The collection of memories and history that makes up the individual life experience.
The way in which the individual views the world around him or her through the filters of their perspective.
The coming together of individuals with different viewpoints and perspectives through the acceptance of the equal validity of all realities and mythologies.
Within each of us is a set of memories and beliefs that make up our personal mythology. Within personal mythology lies the collection of memories and beliefs a person holds as truth. This truth may not always be correct in a collective sense. Others may remember differently or see events from a different perspective. Personal reality is how things are seen from the perspective of the individual. By definition this makes it correct and true in the view of convergence.
A clash between individuals often happens at the perception level. How we see something is not necessarily how another sees it, yet we are prone to assuming our truths are applicable to others. The core truths are born of necessity, not of invention or a need to control.
"Give everything you can to everyone you know.
All those who exist are unique, independent universes with their own truths and their own realities.
Understand and accept this and you will know the answer."
This is the core truth, the heart of Convergence, as it was told to me. The words were spoken to me during my death experience in 1994 and at the time I was not certain what they meant or if they were nothing but gibberish from a dream. My journey over the past ten years has been about understanding those words, as well as other words and images I experienced that night and in dreams that stayed with me over the years. These three lines are the key. They are the building blocks.
Collective mythology and personal mythology
Personal mythology does not discount collective mythologies. Religion, as an example of a collective mythology, seems to be something that must be accepted as a single unit by a large collection of people in total agreement. It is not. Each person who aligns themselves with a religion or belief system perceives it in their own way. No member of any single church perceives their religion in exactly the same way as any other member of that same church. It is processed through personal mythology and interpreted within the context of the individual experience. Collective mythologies are building blocks for personal mythologies. Aside from the obvious example of religion, world events, corporate culture, family traditions, even things like television shows, movies and books can become essential building blocks for personal mythology. If you've ever used a line from a film or imitated aspects of a favorite character, you've processed that line or character into your personal mythology. Even the most trivial additions to your mythology are additions and help form the foundation of what is "you."
What is often missed is the meaning and value of the experience. The heart of the message is ignored in favor of the word of the law. Instead of understanding the deeper and underlying context of the elements of life experience and of our personal mythologies, we codify them and obey them as if they were an idol. The mind rules rather than the heart and meanings are reduced to rules and regulations. Consider the evolution of Christianity following the birth, life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. Regardless of how often Jesus warned his people about the dangers of embracing the word of the law over the heart of the law, it has become the most ignored aspect of his teachings. Instead, many of his teachings and statements are quoted out of context for the purposes of supporting or defending a personal or collective mythology. By the same vein, there are those who do the same with all religions and belief systems. There are those who manipulate the beauty of Islam in order to justify killing and destruction.
It is the nature of human beings to filter the elements of their life experience through their personal mythology. This is why often the follower of a religion or belief system will twist and corrupt the values and vision of their faith to their own purposes.
Exclusion is one of the most common reasons for manipulation of a belief system. Just as people have a need for companionship and to be around those who share similar thoughts and ideas, people have a tendency to close the door to those they feel are alien or in opposition to what they think or believe. When I was thirteen, I was in confirmation class at the church my family belonged to. During the class I asked our minister a number of questions because I did not feel I could accept and be confirmed in this faith while I had misgivings about so many aspects of it. While the minister was happy to address my questions and concerns, later telling me that my questions helped him affirm his own faith, my peers were a different story. I was mocked, harassed and eventually left the church because I could no longer deal with how I was being treated by the other teenagers of the church. It was their assertion that I was some kind of heretic or blasphemer because of my questions and concerns.
It is unfortunate that so much of what is considered religious and spiritual education becomes little more than learning faith by rote. Memorize the key aspects of the story and a few of the primary values and then stand beside the rest of the flock during religious services because this is "the right thing to do." It means nothing, and in the end I would be surprised if more than ten percent of Americans who identify themselves as Christians understand their own religion. They have filtered and watered it down through their personal mythology so much that it has become nothing more than a social gathering and something that makes them a "good person" no matter what they do during the rest of the week. The most devoutly Christian man I ever knew, a Bible thumping father of four who preached and judged others within his own interpretation of the faith was also sexually abusing his children.
The impact of rejection by my peers led me to a rejection of the entire Christian faith. It became an issue of black and white that later in life led me to believe only in shades of gray. I was not being rejected by the faith for questioning the stories I was being told. I was being rejected by the personal mythologies of my peer group, joined together in a collective where the foundation was complete acceptance or banishment. At the time I did not see it this way. They were representatives of the faith and to me, as a confused thirteen year old, they represented the nature of the faith. This mistake is very common on a wide scale and is the reason for much conflict. Someone who claims to be a follower of Islam blows up a building and we see this as the nature of Islam. A member of a political party is found guilty of corruption, so his political party must be corrupt. We perceive the individual, their personal mythology and reality, and attach it to everyone in the group they belong to.
Personal mythology changes the nature of any collective mythology within the interpretation of the individual. Because a gang of teenagers believes you either completely embrace the teachings of the church or you are a Satan-worshipping heretic does not mean the faith supports this practice. Because the father who sexually abuses his children considers himself a devout Christian and reads from The Bible before meals does not mean his behavior is justified by his religion. Because men who claim to be followers of Islam fly planes into buildings does not mean the Islamic faith supports this.
...but, Everyone is right, you said...
"Everyone is right" is one of the most misunderstood and difficult aspects of Convergence. Because of how most of us learned to see the world around us, our thinking tends to flow from the self outward to others instead of allowing the energy to flow from others into the self. We tend to think of our truths and our beliefs as right and we tend to see conflict in alternative truths and beliefs held by others, especially when they do not support our own. We see black and white instead of shades of gray and we feel the need to defend our beliefs and truths against perceived attacks. The other teenagers in my confirmation class are an example of this. My questions were seen as a threat to what they were raised to see as righteous and true. While their maturity was a big part of the issue, supposedly mature adults do the same thing with alarming regularity, although usually less blatantly. Consider the wine connoisseur who mocks those who drink boxes of wine they buy at the grocery store or the intellectual who reads works of literature and philosophy and looks down on his sister for reading romance novels.
In order for everyone to be right, everyone must accept everyone else as right rather than promoting themselves as right. This is the nature of allowing the energy to flow from others into yourself instead of from yourself into others. To accept and understand differences in others is not that difficult, but we have a tendency to judge, and this is the tendency we need to learn to overcome. You cannot be right if you deny the same to others or if you impose upon their personal reality. The man I knew who considered himself a devout Christian and abused his children violated the code by forcing others, his own children, to do things that violated the sanctity of their reality and permanently warped their personal mythology to the point where one of his sons, my friend Bobby, killed himself rather than deal with the pain any longer. In such cases you are no longer right because you have denied others their opportunity for the same.
Reality may not be subjective, but individual perceptions of it are.
Convergence relies heavily on accepting that the belief systems of others are as relevant as your own. This does not mean that you accept their belief system as truth, only that their belief system is as sacred to them as yours is to you. Maybe this other person truly believes that he once flew across a canyon using a toy kite to keep him in the air. You believe this is completely impossible. There is no reason to force him to change his mind about his beliefs simply because you find them absurd. There is no reason for the other person to force you to accept their belief. No purpose is served.
The breakdown occurs when people take the other road. There is endless debate and argument about what is right and what is wrong. Neither party is going to give up any ground when it comes to what they truly believe. This is the biggest waste of energy that occurs when two people enter each other's orbits. It accomplishes nothing and creates friction between them. This friction then creates issues in further relationships. When it comes to speaking freely about what one believes, people hesitate and step back. Some people become ashamed of what they believe because they have been mocked for talking about it. Other people are guarded against sharing their thoughts and feelings because they have been attacked for them. Because of the inability to accept that our personal realities are equally valid within the individual context we have great difficulty in "opening ourselves up" to others. Because of this, we are often cold and lonely in an empty world. Our secrets are our banishment from the collective experience. The other option becomes dogma, embracing absolute and unquestionable belief in one's personal mythology without regard to the thoughts or beliefs of others, generally with the intention of imposing those beliefs on others. Both are dangerous roads.
The power of acceptance
Imagine yourself as an African American. Imagine yourself being one of the first to bravely step into a restaurant that was, until today, "whites only," to have a cup of coffee. You feel completely alone, a stranger in a strange land, a person who is neither welcome nor accepted. There are dirty looks and muttered comments. And then a young white woman from one of the tables gets up, walks over to you, and says, "Welcome." The energy changes completely. You are no longer alone.
Those things we keep locked away cause us to feel much the same way the man buying the cup of coffee felt. When we are open and exposed to others, we pause and stand alone, not knowing what will happen next. We might be sharing something we have kept locked away because we were ashamed or because we felt no one would ever accept, care or understand. It is something that, with exposure, brings the fear of rejection and humiliation. The feeling of isolation persists until acceptance is found on some level. One of the most liberating elements of the human experience is that feeling that comes with having those things we are insecure or ashamed about being accepted or embraced by another person.
Constructing personal mythology
Over the course of my journey I began to realize personal mythology was an untapped reservoir of energy with the capacity to improve the quality of life. I experimented with it and embraced it, allowing myself to be guided by the elements of my personal mythology instead of stepping away from them. Most individuals are not aware of their personal mythology as something that can improve their life experience. They see a collection of people, places, events and experiences as part of the story of their life, but they leave it at that. Personal mythology allows you to make more efficient use of your life story. Your life is a work in progress and you have limited control over where it goes. Outside influences and events keep us from ever maintaining complete control over the direction of our lives, but we can maintain complete control over our perception of it.
If you have ever found yourself having to perform a mundane task repetitively for a long period of time, you may understand the value of letting your imagination take over and turning the task into something other than what it is on a most basic level. You may make a game out of it or think of what you are doing as something else. Embracing personal mythology is a similar principle. You stop thinking of your life as a stream of the same mundane processes, getting up in the morning, going to work, going to lunch, coming home, reading the newspaper, watching television... most people's lives follow a process, a regular schedule or pattern in which there is little variation. The more mundane and repetitive life becomes, the more we grow disenchanted with it and the more we look for escape. Depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, anger and frustration are born of this disenchantment and a need to escape from what has essentially become a life with little perceived meaning.
Life does not have to be mundane, and neither does personal mythology. In my own journey, I have utilized the power of personal mythology as much as possible. My life is guided and supported by the way in which I view and embrace elements of my experience. I came to Orlando to understand the "Riddle of the Three Queens." The great love of my life is The Muse, a source of inspiration and guidance. My death experience and the way it changed how I view the world around me is a key element of my personal mythology. None of these things require the acceptance or belief of others, they are simply my perceptions and my mythology. The more mundane interpretation of why I moved to Florida in 1997 is that I was weary of winter and wanted to start a new life in a warmer climate. This is the story I tell most people I've met. In that interpretation it was about moving to a warmer climate, finding a job, making new friends and settling down with someone. I would never have moved to Florida for those reasons, but it doesn't make a difference because this is what I know they are willing to accept. When I tell the story that way, to an employer or casual acquaintance, I am reminded that this is how most people perceive their life experience and I can feel their pain.
When you create a personal mythology in which you frame your life, you look at a number of key elements and change the way you process them. People and events of the past now existing only in memory become vibrant and legendary. Obstacles and difficulties we face in life become challenges to be faced, pooling all our resources and our power in order to rise to the challenge. Our goals and aspirations become quests. The people around us become both more significant and symbolic. At the most advanced level, personal mythology can be utilized to meet the challenges of the present and the future by calling upon the power of the past. In a sense, we can meet this new challenge and aspire to fulfill a quest because we have either met similar or greater challenges in the past or because we failed to meet them in the past and now we have an opportunity to succeed.
Conflict and Resolution
Conflict occurs when the energy flow is from the inside to the outside, imposing one's personal reality upon others in your midst. It is much like the difference between "Sports are stupid" and "I don't like sports." Someone who loves watching sports is drawn into conflict by the person who is downgrading them. The first statement, "Sports are stupid," is a blanket statement claiming a collective truth. This will usually bring a strong a bitter defense from the sports fan, which will likely include a downgrading of the person who hates sports. The second statement, "I don't like sports," is a statement of personal preference and perspective. The sports fan may attempt to change the other person's mind about sports with examples and stories from his personal experience with sports, and find it difficult to believe this other person doesn't understand, but in the end the sports fan will go on loving sports and the other will go on hating sports.
Conflict occurs on many levels, and the intensity of conflict usually depends on the intensity of one's belief in something. The casual sports fan will not defend sports with the same intensity as a sports fanatic. Whatever the conflict is over, it comes down to the same basic principles. It is defense of one's beliefs against the perception that they are being attacked or discounted. Convergence expels elements of personal and collective mythologies that require others to submit to or accept in order to achieve validation. Bob loves sports and Bill doesn't. In the end, outside of the arguments and the defensive posturing, this is all it is.
Conversion and promotion of a belief or ideology are an interesting battleground. Often, an individual or group will cling to the idea that others need to hear their words, thoughts or ideas and once they do, they will embrace them warmly. They convince themselves that ignorance is the only reason others are not in agreement with their views or their truths. People who crusade against tobacco smoking or drug use often do so from an incredulous point of view. Why would anyone do anything that is so bad for their health and well being? They become frustrated and adamant, screaming their precious truth because only ignorance could keep people from seeing and accepting their truth.
What is often forgotten is that in conflict there are no bad guys. No one enters into conflict because they believe they are wrong and must destroy the goodness of their opponent. Not in a real sense, anyway. Most conflict involves an effort by one party to force another party to accept they are wrong rather than attempting to understand the differences in perspective and point of view. Most conflict is born of a lack of understanding.
There is another type of conflict that is more difficult to resolve. It is the conflict that occurs when one individual or group violates the rights of another individual or group. The aggressor is always wrong, however they will see themselves as right or justified in their actions based on their perspective and mythology. Once you violate another's right to their personal reality you have lost all rights to your own. You have destroyed your own validity by doing so. Chaos occurs when the rights of the individual are restricted or destroyed and chaos can only be controlled by seeking its antecedent, divergence. There is the point at which individuals or groups diverge, taking dynamically different paths that bring about conflict between them. Understanding the nature of that conflict and negotiating it within the realm of mutual acceptance is the only answer.
The resolution of conflict only comes through negotiations, but in many cases it is forced negotiations. If we beat you down solidly enough, you'll kneel before us and accept our terms. The logic behind physical combat as a way of determining right and wrong is founded in ancient traditions, but does it prove anything? If one man said the world was round and another said it was flat, does a fist fight between them prove which one is right? Does the world become flat when the man who believes it is beats the man who believes it is round to death? Few would answer "yes," and yet this is exactly what we do when we go to war. We seek to prove ourselves right by hammering our opponent into submission. It proves nothing, ever.
Negotiations are often seen as a sign of weakness, stemming from the idea that the righteous never back down. Negotiations are often seen as being willing to give up your ideals and your beliefs, sacrificing them in order to find peaceful resolution. As such, negotiations are not always seen as honorable. Combat continues to be seen as honorable, the righteous defeating the unrighteous.
What is misunderstood is the limits of negotiations. Those who feel they are completely right in what they believe will scoff at negotiations. Why negotiate when you are right?
This is the most basic misunderstanding about negotiations intended to avoid or end conflict on any level. Those who are right must get those who are wrong to say "uncle" in order to defend their truth and their righteousness. Those who will not negotiate are the destroyers. They are the ones who create chaos in our world. Negotiations are not a case of giving in and watering down your beliefs. They are a tool by which we can end conflict. If you combine negotiation with forgiveness, then you have a valuable tool for building peace, subduing chaos and ending conflict.
People create their own history, their own personal mythology, and they will stand by it. The key is in understanding that you cannot impose that personal mythology on others. This does not require that you back down or surrender, it merely requires that you do not attempt to force or coerce others into acceptance or compliance.
You steer. I'll navigate.
One can learn to steer and navigate their personal mythology, but they can rarely control it. We cannot control what people cross our path or what lies on the seas up ahead. However, we can reinterpret it and see it in a different light. What we experience and how we perceive that experience becomes our personal mythology. It becomes made up of people, places and things that are symbolic of our overall experience, like icons in a religion. We have our own symbols and icons in our personal mythology.
Personal mythology allows an individual to understand the separation between their beliefs and truths and those of others. It allows a person a road to understanding that promotion of "the one truth" has no real purpose. If one is secure in their own beliefs and faith, they have no reason to force their views on others. There is much to be gained by the sharing of information, beliefs and viewpoints, but nothing to be gained for coercion with the intent to convert. The sports fan is not going to convince his friend that sports are enjoyable. The Christian is not going to convert the atheist in his workplace. This will not stop them from trying, but understanding personal mythology can keep them from wasting energy by raising such conflicts.
If you took the members of a single church, a group of people who belonged to the same political organization, or the members of any club you would find a wide range of opinions and interpretations of the reasons for their membership and the nature of the group and its beliefs. You will have a hard time finding two people who belong to or are affiliated with an organization or group who have the same views on what the collective stands for. Each will have their own perspective, each will have a different focus and each will have differences of opinion on some level with other members of the collective. This is the difference between personal mythology and a collective mythology.
Personal mythology is heavily impacted by our surroundings, our culture and our way of life. How we see the world is impacted by the influences and teachings of the collective reality we live in. Because of this, history is filled with a variety of people who have given the message of Convergence in different ways. The message has always been given within the context of the collective in which it is given. Individuals such as Muhammed or Jesus of Nazareth taught within the context of their culture and established belief systems. This reminds us of the absurdity of conflict in the name of correlating religions, as both speak of tolerance and acceptance and carry within their texts the message of Convergence.
Not out of the woods yet...
There is great frustration in either not being understood or in being misunderstood. Our problem with understanding is derived from our inability to truly listen to each other. Much of the time we are filtering what others say and hearing only what we want to hear. Many of us have tried to explain an aspect of our life or beliefs to someone and had them sit quietly until they heard something they could relate to and then interjected "Aha!" They were listening for validation of their own beliefs in what you said about yours and not really hearing anything else. A similar thing happens when a public figure whose beliefs and actions you do not agree with speaks and you wait anxiously for them to make a mistake so you can pounce on them.
In order to truly understand and accept others as independent and unique universes with their own truths and their own realities, we must be able to deconstruct our own personal mythologies. We must be willing to submit our beliefs to scrutiny and to questions, just as the minister was open to my questions about his beliefs. To do this we must sidestep dogma and embrace the fact that our beliefs may be less than acceptable as truth to others. We must submit ourselves to criticism instead of venting our criticism on others. Without being willing or able to deconstruct our own mythologies, we have no right to deconstruct the beliefs of others. In essence, we must accept that we are wrong before we can be right.
To do this we must change perspectives and we must stop clinging to our personal mythology as an absolute. My personal mythology seems outrageous and bizarre to many people, and I often attempt to look at it from their perspective. The basic tenets of my mythology leave themselves open to ridicule and disbelief with little or no effort. I could enter into pointless conflict with others about how my mythology is truth, standing on dogma and becoming defensive and angry with their doubts, but I do not. Instead of doing this, I open myself to questions and criticism and avoid letting it devolve into personal attacks and defensive posturing. No one doubts what I believe more than I do, although the love of my life is a very close second.
We are made stronger by those who doubt and question us than we are by those who accept and share our beliefs and our perspectives. When we surround ourselves with nothing other than people who think and feel the way we do, and who believe in the things we so, we become weak and entrenched. Just as nothing is gained from attacks and conflict, nothing is gained from blind acceptance. We learn and grow on our journey through life by listening to and understanding different views and beliefs. Listening and understanding does not imply acceptance within your personal mythology of new truths, but we are often afraid of being influenced by different ideas. We protect our beliefs instead of allowing ourselves to become stronger by doubting them. If you are secure in your beliefs then you have no reason to feel threatened by questions or by doubt.
The only way it can be done, to establish that everyone is right, is for everyone to accept that they are wrong. I'll start.
Irate reader: I beg to differ on the second to last full paragraph. Balance...some of each is necessary (regarding surrounding yourself with those who share your beliefs and interests and those who do not).
Mentally ill author: Absolutely. I'm sorry that wasn't clear. I thought I had established that. Yes, you need both those that will validate or understand your beliefs and views and those who will challenge and doubt them. Absolutely. You are right.