Thursday, December 25, 2008

Absurd Good News of Great Joy

"I look at the side of your face as the sunlight comes

streaming through the window in the autumn sunshine

and all the time going to Coney Island I'm thinking,

Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time?"--Van Morrison

The last hour of Christmas Day is ticking away as I write this, family tucked in and drowsing off after a full day of fellowship, food, and of course fun presents for the little ones. All the usual stresses of the pre-holiday madness melted away with the early morning unwrapping, and before the melancholy duties of dismantling all the decorations begins , I wanted to reflect on an interesting phenomena.

Colin Wilson often refers to a state of consciousness that he calls "the holiday effect." I think most of can understand his thinking here based on personal experiences: it is the feeling that we sometimes have when on a holiday from our usual routine, that life is much bigger, more magical, and much more brimming with possibilities than we usually perceive . I suppose it is the very goal of taking a holiday for many of us; not so much the physical destination as the mental one that we journey towards to "clean out our systems."

Most of us when asked about favorite childhood memories will recall holiday events, or birthdays, or vacations, those occasions when time seemed to slow down and become less "in charge".

Then there are the peak moments. Not so much the moments of achievement or accomplishment, although these can of course be very important to us; but the small moments wherein somehow, unsought after or expected, life glows with the meaning, vibrancy and possibility that we feel on holiday. Whether it be a particular bright day, or a moody storm, or any of countless small moments that could have been forgetful , but instead became part of the parcel of joy that you carry in your spirit forever.

What is it that causes these moments, this "holiday effect"? Can we produce these consciously, or are we only to catch them when they arise?

Obviously the feeling is a perceptual phenomenon. Two people standing side by side experiencing the same environment may not necessarily get the same effect from their surroundings. It occurs within the beholder; the filling in of significance at an unconscious and super normal speed , washing over the beholder as an experience that occurs to him rather than by him. Rather like a dream, only in a waking state. So it would seem that the short answer to "can we consciously evoke peak moments?" would be "no."

It is probably wise that our Creator made it difficult to summon peak moments; after all , they would cease to be peaks if we were allowed to be there all the time; which is probably what we would do, like the lab monkey that repeatedly stimulates his pleasure center without nourishing his body and ends up dead.

However, we can make things conducive for them. Have you ever had the experience of waking from a dream that you were enjoying and being able to talk yourself into getting back into that dream? It doesn't work all the time ;but occasionally, while still in that receptive, relaxed mode, you can will the dream to go on. I think by actively exercising our perceptive abilities we can increase the chance of having these spiritual, cleansing moments. Take the time every so often to really look at your surroundings; listen to what is going on all around you, use all your senses to help you take in just what is going on in your life. The robot that gets you from point A to point B, so you can earn your daily bread, needs to be turned off from time to time, so that you may connect with the real you in the real world...

Doing these things will help us feel like we do on those really meaningful holidays: connected to each other, to our world, and most importantly, to the Creator of all things...


Anonymous said...

Think what this implies: that what is experienced at the peak moment is always going on around us, that "Heaven is around us always"; that it occurs within the beholder when the lens is wiped and focussed outside the box. Absurd good news indeed!

Babel said...

Thank you for saying in 2 sentences (and more eloquently) what I was trying to get across in the whole post!

yen said...

There are certain things that one can do to open up to those peak moments like you say. I think two of the main triggers to peak moments for me are the microcosms and macrocosms of nature. Whenever I take a trip to Enchanted Rock for instance (all too rarely) I am almost assured a peak moment on the peak of the rock, (ironically enough). I feel so linked in to such an immense mural that is the natural world. I feel such a part of it, and so separate from it at the same time as a beholder. This dual perspective causes intense pleasure. It's like when I solve a complex puzzle or behold a work of art that is REALLY out of my talent range. It's like when I see a performance in a film that is beyond what I could imagine myself figuring out. Tricks that I don't know. Seeing the vastness of this Earth that is truly beyond my comprehension is so humbling and invigorating.

The same holds, too, for when I stop at the rock and behold just a handful of grus. So tiny. So complex. So amazing. Or looking at pond water under a microscope. These things always create those moments for me.

There are those moments that just happen. Like when one of those fantastic central Florida storms brews up.

I've found moments that are similar in big cities, too, though. Standing and looking up at the Empire State Building was just as inspiring for me as many natural wonders I've seen.

But in all, the constants are something that forces me to look outside of myself and my agenda and the readiness to truly perceive it.