My Previously-Posted Aphorisms

At the beginning of August 2019, I decided to try writing aphorisms. It might not work for me. But that’s OK. I’ve failed in lots of endeavors before. And, in fact, I believe that failure is a very, very good thing.

It helps steer you in the direction you should be going.

There may be nothing more unfortunate than succeeding at things you don’t truly love, or perhaps even dislike, intensely. Because if you persist, you end up wasting much of your life.

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An aphorism is a single thought or observation that is stated in as few words as possible. A well-known example is Nietzsche’s, “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

Many, many writers over the centuries have used this aphoristic style. Some claim Francis Bacon, 1561-1626, was the best at it. Others disagree. And there are also a number of greats who preceded Bacon. Burchard of Worms and Juan Manuel are two excellent examples.

My favourite aphorists, however, are Nietzsche and Leonardo da Vinci.

And it’s quite liberating for me that Leonardo says in Volume 1 of his Notebooks that he’s just going to write down his thoughts as they occur to him, in no particular order, but perhaps later on he might try to arrange them by subject.

And he further adds that he’s not going to worry about repeating himself or contradicting himself. That’s inevitable over time, he says.

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So here’s my first:

190809 – Our Unconscious Self

What if Nietzsche is right when he says that almost all of who you are is located deep down in your unconscious mind? And that the activities of that Self, your true Self, are unfelt, and unknown, and unknowable?

And what if he’s right when he says that who you think you are, at the conscious level, has been carefully determined by your socialization?

That you’ve been brought up to accept and to internalize the values of the herd?

And what if who you are at the conscious level is not even close to who you really are deep down in your unconscious?

What then? Is there any way to reconcile those two selves, to get them more in sync with each other?

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

And my second:

190816 – The Zone

What if there is no clear-cut line dividing my unconscious mind from my conscious mind? What if there’s a continuum, instead, that runs from my purely unconscious to my purely conscious? Would that mean that there’s an overlap zone?

And if there is, . . ..

 

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And my third:

190823 – The Little Kid

And if there is an overlap zone, and if my true Self really does live deep down in my unconscious, wouldn’t it make sense for me to live in that zone as much as possible? As close to my true Self as much as possible?

And what if my most precious ideas and inspirations come from that Self, not from a spirit such as a daimonion, or a genie, or a muse, as the ancients thought?

If so, then I need to spend more time being still, and quietening my conscious mind, and waiting.

Think of it this way:

A little kid comes running up out of my unconscious with a note for me. But he doesn’t see me, and he’s come as far as he dares.

Finally, he turns and goes back.

I was reading, perhaps, or visiting with someone, or listening to music, or working on my budget for the month. I was mostly in my conscious mind.

If I had been in the overlap zone, though, he could have given me that note.

But I failed him. And I failed myself.

My job, as I see it, if I’m going to bring my conscious self and my unconscious Self closer together, is to spend less time around noisy distractions: malls, traffic, newspapers, magazines, emails, the radio, the television, most music, my iPhone, and on and on, ad infinitum.

Otherwise, if I’m never in that overlap zone, quiet, and waiting, I’ll end up missing the little kid with all his notes. And eventually, he’ll give up on me. And eventually, I’ll forget that I ever knew anything about him or about my true Self. And I’ll be reduced to nothing but a mindless member of the herd leading what Aristotle describes as a bovine existence.

 

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And my, etc:

190830 – Bonhoeffer

What if Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German theologian who was hanged by Hitler, is saying the same thing when he says that we cannot go to God with our prayers? 

We cannot initiate the exchange, he says. 

But God, through grace, can speak to us.

Mostly, however, God only does that when we are quietly meditating on something such as a single verse of Scripture, which is what Bonhoeffer had his students do. 

In other words, what if Bonhoeffer had his students prepare themselves to hear God speak by becoming still, and by quietening their conscious minds, and by waiting? 

Waiting in that overlap zone, perhaps, as close to the unconscious as possible? 

 

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190906 – Pure Energy

What if you were able to go deep, deep down into your unconscious mind, and you found that that is where mystical oneness lies?

And what if, when you got to the very end of your unconscious mind, you found that there is no end?

What if you found, instead, an infinite, pure energy, which some call God? And others, the white light of the universe? And others, the zero-point energy field?

And if you did find an energy like that, would it help you understand what Luke meant when he said that the kingdom of God is within you (17:21)?

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

190913 – Two Worlds

What if you were told that you live in two distinct worlds, a world inside you and a world outside you, but that you can only have a profound connection to one of them?

One, not both.

And that only you can decide which one it will be?

However, if you’ve always lived in your conscious mind and in the world outside you, you might not have a problem with that. You might not even be aware you have an inside world, and, in fact, the very idea of having to make a choice between them might make no sense to you.

And what if you were asked to consider religion as an example that might help clarify the characteristics of those two worlds.

The outside world of religion, you’re told, which you know primarily with your conscious mind, includes priests in symbolic vestments, ornate architecture, the sacraments, music, women’s groups, men’s groups, children’s groups, meeting rooms, and large parking lots.

While the inside world of religion, which you can only know with your unconscious mind, has no priests, and no architecture, and no sacraments, and no music, and no meeting rooms, and no parking lots.

This inside world consists solely of silence, and a sense of peace that is beyond understanding, and a sense of being in the presence of, or of being, an infinite, omniscient, all-knowing power.

But you’re reminded that you can only have a profound connection to one of those two worlds.

One, not both.

Moreover, you’re also told that this inside world can only be sensed.

It can never be known or understood. Ever. Only sensed.

Could that be why the outside world of religion, and the outside world in general, is so seductive?

You’re able to believe that you can know it and understand it.  And on one level, at least, that must be very comforting.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

190920 – Metaphors

Charlie, a main character in my novel The Parking Ticket, often talked about the kinds of things mentioned in the last aphorism. On one occasion, BJ, his wife, asked him how meaningful something was if you could only sense it, but never know it or understand it.

She said she liked the old idea of a God you could go to with a wish list and hope to get at least some of your wishes granted.

– – –

“All right, BJ. Just before we got to Cardston I was talking about Aristotle’s the Divine Within. But I could just as easily have talked about Yoda’s the Force.”

“You equate the two?”

“Now more so than ever. I’ve had yet another ah-ha about metaphors. The Divine Within and the Force are the same thing. Different metaphors, but the same thing. Yoda describes the Force as an infinite, omnipresent, all-pervasive energy that unites our individual energies with the energies of everything else in the universe. The trees and rocks, the planets and stars, the animals and people.

“Sound familiar?

“Everything is pure energy, he says. And that, of course, makes everything one.

“And that notion is by no means unique to Star Wars. Think of the Holy Spirit. The Brahman. The Tao. The Great Spirit. Each of them is defined as an infinite, omnipresent, all-pervading energy. And the respective believers see themselves as part of that energy.

“Also, most religions have something like a communion of saints. Right?”

“Charlie, are you saying that all religions have the same thing in mind when they talk about their vision of a higher power?”

“Yes, BJ, they do. In a sense, at least. Although most of them no longer realize it.

“Earlier, you said the Force was science fiction, my dear. And it is. But all the other definitions of a higher, unknown power are fictions, as well. Literary fictions. Theological fictions. Philosophical fictions. Even science talks mostly about theories, such as zero-point energy, not about facts. They all use metaphors. They have to.

“That’s my new insight. Not exactly new, I guess, but a tad more focused.

“We are finite beings trying to understand and describe the infinite. But we can’t even begin to do that. Can’t even begin, BJ. We can’t cram a vision of the infinite into a finite mind any more than we can cram an infinite number of marbles into a finite box.

“We can sense the presence of that all-pervasive energy, but to talk about it, we have to use metaphors, figures of speech, which, at best, only point toward that infinite, unknowable power.

“People used to say, like a father, like a shepherd, like a shield, like a fortress. But those particular metaphors are no longer very useful.

“We need new ones. And maybe the Force, and the Divine Within, and zero-point energy, are possible candidates. Who knows?”

[Charlie goes into a lot more detail about metaphors in the novel, especially in Part XI, Chapter 7.]

 

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190927 – No Answers 

Some people have all the answers. I went to get a few a while back, but there were none left. So now when someone asks me about something, I have to say, I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for that. 

In my aphorisms I’ve mostly been saying, “What if . . .?” Or, “Maybe . . ..” Or, “Possibly . . ..” 

And now you know why.

 

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191004 – Alternate Worlds

What if artists do not simply sit back, and observe, and then make things that most of us usually ignore?

What if, instead, artists actually change the world we live in?

And change us? Change how we see ourselves and others? Change what we expect from ourselves and others?

And suggest options we’ve never thought of?

If, in fact, artists do that, how do they do it? What makes them different?

Could it be that they set aside significant periods of time each day to think about what is going on, and what could be and what should be going on?

Most of us, of course, don’t have time for that. We’re far too busy.

But what if some of us did perchance read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and listen to Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” and watch Oliver Stone’s JFK, and go to a gallery and study van Gogh’s Starry Night?

And understand the implications of each artist’s could be and should be?

What then? What would follow?

 

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191011 – No Yesterday

What if you suddenly realized that there is no yesterday? That yesterday ended at midnight? And that now you’re left with nothing but memories of yesterday, which you’ve carefully adjusted to serve your own needs and purposes?

And what if you also realized that everyone else has done the same? Created memories that serve their particular needs and purposes?

But if there is no yesterday, what about history? 

Did it, too, end at midnight?

Did history become just a massive compilation of little fictions that various people have carefully crafted over time to serve themselves and their social and political affiliations?

Maybe. One historian says that most history is guesswork, and that the rest is nothing but unmitigated, and often unforgivable, prejudice.

But whatever the case, it’s clear that yesterday did, indeed, cease to exist at midnight.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

190118 – Reborn

When I write in my journal first thing each morning, I use a different, newly-sharpened pencil because that yesterday-pencil was used by someone else who is no longer me.

Changing pencils reminds me that I’m not bound to continue on as that yesterday-person.

When I awake each morning, I am reborn. I am free to re-create whatever values, and aspirations, and interests, and commitments, that yesterday-person held.

And it is incumbent upon me to do exactly that, to re-create them. To turn on. To tune in. And to alter or drop anything that is no longer a fit.

But it is also incumbent upon me, very incumbent, indeed, not to take the easy way out and simply say, “Yah, that one’s probably still a fit, sort of, I guess.”

Otherwise I start to become as dead as that yesterday-person.

Also, by choosing not to be reborn, and by choosing to continue on as that yesterday-person, and to live in the past, I abdicate my responsibility to my today, a day that I will only have for twenty-four hours, for fourteen hundred and forty minutes.

And any of those minutes that I lose today is lost forever.

And if I lose too many of them, I end up stuck in time.

I remain that yesterday-person who is no longer me.

And then I, too, become lost.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

191025 The Visits 

I try to live in the zone where my conscious mind and my unconscious mind overlap, and as close to the unconscious side of that zone as possible.

When I’m in my conscious mind, I’m just visiting. And I’m always really glad when the visit’s over, so I can go home again. 

You may remember that I talked about all this in my first three aphorisms. And as each month goes by, I become even more convinced that what I said there might be true.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

191101 – Zero-Point Energy

On their drive out to Dinosaur Provincial Park a while back, Charlie was talking with his partner, BJ, about his plan to live to a hundred twenty-five. Still photographing and writing, he said, not just staring, and drooling, and sipping suppers through paper straws.

And as an aside, he mentioned that we need new metaphors if we want to talk about a higher power, especially a power that can energize us, and heal us, and help us stay productive when we’re old. He said the traditional metaphors – like a father, like a shepherd, like a shield, like a fortress – don’t work anymore.

And he offered zero-point energy as one possible alternative.

BJ immediately asked him to explain how on earth an idea from quantum field theory could ever be used as a metaphor to characterize her notion of God.

“I don’t really understand it myself, BJ, but I’ll give it a try, although I’ve never thought in terms of specifics before.”

And he knew that is exactly what Miss-Two-PhDs would want. Very specific specifics.

“All right,” he said. “In the past adepts have worked with all by kinds of energies in such fields as the martial arts, the healing arts, yoga, meditation. And they’ve used tons of different words to describe those energies. The Holy Spirit. White light. The life force. Chakras. Auras. Qi. Spirit guides. Prana. The Great Spirit. Meridians.

“And each adept assumed that the energy he used in his particular field was unique and superior to the energies of all the other adepts. But they were wrong, BJ, because all those ostensibly unique energies came from the same source. I repeat, the – same – source.

“We just failed to understand that until quantum field theory came along. And now that I know about zero-point energy, I know how to keep myself healthy, and energized, and productive.

“But to do that, first of all I have to really, really believe, deep down, that zero-point exists. Or a power like it. Right?

“Then I’ll need to really, really believe I can tap into it. Maybe I could learn to breathe it in like the yogis who breathe in white light simultaneously through the tops of their heads and the base of their spines. They’ve done that for centuries.”

He paused. BJ looked over. He was frowning. Then he suddenly hit the steering wheel and turned toward her, his eyes wide, his mouth agape.

“Jeez, BJ. Jeez, jeez, jeez! What if the healing white light of the universe,1 which, those yogis have talked about forever, is actually zero-point energy?”2

Again, the pause. He was tapping the steering wheel with his left hand.

“Bang on, BJ. What if? What if? Healing white light. Auras. Chakras. It all hangs together. Right? It has to.

“Goldarn, that’s it. I think I’m onto something really big here.”

He turned and looked at her. And winked.

“It’s showtime, baby, pure and simple. If I truly believe I can tap into zero-point, finito. The connection’s made. And at that point I begin to know, know, BJ, not just believe, know that I’ll soon be walking on water, and dodging bullets, and healing myself. Maybe even in this lifetime. Wouldn’t that be something?

“Yoda tells Luke he can raise up his X-Wing, if he believes he can. Morpheus tells Neo he can dodge bullets, if he believes he can. And Jesus tells Peter he can walk on water, if he believes he can. And they would all tell me I can live to a hundred twenty-five, if I believe I can.

“And, in the end, I won’t just believe I can, I’ll know I can.

“I’ll know I can draw on the infinite energy in the zero-point field because the field and I are one. Right? I will succeed. I have to succeed. Entanglement, remember? One omnipresent, all-connected, all-knowing energy field?

“Hey, those descriptors – all-connected, all-knowing, all-powerful – are descriptors of your God, too. Right?

“You must be excited, BJ. You’re also a part of all this.”

“I am, Charlie. I’m so excited I’m almost wetting myself.”

“Be serious, BJ. This is not just quantum talking, or Yoda, or Morpheus. It’s a worldwide understanding that goes all the way back to the very first utterances of the very first mystics and healers. Every great spiritual teacher has clearly said that everything is one.”

BJ faked a yawn, looked at her watch, and looked out the window.

“Go ahead. Mock me. But I know, know, BJ, know that what they’ve said is true.

“Actually, I’m not quite at the point of knowing yet, I must admit, but I believe I’m getting closer. And the harder I work, the closer I’ll get.

“In the meantime, I still intend to use Aristotle’s the Divine Within as my metaphor. White light, spirit guides, qi, prana. They’re all metaphors. Even zero-point’s a metaphor. So, I’m absolutely fine with the Divine Within.

He turned and smiled.

But BJ was still looking out the window.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

191108 – The World of Contemplation

One morning out on the patio, when Charlie and BJ were having their post-breakfast coffee, she asked him to explain the big picture, concisely, of what his insane hiking project had to do either with wisdom or with his Divine Within. She suggested that maybe his hiking was just more busyness.

And she reminded him that hiding behind busyness, which he’d done for most of his life, was the one thing he was trying to avoid.

“I can easily explain that big picture, my dear,” he replied, “because I’ve been writing about it in my journal for the last day or two.

“Ready? Here goes. Feel free to take notes.” He looked over at her and smiled.

“First, Aristotle says that the quality of your life is determined by its activities.

“Second, Nietzsche and Tolstoy both say that the highest quality of life comes from choosing one activity from among your very, very best options, only one, and then setting aside everything else.

“And third, people like Tolkien, and Lucas, and Kerouac say that whatever activity you choose, you have to be madly passionate about it. And if you are passionate enough, you can likely achieve almost anything you want.

“But it’s all or nothing. It has to be. It can’t be otherwise.

“However, there’s a catch. Fear makes that kind of passion impossible. So all my big plans, because of my fears, have always crashed down like a house-of-cards all the way back to Aristotle. No passion. No one activity. No high-quality life.

“Fear is an exceedingly strong negative energy. It is, in fact, without a doubt, my single strongest motivator, bar none. Even if I try to bury my fears in busyness like I did for decades, they still control me, absolutely.

“Hence the hiking. I’m going to start by confronting some of my very worst fears. I’m going to hike amongst ticks, and bears, and cougars. Alone. And I’m going to scramble up some really scary mountainsides. Alone, my dear. All alone.

“I have to confront that fear energy and overcome it, or at least some of it, because at the moment it’s totally killing me. Totally, BJ.

“And the more of that fear energy I can overcome, the freer I’ll be later on to enter into Aristotle’s world of contemplation. And the freer I’ll be to become one with the Divine Within. And, especially, the better prepared I’ll be for my next incarnation.

“Fear is the cork in the wine bottle of life. And I have to get that cork out of the bottle if I’m ever going to be able to get inside it and drink life right down to its very lees.”

He frowned, then looked over at her.

“Sheit. BJ, forget what I just said about the cork. That’s a really dumb image.”

She smiled but didn’t say anything for a while. That was a lot to take in all at once.

And it certainly didn’t make her feel any better about his climbing those mountains all by himself.

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(© 2019 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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