From the Introduction to
The Path of a Reluctant Metaphysician
My Religion is to live and die without regret.
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Difficulties in Life: A Calling to the Path of the Reluctant Metaphysician
As any of us tune into the changes that are prevalent in the social, political, philosophical, and economic atmosphere of this second decade of the third millennium we cannot help but wonder what is stirring? Are we in the midst of a revolutionary change that is as big as the change that took place at the time that a heliocentric view of the universe replaced the geocentric one? Or, is this just an inflated notion coming from one who wants to magnify his or her own moment in history?
Whether it is in our personal lives, or in our collective society, when change comes it is a natural, fundamental human tendency to attempt to make sense of the changes and to search for how to best cope with them. We have all fantasized about the how to cope with “the end times,” whether it is the dissolution of a relationship, the termination of a job, a change of career, the end of a stable economic life, or death itself. How do we prepare for such times?
The great philosopher Michel de Montaigne suggested that to begin to deprive death of its advantage over us we should practice the art of dying. But how does one do this? The great philosopher Plato said, “Death is the great initiation.” But, how does one learn the initiatory secrets to handle the mini-deaths of life as well as “the big one?”
Here in the early years of the 21st century, the death of ideals, climate change, environmental disasters, and economic turmoil seem to pervade the atmosphere. People are praying for rebirth no less than a Neolithic hunter in years of old would look at an eclipse and wonder if the sun would ever shine again. As polarizing forces are fighting in the current dark times of the American political climate, and creating economic uncertainty, many are wondering how to cope with the dismantling of our culture. Even traditional financial columnists like Suze Orman are saying that “The American dream as we knew it is dead” (Orman, 2012).
As I write this introduction, synchronicity is at work as I happen to turn on a 60 Minutes show (March 6, 2011) that reports that 25% of the children in our supposedly richest country in the world go hungry. Middle class students are shown living in their parents vans and going to school after washing up at the local Wal-Mart bathroom. I turn the channel and the Middle East is erupting with revolution in the streets. On another TV station a battle takes place in Wisconsin between the forces of democracy and governmental officials such as Governor Scott Walker who tries to stop workers’ bargaining rights as he follows like a puppet the wishes of wealthy puppeteers like the Koch brothers. It does seem that we are in a time of economic, political and environmental upheaval (which I will talk more about in the last three chapters). Such circumstances calls each of us to find our stance towards an end of the world we knew.
What are those factors in personal of social history that create a powerful personal dream or a social revolution to take place and transform an established order? More importantly, how can any of us participate in creating a new world that is in tune with our, and our world’s, highest good?
This book is not about any particular sphere of dissolution but about how the process of my life introduced me to stories and practices to cope with such changes in various spheres: philosophical, psychological, spiritual, and cultural. I call it the path of the Reluctant Metaphysician, because the complacent part of me (and for most of us) does not want to face the death of a world. Yet in doing so, guidance from the world behind the world is revealed—if we learn to listen and read the signs.
Difficulties in any sphere of life activate the calling of the Reluctant Metaphysician—they set the ball a-rolling. In this book I will use my story to talk about the evolutionary changes in my life and how they mirror changes in the wider scheme of things. As I reflect back on my own radical change, my early life was lit by the intellect; it was the star around which my early life revolved. At that stage of my life I would have agreed with Descartes’ dictum, “I think therefore I am.” Being brought up in a household where my father was an attorney, my psyche was cast by a philosophy that said the mind was the center of universe. However, then my culture and I were opened to a larger universe of meaning.
So, this book is not just about how to deal with the deaths of life, but it is about a Way to deal with life itself. The path of the Reluctant Metaphysician is to bring meaning and transformation to various spheres of life by connecting to the wider whole of which we are a part.
There has been a Western philosophical movement prevalent since the Age of Enlightenment age that, with all its benefits in moving from the superstition of the dark ages, has a shadow side—the desacralization of the world. We human beings have become separated and alienated from the cosmos (Weber, 1993; Schiller, 1993; Tarnas, 2007). My life journey serves as an attempt to resacralize my life, and to join others who are doing the same for their lives and our culture.
Every facet of life is a mythogem, and if we look at it with metaphysical eyes a treasure house opens. Each of our unique identities can become connected to sacred purpose, the people we meet become part of a transformative mythic journey, and nature and the cosmos itself become living symbols and messengers of an anima mundi—an ensouled world.
To see the Table of Contents, click here.