Between & Beyond: Mystics

I woke this morning to find that Michael C. Ruppert, former LAPD officer turned whistleblower and ostracized activist, had committed suicide. VICE recently published a long exposé that caught up with Mike; at least it was a catch up for me. His name had left my radar for a long while but he had meant a good deal to me a long time ago. I also listened to Barbara Ehrenreich talking about her new book on the radio this week and this episode of my column was supposed to be my response to that. But maybe they are both related to my experience in the health food store yesterday…

Ehrenreich’s book is being billed as a drastic departure from her previous work. I listened excitedly as the radio host promised up next she would ask Ehrenreich about her strange mystical experiences which are the subject. Ehrenreich’s previous output has included the best selling Nickel & Dimed in which she came to the defense of low wage workers, but here she was revealing her deeply personal and as of yet totally private experiences with the mystical. Finally the moment came when she described what she saw as a teenager. At the end of the description, I wanted to hear that sad disappointing trombone music. Did I miss something? She was at a horse show with her parents and looked over to the woods, and there she saw the trees beyond the trees. Meaning, her understanding of trees fell away and she saw the world with what Wallace Stevens would call “ignorant eyes.” She saw a world beyond our definitions.

I started thinking about myself and how I walk through my life. I suppose that what happened to me is that I never listened. When I was a child, there was the world and it was real. I certainly watched a ton of television. I even went to Catholic school all the way from kindergarten to the beginning of high school. But there was always a quiet inside me. No guilt. No shame. No questions really. I didn’t ask anything of the institutions I found myself in, and I didn’t let them infiltrate my understanding of the world or myself. I had very serious open heart surgery when I was only three years old, and I have often wondered if that death-like experience created in me this quiet, this lack of questions. Regardless, in that quiet, I heard the Earth. Or rather I smelled Her on golden evenings. I saw the rich light of the sun, and heard the harsh whine of cicadas and in all these things was an untouchable truth about the deeper nature of the world.

So maybe it was my sheltered childhood or the contrast between TV and the woods or my death-defying operation, but I know that when I finally had to enter the realm of society as I got older two things happened: 1) I had a really hard fucking time; 2) I looked to reinforce what I had always known. I think that second one is key. Maybe that’s what separates mystics from regular folks. Rather than ease anxiety with authoritative narratives that would have led me astray from my understanding, I sought out voices that harmonized with my own. And, sure enough, I found them; mostly in the voices of poets more than anywhere else and they have been my confidants ever since. So when the radio host was flabbergasted by Ehrenreich’s experience, I wondered how many people can actually stand on the edge of a field or the middle of the woods and feel and know deeply the Otherness of a reality beyond human definition.

When 9/11 came, I had already struggled through high school and found solace in poetry, but my life was altered forever. All that burgeoning understanding that I had amassed seemed not just threatened but inconsequential. The pale boney knuckles of civilization had come a’knocking on my worldview’s door. I pushed forward though and continued to operate the same way. I looked for understanding and I found it in part in Mike Ruppert’s work. He had been a hero when standing up to the CIA and exposing their drug trafficking practices and now he was standing up to show us the larger picture in the global politics of 9/11. While others were obsessed with squibs and fake planes and thermite, Mike gave a lucid and compelling presentation that looked at the motivation for allowing 9/11 to happen. These were the early days of YouTube, and in the sense that Mike used the internet to disseminate important and unpopular information, he could be considered a pioneer. He had a strong hand in shaping the current conspiracy culture on the internet (for better or worse).

And now he’s gone. Which makes me think of the totally unassuming, rather plain looking, yet traditionally attractive and polite young girl who was employed by the health food store yesterday. She struck up a candid conversation with an elderly customer about their anxiety disorders and the medications they were taking in order to deal with them. It’s in these moments that I believe we are all mystics.

The psychological disorders called anxiety and depression are incredibly dubious. Thinking about the state of the world is depressing. Thinking about false flag terrorist operations that claim thousands of lives will make you sad. Thinking about the wholesale corruption and pathological greed that is destroying the health of the planet will bum you the fuck out. Standing under the night sky and trying to contemplate the vastness of the universe might produce anxiety. Realizing that we owe this world our death, that all we’ve ever known is existence and we’ve rightfully fallen in love with it and it can be ripped away from us in any moment… these thoughts might produce panic attacks.

I think of Mike Ruppert. I think of David Foster Wallace. I think of those who I will never be able to name: Those who saw beyond the human constructs of the world and just could not handle it. The quiet in me has been under attack and rather disturbed at many turns in my life. It’s much easier to hear that quiet when you are a sheltered child whose survival is near guaranteed. I have had my bouts with anxiety and depression and at no point were they ever not rooted in the cognitive dissonance I experience between what I know deeply as truth and what wicked men of the world want us to believe. There is a very fine line between madness and genius. I have never lost my faith though. I believe in the truth I see. I just don’t know if it’s enough to save us.