week of May 25, 2017
Maybe You're a BeautifierMy book
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia is available at Amazon and Powells.
Here are excerpts:
Cancer cells are constantly developing in our bodies. Luckily, our immune systems routinely kill them off. Similarly, our minds always harbor pockets of crazy-making misconceptions and faulty imprints. They usually don't rise up and render us insane thanks to the psychic versions of our immune systems.
How can you stay strong in your ability to fight off madness? You know the drill: Eat healthy food, sleep well, get physical exercise, minimize stress, give and receive love. But as an aspiring pronoiac, you have at your disposal other actions that can provide powerful boosts to your psychic immune system. Here are examples:
Scheme to put yourself in the path of beautiful landscapes, buildings, art, and creatures.
Exercise your imagination regularly. Get in the habit of feeding your mind's eye with images that fill you with wonder and vitality.
Eliminate uhs, you knows, I means, and other junk words from your speech. Avoid saying things you don't really mean and haven't thought out. Stop yourself when tempted to make scornful assertions about people.
Every night before you fall asleep, review the day's activities in your mind's eye. As if watching a movie about yourself, try to be calmly objective as you observe your memories from the previous 16 hours. Be especially alert for moments when you strayed from your purpose and didn't live up to your highest standards.
With a companion, sit in front of a turned-off TV as you make up a pronoiac story that features tricky benevolence, scintillating harmony, and amusing redemption. Speak this tale aloud or write it down.
Take on an additional job title, beautifier. Put it on your business card and do something every day to cultivate your skill. If you're a people person, bring grace and intrigue into your conversations; ask unexpected questions that provoke original thoughts.
If you're an artist, leave samples of your finest work in public places. If you're a psychologist or sociologist, point out the institutions and relationships that are working really well. Whatever you do best, be alert for how you can refine it and offer it up to those who'll benefit from it.
If you're going through a phase when you feel you have nothing especially beautiful to offer, or if you think it would be self-indulgent to inject your own aesthetic into shared environments, turn for help to great artists and thinkers.
Sneak O'Keeffe or Chagall prints onto unadorned walls in public places, for instance. Memorize poems by Rilke and Hafiz, and slip them into your conversations when appropriate. Use Vivaldi's Stabat Mater in C Minor as your ring tone. Scrawl passages from Annie Dillard's Teaching a Stone to Talk on the walls of public lavatories.
PLEASURE MIGHT BE SPIRITUAL
Assume that your drive to experience pleasure isn't a barrier to your spiritual growth, but is in fact essential to it.
Proceed on the hypothesis that cultivating joy can make you a more ethical and compassionate person.
Imagine that feeling good has something important to teach you every day.
What might you do differently from what you do now?
"EVERYONE IS MY TEACHER"
I invite you to say the following, and see how it feels:
Everyone is my teacher.
Everywhere I go, I am a student.
Every person I meet is in some way my superior.
I vow to shut up and listen on a frequent and regular basis.
The poet Kabir says:
Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think . . . and think . . . while you are alive.
What you call "salvation" belongs to the time
If you don't break your ropes while you're alive,
do you think
ghosts will do it after?
The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
just because the body is rotten --
that is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment
in the City of Death.
If you make love with the divine now, in the next life
you will have the face of satisfied desire.
So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,
believe in the Great Sound!
Kabir says this: When the Guest is being searched for,
it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest
that does all the work.
Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.
- Kabir, translated and rendered by Robert Bly
Here are practical ways I carry on the work of championing and embodying the Divine Feminine:
I regard relationship as a crucible for spiritual work.
I think of the practical expression of kindness and compassion and ethical behavior as an essential spiritual practice.
I assume that a crucial element of spiritual practice is the consciousness and compassion we bring to the sometimes chaotic and messy details of being human beings.
I proceed as if loving and caring for animals and plants and the Earth is the test of our spiritual intentions.
I regard play and fun and humor as not diversions from "serious" spiritual work, but rather being at the center of it.
There are more, but I'll stop for now. What about you? What are the practical ways you carry on the work of loving Goddess? Tell me at Truthrooster@gmail.com.
DON'T GO NUMB!
How can we influence people to stop their extermination of nature? How can we motivate people to stop committing genocide against animal species? [Choose Method A or Method B or a blend of both.]
1. Nag people with scientific data that shocks them into acknowledging how much harm human activity is inflicting.
2. Shame them about the sin of bequeathing their descendants a damaged, impoverished planet.
3. Badger them to dissolve the unethical greed that leads them to consume so many of the earth's resources and produce too much waste.
4. Criticize them for being too stubborn and ignorant to change their destructive habits.
5. Goad them with financial incentives to do the right thing even if they don't want to do the right thing.
6. Express smart love for the interconnected web of life.
7. Celebrate the fact that there are other forms of consciousness and intelligence besides just the human kind.
8. Embody the hypothesis that spending time in wild places enhances one's mental hygiene and physical health.
9. Value the feminine as much as the masculine.
10. Cultivate the art of empathy, and demonstrate how to make it work in everything you do.
11. Show what it means to think with your heart and feel with your head.
12. Stay in close touch with the Mysterium, the other real world that is the root of the material world.
13. Vow to bring the I-Thou dynamic to bear on all your relationships.
14. Be as curious about intimacy as you are about power.
Much of my book *Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia* is rated PG. Some is R. But there's one story that's X. Not in the same way that porn is. While it's uninhibited in its rendering of ecstatic eroticism, it's a feminist meditation on spiritual intimacy, not a heap of vulgar stereotypes.
Still, when the book came out, I decided not to send full copies of the book to certain relatives of mine who are a bit prudish. So I came to a compromise: Using a razor blade, I sliced out the nine pages in question and gave my loved ones the mostly-intact remainder.
Here are those nine pages.
DISCIPLINE YOUR WILDNESS
Clarissa Pinkola Estés suggests that we all need to periodically go cheerfully and enthusiastically out of our minds. Make sure, she says, that at least one part of you always remains untamed, uncategorizable, and unsubjugated by routine. Be adamant in your determination to stay intimately connected to all that's inexplicable and mysterious about your life.
At the same time, though, Estés believes you need to keep your unusual urges clear and ordered. Discipline your wildness, in other words, and don't let it degenerate into careless disorder.
I invite you to speak the following words:
"I pledge to see my problems as tremendous opportunities and my flaws as imperfect or unripe talents."
"I pledge to remember that I am not only a sweating, half-asleep, excitable, bumbling jumble of desires, but that I am also an immortal four-dimensional messiah in continuous telepathic touch with all of creation."
"As long as I live, I vow to die and be reborn, die and be reborn, die and be reborn, over and over again, forever reinventing myself."
"I vow to love and honor both the life I wish I had and the life I actually have. I vow to love and honor my highs and my lows, my yeses and noes, my give and my take.
"I pledge to wake myself up, never hold back, have nothing to lose, go all the way, kiss the stormy sky, be the hero of my own story, ask for everything I need and give everything I have, take myself to the river when it's time to go to the river, and take myself to the mountaintop when it's time to go to the mountaintop."
"I promise to be stronger than hate, wetter than water, deeper than the abyss, and wilder than the sun."
"Imaginal hygiene is the inner art of self-managing your imagination, to defend it from forces that compromise, pollute, colonize, shrink, and sterilize it, and to cultivate those that illuminate, expand, and nourish it."
The above is an excerpt from a wonderful piece by M. T. Xen, which I highly recommend.
You can also listen to my six-minute take on the power of your imagination.
Or read my piece here.
THE 80% RULE
Readers of my horoscope column "Free Will Astrology" are sometimes surprised when I say I only believe in astrology about 80 percent. "You're a quack?!" they cry. Not at all, I explain. I've been a passionate student of the ancient art for years. About the time my over-educated young brain was on the verge of desertification, crazy wisdom showed up in the guise of astrology, moistening my soul just in time to save it.
"But what about the other 20 percent?" they press on. "Are you saying your horoscopes are only partially true?"
I assure them that my doubt proves my love. By cultivating a tender, cheerful skepticism, I inoculate myself against the virus of fanaticism. This ensures that astrology will be a supple tool in my hands, an adaptable art form, and not a rigid, explain-it-all dogma that over-literalizes and distorts the mysteries it seeks to illuminate.
Read the rest of this essay.
I AM YOU AND YOU ARE ME AND WE ARE ALL TOGETHER
"Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves.
"The tangerine I am eating is me. The mustard greens I am planting are me. I plant with all my heart and mind. I clean this teapot with the kind of attention I would have were I giving the baby Buddha or Jesus a bath.
"Nothing should be treated more carefully than anything else. In mindfulness, compassion, irritation, mustard green plant, and teapot are all sacred."
~ Thich Nhat Hanh, "The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation"
LIVING IN THE INQUIRY
“I find that a lot of people are more invested in position-taking than they are in the inquiry. Generally speaking, I am in the inquiry. I live in the question. People have so many positions, and usually the evidence is not strong enough for them really to be so confident in those conclusions. There are just a lot of things that are not certain.”
- Jerry Brown, quoted in The Atlantic
WHERE DOES HELP COME FROM?
I get many requests from people who are going through challenging times in their lives and would like my personal advice. I wish I could respond to these inquiries, because they are often profound and well-thought-out, demonstrating an ability to define the problems at hand with lucid insight.
Unfortunately, I can't respond. My various lines of work are too demanding to add any other tasks to my life, no matter how interesting they might be. But I've developed a general response to those people who seek my personal input. I'm offering it below.
I'm honored that you regard me as someone who might be able to provide answers or solace, but I don't think it would be responsible for me to fling advice your way without knowing more about the complexities of your problem. And I'm afraid I can't give the time necessary to explore those complexities.
The only thing I'll suggest, as you seek to clarify your situation, is for you to arrange to go on a retreat. During that time of withdrawal from the world's everyday madness, I urge you to avoid all media and to be as silent and relaxed as it's possible for you to be.
During the first part of your retreat, spend hours visualizing in your mind's eye the entire story of your life, from the earliest memory to the present moment.
During the second phase of your retreat, begin your meditations by establishing contact with the highest source of wisdom and love within you. You can call this source God or Goddess or your Guardian Angel or Higher Self. Spend luxurious time in dialogue with this source, making sure to ask these questions:
1. "What is it I want more than anything else?"
2. "What is the best way to serve the mission I came to Earth to carry out? What are the very best gifts I have to offer other humans?"
3. "What path will allow me to ultimately learn the most about wise love?"
4. "How do I need to change in order to get what I want, carry out my life's mission, and learn about wise love? What influences and attitudes do I need to eliminate?"
During the third phase of the process, write out a mission statement: what you want to accomplish by the time you die many years hence. Then create a master plan of the actions you will take in order to make that mission statement come true. Include three actions you will take in the next month to get more serious about accomplishing your mission.
During the fourth phase, visualize the following scenarios in lush detail: that God/Goddess loves you, that the entire universe is conspiring to give you the lessons and blessings and kicks in the ass and liberations you need exactly when you need them, and that you are ready to welcome that love and guidance with all your heart.
P.S. I'm a big believer in trusting your intuition. Even if it doesn't lead you to what your ego thinks is a successful outcome, your intuition will always guide you to the experiences that your soul needs.
“To love. To be loved. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”
- Arundhati Roy
"Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon but to the fact that our ignorance and our complacency are coming to an end. Our divided, schizophrenic worldview, with no mythology adequate to coordinate our conscious and unconscious — that is what is coming to an end.
"The exclusivism of there being only one way in which we can be saved, the idea that there is a single religious group that is in sole possession of the truth — that is the world as we know it that must pass away.
"What is the kingdom? It lies in our realization of the ubiquity of the divine presence in our neighbors, in our enemies, in all of us."
- Joseph Campbell, "Thou Art That, Transforming Religious Metaphor"
Some acupuncturists identify an energetic point in the ear called the spirit gate. If it's stuck closed, the spirit is locked in; if it's stuck open, the spirit is always coming and going, restless and unsettled.
What's ideal is that the spirit gate is not stuck in any position. Then the spirit can come and go as it needs to, and also have the option of retreating and protecting itself.
I invite you to imagine that right now a skilled acupuncturist is inserting a needle in the top of your left ear, where it will remain for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, visualize your spirit gate being in that state of harmonious health I described.
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia is available at Amazon and Powells.
Here are excerpts:
1. You don't need anything that shrinks you or deflates you or tames you.
2. Influences that pinch your imagination are taboo, as is anything that squashes your hope or crimps your life force.
3. You have license to gravitate toward situations that pump up your insouciance and energize your whimsy and incite you to express the most benevolent wickedness you can imagine.
4. You may have fun fattening up your soul so it can contain a vaster sense of wonder and a more daring brand of innocence.
ARE YOU CONSPIRING TO PERPETRATE PRONOIA?
Even now, secret allies are cooking up mysteries that will excite you and incite you for years to come.
Even now, the Earth, moon, and sun are collaborating to make sure you have all you need to make your next smart move.
But here's the loaded question: Are you willing to start loving life back with an equal intensity? The adoration it offers you has not exactly been unrequited, but there is room for you to be more demonstrative.
Half of the art of pronoia is about being improvisationally receptive to life's elaborate scheme to shower you with blessings. The other half is about learning to be a co-conspirator who assists life in doling out blessings—to help everyone else get exactly what they need, exactly when they need it.
Visualize yourself being able to recognize the raw truth about the people you care about. Imagine that you can see how they already embody the beauty their souls' codes have promised as well as how they still fall short of embodying that beauty.
Picture yourself being able to make them feel appreciated even as you inspire them to risk changes that will activate more of their souls' codes.
P.S. All of creation loves you very much.
THIS IS A PERFECT MOMENT
The crisis is dire. The danger is real. The suffering is mounting. And yet, this is also a perfect moment to rise and redeem and resurrect.
Here’s why, according to me:
As we stand on this brink, as we dance on this verge, we cannot let the ruling fools of the dying world sustain their curses. We have to rise up and fight their insane logic; defy, resist, and prevent their tragic magic; erupt with our sacred rage and supercharge it.
Read (or hear) the rest.
Here’s why, according to my brother-from-another-mother Mark Morford:
“This is the perfect time. To advance the cause. To birth the warrior. To deepen your resolve for more life at all costs. At the gates of hell, you plant seeds. In the midst of mania, you intend calm.”
Read the rest.
YOUR POWER TO HEAL
"Remember, we are all affecting the world every moment, whether we mean to or not. Our actions and states of mind matter, because we are so deeply interconnected with one another. Working on our own consciousness is the most important thing that we are doing at any moment, and being love is a supreme creative act."
- Ram Dass
Every week since 2001, I have offered my Free Will Astrology horoscopes for free here in my newsletter. If you would like to support my ongoing work, please visit my Virtual Tip Jar at Paypal
You can also support my work by buying the Expanded Audio Horoscopes I create every week. These forecasts are different in tone and content from the written horoscopes I provide here. They're my four- to five-minute-long ruminations about the current chapter of your life story. They're available here.
WHAT I DO
I love creating a collection of twelve horoscopes each week for my readers. The Good Times newspaper in Santa Cruz, California published my first batch in January 1978, and I would love to keep writing them until at least January of 2038.
In order to live up to that challenge with integrity, I will have to continue doing what I have been doing since January 1978: relentlessly reinvent the way I create them. When I look back at the horoscopes I composed in 1978 and 1985 and 1992 and 2000 and 2008, I am amazed at how different they are from the way I approach my craft now. I could swear it was another person who wrote them.
And that's how it should be. It's good evidence that I'm living up to my ideal of how to be a creative artist. Experimenting with endless revision. Being willing to dispense with the old formulas, even those that have worked pretty well, so as to welcome the surprises life offers. Killing off the old ways so that new ways can emerge.
That's not just a sound strategy for me to pursue as a creative writer. It's also a cornerstone of my plan to master the art of being a human being. The blunt fact is that life has an extreme fondness for change. The Creator likes to keep things moving right along.
So if I hope to cooperate and even collaborate with the Primal Flux, I have to be adept at transformation. I have to celebrate the central formula of Hermetic magick: "Dissolution is the secret of the Great Work." Breaking down psychological fixations is an indispensable spiritual discipline, says the wisdom of the ages. Killing off one's illusions is a prime duty of a devotee of magick.
From the Boulder Weekly: "For 28 years, Rob Brezsny has been covertly practicing poetry in the form of a weekly astrology column. Free Will Astrology runs in more than 100 newspapers nationwide . . ." Read more.
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia is available at Amazon and Powells.
Here are excerpts:
WHAT IS THE SOUL?
What's true about the word "God" may apply as well to "soul": Much of the meaning has been sucked out of it. It's a flabby ghost that has lost its life force. Say "soul" and you're liable to numb your listeners' attention. At best you may inspire them to picture a vague floating blob that feels more like an abstract concept than a real presence. That's a shame, because the eminence that's lazily referred to as "soul" is as crucial to you waking up tomorrow as your heart.
"If you need to visualize the soul," wrote Tom Robbins, "think of it as a cross between a wolf howl, a photon, and a dribble of dark molasses. But what it really is, as near as I can tell, is a packet of information. It's a program, a piece of hyperspatial software designed explicitly to interface with the Mystery. Not a mystery, mind you, the Mystery. The one that can never be solved."
As part of the Beauty and Truth Lab's ongoing crusade to wrestle the English language into a more formidable servant of the ecstatic impulse, we're pleased to present some alternate designations for "soul." See if any of the following concoctions feel right coming out of your mouth: 1. undulating superconductor; 2. nectar plasma; 3. golden lather; 4. smoldering crucible; 5. luminous caduceus.
If none of these work for you—or even if they do—create your own terms.
P.S. Here's Robbins' conclusion: "By waxing soulful you will have granted yourself the possibility of ecstatic participation in what the ancients considered a divinely animated universe."
EXPERIMENT: Be scarier than your fears. If an anxious thought pops into your mind, bare your teeth and growl, "Get out of here or I will rip you to shreds!" If a demon visits you in a nightly dream, chase after it with a torch and sword, screaming, "Begone, foul spirit, or I will burn your mangy ass!"
Don't tolerate bullying in any form, whether it comes from a critical little voice in your head or from supposedly nice people who are trying to guilt-trip you. "I am a brave conqueror who cannot be intimidated!" is what you could say, or "I am a monster of love and goodness who will defeat all threats to my integrity!"
MAYBE. MAYBE NOT.
There was once a poor farmer who could afford to own just one horse. He cared well for the animal, but one summer night, the horse escaped through a weak fence and ran away.
When his neighbors discovered what had happened, they visited to offer their condolences. "What bad luck!" they exclaimed. The farmer replied, "Maybe. Maybe not."
A week later, the fugitive horse sauntered back to the homestead, accompanied by six wild horses. The farmer and his son managed to corral all of them. Again the neighbors descended. "What great luck!" they exclaimed. "Maybe," the farmer replied. "Maybe not."
Soon the farmer's son began the work of taming the new arrivals. While attempting to ride the roan stallion, he was thrown to the ground and half-trampled. His leg was badly broken. The neighbors came to investigate. "What terrible luck!" they exclaimed. The farmer replied, "Maybe. Maybe not."
The next day, soldiers visited the farmer's village. Strife had recently broken out between two warlords, and one of them had come to conscript all the local young men. Though every other son was commandeered, the farmer's boy was exempted because of his injury. The neighbors gathered again. "What fantastic luck!" they exclaimed.
"Maybe," the farmer said. "Maybe not."
-Source: an old Taoist folktale
THE JOY OF INTEGRITY
"Picture the Grand Canyon," says Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield. "Every hundred years, a child comes by and throws a mustard seed into it. In the time it takes to fill the hole in the earth with mustard seeds, one mahakalpa will have passed. To perfect the virtuous heart—the joy of integrity—takes a thousand mahakalpas."
If that's true, then we've got a lot of work to do. The good news is that civilization is in the midst of a critical turning point that could tremendously expedite our ripening. So we could make unusually great progress toward the goal of perfecting the virtuous heart in the next 40 years.
For best results, we might meditate often on the phrase "the joy of integrity." We could get familiar with the pleasurable emotion that comes from acting with impeccability. And we can try out this idea from Gandhi: Integrity is the royal road to our inner freedom.
WHAT IF YOUR EGO IS NOT YOUR ENEMY?
Jeff Brown says: "There is no way to dissolve the ego in its entirety. It is intrinsic to human functioning. This is why the ego bashing fundamental to the spiritual bypass community is so dangerous. They invite seekers to shed aspects that are essential in their daily lives.
"Instead, let's make a conscious distinction between the healthy and the unhealthy ego. When I think of the latter, I think of Trump. This is clearly not a man with a strong, healthy self-concept. This is a man in a perpetual state of self-hatred, so egoically depleted that no achievement will ever bring him peace.
"It is crystal clear that something happened to him in his early years, a hole so big that not even the Presidency can fill it.
"Perhaps never before have we been able to so clearly see into the inner world of a fractured, over-compensatory ego. And perhaps never before has it been more obvious that inviting humanity to dissolve the ego is as dangerous as shaming it.
"What we need instead is to support the development of a healthy, balanced ego. One that knows where it ends and the other begins. One that celebrates one's value, without imagining itself 'all that'. One that honors the self, without a need to dishonor others.
"A healthy ego is not the enemy of the sacred. It's the foundation that it stands upon."
- Jeff Brown
(Mirabilia: events that inspire wonder, marvelous phenomena, small miracles, beguiling ephemera, inexplicable joys, changes that inspire quiet awe, eccentric enchantments, unplanned jubilations, sudden deliverance from boring evils; from the Latin *mirabilia,* "marvels.")
* The National Center for Atmospheric Research reports that the average cloud is the same weight as 100 elephants.
* The seeds of some trees are so tightly compacted within their protective covering that only the intense heat of a forest fire can free them, allowing them to sprout.
* The average river requires a million years to move a grain of sand 100 miles, says science writer James Trefil.
* Thirty-eight percent of North America is wilderness.
* Anthropologists say that in every culture in history, children have played the game hide and seek.
* With every dawn, when first light penetrates the sea, many seahorse colonies perform a dance to the sun.
* A seven-year-old Minnesota boy received patent number 6,368,227 for a new method of swinging on a swing.
* A chemist in Australia finally succeeded in mixing oil and water.
* Some Christians really do love their enemies, as Jesus recommended.
* The closest modern relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex may be the chicken.
* Kind people are more likely than mean people to yawn when someone near them does.
* The most frequently shoplifted book in America is the Bible.
* There are always so many fragments of spider legs floating in the air that you are constantly inhaling them wherever you go . . . .
READ THE REST of MIRABILIA REPORT.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOUR BRAIN IS PREDISPOSED TO THINK NEGATIVE THOUGHTS?
"To overcome our neural bias for negativity, we must repetitiously and consciously generate as many positive thoughts as we can."
"When you generate a minimum of five positive thoughts to each negative one, you’ll experience an optimal range of human functioning."
Read the article.
The ever-evolving truth is far too complicated and fluid and slippery and scrambled and gorgeously abundant for one human being to master -- even for genius bodhisattva avatars (I’ve heard rumors that there have been a few of such characters), let alone me and you and virtually everyone else who has ever lived.
I'm lucky to have gotten my percentage of mastery up to about 3%. On a good day, that’s how much I understand of the Maddening and Delightful Mystery we are embedded in.
That means I don't know 97% about how the Great Mystery actually works. This is despite the fact that my heart and mind have always been greedily curious to learn and experience as much as I can.
Here’s the solution I’ve come up with: I employ an empirical approach to life. I formulate amusing, non-binding hypotheses about what the Great Mystery might be like, and then collect the experimental data that’s generated as I test my hypotheses. I observe and analyze the results to determine how well each hypothesis works the following magic:
1. Does it liberate me from suffering and does it inspire me to help liberate other creatures from their suffering?
2. Does it make me a smarter and kinder and trickier and humbler fool?
3. Does it motivate me to embrace what I call the FLUX MOJO? In other words, does it fuel me to overthrow my own fixations, cooperate enthusiastically with the never-ending change that life asks me to deal with, and continually reinvent my attitudes, perspectives, ideas, and feelings?
4. Does it engender in me a lust for life and a primal urge to respond creatively to the glory of being alive and conscious?
5. Does it fuel my longing to inspire and nurture and play with those who are interested in sharing space with me?
BE A WEAVE
What if there's no contradiction between being your idiosyncratic self in love with your life and serving others with the best gifts you have to give?
What if exploring your inner world to activate your personal genius dovetails perfectly with fighting to recreate the soulless culture we're embedded in?
What if working on your own salvation makes you a more effective force in liberating others from their suffering?
MAKE ROOM FOR MORE
Is your schedule too rigid to allow magic to seep in? Then mutate that schedule, please.
Is your brain so crammed with knowledgeable opinions that no fresh perceptions can crack their way in? Then flush out some of those opinions.
Is your heart so puckered by the stings of the past that it can't burst forth with any expansive new invitations? Then unpucker your heart, for God's sake.
THE HONEY AND VINEGAR TASTERS
John Keats wrote that "if something is not beautiful, it is probably not true." I celebrate that hypothesis in my book Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings.
I further propose that the universe is inherently friendly to human beings; that all of creation is set up to liberate us from our suffering and teach us how to love intelligently; and that life always gives us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it (though not necessarily what we want).
Dogmatic cynics are often so mad about my book's title that they can't bring themselves to explore the inside. Why bother to actually read about such a preposterous idea? They accuse me of intellectual dishonesty, disingenuous Pollyannaism, or New Age delusion.
If they do manage to read even a few pages, they find that the blessings I reference in the title are not materialistic fetishes like luxurious vacation homes, high status, and a perfect physique.
I'm more interested in fascinating surprises, dizzying adventures, challenging gifts we hardly know what to do with, and conundrums that compel us to get smarter and wilder and kinder and trickier.
I also enjoy exposing secret miracles, like the way the sun continually detonates nuclear explosions in order to convert its own body into heat, light, and energy for our personal use.
But I don't take the cynics' fury personally. When I suggest that life is a sublime mystery designed to grow us all into strong, supple messiahs, I understand that's the equivalent, for them, of denying the Holocaust. They're addicted to a formulation that's the opposite of Keats': If something is not ugly, it is probably not true.
Modern storytellers are at the vanguard of promoting this doctrine, which I refer to as pop nihilism. Many journalists, filmmakers, novelists, critics, talk-show hosts, musicians, and pundits act as if breakdown is far more common and far more interesting than breakthrough; that painful twists outnumber redemptive transformations by a wide margin, and are profoundly more entertaining as well.
Earlier in my life, I, too, worshiped the religion of pop nihilism. In the 1980s, for example, I launched a crusade against what I called "the global genocide of the imagination." I railed against the "entertainment criminals" who barrage us with floods of fake information and inane ugliness, decimating and paralyzing our image-making faculties. For years, much of my creative work was stoked by my rage against the machine for its soulless crimes of injustice and greed and rapaciousness and cruelty.
But as the crazy wisdom of pronoia overtook me in the late 1990s, I gradually weaned myself from the gratuitous gratification that wrath offered. Against the grain, I experimented with strategies for motivating myself through crafty joy and purified desire and the longing for freedom. I played with ideas that helped me shed the habit of seeing the worst in everything and everyone. In its place I built a new habit of looking for the best.
But I never formally renounced my affiliation with the religion of cynicism. I didn't become a fundamentalist apostate preaching the doctrine of fanatical optimism. In the back of my wild heart, I knew I couldn't thrive without at least a tincture of the ferocity and outrage that had driven so much of my earlier self-expression.
Even at the height of my infatuation with the beautiful truths that swarmed into me while writing Pronoia , I nurtured a relationship with the awful truths. And I didn't hide that from my readers.
Yes, I did purposely go overboard in championing the cause of liberation and pleasure and ingenuity and integrity and renewal and harmony and love. The book's destiny was, after all, to serve as a counterbalance to the trendy predominance of bad news and paranoid attitudes. It was meant to be an antidote for the pandemic of snark.
But I made sure that Pronoia also contained numerous "Homeopathic Medicine Spells," talismans that cram long lists of the world's evils inside ritually consecrated mandalas. These spells diffuse the hypnotizing lure of doom and gloom by acknowledging the horror with a sardonic wink.
Pronoia also has many variations on a theme captured in William Vollman's testimony: "The most important and enjoyable thing in life is doing something that’s a complicated, tricky problem that you don’t know how to solve."
Furthermore, the book stops far short of calling for the totalitarian imposition of good cheer. I say I can tolerate the news media filling up half their pages and airwaves and bandwidths with poker-faced accounts of decline and degeneration, misery and destruction. All I seek is equal time for stories that inspire us to adore life instead of fearing it. And I'd gladly accept 25 percent. Even 10 percent.
So Pronoia hints at a paradoxical philosophy more complex than a naive quest for beauty and benevolence. It welcomes in a taste of darkness, acknowledging the shadows in the big picture.
READ THE REST OF THIS ESSAY HERE .
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia is available at Amazon and Powells.
Below are excerpts.
LETTERS TO THE BEAUTY AND TRUTH LAB,
We who are devoted to pronoia created the Beauty and Truth Lab and not the Beauty and Truth Think Tank because we want to put our ideas to the test in the field -- to apply them in unpredictable situations beyond our control and see whether they're useful to people who aren't necessarily steeped in the mystique of pronoia.
One way we've gone about that is to encourage the public to testify and ask questions about their practical experiences with pronoia. Below is a collection of exchanges that have unfolded since we began discussing pronoiac themes on the BeautyandTruth.com website and in the weekly astrology newsletter.
DEAR BEAUTY AND TRUTH LAB: I'm a very analytical person, with a doctorate in nuclear physics and a high-tech job. All my training and business savvy tell me that Rob Brezsny's astrology column is superstitious mumbo jumbo, yet every time I've faced a crisis in the last 10 years, his horoscopes have provided accurate wisdom and counsel when things seemed darkest.
The same is true about the book *Pronoia.* The scientist in me knows that you Beauty and Truth Lab people are utopian nutcases. It's absolutely demented to regard the universe as friendly and to fantasize that there's some vast, invisible conspiracy of blessing-bestowers. And yet I have to confess that whenever I try the pronoiac strategies you describe, my life veers in the direction of synchronicity and delight.
On the one hand, none of this makes any sense. On the other hand, I don't care that it doesn't make any sense. Somehow I'm able to draw sustenance from something whose power I don't understand or even believe in. In any case, thank you! - Humble Genius
DEAR HUMBLE GENIUS: You've described a quality that we aspire to in our efforts to cultivate pronoia: the ability to be helped by powers that are beyond our understanding.
DEAR BEAUTY AND TRUTH LAB: Does pronoia make you feel like you're falling in love? Not just with a person but with life itself? And can that be scary? Is it possible that you might feel a chord of gorgeous terror resound in your gut when you entertain the thought that every person and even every animal and plant and rock in the world is ganging up to make your life interesting -- almost more brilliantly interesting than you can bear? Does pronoia threaten to cause all perceptions, all sensations, all interactions to verge on being orgasmic?
I've been heading in this direction lately and it's freaking me out. Can extreme happiness be dangerous to my well-being? - Butchtastic
DEAR BUTCHTASTIC: First thing we'll say is that while pronoia inevitably feeds the soul, it doesn't necessarily further the agendas of the ego. The anxiety that's welling up may be the result of your old self-image clinging to the shrunken expectations it had gotten used to thinking of as essential to its identity.
The second thing is that when people invite pronoia to take over their perceptual filters, they often feel as if they're falling in love with a Scary Yet Friendly Vastness that kicks their butts until they wake up to the secret beauty they've been ignoring.
DEAR BEAUTY AND TRUTH LAB: I'm battling mixed emotions. On the one hand, I have frequent surges of intense compassion that make me want to build houses for poor folks. On the other hand, I'm beset by flashes of vanity that make me want to spend my money on Prada shoes and expensive jewelry rather than on trips to Third World countries to help Habitat for Humanity. Is it crazy and self-defeating to want both things? - Torn and Guilty
DEAR TORN AND GUILTY: Try honoring both your urge to express beauty and your desire to aid your fellow humans. We have a vision of you wearing a gold tiara and Prada's Sculpted d'Orsay pumps as you wield your hammer, framing a wall for a new house in Haiti.
DEAR BEAUTY AND TRUTH LAB: In your book *Pronoia,* you say, 'The universe always gives us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.' I have a different view. I often find that I disagree with what the Universe decides is best for me. But that usually turns out to be a good thing. It's fun for me to always be arguing with God! I learn a lot and generate a lot of high energy from trying to outmaneuver the divine will. What do you think about that? - Cagey Dissident
DEAR CAGEY: Congratulations! You are the thousandth dissident to testify that pronoia is not, in fact, the One Truth and the Only Way -- thereby proving to our satisfaction that we have successfully prevented our beloved Beauty and Truth Lab from being a shill for a fundamentalist ideology. Please accept our most fantastic thanks. Your prize will be on its way to you soon!
DEAR BEAUTY AND TRUTH LAB: The chemo treatments burned out all the math skills in my brain, which were already pretty meager. On the other hand, they awakened my ability to feel perfectly at ease while in the midst of paradoxical situations that everyone else finds maddening and uncomfortable.
The chemo also made me ridiculously tolerant of people's contradictions, sometimes even their hypocrisies, and freed me to enjoy life as an entertaining movie with lots of interesting plot twists rather than as a pitched battle between everything I like and everything I don't like. I guess I could say that my cancer helped turn me into a pronoiac! - The Chaos Artist Formerly Known as Risa Kline
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