I was riding my Harley home from work a few years ago and a car pulled out of a driveway directly into my path. Everything slowed down, like a movie where people freeze, and the main characters walk among them, plucking hors d'oeuvres from silver trays frozen in the hands of waiters.
I decided not to slam on the brakes as I might slide under the car. I judged the distance and my speed and concluded I was going to hit the car, there was no time to swerve. I knew I would fly over the handlebars, so I picked a spot on the side of the car to stop myself. I concluded that I would be OK, and with that, life speeded up again – Bang! My motorcycle plowed into the vehicle, I flew over the handlebars, hit the side of the car and fell into the street. I was fine, the bike was bent up and lying on its side, and life continued.
I was reminded of that phenomenon recently, during some amazing Scientology counseling – as bright clear thoughts began to emerge from a sort of mental fog — I realized that above my current level of bodily perceptions and awareness, there is another realm entirely, of very fast, precise and direct perception, awareness and action.
I realized that normally my perceptions are filtered through vias – little mechanisms that inspect a perception, think about it for a while, pass it around a sort of board of directors for comment, remove this, add that – which then pass on edited and watered down perceptions to me, supposedly the CEO of this collection of flesh and vegetables.
I can't find my reading glasses, but a few minutes later there they are, right where I looked before. I look in the spice rack for the garlic salt and can't find it, but a few minutes later there it is, right where I looked, between the pepper and onion powder! Perhaps the board of directors, in its infinite wisdom, decided to protect me from glasses and garlic salt, or decided that I needed a bit more challenge in my life. And of course, the driver who pulled out in front of me looked for an approaching vehicle but saw only an empty street.
From the wreck and the realizations in counseling, I decided that at moments related to survival, human beings are capable of unsupervised perception, decision and action at a speed that makes the ordinary world seem like slow motion. The board of directors hasn't time to convene and so the CEO is put directly on the line.
So how would it be to operate like that all the time?
I believe some people do. Take exceptionally fine writers, artists and creative people for example. They say it's about the Muses, those daughters of Zeus whose gentle touch ignites ordinary plodders with the fire of creativity. Writers, artists, poets and others have long struggled to attract the Muses to their beds, their dreams, their imaginations. "The Muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited," said Stephen King, in Bag of Bones. "I wish I could write easily," said Eric Clapton, "I'm one of those guys who's visited by the Muse when things are dire." Perhaps the most practical advice for attracting the Muse was given by Roger Ebert, who said: "The Muse visits during the process of creation, not before. Don't wait for her. Start alone."
So what if the Muses were not goddesses, but ourselves, unencumbered by the jumble of all those vias, those boards of directors, those censors and small-minded mental deciders-for-our-own-good? What if we lived more than once, as followers of Eastern religions believe, but drift in tiny bubbles of awareness floating on a sea of amnesia? What if we were once giants, worn down by the eons, yearning for a reminder, a glimpse of our former selves, like the Jedi whose abilities dwindled, a race of beings brought low so that only a few abilities remain, and whose powers flicker in and out without control and are thus mistakenly attributed to some external deities?
At its finest, the creative process links us across the ages with our former selves, the self that for most slumbers deep beneath the sedimentary rock of millennia past, whose dreams sometimes reach through to us in our diminished state and inspire us to feats of genius and beauty. And the counseling strips away that rock, awakens the slumbering giants, focuses our many dismembered selves into a whole spiritual being that can at last return home with abilities intact, able to – at will – create universes.
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