something if one doesn't have those things. What makes it even worse is that very few people will ever have the means of achieving success in those terms. With all the hoopla and turmoil created by the media blitz for consumerism, it may be difficult to realize how narrowly limited the popular options are, and easy to overlook the fact that the most incredible wonder and mystery is right in front of our noses and freely available to everyone on the planet--the wonder and mystery of being alive and experiencing the joy available in this moment. All we have to do is stop thinking and pay attention.

Once we have the knack of being happy, we can think all we want to, about whatever we want to, without being depressed or overwhelmed by it. Thinking is something we do--it is not who we are, and it is certainly not all we are capable of doing.

There is a magazine called TRICYCLE that might be available in your local library, and the Spring 1997 issue has a bunch of good stuff in it. There is a collection of articles called "Dharma 101: Back to Basics", that is good, and a roundtable discussion with several "twentysomethings" from the Rochester Zen Center that you might find interesting. You are a joy, Laura. Enjoy yourself.



lichen covered stone

Basic Lichen

Subject: late night thought

Sent: 03/08/97 7:26 AM

hey normbearclaw

bearsclaws are sharp :)

well its late -222 to be exact (palindrome!) but i thought id tell you a thought. ive been thinking of this unity sense (if i should ever experience it) as some magical happening that has all the makings of some sort of mind expanding drug happening- am i thinking of it wrong? is it something less "profound"? im not sure what im looking for except everything is supposed to make sense as one single thing.

see you when its a normal time. not that im tired or anything (im serious!)

love laurasabertooth

Subject: another late night thought

Sent: 03/08/97 7:29 AM

hey normbeardude

ok- here it is. i walk around in my happy state of mind and i see other people and even thought they dont look sad, i sense sadness all around me except for in the people that are at peace with themselves. do you ever just sense sadness? what do you do about it?

weelll goodbye : ) love laura

Subject: Illumination Sent: 3-9-97

Hi Lauralovelybear,

(You may be getting this from a wierd guy named T___--its really normbear in his aol disguise. I think the secret of sending images is to send them aol to aol, otherwise it gets mangled in aol's encoding. Anyway, you should be able to download and read the attached file.)

We've been calling it the unity sense and that's an ok kind of shorthand, but it could be misleading. Unity is an implication that one can draw from the experience after the fact, but it is not the experience itself. The experience itself is just sensory experience without any verbal chatter going on in the brain. We have to stop our mental talking to have the experience, and yet, the only way to make sense of it is by talking.

Having the experience has a lot of names: enlightenment, awakening, kensho, satori; but having it doesn't mean one can immediately talk about it, and doesn't mean one automatically knows how to incorporate it into one's life, as this story illustrates:

Zeshin spent many years living in seclusion on Mount Yoshino, outside the ancient capital city of Kyoto. There he practiced simply sitting, until one day his mind opened up and he forgot all his intellectual knowledge….

Several months later, Zeshin set out again to try to see Bankei, the master of the age. On the way to Jizo temple, he heard that Bankei was then in Edo, the capital of the shoguns, where Bankei taught at Korin Temple.

When Zeshin finally arrived, Bankei met with him right away.

When Zeshin had presented his understanding, Bankei said, “And the ultimate end?”

Zeshin hesitated, trying to think of something to say; then he hung his head.

This happened three times.

Finally Zeshin asked, “Is there an ultimate end?”

Zen master Bankei said, “You don’t know how to use it.”

Zeshin again hung his head, unable to say anything.

Something like this happened three times before Zeshin finally asked, “How is it used?”

At that moment, an oriole called out in the yard. Bankei said, “You hear the oriole when it cries.”

Zeshin went into ecstasy. He prostrated himself before the Zen master three times.

Bankei said, “After this, don’t speak vainly.”

ZEN ANTICS: 100 STORIES OF ENLIGHTENMENT, Thomas Cleary, Shambhala Publications, 1993, p.32)

You can see that even though Zeshin "forgot all his intellectual knowledge", (which I'm describing as sensory experience without verbal chatter), he didn't know how to respond when Bankei asked him questions. When Bankei pointed out the Oriole's cry, Zeshin had the experience again; and in pointing it out to him, Bankei gave him a way of "thinking" about the experience. Now Zeshin can say, "Ah, that's what it is: when things happen, you just experience them. You don't mentally comment on your experience as it happens."

Another way of putting it in perspective occurs in the FLOWER ORNAMENT SCRIPTURE, in which this person, Sudhana, has the enlightening experience with his first teacher, and then spends umpteen years traveling all over the world visiting 109 other teachers to find out how to live as an enlightened person. These sutras always go to incredible lengths, but the point is that the initial experience--whether it entails a lot of fireworks and excitement or is as simple as looking in the mirror and seeing yourself--that is important, but the process is ongoing.

My first little taste happened while I was backing out of the driveway, when I realized that my hands were turning the wheel without any help from "me". Not too exciting, but a beginning. It gets better as time goes on, but perhaps the most profound thing is that perfectly ordinary things become incredibly beautiful.

A couple of examples, the first of which I don't know who wrote except that its Chinese:

Bamboo shadows sweep the stairs,
yet not a mote of dust is stirred;
Moonlight pierces the depths of the pond,
leaving no trace in the water.

(ZEN ANTICS, p.10)

And this from layman P'ang:

“My daily activities are not unusual,
I’m just naturally in harmony with them.
Grasping nothing, discarding nothing.
In every place there’s no hindrance, no conflict.
My supernatural power and marvelous activity:
Drawing water and chopping wood.”(CRAZY CLOUDS: ZEN RADICALS, REBELS, AND REFORMERS, Perle Besserman, Manfred Steger, Shambhala Publications, 1991, p.14)

Now about all those sad people. A lot of them don't even realize they're sad, and most of those who recognize their own saddness think it is the result of circumstances: they think they don't have the "things"--money, cars, houses, lovers, beauty, prestige, etc.--that it takes to be happy. If you tell them they can be happy without having the right things, they are likely not to believe you; and if

you tell them that all it takes it to give up their attachment to knowing what is good and bad for them, well... it's a tricky concept.

It may be that the most you can do is to be happy yourself, and when someone notices and says, "Hey, how come you're always so happy?" maybe you'll be ready to tell them how its done. At least we can try.

(Palindrome!) She's got me going to the dictionary. 222 is very auspicious, and so is 123, and 321. Staying up late and having deep thoughts--that kind of behavior will make you peculiar if you're not careful :-)




Clustered Palindromes

Subject: i almost didnt get it!

Sent: 03/13/97 5:43 AM

dear normy the bear

you signed yourself normron but i didnt get it until i realized i told you about palindromes! youve never heard of them ? i think it was one of those random things they taught us in fourth grade and it has just stuck with me since. there is really long ones- but im not sure abou them, there is something like "a man a plan panama" but im not sure if that works backwards. "NOW NO SWIMS ON MON" works upside down and backwards...blabbing is something i do well

ok, so you say that our brains are trained to function a certain way, and the reason we get depressed is because we think we are in control of our brains, and the real fact is that there is no "we" and our brains can function without us, so there is no way to change what our brains do ,and theres no need to get upset about that. Heres a problem, though: Other People (other brains) . I know we cant excuse murderers from murdering, those brains must be locked up for the good of society. We can't say it was just their minds working, we have to protect ourselves and we cant allow that brain to function freely. But what about friendships? I have been having immense troubles with my friend Maria and I have been beating myself up about how "I" am such a bitch to her and i cant be friends with her and there is just no good reason why "I" cant just be myself around her, or why she always seems so defensive around me etc. Then after I was thinking about her, I started thinking about all my other friends and how scared i was that after a while i will start growing apart from them like i did with her and they might all start to hate me and i will never have a real friend because i have a fear of commitment but yet i am very needy, and i dug myself into a real hole. do you understand my feelings because sometimes I dont get across real well in emails/lettters. and i am still partially in this hole but i thought about it your way about my friendships not supposing to be any certain way and it helped- but there are a few problems with this. first, what about the feelings of the other brain person- the way society has taught us to deal with friendships is (maybe?) supposed to keep people from being too selfish or harsh when dealing with other people and if i tell all my feelings to Maria or just leave the situation alone because i dont know what else to do then i might hurt her more than i already am , i know there is no way our friendship is "supposed" to be... i am so confused. and second, if you love everything, as your solution to the problem that the other people solved by neither loveing nor hating everything, how are you supposed to love everything, and i mean everything? what about Maria- how can i love her anymore when im not sure i do (or my brain doesnt go into the love area every time shes around - is that the only problem? it doesnt seem like it cuz it seems like she puts me in the unlove mode just by saying something or doing something to make me feel guilty) i hope you understand this and help me out with this understanding if you can or if you dont understand me just holler.

i got the gif but i had trouble looking at the whole thing at once and then only a little at a time and then it wouldnt print the whole thing cuz i wanted to be able to read it easier. But I am sort of understanding i hope. Question: do you know your brain stops chattering when it does, or only afterward? What do you mean when you say having the experience doesnít mean one can immediately talk about it? You are able to talk about the driving incident right ? i sort of thought for a second the other day that the road was moving under my feet like the world all moved together for a second but then i didnt think my mind had stopped chattering or anything. It seems like when im bored my mind stops chattering but this doesnt enlighten me, instead it turns my mind to desparately seeking something to chatter about or it turns my mind feeling depressed.

I loved those poems. the first one was especially beautiful! the one from layman pang about him being happy just existing day to day seemed untrue for some reason. i guess my brain been trained to think that constant change helps us all but maybe i should not be so sure about that.

well ill be scooby dooey seeing you love laura berry

Subject: friends

Sent: 3/14/97 11:56 PM

Hi Laurarualbear,

You said, "so there is no way to change what our brains do..." and that is true in the sense that the changes that happen in our brains are not under the control of something called "I", but our brains DO change, they are changing constantly. People say things like, for example, "I've made up my mind, I'm not going to have anything to do with that Maria any more," and in fact a decision has been made--several million neurons have interacted with each other and while some of their interactions surface as thoughts about the situation--she does this and I do this, etc.,--If you try to figure out the mathematics of this decision-making process--assign negative and positive points for the various factors--you find that there is no way to really add them all up. We stew about things and things churn through our brains and at some point the decision sort of emerges out of the fog--"I" have made up my mind. There's a chemical computer in our heads, and the software is constantly being revised and updated based on current inputs, and "I" am just the graphical user interface--the gui. The gui registers what is going on, but the computing happens on the motherboard. The odd thing about this computer brain that we have is that it doesn't know how it works. Imagine that your computer didn't understand itself, and thought that the stuff that appears on the monitor told the whole story. It would see these words appearing on the screen without knowing how it was making them, and yet it would believe, as it had been taught, that it was responsible for them, when in fact it was the programmers who were responsible, and yet the programmers were computers too, so they weren't responsible, either, and in fact all these computers were interconnected and were programing each other. At the same time, these computers have sensory systems that get inputs from the outside world, which they react to according to their programming, so that the whole interconnected system is incredibly complex and interactive.

So here is your computer, (your brain), thinking that what appears on the monitor is IT, and taking all the credit and blame for everything that is appearing there although, in fact, it doesn't have a clue about how it is doing the computing. Its a rather anxiety provoking situation to be in, to be taking credit for things you don't really understand--knowing you may be blamed if it isn't right--and that is why almost everyone on this planet has "a fear of commitment but yet i am very needy," Trying to keep track of who you are and how you fit in and what you should do next is like trying to carve a statue in smoke and keep it recognizable--its a full-time job, and you need help and encouragement from everyone to keep at it and to stifle the fear that you aren't doing it right.

All the computer has to do to lose its anxiety is recognize the truth of its situation--it is not in control, even though the computing is happening on its motherboard. Even thought it doesn't understand how it works, it knows that there is a lot more going on than what appears on the monitor--what appears on the monitor is not the whole computer. All that worrying and anxiety take up a lot of RAM, and a lot of disk space, too, and it can actually do a better job if it deletes all that stuff.

It has come to understand itself IN PRINCIPLE, even if it knows it can never understand the details.

So enough computers. Here is a real human example: You know the story of how Eve and I were together for a few years and then I got this insight and moved out and then we got together again. When we ran into each other at MacWorld and went to dinner and talked, my brain came to the conclusion that it would be good for the two of us to be together. There were several factors that appeared on the monitor, and that my brain is, therefore, aware of; but it knows that it doesn't know the whole story.

It does know that Eve was fairly apprehensive at first, that I would, as she said, "Leave me again in that horrible way." That phrase eventually got to be a joke with us, but it was uncomfortably real for a while, and it was a factor in my brain's deciding that it should make a commitment to never, no matter what, leave her again in that horrible way, or in ANY horrible way. I'm still not sure she is totally convinced that I am committed--time will tell.

It may seem strange--in the face of our being together and given that commitment--that I don't NEED anything from her. My brain has learned what it is, including the fact that it doesn't understand itself, and it knows that it doesn't NEED anything from anybody. There are things that it likes, but it knows that its likes and dislikes are a product of circumstances, and under different circumstances it would like different things. So why should it, just because it was born and raised under certain circumstances, IDENTIFY with the product of those circumstances, why should it be ATTACHED to them? Why should it struggle and suffer anxiety to maintain this identity that was just stamped on it by circumstances? Furthermore, happiness is a state of mind that is available no matter what identity one has, and as long as one is happy, what does it matter WHO one is?

So if Eve likes me I'm happy, and if Eve doesn't like me I'm happy. I'm happy whether she wants to be around me or not, and I will be happy staying with her forever, no matter what she does or doesn't do. She can take on any identity she likes, make any decision she wants, and I will still be happy. I don't stay with her because of what she is or isn't, but because I'm committed to her--because it seems like the right thing to do.

Fortunately, there are an incredible number of things about her that I like and enjoy, and for the most part she is 99.9% sweetheart and a joy to be with. But if I were with her for those REASONS, then I would be unhappy if she deviated, and I would put pressure on her to behave in ways that I liked, and we would have the kind of relationship that most people do who need each other as an affirmation of their identity--we would be bargaining and negotiating and browbeating and cajoling each other to behave in ways that we thought would make us feel good about who we thought we were.

Remember the story about Mazu raising his eyebrows and blinking his eyes--or not--because sometimes it was right, and sometimes it wasn't right. That's why I do things. If they seem right, I do them, whether they fit the image of "a guy like me" or not. If something I have been doing--some little habit or thought pattern--comes to seem NOT right, then I try to remember not to do it--and its fairly easy to remember because I don't identify any of my little habits as ME, even though I may have been doing them a long time.

So what about Maria. Are you good for her? Can you help her to know the truth and to be happy by being her friend, or is there not enough affinity between you. There are people I can't help, even though I might like to, because we are on different planets. Because I don't need anything from them, I don't have to try to manufacture affinity where it doesn't exist.

Now, when it comes to talking about perception without verbalization--like me watching my hands turn the steering wheel--I am still trying to figure out how to convey what that experience implies about the way the brain works and what it means about being a human being. If I really could explain it properly, you would read the explanation and your whole life would change forever. Still needs some work, huh?

Good luck with your friend.

Love, Normy

grand canyon of the yellowstone

Work in Progress

Custom Search

(The End of The Letters Part 3)

Light & Dark Inc

book thumbnail