Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Reverse Gestation and Tales from Before

From glittering abandon, I seem to have been thrust into containment, confinement… condensed into something unreal, something beyond my comprehension. I wait. I look about me… and I wait. Time is still with me, but I seem to be able to feel it now. I wait and I feel. I look about me and I feel. Now I can hear too. A whisper is forming at the tip of my lobe. I can just make it out; it tickles… I giggle. I wait, I look about me, I feel, and now I giggle. The whisper is Truth. It is the truth that I knew of while floating in the space before, while gliding through glittering abandon. The truth feels different now. It feels slow, as it seeps into this place that… I am calling me. I call 'it' me... this place. The whisper is reaching out to me, getting stronger now. I think that I recognize the voice behind it. It is strong and quiet. It is patient. I wait, I look, I feel, I hear, I giggle. I realize when I hear the whisper that I am not real. I realize that I was real before, in the glittering abandon place, but that this 'me' is where I need to build the me 'there.' As I wait, it floods into the place that I now call me. The memory of 'there' warms me. Now I think… Now I remember…

There is appearing an urgency to the sound of the whisper. It is not louder, just easier to understand. My thinking is now becoming stronger. My memory is growing. I remember more and more, as the whisper increases in its ability to communicate. The warmth from the knowledge is now seeping into the rest of me. I have more. There 'is' more. I can think. I can learn. I can be in 'this' me. I am getting bigger. The truth is growing within me and I can see it now. Truth. I am a paradox and I am One. Truth is the paradox of separate cells, separate entities, but all One. Truth is the paradox. Life was false, but now it is truth. Life is the paradox. Life exists beyond the 'now' me. Life is also un-life... Life is also death…

The whisper is getting louder. I am running out of time. The whisper is telling me everything, but that I will have to learn it all again… later. I remember. I remember it all, as the synopses in my mind begin to swell, to spread out into the me that supports my mind. My muscles and my bones are moving. I kick! I think… I kick! Secrets of me are everywhere. I sense. I just know. I kick! The whisper is a voice. I know the voice and I know what it is telling me. I know that I knew it all before, but that now I need to fill 'this' me with its truth. This me is still empty. This me needs to grow. But, I plead with the familiar voice, "Why must I forget again… why?" The voice doesn't say… The voice is silent…

I think. I feel. That is all I do. The truth is big and I see it disappearing into a puff of vapor in front of me. I am afraid. I kick! I am afraid. The voice begins again. It is even stronger now. It reverberates across the paradox of 'me.' I reverberate with it. I understand now. The filling of the cells of this me is crucial to my ability to become the real me… later. What is later? What is going to happen to me… which me… who am I? I kick! I am afraid. The voice is soothing; it is strong, but soothing. I am still me. I know what I am to do. I know what I will fulfill. I know who I will be with! I know it all! I kick!! I look up at the place where the voice emanates from. It is fuzzy, it is dark, but it is still there and I can see it. I look deeper into the murk, into the depth. It is there. It is Truth. I am calm and I peer into its depths. I see the paradox and it is One. I see the Universe and the reason for everything. I understand… I am One…

I kick! The finger descends slowly. I watch it in slow motion… with an acid trail stretching out behind. I watch it as if it were not me looking out of my eyes. The finger descends faster now. It speeds up and I can hear it whoosh past the words from its owner's voice. I know it is time to forget, but I don't care. I kick! But I am too late. I don't want to forget, but I know that I must, if only to be me, the real me. The finger descends. It reaches out to me, gently, and I flinch. My eyes clench and I feel a sharp pain. I am surprised. I am shocked. I kick! The light is intense, but that is not what I care about. The pain is intense, but that is not what I care about. The loss of 'everything' that I learned is heart-rending, but not what I care about. What I care about is… what I care about is… what I care about is the air, breathing, breath. What I care about is the truth as it assimilates into 'me.' I breathe in through my nose. I smell… What I care about is the smell of it all… It is, I realize now, in the end of the beginning, the smell of truth within the paradox of living that I really care about. I kick!

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Floating Sheets, Hot Lava, and Ultimate Truth

When I was a child, one of my earliest memories was of being isolated on a boiled sheet that had been laid over wall-to-wall gold shag carpeting in the middle of our ranch house living-room in El Toro, California. I did have my brother with me, but the world at large was off limits. We were infected. We, for a brief time, were sporting pulsing blemishes that itched to no end and, with our infantile perspective, had no end in sight. We were told at the time by our most trusted confidant, our mother, that we had the Chicken Pox… We were infected. My brother and I were isolated from all that we knew and our trusted mother had become our jailer.

I remember her trying to change the sheet, yelling at us to move all of our toys, our precious building blocks, to the side, off the edge of the sheet. She was obviously flustered and expressing it with uncertain abandon. I was just confused. I mean, if we put the blocks on the carpet, how could we put them back onto the clean boiled sheet? How could we even stand on the carpet and then get back on the sheet, anyways? I can still smell the wonderfully clean and freshly boiled sheet, as it unfurled beneath our future prison cell. I remember being upset that I had to rebuild the building block town that I had just destroyed before our daily cell-change. We had to live on the boiled sheet for a week, just me and my little brother, with our lurking mother appearing occasionally to verify the proximity of our confinement. That wall-to-wall gold shag carpet might as well have been a sea of seething hot lava from my perspective, itchy and isolated from the world while floating on my boiled sheet desert island for what seemed like an eternity.

Eternity sure seems like a long time when you are a kid. As you get older, life just speeds up. Looking back on it, I find that no matter how I tried to make sense of the world, it always eluded me. I learned to meditate, to do Tai Chi, to understand philosophical leanings, to surf the Pacific Ocean, to ride deep, Colorado Rockies' powder in the outback of the local poach-run on my snowboard, and even to pray, eat, and work at the local Hare Krishna temple as a wee lad. I learned, over the period of many years, to tap into the cosmos and draw the creative, raw energy that resides there and to manifest it here, in this world, with paint, wood, clay, sound, commix, and ideas. I traveled to the top of mountains to blow a shofar at the gales of time and watch eagles feathers twitch at close range, as they both swirled upward and beyond earthly knowledge. Through all of this, believe it or not, I could never figure out how that friggin hot lava didn't burn my feet off. I couldn't figure out how our jailer could walk on it and we couldn't. Maybe that is why I am still searching for meaning? Who knows… 

In this week's parsha, Bamidbar— meaning "In the Desert" (Numbers 1:1-4:20), we are all thrust into a realm of death. In the desert there are snakes, scorpions, dangers galore, and most importantly, the desert lacks water, the essential element of life in this world. Water is a strange thing in the universe, we learn. Water is the only known substance that expands when it is frozen. It is also the only known substance that can exist as a gas, a liquid, and as a solid. We learn that water is life and therefore that life is unique and unusual when it comes to the vastness of it all. We learn that when we go into the desert, we have to trust much more so in our faith, tapping it as a resource for growth and movement. In the desert, the concept of God develops into much more of a reality, as if the lack of water (read life) is only a kind of weaning from physicality in order to expose the truth of the world, to open our eyes to the Creator and to ultimate meaning.

It seems that not a lot has changed, even with the years having sped under the horizon. My beloved jailer is gone now, maybe buried, maybe not. Actually, the report that we heard was that she was cremated against her will. Well, regardless of the tragic circumstances, it appears that our beloved jailer has departed from this world and has entered the next realm in order to wait for the inevitable sheet to be pulled from beneath her. Looking back on our isolation on the boiled sheet, I have to laugh a little. You see, we didn't even have the Chicken Pox. Those red itchy bumps were, after all, only flea bites from the critters that lived in the desert of the gold wall-to-wall shag carpeting. At the end of the week, someone noticed the little black dots that were jumping around. As it turned out, the carpet 'was' actually the desert, full of snakes and scorpions and not the other way around. That, thinking about it now, maybe is what life is all about anyways. The reality that we perceive around us is the 'real' void, while the scary, 'unknown' void on the other side is the desert, the place of real wonder, real connection with the Creator, real purpose, and real life.

Shavuot is coming… The Torah is coming… the truth is coming!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sumeach le kulam!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Manna and the Mental Midget Opera

I haven't been able to sleep well this week. So many stresses have been building up over the past few months and it felt like this week was a kind of toxic crescendo in the opera of my life, but really… it was 'all' only in my mind. I have to ask, 'Just what is a mind good for anyways?' All it seems to do is to run away with the latest slop from whatever gutter it happens to be hovering next to. Controlling my thoughts has been such a battle lately. I have even been told recently by my loved-ones that 'all' I do is mope around, evidently consumed with the dread of whatever my mind was dumpster-diving to retrieve. Not so coincidentally, in the midst of the throes of 'just' such a raid, I happened to stumble upon an article that delved into the Jewish concept of why we experience pain and suffering, fortunately putting my mind at ease somewhat. I had been seriously contemplating chucking my kippah and, in the process, God out of the second story window of my ego's apartment complex. My mind was tripping me at every turn. No matter what I tried, no matter what I did to quiet the garbage chomping teeth that were gnashing across my vision, my awareness and sense of self, my mind would inevitably begin again and again, over and over…

Just to fall asleep at night, I would have to meditate on becoming the earth beneath me. I would visualize myself sinking into the bed, becoming one with the sheets and stuffing that supported me. I would will my mind to go as blank as the grass that had begun to reach up around me. The breeze would softly blow across my consciousness, with a sweet scent 'almost' hovering above me. I would become the earth and find myself free of the pains and problems that my mental midget opera insisted upon performing. I was free, but only until I awoke from the incessant bass drum pounding out its rhythm so severely that I had to catch my breath and sit up in bed, cold and clammy, to the nightmare of my conscious mind's intrusive insistence on oblivion. My mind would inevitably begin again and again, over and over…

I had, I think, my first truly Israeli experience today. You 'all know by now that I am a wet noodle when it comes to aggression. My entire life, for Heaven's sake, has been spent contemplating the nature of existence, the inherent nature of the problem of 'finite' in the grand scheme of things, large and small. Aggression, as opposed to this, has always been a thing of unsolicited abandon, the antithesis of the search for truth; or in other words — the ongoing search for God. Aggression has always been associated with pure survival on an instinctual level. To survive here in Israel, deep inside the absolute heart of the Middle East, aggression is the name of the game, whether you are driving, working, walking, or talking… But, surprisingly enough to Anglos like me, it can also embody a kind of a dark choreography of a commix-like ballet of culture. I found myself, today, having to step up and defend the honor of my wife and son, just like you may read about in pulp pyrography ad infinitum. I found that I had to get aggressive. Now, thinking back on it, I realize my mistake. I only 'rode' that particular wave, I only responded to the situation. Now, as I think back on it, I realize that I was trapped in that same dogmatic sense of self, causing my dreaded mind to inevitably begin again and again, over and over…

I think I will just breathe and sink into the sheets. I think I will just go to sleep and dream my very own controlled reality. In a dream I can be whatever I fancy, whatever I desire. It is kind of like in the desert with the Israelites, where Manna from Heaven fell for each individual's consumption, based solely on their merit. In the desert, a place of abandon and death, each individual was rewarded for his/her individual connection to the Creator. This is just like a dream, because in a dream we are removed from this world of action, this world of pain and suffering. In a dream we, at least, have the illusion of control… Hey, wait a second… When I am awake I also have this same exact illusion of control! So, why… then… does my mind take over and prevent me from a sense of completion, well-being, and peace? Why does my mind seem to have a mind of its own, taking me to places unspeakable? Why does my dreaded mind inevitably begin again and again, over and over…?

This week's parsha (Bechukotai, Leviticus 26:3-27:34) is penetrating in its ability to deal with that sense of dread and doom, causing one to mope around looking for some kind of escape from life's trials and tribulations. Much to my surprise, it contains a series of blessings and curses, of which only 11 are blessings and an astounding 36 are curses. Immediately I thought, "OK, there has to be some reason here… I mean, God loves us…, no? Why would God curse us so unfairly? Moreover, I read in a commentary on the parsha that King David himself wrote in Psalms 23:4, "Your staff and Your rod have comforted me." The commentary noted that it seemed strange that King David would use this type of metaphor to depict comfort, since staffs and rods are tools of pain and suffering. What is the deal here? Yeah, this line of reasoning goes on and on. In the Talmud (Brachot 5a), 'Rava explains that God smites His desired ones with pains and difficulties, as the verse says, "The one whom God desires is smitten with illness" (Isaiah 53:10).' And in Proverbs 3:12 it is written, "God chastises the one He loves, like a parent who desires the child" and in Psalms 94:10 it is written, "Fortunate is the one whom God afflicts with pains and suffering…" I was shocked. What is the deal here!? My mind is 'still' just rolling again and again, over and over…

Ok, since we are all being timed here on the things we do in this life, I will leave you with the bottom line: It seems that in order to grow as a human being we need to be challenged. The challenge is what defines us and creates movement. Comfort is not about sitting on the couch with a cold beer and a TV, as great as that sounds. That is just hibernation, just sleeping away the stresses of the day. 'Comfort' is having the actual knowledge that everything is going to be OK, that in the end we will all succeed in whatever endeavor that we charged ourselves with, once upon a time, while swimming in the protoplasmic entropy of our pre-lives. To be successful in the first place, we require a challenge in order to overcome. In the end, we will all have to just quiet our minds, allowing the wave of life to roll over us and pass us by, as we sink to the depths of the world and become One with it. In the end, we will no longer be capable of movement… or of growth. In the end… everything just stops.

Shabbat Shalom!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Mission

Sometimes I forget who I am, where I came from, as I continuously dredge through the unrelenting pressure of this gaseous planet's atmosphere. We were all instructed by the manual, every one of us, to always remember who we are and why we came to this apparently godforsaken place. Yeah, you guessed it, the same manual that is now starting to lose its import, due to all the facsimiles that have been carefully conscribed from it, like a foreshortened version of telephone tag with a slowly receding cosmic view, becoming vaporized as it disintegrates into the pressure, the unrelenting atmospheric pressure. We just weren’t meant to survive here. If it wasn't for this exoskeletal manifestation that I have been glued within, I would have been toast upon my first breath of this poisonous ball, floating in an even more toxic universe. That, as well, is exactly the problem. This exoskeleton makes it possible for me to actually enjoy this world, seeking its pleasure and loving its secrets, causing me to identify with this exoskeleton so much so that I lose myself within its gears and within its bowels. I disappear into a swirl of smoke and a puff of fog, as the joints whir and whine to the beat of this abominable straightjacket's pumping heart. I just have to keep my eye on the mission. The goal is to finish the mission. The mission is everything.

I still have a vague memory of the master-chief of legends, as he recruited the bunch of us from the far corners of chaos. We were the brightest, the strongest, the most promising. We were the only ones capable of the horribly wonderful task of terraforming this lump of poison into a garden of splendor. We just called him The Boss. He spoke to us only once, as such a legend is only required to, when we coalesced into formation from the thin yet substantial formlessness that once sat upon our unified awareness. The Boss asked us if we would accept this seemingly impossible mission and that if we did, he told us, we would be spending what would seem like an eternity in another reality, in another dimension. There was not one of us there, that day, that did 'not' have second thoughts, but once we were sealed within our protoplasmic exoskeletal suits, it was as if we had been born for the first time. We felt alive! We were able to move through this viscous environment and actually create it, manipulate it. We could actuate our inner-self, as if we were The Boss himself. There was a time when it was wonderful beyond imagination. There was a time that I remember being invincible. I could subject this suit to almost any extreme, whether it was gliding down the tundra covered chemical laden peaks at the extreme poles of the planet, or contemplating the nature of The Boss as I encapsulated myself within the womb-waves of the Vertical Sea. My exoskeleton, almost imperceptibly, became me.

As I plod forward, watching the surface of the once shiny exo-skin suit fade, crack, and flake away, while it protects me from the terrors of the world around me, I have to remind myself of the mission. I am here for a reason. Even though the world around me is attacking me incessantly, it is still a thing of wondrous beauty. My eternity here is expanding outward and I am thankful that I still remember the mission. Many have forgotten it completely, trying to find ways of extending this artificial life beyond the built-in self-destruct of their exoskeletons. Many have forgotten the mission to build the world, to create splendor out of chaos, to become one with each other and with all of eternity. Many, understandably, have opted for the lesser self that is embodied within the exoskeleton. Many forget until it is too late to change the outcome of the mission, to build themselves as they build the world around them. Most have forgotten that this world is addictive, that this world has real teeth beyond its obvious horrors. Most have forgotten that 'all' could be lost if we fail in our mission.

Sometimes I forget who I am, where I came from, as I continuously dredge through the unrelenting pressure of this gaseous planet's atmosphere. The manual is old; so old that it appears to be confused and rotten, as I thumb through its pages to get my bearings, to assimilate my latitude, a longitude, a coordinate of any kind. But, on the other hand, there 'are' times that I actually find myself amongst its pages, buried in the ancient depths of its majesty, within its impossible secrets. There are times that I see myself beyond the mission, beyond the exo-suit, beyond the obvious linear world around me. In those times, when I can see the depths of the true universe, I am truly free of the relentless grip that this confoundedly blessed exoskeleton has on me. In those times, I am free of myself; I am truly One.

This week's tip: Build a bonfire on Lag baOmer; It's written in the manual… somewhere… I remember… between the crusted, soot caked pages of the manual… I promise… Even though it may be difficult for eyes to see!

Shavua Tov and Chag Sumeach!