As a child I worked each summer on farms, in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and I would delight in the experience of using a hacksaw and a short blade to cut a golf ball’s skin, revealing within the tightly — wound lengths of rubber band.
My cousin and I would sit and rock on our heels in delight as tightly-wound strands of rubber thrashed and flailed, and not so much chaotically, but rather: viscerally revealing the kinetic energy which gave the golf ball its bounce and elasticity.
There is an adjacent metaphor that I have frequently used: the phenomenon of a forest fire.
Where I come from, one does not live in a city “near“ the forest; we live within a temporal rainforest that runs for thousands of miles
And for many months, the rain falls with such abundance that it’s not impossible to imagine that we are within a chilly terrarium, with literal rivers falling from the sky.
The trees are huge, sometimes 75 to 150 feet tall, and there are many places in the forest where the sun never reaches, and so it’s easy to imagine that fire is impossible.
Alas, the forest fires are incredible, and I like to remind people that all of the energy necessary is already out there in the forest; all that’s needed are the proper conditions, and a catalyst (lightening, for example).
It would be accurate to describe the hacksaw and the short blade (golf ball) and lightening (forest fire) as an examples of a catalyst, but I find the language limiting, and prefer to speak of this phenomenon through metaphor.
I have always loved the word, because it implies quantitative measures and deterministic outcomes, otherwise known as chemistry.
But the word also implies magic, and until recently, the art and cræft of alchemy was historically associated with transmutation.
Again, this is metaphor.
I am fascinated by the orchestration of events, materials, context, experiences, and participants to inspire an alchemic, transformational experience.
Transaction: I am well aware that I can purchase a meal at McDonald’s, and will expect to receive predictable results.
Transformation: I can alternatively submit myself to experiencing a meal which changes how I come to perceive the world, and unlike the transactional model, this option necessitates a leap of faith.
For example, I have learned that the best roadside tacos in Austin are typically located near establishments that sell used tires.
Without any evidence that might have assured me a safe and flavorful dining experience, I nonetheless chose to experiment in an unorthodox manner, and have emerged enriched.
Ergo: a transformational experience.
Within my canon, faith can be described algebraically.
Faith = belief + action
I want to get very precise in this definition, and emphasize that in this definition, the word faith has absolutely nothing to do with religious belief.
There are people who sit upon benches, awaiting the bus, and watch a large volume of automobiles pass without any concern that one of them won’t drive up the curb and run them over.
There are countless hundreds of millions of people who have driven on two lane roads, consciously aware that any of the vehicles traveling the opposite direction could modestly change course by inches, and end their lives.
Nonetheless, they entertain a belief that things will be OK, and they act upon this belief without any assurance, therefore demonstrating faith.
They demonstrate a blind faith in hundreds of millions of perfect strangers.
People express and demonstrate this variety of faith without thinking, and their aggregate behaviors inform I shared social contract I like to call the consensus trance.
This shared consensus trance informs our view of the world, and therefore informs our demonstrations of faith, which I consider to be among the most potent alchemic energies
What does it take for people to change their role within the context of a pervasive and frequently seductive consensus trance?
The consensus trance is one which lulls us to sleep, itself a demonstration of blind and frequently irrational faith, absent any precise assurances that things will work out OK.
But change is necessary for survival, despite what “experts” tell you.
So what does it take to get people to accept a change, assuming of course that there is a baseline supposition which constrains us to relying upon each person‘s free will?
Let’s talk about food, because food is amazing.
I like the potluck metaphor, or what they call a jambalaya in the south — both a dish and an experience.
The quality of these meals reflects the generosity of each individual contributor.
This doesn’t work for everyone; many folks would prefer to just go to a buffet and eat as much food as possible, for as little money as they can get away with.
Within our current system (consensus trance), this is embraced as wisdom.
Within our current system, we are encouraged to privatize profits while socializing costs.
Let’s imagine that I invite you and your family to my home for a Thanksgiving dinner in July. I’ll bring the turkey, but I invite each contributor to bring a side dish.
Quoting a related article:
I grew up at the feet of giants on the floor of my grandmother’s kitchen, and echoing off the walls, down the hallways, and within the hollowed caverns of my memories are the staccato voices of my people — not always blood kin, mind you — as they retold “the family stories.”
My kin were generous folk, who once embraced a spirit of reciprocity, even though they had very little to give. The poor are like this, by the way.
Within our current consensus trance, it would be considered rational and even wise to bring the smallest, least expensive, and least noteworthy contribution to a potluck or a jambalaya, but load up on as much food as possible, so as to maximize private profit.
Of course, there are plenty of people just exactly like this, and they embrace this behavior without a stitch of regret.
A shared meal (a potluck or a jambalaya) is a great way to filter out those who are disinclined towards generosity, as well as a spirit of reciprocity, because those two are also alchemic qualities with great kinetic potential.
In case you haven’t been keeping track so far:
Imagine being invited to a turkey dinner in July, by a person you have never met, who asks only that you bring a side dish that you consider to be most appropriate.
You have no knowledge of whom else might attend, and therefore no assurances that the other participants will be pleasant, entertaining, polite, or if they will bring a side dish that you will enjoy.
Our current consensus trance teaches that it would be unwise to invest in a spirit of generosity, foolish to fall into the arms of reciprocity, naïve to take a leap of faith without any assurances that the meal will be worth your time.
But what if you chose to opt out of what might otherwise be the best meal of your life?
What if the event was attended by people of such extraordinary quality that their friendship might have brought about a transformation within your life?
What if you chose to avoid participating in an event which might have placed you into the arms of a subculture which has embraced such a spirit of reciprocity that you might come to rely upon them during times of trial?
Our existing consensus trance teaches that’s wisdom to buy your way out of every contingency, and maybe that works, provided you always have extra money, but maybe that doesn’t work for all of us.
That’s a perfect example of a transactional model.
Most of us have found this limiting, because we realize that we are surrounded by people who are constantly checking in with themselves and asking (from a place of scarcity):
“What’s in it for me?“
And I would invite the reader to ask themselves:
In what manner have I opted out of a transformational culture of generosity and reciprocity, and chosen instead to embrace the transactional consensus trance, which teaches that it’s wise to privatize profits, and socialize cost?
I don’t actually think it’s possible to change the entire system, because I don’t believe centralized authority or administration works very well; I believe it begins as with a forest fire and with a golf ball:
- With that first spark
- With that first cut
In a recent podcast, Ruth and I discussed how one might solve the Gordian knot with more subtlety than using a blade.
The Gordian Knot is a legend associated with Alexander the Great, and is often used as a metaphor for an intractable problem solved by finding an approach to the problem that renders moot the problem’s perceived constraints.
Legend holds that Alexander the Great “solved” the knot by simply using his sword to cut it, and for generations and as it pertains to execution, the use of kinetic violence has passed for wisdom, typically the bigger the better.
But what if there were such a thing as a knot made of a material that resists cutting?
And what if the knot itself were contrived in such a manner that attempts to sever its cords through violent means only made it stronger?
Because I would argue that’s precisely how one might describe the “Gordian knot“ of our current consensus trance; people keep on hacking at it, through violence, and it only makes the knot stronger.
It’s my conviction that one must climb within the knot, and further innovate a methodology for encouraging the knot to untie itself, through catalyzing, alchemic orchestration of energies.
Again, think about the golf ball, its skin cut, removed, and set aside. The rubber bands great kinetic potential finally released.
Again, think about the forest, sufficiently warm, and dry, ready to receive a spark of lightning with the approach of storms, pregnant and seething with great catalyzing potential.
Did you know? There are many seeds that don’t even open unless they are exposed to the violence of a forest fire?
Fire as a catalyst for rebirth and growth, because it frees energy that was otherwise trapped.
Faith, generosity, and a spirit of reciprocity.
Those are all exquisite examples of alchemic energies with great kinetic potential.
All are merely facets of love.
It’s that simple, alas.