Defending Enlightenment

It's what's inside that counts. I've heard it said that within the multilayered complexity sometimes referred to as enlightenment lie the memories of misspent lifetimes, squandered opportunities, and botched attempts to recover, one last time, from the devastating effects of those failures.

At the final frontier of enlightenment, some say, lies the sober acceptance of those failures, and the certain knowledge hard-earned wisdom brings.

But others say that beyond this frontier enlightenment goes by other names, and the broken people who inhabit that land simply have nothing left to defend.



I dream of strip malls. Pretend you're a normal human. You live somewhere between 67 and 124 degrees west, and 25 and 49 degrees north. You're either happily married, or wish you were. You live in an average house in an average neighborhood, or wish you did, and if you don't yet have a kid or two it's only a matter of time. Most of your waking hours are spent in pursuit of the American Dream, and the rest of the time you're asleep, wishing you were asleep, or trying not to fall asleep.

Now pretend you're an abnormal human living somewhere within the same coordinates. You have no particular desire to get married, live in a shanty on the fringes of society, and your progeny, if any, are hiding in undisclosed locations with unlisted phone numbers. Most of your waking hours are spent pondering metaphysical questions, and you consider sleep a waste of time unless astral projection is involved.

If neither exercise required the slightest pretense on your part, you may be (1) practiced in the art of deception, (2) more inclined toward Zen than computer programming, (3) conflicted, or (4) none of the above.

If the fourth choice seems to best describe your actual circumstances, it's also possible the line between normal and abnormal is less a matter of reality than statistics, and is therefore much thinner than some would have us believe. Operating outside the traditional societal framework doesn't necessarily mean that something has gone terribly wrong.


Admin Support

Ghost in the machineOver the years, I've been forced to accept the disconcerting truth that I am not alone. I rejected the idea at first, but denial has a way of seeping through the cracks and wetting other areas of one's life. Then it takes a bilge pump to dry up the mess because the average household mop isn't up to the task. Denial is much heavier than water.

My first clue came one day as I was eating a pancake. The small puddle of maple syrup next to my plate triggered a cascade of doubting thoughts, which triggered self-flagellation, until eventually there were so many combatants reeling about my brain that I lost my appetite and keeled over sideways. Although it certainly wasn't the first time I had fallen out of my chair during breakfast, it was the first time I heard laughter when no one else was at home. Naturally, my first impulse was to run, screaming, through the house. But since I was lying on the floor, my legs only kicked as my body revolved pointlessly, like a small motorboat after the fisherman has fallen out.

Eventually, when my fear had subsided and I was able to sit up and take stock of the situation with some sobriety, I realized the laughter had been coming from deep within myself. It was as if I had acquired a roommate without advertising for one, and he had then taken it upon himself to wake me by sitting on the edge of my bed every morning, ridiculing my unkempt grogginess while repeatedly slapping my face.

It took years before I began to appreciate the valuable service provided by this uninvited guest, and many more before it dawned on me that I was the interloper, and not the other way around. The brain I had come to know and trust as the source of knowledge from which I drew conclusions—the reliable central processing unit I used to solve problems in the logical, rational domain—was, in fact, never the expert at all. Instead, the higher authority properly belonged to an entity operating outside the confines of reason and logic.

I've come to refer to this higher self—this entity that perceives me in the act of perception—as the Administrator, while the CPUish mind-brain has been given the title of Twerp. The Twerp is almost always irritating, insinuating itself into my affairs with its statistical likelihoods, logical conclusions, and rational beliefs. The CPU was never assigned administrative privileges; it commandeered them. The rightful boss had been there all along, but not being the sort to grab attention without being asked onto the stage, had been content to entertain itself with the antics of the self-important human brain with which it was forced to share space.

No more. Reason and logic have their place, so from now on the Twerp will be bound and gagged and made to sleep under the bed with the dust mites. It's my time now.