My mind is my greatest source of leverage, granting me power over issues professional, personal and spiritual. But leverage requires a lever, which requires a fulcrum. Something immovable that I can use to move everything else.
But what if the root of the most important issues I face is hidden under that fulcrum? What can I use to move an immovable object?
And what is the secret I have spent my whole life pressing further away from my consciousness?
What Lies Beneath
Surprisingly, moving the fulcrum is the easy part. It was only designed to resist top-down pressure. Like Lara Croft moving crates, I simply press into it with my shoulder and it slides away.
I’m not sure what I will find underneath: bones? vines? tentacles? But there’s nothing. Or more precisely, an empty hole. Square, perhaps a meter each side. With a spiral stairway chiseled into the walls, descending into darkness like the DNA of doom, farther than my eyes can see.
I look around for a light source to take with me, but see nothing of any use. I stare at the uncertain footing, wondering if going in blind is a test of my courage — or agility.
Then I see a light. At first so weak I doubt my senses, but eventually bright enough I can be certain it is there.
Because it is coming closer.
I brace myself. It appears to be a humanoid shape, tiny and dim in the distance. Will it erupt into a gigantic angel of light, daring me to do battle?
But in fact, it is much closer than I assumed: just a small, faintly glowing cherub. With a cigar, like Baby Herman from Roger Rabbit.
Is this the Inner Brat I’ve been seeking, the Dionysian Yin to my Appolonian Yang?
“Yes and no, big guy!” announces the flying babe as he hovers in front of my face. Apparently he has been eavesdropping on my inner monologue.
“Ya got that right. After all, I am your Inner Brat. In this Place Above, I can hear your thoughts, but you can’t hear mine.”
Fascinating. So does his presence here mean my quest is complete, and I can avoid the descent?
Brat snorts. “Fat chance. I am just the guide on this particular journey. You and I have some issues, sure, but we already tackled many of them with Lecher and Ang. The real craziness is well below my pay grade. Dealing with me is merely the price of entry.”
I sigh, and begin climbing down.
Descent of Man
The stairs are narrow, but dry with good traction. Working my way down without a railing is tense and tiring, but not terrifying — thanks mostly to Brat’s gentle glow. And perhaps also his constant, if abrasive, companionship.
Brat: I will take that as a compliment!
Me: So you actually enjoy being rude?
B. Of course! Don’t you enjoy being liked?
M. Well yeah, doesn’t everyone?
B. Not me! It makes me physically nauseous. I know the sweet glow of other’s esteem is a dangerous lie, and avoid it like the plague.
M. Wait, I’m confused. I thought my problem was a lack of emotional attachment, but you seem even more disconnected than I am.
B. You’re not paying attention, bricks-for-brains. Your problem is that you are so in love with your image of yourself, you end up alienated from your actual self. Such as yours truly.
M. Wait, what?
B. Sigh, do I really have to spell everything out for you? You think of yourself as basically a good person, don’t you?
M. Not really. I know I’m a sinner.
B. [snorts] Let me put it another way. You are pretty confident in your way of being in the world. You are okay with some people disliking you, but still believe that if you do the right thing then the right people will eventually draw closer to you.
“still believe that if you do the right thing then the right people will eventually draw closer to you”Inner Brat
M. Well, yeah. Isn’t that what it means to have a healthy self-image?
B. Nope! Wrong again. That is what is called a “functional” self-image.
M. What’s the difference? Surely you aren’t claiming a dysfunctional image would be healthier!
B. Still not listening, Mr. Excluded-Middle. Your subtle belief that virtue ought to be rewarded socially is your Achilles’ heel.
M. Wait, is Achilles going to show up here next?
B. Dude, focus! My point is that you still link the pursuit of virtue to getting you what you really want, which is peer validation.
M. Hey, that’s not fair. I feel like I am more than willing to go against the crowd for what I think is right. I just try to balance that with humility, by letting the wisdom of the crowd critique my perspective.
B. Yeah, yeah. Still not listening. I’m not criticizing what you do. It’s a good practice. I’m calling you out for your pretext in doing it.
M. … Which is?
B. You expect life to be fair. More precisely, you expect God to be fair, in terms you can understand.
M. As opposed to what? Being like you?
B. Exactly! Precisely in opposition to being like me.
M. Which is?
B. Screw the rest. I gotta be me.
M. Is that really any better?
B. Who said “better”? Who even cares about better, besides you?
Gone is his malicious smirk. Brat seems deadly serious, and genuinely angry. He flies right up into my face.
B. You don’t care about right. You don’t care about real. You don’t even care about loving. All you care about is showing the world that YOU are NOT ME!
His vehemence catches me off-guard. I turn. I slip. My foot slips. I grab wildly for Brat. His smirk returns as he flits out of reach.
M. You fu…
I collide with the ground only a couple feet beneath me. I was so focused on Brat I didn’t realize where I was.
Brat’s triumphant smile is oddly gentle.
B. Congratulations, Me. You’ve made it to the ground floor of reality. Now the real work can begin.
He flies into a large tunnel in the side wall, and disappears into the distance.
Tunnel of Terroir
Unlike the stairs, the tunnel is wet and slimy. Like the stairs, it is pitch black, lacking even the glimmer of my Freudian angel. Fortunately, it is also completely straight and level.
At first I proceed cautiously, worried about cliffs and traps. But then I figure Someone must want me here, so I may as well proceed full speed ahead and hope for the best.
I am not disappointed.
A faint light ahead turns out to be a wall, which is actually a tee. On the left the light grows brighter, and I seem to hear strains of heavenly music. To the right all is darkness, and the ground appears to slope downward.
I ponder Brat’s final words. Am I too addicted to good feelings, so I need to embrace the darkness? Or have I already reached ground truth, and digging in deeper would just be trying to prove I am better than him?
After pondering this for a while, I realize I am trying to use my mind to gain leverage over the problem. Forcing a binary choice, by excluding the middle.
What if I ignored all reason, and just took a leap of faith?
I move back to get a running start, dash forward at full speed, and hurl myself headfirst into the wall.
Non-Duality: The Space Between
Maybe I knocked myself out. Possibly the wall was just an illusion. Or perhaps I literally phased through it into an entirely new reality.
Nothing is solid. I am immersed in a sea of amorphous, continually merging and separating shapes and colors. I have no body to speak of, though if I concentrate I seem able to feel and manipulate some of the nearer shapes, before they lose interest and lose form or wander off.
I do still have a well-defined, three-dimensional perspective on this ocean of chaos, which makes me wonder if my eyeballs are somehow floating together through the ether.
The apparent disorder doesn’t bother me. What is odd is that I can see the tunnel, stairs, and my entire prior reality — completely! I perceive it as a unified whole, from every angle and surface, yet it only takes up a small portion of my visual field.
In fact, out of the corner of my eye I’m pretty sure I see mirror versions of my reality, each a small island of Euclidean order in the variegated world I now inhabit.
And once I fully comprehend those micro-realities, the sense of oddness vanishes. Everything makes sense. All is exactly as it should be. For a timeless moment, I experience the ecstasy of becoming one with the flow of the multiverse.
Then the moment ends, and a Word begins. Great and terrible. Beautiful and wondrous. The Alpha and Omega of this, and all other, realities.
When the Word reaches me, it becomes a question. Of course I will obey. That was never in doubt. The question is: How? Where? When?
The answer is surprisingly easy.
A man stands on the edge of an abyss.
He gazes down the cliff into the endless chaos, and smiles.
He is carrying a massive triangular fulcrum, which he places near — but not too near — the rim.
Then, whistling as he works, he balances an enormous lever on the fulcrum, with the slightly shorter end hanging over the abyss.
When all is arranged to his exacting eye, he walks around to stand on the longer end.
He stands straight and tall, like an Olympian on diving board.
He puts his fingers in his mouth and whistles. A tiny figure hurtles from the heights, aimed at the opposite end of the lever. It looks like it is on fire, though perhaps it is just glowing and shedding ashes.
The micro-meteor hits the lever at tremendous speed, turning it into a catapult. The man is launched into the heavens. Spreads his arms.
And begins to fly…