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Things are Different Today

Dr. David, Editor / Publisher

When I was young and idealistic and still believed in perfectibility I wanted to resolve my psychological problems before I had a child, so as to not pass them along. If I had waited for that, I'd still be childless.

In my late twenties, when my daughter was born, I was still largely unaware of my emotional handicaps. I hadn't the courage or perspective to see the depth of neglect that I suffered as a child. Now, after much caring for myself ("therapy" means "care"), I can see that given the emotional capacity of my parents, I was, in fact, lucky that they neglected me; at least they left me alone.

As a child I learned to do without. I understood that there was no use in asking. I carried that lesson forward into my adult life. Having been a neglected child, I've had and still have a hard time asking for things.

So too, I still have trouble receiving things. I've made a habit of eschewing intimate relationships. I ask myself now: Why didn't I stay in that relationship? Why didn't I pursue that nice woman who was interested in me? What am I turning away from still?

In my late twenties, when my daughter was born, I still believed that there was the possibility of healing emotional wounds. Thirty years later, having received and given a lot of therapy, I am of the opinion that the best we can do is compensate for our deficiencies. The abused child that we were will remain despite all adult accomplishments and understanding. That is, our personal history is not going to change. The chief part of learning to love ourselves involves accepting our incapacity.

Popular wisdom would have it otherwise. A retreat being offered here in SMA promises that you will "Break through to 100% joy, serenity and a fully open heart." If you believe that, I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you.

Among self-help gurus there are many privileged individuals, wealthy folks, who have never abjectly suffered. When Deepok Chopra insists that I can create my own reality, I think: when you are born as the eldest son into a Brahmin family in India with your nanny already in place and are treated like a god; when you make 35,000 dollars a lecture and are met at the airport by groupies who will do whatever you want, then you can create your own reality. These people had and have resources which I never dreamt of and still have trouble imagining.

Grace Slick, the lead singer for the Jefferson Airplane, addressed the arrogance of this privileged perspective when she said, decades after the Sixties, that it was irresponsible of her artistic type to recommend that kids "turn on, tune in and drop out." She explained that, unlike her, those kids had to get jobs and get on with their lives.

Then, there is another type of self-help guru, the "white knuckle drunk." These are people, who, just after they give up drinking or drugging or beating their wife and kids or leading their lives in some other shameful way, feel that they have the right, responsibility and duty to immediately go preach to others about how to lead a good life. One would think that such (formerly) disreputable, grossly immoral people would become humble. But, no. The same arrogance that led them to abuse others, leads them yet forward into the "new" phase of their lives. They hold onto their "good" lives with a frantic grip, clenching their fists until their knuckles turn white.

I, along with Buddhists around the world, doubt that we exist as separate individuals. At least, I think we also exist in a collective, like bees in a hive or ants in a colony or dolphins in a pod... Yes, we have individual bodies, personal associations and specific destinies, but our soul is part of an over-soul. Now, maybe I lost you with that "religious" assertion, but there are prominent scientists, and many of them, who, based on scientific observations, suggest that mind, our mind, is part of a universal consciousness; that consciousness just exists, like gravity or electromagnetism; that our brain tunes into consciousness like a radio tunes into radio waves.

This collective existence, at least in part, answers the question of individual suffering and assuages the fear of death, in that consciousness, or the oversoul, is immortal. Despite the specious claims of the Materialists, I assert that nature does not make something as elegant as the mind, as your and my individual minds, and then just have it disappear.

Michael Pollan in his book How to Change Your Mind observes, "The psychedelic experience of 'non-duality' suggests that consciousness survives the disappearance of self..." (page 305)

Be that all as it may, certainly, familial dysfunction is a dynamic shared among family members. Since my daughter came into being I have actively sought to conjure the entity of our family's dysfunction towards me and away from her. I have sought to placate the disgruntled ancestral spirits. Through my confrontation and embrace of those "ugly" realities, I have hoped to lessen the hostile expression of their negativity in my life and in hers. The question the Greeks asked of the Oracle at Delphi, "To which god do I need to pay homage?" has long been my motto. When something is biting your ass, turn and have a look.

I believe that, like a bodhisattva, we can consciously take on the suffering of another. I hope that my "working on myself" has made me a better father.

We don't see each other very often, but my daughter and I are really close. She once bragged to an acquaintance, "I can tell my father anything." Despite my best parental and bodhisattvic efforts, she, of course, has her own emotional limitations. (Well, they may not be "her own." They may be familial. But anyway she's still got them.)

On my recent visit up to the States to visit with my daughter, we had opportunities for a few good heart-to-hearts. As Mick Jagger opined, "Things are different today." There is a different set challenges, external and internal. I'm proud of, and relieved by, how bravely and effectively she's confronting those. Knowing that she's capable in that regard, makes it easier to accept my own failings, to forgive my own imperfections.

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photo: Alessandro Bo (cropped)

Dr. David welcomes you to San Miguel Sunday. Anyone with any interest in contributing articles is heartily encouraged to contact him at the email below. The "Best City in the World" deserves a good lokkal magazine.

events @ sanmiguelevents.com

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