Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Tear Off Labels

Lucky thirteen again, same as last year! Here y'go, kid. This one should fit you pretty well. He tossed a different jersey over to Derek, who looked at it and made a face. Number 2. Pete was standing right next to him. He gave Derek a nudge and said softly, so that no one else could hear him, Hey. Close your eyes and think about it. Can you pin down the I that is having experiences? Can you put a boundary or border on it? Can you confine it to a definitive space? The answer you will come to is that you can't put anything finite around I. It's not a finite thing, whatever it is. I is therefore in-finite. Finally, we might wonder when I is present. Right now, I is present reading these words. Ten years ago, I was present. Open the Second Eye Small steps and big moves are important milestones toward recovery, but sometimes you need a gesture with more transcendent resonance. You need a ritual.

As popular as rituals are in marking the beginning of a transition, they're equally popular in marking the end. Meaningful acts that proclaim the unveiling of the new you were a powerful theme in my conversations. They hark back to an old Japanese tradition: opening the second eye. Robert Yang was born in Southern California to parents who fled China to escape Mao. I was that friendly, non-sexually-threatening, sociable-nerd type in high school, which means I didn't get picked for anything. Also, I'm gay, but I wasn't out the entire time I was in school. Robert attended the University of California, Berkeley, but still felt socially awkward. Number two! As in second best! Derek tightened his jaw and pursed his lips so he wouldn't say what he wanted to say. Instead he shuffled off toward the bleachers, where his dad was waiting for him. How'd it go? Jeter asked, putting his papers back into his briefcase. You looked pretty good out there. Terrible, Derek said. Well, you were throwing a little wild. Try coming over the top more on your pitching motion. When I was born, I was present. As far as we can tell, has I ever not been present? I has always been present in our life.

At the very least, from birth to death, I is present. And we haven't experienced our own birth or our own death; As far as our experience tells us, I is always present. I has never not been present. Another way of phrasing its ever-presence is to say that I is eternal. So, our own introspection tells us that I has the following characteristics: It is unlimited, self-aware, infinite, and eternal (see the following table for a summary). Characteristics of I Rationale One of my roommates was a very straight, small-time drug dealer, and I kept asking for love advice because I had no idea how to ask a guy out or anything. Robert eventually started dating, moved to New York for graduate school, and later married a New Zealander. Along the way, he started mixing his love life with his nerd life and designed cutting-edge gay video games. The first one was a simulation of gay divorce; Far from fringe, his work earned him a professorship at NYU. The first line of his bio reads: Robert Yang makes surprisingly popular games about gay culture and intimacy--he is most known for his historical bathroom sex simulator The Tearoom and his male shower simulator Rinse and Repeat, and his gay sex triptych Radiator 2 has over 150,000 users on Steam. Robert was describing how stressed he was after graduate school, when he was trying to design games that were both fulfilling and successful, but he felt enormous pressure from his parents to achieve traditional milestones of success. He used a ritual from Japan to help. I had one of those daruma dolls, he said, referring to the red papier-mache dolls that are modeled after the founder of Zen Buddhism and sold with the eyes blank. You're supposed to paint one pupil black at the outset of a project, to symbolize your aspiration, then paint the other one when you finish. It'll help you be accurate. And make sure you follow through on your throws. Your hand should be pointing--

It's not that, Derek said. I probably won't even get to play shortstop! Jeter looked surprised. Is that what the coach said? No, but his son wants to play there. And look, I didn't even get number thirteen. Well, two is a fine number. Unlimited I can experience many different states, but those states change while the same I remains. If I say, I am ____, no matter what ____ is, I is present. There is no limit that can be placed on I. Self-aware I is the entity that is aware that I am; Infinite I does not have a finite boundary like my body or my table. I is borderless and uncontained. Eternal I is always present in my life, no matter what state I am in. I is ever-present (ie, eternal). Religions--across cultures--have a name for an unlimited, self-aware, infinite, and eternal being. The name they give for that being is: God. When I got the job at NYU, I opened the second eye. In Japanese, opening the second eye means you realized a personal goal. It's a technique that helps you both visualize your dream and memorialize its achievement.

I have a daruma doll in my home from finishing my first article, which describes the year I spent teaching junior high school in rural Japan. You might think triumphant rituals like this are superfluous. After all, reaching a personal milestone would hardly seem to be a scary thing you need to tame or normalize in some way. But as anyone who's been through a long medical treatment, served in combat, or dropped out of the world for a while to complete a daunting project knows, fear of reentry is a real and terrifying thing. I remember thinking at the end of my year of chemo, Now what? I've done all I can do; I've been in this oddly sheltered place, a place where I didn't have to make many decisions or follow social norms, a place the poet Hakim Bey called a temporary autonomous zone. It's not thirteen, Derek said. Speaking of which, guess who did get thirteen? Jeter nodded slowly. Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. You might still get to be shortstop. Maybe, thought Derek. But not likely. And if not, just remember--that boy might be your rival, but he's also your teammate. Your team's not going anywhere if you don't all pull together in the same direction. Remember your contract? Now we can truly understand why the 13th-century Sufi mystic, Rumi, said: I searched for God and found only myself. I searched for myself and found only God. And we can understand why those who experience transcendental states of consciousness (eg, NDErs and some psychedelics users) claim to experience divinity: They are getting in touch with the I that they truly are.

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