The Drunkard and the Lover

The Drunkard and the Lover

As I transitioned into the new year, I felt ready to begin anew, to move past some of the grief and loneliness I had been experiencing in the last week of 2021. As if on cue, I was stricken with the flu on the 2nd, which gave me even more time to examine my current state, although this time mostly horizontal, through night sweats and skull-numbing headaches.

I intended to record a video to show up in this weak, raw, and vulnerable moment, but my voice is almost gone, and I am coughing heavily after a few sentences. But rest assured, I will still let you into some of my angst through my words.

It has been a journey into isolation and loneliness the past two weeks – my two closest friends here became unavailable for different reasons, one also succumbing to a severe illness. And while I have made many connections on this lake, I am someone who does not build up depth, trust, and intimacy with people quickly. A stranger in a strange land, the expression goes. In addition, and somewhat ashamedly, I still feel the effects of heartbreak from a couple of months ago. It was a short, intense relationship that pulled on the most profound aspects of my lifelong inner feminine healing process, forcing me to face all the ugly parts of that internal relationship: the betrayal and lack of trust, the dependency and validation, the overemphasis and need for sex and eros and contact. And experience has shown me that this inner feminine, the anima as Carl Jung referred to it, tends to possess the face of my previous beloved. This is very much a work in progress and one that has invited me into a state of pause.

One bright spot in the last week has been my discovery of the contemplations of Richard Rudd: poet, and creator of the Gene Keys system. I specifically found myself listening to an album called The Ecstatics, where Rudd explores the mystical nature of some well-known individuals like Walk Whitman, Ananda Mayi Ma, and Hafez, along with some lesser-known mystics that were new to me.

I have found this series incredibly inspirational, and I was brought back to a time, 10-12 years ago when my life shifted dramatically – I was in my Saturn return (~age 29), I left my comfortable corporate job, sold all of my possessions, discovered zen, yoga, tantra, meditation, and poetry. All things were pouring in and out of me with great ease and joy. AND there was so much that I was utterly unconscious of! And certainly still am. Looking back, I can see and feel that dream of youthful optimism, reaching ecstasy without pain, without suffering, without heartbreak and disappointment. And Rudd sums this up beautifully:

The path of love involves a different kind of suffering from the path of meditation.

The path of love drags us through the world, whores us through the taverns and marketplace. And we will be battered and bruised by it.
But one day, one day we may have the epiphany… that the love on the outside is but a shadow of love on the inside

We who have passed beyond the age of 40 or so, we have learned that all is not what was promised. And even if we find it, it slips through our grasp. It eludes us, and it must do, because love in the phenomenal world is the effect of a deeper love, an acausal love, and this deeper love, this ecstasy is beyond any effects; it does not have a target; it is simply our true nature.

Two small new years resolutions/intentions I have committed to are:

  • No alcohol for the first three months
  • Drastically reduced use of news and podcasts

Both connect to the ecstatic state referred to above. Both news and alcohol are significant distractions from the inner landscape. And while I have not been abusing alcohol by any means, even moderate amounts are not in the best interest of a human healing his body from serious disease.
Rudd’s exploration of Hafez reminded me that the reason for reaching for alcohol is all too similar to that of reaching for love, except that they end up in drastically different locations. Rudd quotes Indian spiritual master Meher Baba comparing the lover to the drunkard:

The Sufi master poets often compared love with wine. Wine is the most fitting figure for love because both intoxicate. But while wine causes self-forgetfulness, love leads to Self-realization.

The behavior of the drunkard and the lover are similar; each disregards the world’s standards of conduct and each is indifferent to the opinion of the world. But there are worlds of difference between the course and the goal of the two: the one leads to subterranean darkness and denial; the other gives wings to the soul for its flight to freedom.

The drunkenness of the drunkard begins with a glass of wine which elates his spirit and loosens his affections and gives him a new view of life that promises a forgetfulness from his daily worries. He goes on from a glass to two glasses, to a bottle; from companionship to isolation, from forgetfulness to oblivion. Oblivion which in Reality is the Original state of God, but which, with the drunkard, is an empty stupor–and he sleeps in a bed or in a gutter. And he awakens in a dawn of futility, an object of disgust and ridicule to the world.

The lover’s drunkenness begins with a drop of God’s love which makes him forget the world. The more he drinks, the closer he draws to his Beloved, and the more unworthy he feels of the Beloved’s love; and he longs to sacrifice his very life at the Beloved’s feet. He, too, does not know whether he sleeps on a bed or in a gutter, and becomes an object of ridicule to the world; but he rests in bliss, and God the Beloved takes care of his body, and neither the elements nor disease can touch it.

One out of many such lovers sees God face to face. His longing becomes infinite; he is like a fish thrown up on the beach, leaping and squirming to regain the ocean. He sees God everywhere and in everything, but he cannot find the gate of union. The Wine that he drinks turns into Fire in which he continuously burns in blissful agony. And the Fire eventually becomes the Ocean of Infinite Consciousness in which he drowns.

My favorite line is: He, too, does not know whether he sleeps on a bed or in a gutter, and becomes an object of ridicule to the world, but he rests in bliss, and God the Beloved takes care of his body, and neither the elements nor disease can touch it.

Cheers to the path of the lover – willing to love wildly and freely and have my heart broken repeatedly!!!

And the need for the break from news and podcasts is clear to me – I/we are being confronted with a pandemic of fear and isolation and division, and seeking outside solutions and answers and distrusting our inner guidance is only a recipe for more isolation and separation. How much of what I’m feeling is my own making? This topic I will soon explore on its own.

I leave you here for now. In the hour or so it took me to write this, I am feeling physically stronger, emotionally more connected, and overall much lighter.

Thank you for being with me, and I’d love your feedback.

I’m Addicted…

To technology, to the Internet, and therefore endless distraction! I’m making this confession public in order to begin the slow process of recovery.

It has been a long courting relationship between me and the aforementioned substances. When did it begin? I’m not sure exactly. One would probably need to go back to 3rd grade when my family purchased our first Tandy computer. It was top of the line, possessing a blazing fast 10mhz processor, tandy100020MB of storage and Windows 3.1.  But I digress.  The relationship started simply enough – my Tandy computer allowed me to be the only kid in 4th grade who could print out color book reports on our fancy dot-matrix printer. I learned to surf the web before internet browsers via my fathers University dial-up connection (think Archie and Gopher). Back then it took days to download, decode and display images of naked women. Teenage boys have it so easy these days.

Video games were always part of my life. They entered when I was about 6. My mother worked for Nintendo and received a free system with the entire original set of games (Super Mario Bros, Tetris, Double Dragon, Zelda), although I never became overwhelmed, as many of my college friends did. Once I hit the age of 19, video games pretty much lost all interest for me.

Lets talk about the present day: I need to find some space, maybe develop a friends with benefits relationship with technology. Can one do this after being so intimate for 20 years? I’m going to have to try.  I think many people would consider my relationship to technology normal, yet after prolonged travel, exposure to monastic living and a refreshed view on being present in the world, I now realize that technology generally removes me from the present moment and my immediate sensorial experience.

A few examples of my bad behavior:

  • Checking my iPhone at random times of day as if something important would pass me by if I didn’t.
  • Reading too much news. I find its easy to read news, feeling this sense of being informed and knowledgeable, yet when I really analyze this, most of what we read or see in the news is far-removed from our present experience.
  • Endless surfing of the Internet. I often start off with a task, find myself about 7 layers deep reading an article about something utterly irrelevant, like a blog about flying cats or comments on some product I’m fantasizing about owning.
  • An obsession with technology that is not working. If my computer, a friends computer, my iPhone, any random gadget is not working well, I find myself consumed with fixing them.

There are more…Its this last bullet that has me writing this article.  Recently a friend of mine gave me two old iPhones (despite my addiction I had been using a $30 Boost Mobile phone for the past two years). I enjoyed the process of hacking them (jail-breaking and unlocking) to get them running on T-Mobile without a contract.  No problem here – I enjoy this, its an interesting problem solving process that has a nice reward. The problem came in when I accidently chose to restore my phone using iTunes (big no-no for jail-broken phones), which sent me off an a many-hour journey into internet forums, message LettermaniPhone4-2boards and trial and error to get the device working again.  My goal that evening and next morning originally had nothing to do with this iPhone. And the big kicker: one of the two phones was working absolutely fine! I didn’t HAVE to have the second one working immediately. I had preferred to do some writing, spend quality time with my girlfriend and relax.  I became absolutely consumed that evening – and despite going to bed with the device still broken, I vowed to not touch it in the morning. A vow I of course broke and jumped right into fixing it upon waking.  Ultimately I did fix it, put it away and made an agreement with myself not to touch it again for a while.  Well, that lasted about 90 minutes when the new batteries I ordered from eBay showed up in the mail.  Now, changing a battery on an iPhone is no easy process, and not one you should begin when you have 30 minutes to do the dishes, take a shower and get ready for an evening out…. YET I still attempted the install, ultimately damaging part of the phone in my haste and leaving it in an unusable state. I was so upset at myself after this, I put it in a bag, stapled it up and asked Autumn to take it to work with her for a while to prevent me from touching it…  Despite the break-up, I find myself constantly thinking about her (it), thinking about how to fix us, seeking new gifts(parts) for her on eBay and looking into fancy places(repair shops) to take her. The energy(metaphysical not electrical) of technological devices somehow enters my space and I find it difficult to remove it if the device is in any sort of non-functional state. This iPhone example is simply one of many that I could share over the years that follow this similar pattern.

Another area I struggle with is Internet usage. Many of the things I do in life require a computer – website development, job searching, blogging, etc., therefore bringing my addiction just a flick of the mouse away (i.e. Open Firefox)

There are countless days since I’ve returned from Asia where I’ve set off to do certain task and ultimately found the day wasted with various frivolous activities on the Internet.  I’m not simply watching porn and catching up on the latest Hollywood gossip – I’m reading news, researching business and job ideas, internet-surfing-1writing e-mails, etc., etc.  I somehow justify these things as they are generally related to improving my quality of life and my relationships. YET, one must work on life before working on meta-life if you know what I mean.  I think many can sympathize with this – why when idle, do I feel an urge to check NYTimes or e-mail on my iPhone rather than taking a deep breath and just being? It must come down to distraction from something. I find at times when I’m emotionally upset or anxious, this addiction grows stronger, my habits worse. And like most addictions it’s a downward spiral – doing things that don’t feel good and therefore seeking for the very thing that created the initial problem.

I have ideas on how to move towards this friends with benefits relationship, but I wonder if I have the WILL to see them through:

  • Set myself a schedule: I’m thinking I keep one day a week (say Monday) where I can take care of all of my technicalities of living (shopping/bills/etc.) and allow the surfing creep to occur. The rest of the week I find a day or two where I’m Internet free, and other days set a realistic time-frame (<4 hours) where I can be online.
  • Set up an e-mail auto-responder. This idea I got from A Four Hour Work Week: set up an autoreply to people saying there are specific times when I respond to e-mail, asking them to call me if they need a reply sooner then my next e-mail period.
  • Return to the ‘Dumb’ Phone: The phone that is just a phone, nothing else. Are the advantages of instant connectivity overshadowed by the distractions?

And what about my problems with devices? I’m not quite sure where to start on this one. Help!

I intended to delve deeper into distraction issues at a more macro level, what I think its doing to me, to society.  But this will do for now.  Do people have similar experiences? Tips on how to ease the break-up?  Chime in.