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What Am I Taking From You

Last post 05-31-2007, 3:55 PM by tamgoddess. 0 replies.
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  •  05-31-2007, 3:55 PM 23689

    What Am I Taking From You

    Attachment: instinct-2.jpg

    From Robert Augustus Masters' blog (May 7, 2007) -

    What Am I Taking From You?

    Last night I watched a film called “Instinct,” in which Anthony Hopkins plays Ethan Powell, an apparently insane anthropologist guilty of murder. Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays Theo Calder, a psychiatrist ambitiously trying to “get through” to Powell. At one point, as Calder sticks to his rational guns, continuing to keep himself removed from Powell’s world, Powell seizes him (they’re in a windowless room without any guards), puts duct tape over his mouth, and holds him in a position where he could easily kill him. Calder is obviously very frightened, and clearly in great danger.


    Powell puts a pencil and piece of paper on the table before Calder, saying, “Now, this will be a very simple test. Pass or fail, life or death… Now, you write on this paper what I have taken from you…. What you are losing.”


    Calder quickly writes: “My control.”


    Says Powell: “Wrong. You never had control. You only thought you had it.”


    Powell then gives Calder another chance. Calder writes: “My freedom.”


    Wrong answer again.


    Calder is right at the edge, starting to really get that he’s in a life-and-death situation. ”In the middle of the night,” says Powell, “when you wake up sweating, with your heart pounding, what is it that has you all tied up, tied up in little knots ?”


    I used to be you,” adds Powell. “Okay, one last chance.” And it’s clear that he really means it. “Last try,” he says. “Get it right.”


    Calder writes: “My illusions.”


    Right answer.


    He didn’t really have control or freedom in his everyday life (but thought that he did). So how could he actually lose them? But while just a moment away from being killed – so existentially vivid a moment – he realized that he was, to whatever degree, starting to lose his illusions. About what? All kinds of things, especially those that he’d taken as givens – like him being the sane one, and Powell the less-than-sane one. For our illusions to give up the ghost, we have to be in a position where we can actually see them for what they are, and this is ordinarily a far from easy undertaking. Our eyes may only really open when we are right at the edge of…


    Big moments. Extraordinarily alive moments, simultaneously dreamlike and hyper-real, moments when we are profoundly present. But what’s just as amazing as the appearance of such moments is our not letting our seemingly less spectacular moments be equally alive. When we deny our moments their true size, we only shrink ourselves, withdrawing from authentic contact with the edge they present and illuminate.


    Too much of the time, we pretend we’re not at the edge, and then pretend we’re not pretending. But the edge is nonetheless still very much here, precisely and unavoidably here, ever inviting us to wake up to it presence and invitation, so that we might truly live.


    Like Theo Calder, we don’t drop our illusions very easily, especially when our entire life is built upon them. We may have the illusion that we are free just because we are king or queen in our our finely furnished, pleasingly populated cell; we may have the illusion that we are in control just because we are able to sit upon someone else or padlock the closet that contains our more undesirable elements; we may have the illusion that we are who we think we are, just because so many others think the same way; we may have the illusion that it’s all an illusion, just because we’re attached to a spiritual path that says this is so (except, of course, about itself!); and so on.


    Having the illusion that we are free does not mean that freedom itself is an illusion. It’s just that we have an astonishing ability to fool ourselves, and an equally astonishing ability to cut through whatever’s in the way. The first ability (which appears at every level of development) generates the very conditions that catalyze the second. However unwittingly, we invite in circumstances that bring our dissatisfaction to such a peak (or trough) that something has to give – and that something is mostly just our clinging to whatever it is that we’ve convinced ourselves we just have to have, no matter what.


    To cut through illusion, we have to get disillusioned, and the more thoroughly the better. There’s the pill of sedation, and there’s the pill of thrill, and then there’s the pill that wakes us up in the midst of our dreaming and scheming. We don’t need a prescription for these, since Life itself does such a great job of providing them.


    We can play the sick one; we can play the fixer of the sick one; and we can play the one that includes both. But what really matters is our degree of intimacy with each. We are all Ethan Powell, studying the habits and lifestyle of other primates, hairless and otherwise, sharpening our anthropological lenses, with our life being but a field study that pulls us so far in that we forget there’s an out; and we are all also Theo Calder, stuck in trying to get an inside look at what makes others tick, trying to do for others’ interiors what Dr. Powell is doing for others’ exteriors (behavior, life style, etc.). We can identify with either, or we can identify with neither while compassionately holding both, along with everything else that constitutes us, in an embrace that is not so much ours to have, but ours to be, until the edge is recognized to be everywhere, even in the homeliest or most mundane of moments.


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