Delight Springs

Friday, May 18, 2018

All mean egotism vanishes

May's already more than half gone? How time flies when your family's expanding!

We met Pita and Nell at the Nashville Humane Association on May 1. The place was closed on May 2. We were there waiting for the doors to open on May 3. It's been a blur ever since, they're the highest-energy canines I've ever been around. But life feels right again. Life is just better with dogs.

Better and busier, and disruptive of my old early-morning writing routine. But among the many lessons I've learned from dogs is flexibility and resilience, in the face of loss, disappointment, or just change. A change would do you good, as we heard Jeff Trott sing last night at a terrific Bluebird-style benefit show. (He wrote that Sheryl Crow hit, along with Soak Up the Sun, If It Makes You Happy, and lots more.) Fun night!

Did somebody say resilience? That's just another word for returning to life, bouncing back, making a new plan, getting on with it, and maybe sometimes changing your mind.

I'm in the middle of Michael Pollan's remarkable new book How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. Toying in chapter four with the notion that mind-altering organic compounds might actually trigger noetic experiences with a profound spiritual dimension, but uneasy about "spirituality" that's not been disentangled from discreditable supernaturalism, he quotes Emerson's famously strange line:
Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into
infinite space,—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball.
And then Pollan speculates that genuine spirituality just may be that condition of egolessness, the transparency of vision without an overbearing sense of subjective selfhood, however arrived at. I'm with him on that. I've stood on the bare ground of transparency myself, not catalyzed by mushrooms or acid or toad venom (!) but by the footsteps that carry me away from all mean egotism.

I'm always carried by my own footsteps, for sure, but am happily accompanied again now by my four-footed companions' pawsteps as well. We three don't need psychedelics to change our minds.

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