Jessica Williams, jazz pianist, composer

CURRENTS

The Mind at its Beginning

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Preamble: "The sleeper awakens" . . .

Ripples - The Golden Path

When I returned home from hospital after a deadly serious back surgery, I gradually began a very fertile period of self-discovery after many months of pain. I will be the first to admit that the pain was beyond my abilities to describe, and that even now, months and months later, I am still realizing how much I am changed, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Disability? Yes. Limitations? Yes. I was "blown apart" — and I am not the Jessica who hobbled into that neurosurgeon's office. Why, then, am I happy that I am not the same as before? I am happy because I am freer, I am better, I am more me, I am an improved human being. We must always seek to attain the highest level of self, for not only ourselves but for those around us, those we love, those friends that will always persist as our family. I have no real 'blood family' but I certainly have a far-reaching and deeply committed world-family, knit together by common cause: the betterment of the world we live in.

I and others like me aspire to be better than we are. It is enough for us to simply be alive and present, but it is even better for us if we can help to make the Earth, our beautiful blue home, a safer, happier, saner place for the people here today and the children that come tomorrow. That is a singular, driving force in my life and in many lives . . . though the path is often fraught with barriers to progress, obstacles to peace and growth. There is darkness, but the light always seems to penetrate eventually. We persist. We dream. We Love. We work toward change when change is needed. There is no good reason for war, hate, and ignorance to follow us like a villainous, treacherous shadow into our otherwise glistening, golden, inviting future.

For those first few months after the back fusion, there was little to do but deal with it. Pain, like fear, is a mind-killer. I did little but lay staring up at the ceiling, eventually noticing that when my love turned out the lights, there were two "objects" on that ceiling. They were both reflected or barely-detectable light-phenomena. One looked very like a spiral galaxy. It was the reflection of a blue light on the top part of an air-filter. The other was the small green pin-point of light from an operational smoke-detector. They were to become my two stellar markers, like lode-stars to a ship's navigator. Every night their dim light calmed me, somehow made me centered within. I have always loved the sky on a cloudless evening, filled with stars, nebulae, and the faint tracings of faraway galaxies, worlds upon worlds surely supporting life-forms of every type and description, some of vast intelligence. I always believed that, even as a toddler. "People are out there!" Oh, yes . . . I know it!

After I could turn a bit and hold a book, I started to read. Fine novels and short stories. Kurt Vonnegut's Man Without a Country. Sara Pritchard's Crackpots. Thad Carhart's The Little Shop on the Left Bank. And eventually, the great, sweeping epic of future human history, complete with economic, historic, religious, spiritual, philosophical, and predictive elements: Frank Herbert's DUNE, all six volumes.

I sometimes compare Herbert's DUNE to Melville's Moby Dick or Conrad's Heart of Darkness . . . it is not left wanting. It is suberb, world-class writing. And it is science fiction, which, in some literary circles, immediately condemns it to the dust bins of history, if only because it is, well, science fiction. Such thinking is exactly what Frank Herbert warns against. Prejudice is blindness. Fear is the Mind-Killer. In my reality, The DUNE Chronicles stand among the greatest literary achievements of our civilization. It has followed me over a span of nearly fifty years and has not lost its Thralldom. I have seen Director David Lynch's version (somewhat stylized but not without its own merits) but recommend the fantastic BBC production, released on five DVD's, closely following the author's intent from the beginning up until the fourth book. I have watched that glorious version, in its entirety, three times. Next year I will do so again. I have read the books, all six of them, four times. I am obviously a Frank Herbert fan, to put it mildly.

Moving along, I followed my neurosurgeon's advice. After all, Dr David Hanscomnew window remains one of the finest in our country, a lecturer, writer, philosopher, thinker, problem-solver, and one darned good surgeon. He advised me to read, to move, to walk, to play, to laugh, and to write. Every day, write. "Keep a pad by your bed. Write. It doesn't matter what. Just write" . . . and write I did.

What follows is a collection of thoughts and ideas from that period. Some are very much influenced by the DUNE series, and others are mine, all mine. I have edited out the ones that I now either disagree with or take issue with, and have omitted the more personal ones. Not that these "tiny stories" are not personal. Quite the opposite. Some of them are highly sophisticated insights. Others are more hypothesis than anything. You won't find truth here. I found that truth is elusive and, upon deep reflection, appears often as a purely "local phenomenon". Like gravity. And, if that gets you thinking, think on these:

 

itemWhen you think you know something, you have created an almost perfect barrier to learning anything.

itemIn every ending there are the seeds of a beginning.

itemThere is no such thing as a rule-governed creativity.

itemSpend your self on life. Never hoard.

itemNEW . . . what a wonderful, mysterious, exciting word!

itemSmall souls seeking power over others first destroy the faith those others have in themselves. The rest is easy.

itemOnly allow yourself to be in the company of those with whom you would be willing to die. (variation on the advice of Stilgar, the Fremen Naib, to Paul Muad'Dib, the kwisatz haderach, in Frank Herbert's Dune)

itemNever let knowledge stifle discovery. Much human knowledge is consensual myth enforced enforced by institutionalized power-structures. Trapped in a Universe of cause and effect, you will be denied the awareness of a blazing infinity full of astounding changes and mind-shattering possibilities . . . surprises everywhere!

itemJust as consciousness is created by a Universe in motion, the Universe is created by consciousness in its own constant, ever-changing motion.

itemFor this Universe in which you find yourself, "that which you believe" is a dominant force. It is your beliefs that order the unfolding of daily events. If you believe in a thing strongly enough, that thing can be made to exist. Chaos is thus sifted into order, for good or for ill.

itemTrue Love brooks no secrets, no deceits. Thus set free of consensual beliefs, such Love sets forth as a thing in and of itself, creating ripples in countless dimensions and other Universes. It recreates its own continuity and remodels reality. Such Love is the basic Engine by which Creation takes place.

itemLogic can move just as blindly as any other faculty. At times, instincts provide a favorable guide through a maze of obstacles previously not amenable to logic. ("prime computation" of Duncan Idaho, ghola mentat, 309th incarnation, in Frank Herbert's Chapterhouse Dune)

itemHistorians recreate the Past and change it to fit their own interpretations and prejudices. Thus, they change the Future. (Bene Gesserit Coda, in Frank Herbert's Dune Messiah)

itemLive the best life you can, always striving to improve your self and the lives of those around you. Leap into life and be a participant. Observing life is never enough. You can create your own luck . . . you can engineer your own success.

itemYou will know when I am fully self-aware: You will see me looking at myself as I look at my self. (slight variation of the words of Murbella, Honored Matre turned Bene Gesserit, in Frank Herbert's Chapterhouse Dune)

itemIt is not growing up that slows learning — it is the accumulation of "things we know" that blinds us.

itemCultivate naiveté. Observe and question. Make your awareness flow outward. It is in this way that insoluble problems are resolved. The keys to locked doors are usually right under our noses.

itemWords are never enough . . .

itemNature makes no bad Art.

itemIf an encounter leaves a bad taste, spit it out. That is what our ancestors did. (Darwi Odrade, Reverend Mother Superior, in Frank Herbert's Chapterhouse Dune)

itemHumans instinctively impose order on chaos. We are Nature's "pattern creators". Unfortunately, this makes us uniquely susceptible to others' manipulations — it also traps us in habits that we stubbornly resist changing. Pattern creation may be a natural talent but it can compromise our Free Will. In times of peril it may cost us our lives. Patterns are used by strategists, military and otherwise, to predict outcomes. Breaking through our innate reliance on habits and patterns in thoughts and behaviors, we discover new strategies for survival while opening our awareness to myriad options and opportunities previously unknown to us.

itemThe out-flowing of human consciousness is a bit like the ocean waves washing up on the shore in rhythmic sequence. The waves do not take all of the landscape — the rocks, the stones, the sand, the land — back into the ocean itself. It wears them slowly, only absorbing and returning the most transient debris . . . the flotsam, the jetsam. In this way, over aeons and epochs, change is achieved.

itemWhether or not a thought is spoken, it is a real thing. It thus has powers to change reality.

itemIt is not so much that power corrupts as it is that psychopathic, corruptible people are attracted to it.

itemA thing cannot exist without its opposite.

itemHumans are prone to seek sand in the desert. (Chani, Holy concubine of Muad'Dib, in Frank Herbert's Dune)

itemLife does not always accommodate our goals — but it often provides the wisdom and the means to achieve other goals, usually better suited to our innermost desires.

itemLogic is blind and often knows only its own past.

itemSince inner peace, happiness, and love demands the physical and emotional perfection of the self, how is it that so many refuse to face and correct fatal flaws in themselves? Because every individual is accountable ultimately to the self, formation and perfection of that self demands the utmost care and attention.

itemSpend your energies on those who make you strong. Spending it otherwise will deplete you, waste your power, and drag you down to doom.

itemNever step back, never back down, feet on the edge, face to the wind. (an old country song I heard)

itemIf it never gets any better than this, it's still better than it ever was. (something I said to my love as I was healing)

itemNever support weakness. Always support strength.

itemChoose wisely the myths you carry. They have teeth and they bite.

itemThe flesh exists to feel the things that flesh feels. (Lady jessica Atreides, the renegade Bene Gesserit who dares to fall in love and leave the 'order', in Frank Herbert's Children of Dune)

itemA great challenge is to overcome entropy, to break through those barriers which enclose and isolate our lives, those roadblocks that limit our energy for work and fulfillment. We must go up the entropy slope.

itemLogic, belief systems, and politics all stifle the impulse for wild creativity. Beyond these tricks of the mind awaits our Freedom.

itemAny Path contains surprises . . . and wages.

itemYour self and its limits are largely opinion: your own and other's. Break this habit and you will find that reality is quite different than you had previously imagined.

itemWhat senses do we lack that we cannot see the other Universe that exists all around us? (Gaius Helen Mohiam, Reverend Mother Superior, in Frank Herbert's Dune)

itemA self-serving act most often serves no one.

itemFace your Fears or they will climb over your back. (Darwi Odrade, Reverend Mother Superior, in Frank Herbert's Chapterhouse Dune)

itemThe inevitability of the next moment demands that we live this one with great care.

itemRemain attuned to your world. Every moment is filled with the answers you seek.

itemOften it takes little more than a well-chosen word, a gentle touch, or an approving glance to restore a person's sense of value and belonging.

itemOf all the gifts we may give to each other, our honest self laid bare is of the greatest value.

itemEmpires reveal no dearth of purpose at their inception. It is only when they are sufficiently established and well-defended that their original aims are lost and are replaced by top-heavy bureaucracy and vague ritual . . . and many many laws, new ones every day. Thus the age of the despot is assured far into our future. (Leto II, son of Muad'Dib, in Frank Herbert's God Emperor of Dune)

itemThere are many degrees of sight just as there are many degrees of blindness.

itemWhen you say "I Love you" I reply simply, "I know". Love knows Love.

itemMost humans tend to accept certain information if it comes to them from a source of authority — a government, a doctor, an expert, a trusted news source. This is a dangerous habit and tends to lead people to dead-end prejudices and conclusions. From this platform of disinformation, they pass judgement on others.

itemBeginnings are the time one must take the most delicate care that the balances are correct. (Princess Irulan, in Frank Herbert's Dune)

itemThe Three Liberties: Freedom, Justice, Individuality. The Three Laws: Never control another, never be as another, know courage as a virtue.

itemNever let any one person or thing define you.

itemNature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it's a feather bed. (Terence McKenna, founder of Psychonautics)

itemWhen the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace. (Jimi Hendrix, musician)

itemUntil one is committed, there is always hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising to one's favor all manner of unforeseen accidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. (Wolfgang von Goethe)

itemTruth suffers from too much analysis. (I think Duncan Idaho may have said this in Dune, but I certainly agree, no matter the source!)

 

Postscript:

I still have a pad by my bed and probably always will. It is a teacher in itself. A blank sheet upon one may write ones life, one's dreams, one's plans. Even the lowly "to-do list" . . . I promise that having it there will improve your life, if not your penmanship. I hope that one or two of these "tiny stories" help you to reach farther, to dream bigger, to look deeper — as they have since helped me. And it was I that wrote a lot of them! In this case, the doctor's orders were good ones!

Jessica Williams, Sep 22, 2013

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