In this exercise the judgment of "fairness" is taken from you. It is no longer yours to bestow. In this exercise you will imagine that everything is fair. It is not unfair that a hurricane destroys the lives of thousands in Central America. It is not unfair that unarmed citizens are killed by police. It is not unfair that your brother got a bigger ice cream cone than you. It is not unfair that some babies are born into wealth and others are born to crack-addicted mothers. It is not unfair that your candidate doesn't win or that you can't afford a vacation in Miami, or that your retirement savings were depleted by a Wall Street debacle, or that you didn't get the job at Facebook, or that dictators slaughter their opposition.
There is no justice. There is no accounting.
Everything is the same. Equality is bestowed upon everything that *is*.
In this exercise you imagine the end game for the soul is not heaven. The soul's reward is existence itself.
Hold that in your mind for a microsecond if you can.
Then go back to thinking what you want.
In my dream last night I met Robert Fripp. I was walking the dog. There was familiar guitar music coming from a garage on my street. When the dog and I walked past, I saw an old guy with glasses playing an electric guitar through a Fender Pig Nose.
I said, "Hey, you're Robert Fripp."
"All my life," he said, not stopping his riffing at all.
Damn. Robert Fripp is one of my neighbors.
"How long have you been living here?" I asked him.
"Long as I can remember," he said.
Imagine that. Robert Fripp is one of my neighbors and I never knew it.
I continued walking the dog when it hit me, "Hey, this is a dream."
Maybe this is the exercise: Ask yourself if you're dreaming.
Then I woke up but I didn't. Dream-within-dream.
What differentiates dreams from other altered states of consciousness is that when you're dreaming, you think it's real.
Unless you can stop it.
Repeat while awake - "Am I dreaming?"
Eventually you say it when you're in an altered state.
Then -- I was looking out the rear window of my childhood home in New Jersey. The house began to tilt as if the ground had started to move. Earthquake. I could hear the studs cracking in the walls.
I said to myself, "What a dream."
The house began to shake violently. The wallboard came down. Cabinets full of plates emptied onto the kitchen floor. Pictures flew from the walls. Outside, water sloshed from a neighbor's swimming pool as if it was in a bucket being lugged by a two-year old. There came a TV announcer voice:
"Reports are it's like a nuclear explosion has gone off downtown. There's a mile-wide crater and the shock wave..."
I asked, "Where?" The announcer started to answer but I stopped being able to hear.
I was crushed in the rubble.
Then I woke up.
I came to write this.
Is this a dream, too?
Now everything familiar is taken from you. You are dropped into a foreign land and left with no promise of return. You speak the language but you're surrounded by strangers and odd structures. Home is somewhere in the stars. You don't know exactly where it is or how to get back.
You ask yourself repeatedly, "Am I dreaming?"
You never wake up.
The blonde haired girl's grandfather died. There was a memorial service for him in Alaska. About a hundred people gathered.
He worked for the US Forestry Service. He produced the seminal work on the forest of the state of Alaska. To this day his paper is referenced by the U.S. government as the baseline upon which they assess the total value of the Alaskan timber resource.
To be clear: my wife's grandfather counted all the trees in Alaska. It was his life's work.
He was a veteran of World War II and fought in France. He took part in the liberation of Paris. He became an expert in aerial reconnaissance, which he later used to count all the trees in Alaska. He encamped his family in the US Alaskan territory before there was an infrastructure. No roads, electricity, or public water. He fathered two children. Raised them in Juneau. In between he worked in the Alaskan forest. His decline began when his wife was killed in an auto accident. Eventually, he forgot everything and everyone.
His children put him in a nursing home in Paulsbo, Washington. He remained there, visited by them several times per week until he died of complications related to his age and dementia.
I met him exactly once.
He was a cheerful fellow who followed us into the car and then shuffled with us down wooded trail by the river. I walked beside him for a small way. We had been introduced some time before, and I expect he had no idea who I was those few minutes later.
"What a great day for a walk," he said.
I don't remember what I said in reply.
"Don't often get a great day like this," he said.
What I remember about him was that he was friendly and extremely cordial. He didn't stop smiling.
I wondered if I would be as friendly and polite if I had been dropped into a foreign land full of strangers with no possibility of escape.
My father dreamed of tidal waves. He said he'd be standing on the beach and suddenly the razor line of the horizon would lift into the sky.
He told me it was a recurring nightmare.
His exercise was: "What do you do when God is coming to kill you?"
If he ever found the answer before he died, he never told me.
The blonde haired girl told me her grandfather had always said that when his time had come, he wanted to be put in his canoe and he would take to the water and never return.
We got a call from my sister-in-law. Grandfather had escaped the nursing home. No one saw him leave. The police had been notified.
"He went to the river," said my blonde-haired wife. Her sister agreed.
Two hours later, the cops found him shivering and crying at the water's edge. Ankle deep.
In this exercise we will claim the right to our last breath.
At his funeral in Alaska one of his best friends stood up in church and told stories about the blonde haired girl's grandfather. There were stories about hunting and fishing, which is what they did a lot of in those days. There were stories about shooting moose and catching big salmon. About being treed by bears and stuck by porcupines.
At the end of all the stories his best friend choked up, as one would suspect at a memorial.
He said, "Up where I come from, we have a saying. It's this: 'a man who is worth his salt will take your oar and row with both yours and his when you cannot. That is a man you want in your boat when you take to the river.' He was always worthy to be in my boat. I hope I was worthy to be in his."
In this exercise God will not help you. Your prayers will not be answered. You are at the mercy of wolves.
You will be accompanied by persistent fear.
You will ask yourself if you're dreaming, and the answer will evade you.
You will ask yourself if you will die and you know you will.
In this exercise it is not for you to know if your behavior is moral or evil.
It is not for you to know if you are perceived as heroic or cowardly.
In this exercise you are reduced to a mote of dust in an infinite universe.
In this exercise you will get someone to find you, to stand and proclaim in firm voice that he valued your presence as much as his own infinitesimal life.
Is this a dream?