Blog1 – September 8, 2010. – First report of Carter and Franny.
Greetings from Berlin. Its cool and misty today. Franny wanted a day of rest so I decided to report.
While old, Berlin feels like a young and vital city, first rebuilt from the rubble of WW2, and then remolding and rebuilding itself as the capital of a unified Germany in the last 20 years. The view from the glass dome of the rebuilt Reichstag (where Hitler first took power) shows a city of ancient churches and modern towers.
Scary looking tattooed youths with nose-ear-lip-eyebrow rings, smile and offer to help me drag Franny’s wheel chair up the U-bahn stairs as business men and tourists rush by.
The leader of our expedition of 10 students is Cal State Theater Professor and set designer Danilla Korogodsky — an intense bearded Russian emegre who owns a St. Petersburg theater. He told us at the Brandenburg gate that 250,000 Russian soldiers died taking Berlin in World War II. Only 50,000 allied troops were killed in the famous Normandy invasion. The nearby Holocaust Memorial mourns the 6m Jews murdered (surprisingly, only 160,000 of them were German Jews). A total 70 million died in WW2, including 23m Russians and 7m Germans.
But humans have been killing humans forever — as is witnessed by all the blood-washed art work we have been seeing in Berlin museums and streets. Tribal wars, Roman treachery, feudal battles, and modern wars. The streets of Berlin are paved with the bloody rubble of past wars.
I believe that and each of us has contrasting dark and light parts – -that if we are pushed or manipulated far enough — are capable of the cruelty and murder that was manifest in WW2 and the holocaust. I hear that angry/victim edge often in the life stories of the alcoholics I sponsor.
But I also think that over the millennia we have been gradually enlightening/expanding our view of “who is human”. The in-group that is worthy of love and respect has evolved from tribe to state to world. Anthropologists tell us that in tribal times we violently killed a far greater percentage of our fellow humans than we did in the bloody last century.
CONTRAST: My operating belief is that we are really infinite spiritual beings who have decided to create this marvelous illusion of a human experience of contrasts: hot/cold, love/hate, large/small, light/dark, joy/sorrow, etc. So a part of me delights that while in 1940 Japanese, Americans, Germans and Jews demonized and killed each other, today we trade with and marry each other. I hid under a bed at Pearl Harbor as my father took his ship out to kill the wicked Japs – – – but 50 years later I found it deliciously ironic that my company was bought by the Japanese, and I really liked my new Japanese boss.
This Berlin/Russian adventure is definitely taking me out of my comfort zone. Stretching me and my habitual patterns in many ways. I would never have dreamed of doing this – too long – too dark – too costly – too strange a language, alphabet, culture – – but Franny’s eyes lit up at the idea and that was more important than all my whining and rationalization.
So, a week ago Monday, August 30th, we entered a jet propelled aluminum can and were soon looking out at a sunset over Los Angeles. A few hours earlier, I had been surfing in those warm Pacific waters. A few hours later, I woke from a doze to a sunrise over the frozen arctic where polar bears hunt seals. And a few hours after that I gazed down on the neat green fields and cute little Swiss doll houses outside of Zurich. And soon we were riding in a cab with Danilla thru the glistening neon lit streets of Berlin.
And while here we have ridden the U-bahn and S-bahn, visited museums and monuments, shopped, eaten in the many outdoor cafes, and gone to many plays (in German). Franny has had considerable pain and sometimes needs the wheelchair, but is out most days to museums, cafes, and plays.
MY GOAL. The goal of the mostly 20 something students here is to experience as many (external) sights and sounds — art work and theaters (and occasional night life) as they can. That is a worthy goal at their age — to build a rich repertoire of contrast.
While I’m not adverse to more external experiences, my major interest is internal. My operating world-view is that we come here to experience contrast.
First, we (our expanded spiritual self) creates experiences (birth, helpless baby, large “all-powerful” parent-providers) that creates the illusion that we are a separate self (ego-body) and must learn to manipulate other/separate ego-bodies to survive. In the process, we usually lose our sense of (connection/union with our expanded spiritual self (True Self, Higher Power, God, Source, Soul, Universe, or whatever name you like). And thus, thinking the illusion is “real”, we experience fear, grief, confusion, lack and other negative emotions or sufferings that are indications that we (little ego-bodies) feel we are separate and disconnected from our True Self.
Next, if we are lucky, we decide to reconnect, re-integrate, remember that we a really just a restricted part of our expanded, all-powerful, infinite True Self. Today my goal and path is to trust that each experience/illusion that comes to me is perfectly designed by my creative True-self or expanded-self to help me let go of my delusions that I am separate and vulnerable small-self (while not losing my hard-won ability to discern contrast). So when I experience negative emotion (or pain), it is not “bad”, but a wonderful opportunity to (1) dive deep into the feeling, and then (2) remember that I (expanded-self) created this illusion, that I (expanded-self) am a powerful creator of this experience, and to really appreciate how seeming real the illusion is, and really feel the True Joy of my whole creative Human experience – – to permanently break release some of the old (childhood) habitual patterns and to let more of the sunlight of the spirit shine on me.
Easier said in theory than done in the stress of the moment. According to model, Franny is a creative/projection/illusion of my expanded-self. But that model is a challenge to remember when I “create a situation” where Franny’s arthritis pain and my inattention makes me get her wheelchair stuck in the middle of busy Brandenburg Platz while she is shouting, cars whizzing by, and the trolly clanging nearer. Or when my old injuries have finally generated intense arthritis hip pain that won’t diminish no matter how I twist and turn in our small bed in the small hours of the night.
So in first 10 days of this path toward enlightenment, I’d give myself a 3 on a scale of 0 to 10. A long way to go, but far-far-far better than living totally in the delusion of victimhood. Indeed, I did stay cool when security at LAX found 2 box-cutters that Franny had accidentally packed with her art pencils. I thought our trip might end before we even got off the ground.
And generally, I may not catch myself on the spot, but after a stressful event, I usually do catch myself when I start to indulge in negative thinking — indulge in the ugly process of justification of why I am a victim of a bad dangerous world and its people. It is indulging in that sewer of negative thinking that led me to alcohol, anger and abuse of myself and my family — and led the world to the 70 million deaths and cruelties of World War II.
So the final goal of freedom from the delusion of victimhood is well worth it. When we have knocked out enough of the negative habitual patterns that block us from the sunlight of the spirit, each day becomes a joyous wild ride down the surface of this contrasting human experience — like the body surfing ride I once took bouncing down the huge rolling front of a hurricane built wave — laughing and screaming all the way.
Yours truly from Berlin, the city that human spirit rebuilt from the rubble of human folly. [And on to the city of 6 million that Peter the Great built from nothing on a desolate frigid swamp.]
Note — Franny thinks that Berlin, with their Holocaust and Jewish Museum memorials and open attitude shows the acceptance and redemption needed for forgiveness and healing — and for moving on.
I finally got to meditate today, tomorrow a meeting, Franny got a call here to about speaking up in Grass Vally – and here is a pic of her hanging out in the local punk vegetarian shop.
End of Blog 1 -Sep 8,2010