My fists are clenched. I unclench them. My legs are crooked; I straighten them. I sit up a bit straighter in my green chair, and lightly tap my fingers along the wide wooden desk.
Briefly, I glance out the window at the oak leaves fluttering just outside. A pair of simple white earbuds are in each ear, and I’m listening to the newest collaboration between Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm, two of my favourite musicians. Classical music. Kindof.
What an incredible week it has been. I arrived at Schumacher six days ago, on Saturday, nearly down to the minute—and appropriately just before supper (it was intentional). That weekend was spent in an altered state of consciousness—jetlagged, I awoke on Sunday at 3:30PM, and on Monday at 3:00AM; deciding to stay up, the result was an erotic poem about poetry. Which I shall not post here. Sorry.
Schumacher College is a magical place. I realized this earlier in July, when I visited for a series of short courses. Having known about the college for a decade, my fascination was consummated—in the way all epiphanies must be—in a series of perfect moments. I’ll tell you a few of them.
Monday. My classmates and I dove into Holistic Science, the title and primary focus of the course, by way of Henri Bortoft’s essay on authentic and counterfeit wholeness. Halfway through the reading, I suddenly realized that the conclusion being born in me was identical to one I felt four years ago: an existential epiphany and inquiry that changed my perception forever, ushered along via my reading of the two Deutsch Martins, Heidegger and Buber. I realized the nature of reality, as “updated” by the discoveries made in physics during the 20th century, had metaphysical implications not yet understood or properly experienced by the majority of humanity. Wow.
The second moment was on Wednesday, when I participated in a talk with Bill Plotkin—an American wilderness guide, vision quest facilitator, and author whose book “Soulcraft” helped me to realize how important it is to know who you are, truly—how everything has lead you to this moment, how you were born to walk a certain path, to become a certain Becoming.
“The gift you carry for others is not an attempt to save the world but to fully belong to it. It’s not possible to save the world by trying to save it. You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world before you can make it a better place. Discovering the unique gift to bring to your community is your greatest opportunity and challenge. The offering of that gift – your true self – is the most you can do to love and serve the world… and it is all the world needs.”
— Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft
The third, hardest to describe, was yesterday. I met a river. The river taught me a kind of Listening, a kind of seeing. It showed me how when something disappears, it reappears in the same moment, as something else. Indigenous peoples all over the world, particularly the shamanic cultures, refer to this skill as shapeshifting.
And the fourth was today, Friday. The presence of the Listening presented itself, through the lens of physics, in the form of a drawing: a singularity emerging from out of and collapsing back into itself; a toroid, a constant unfolding of enfolding.
I am beginning to wonder, even now, whether this might be the true nature of reality; how discreteness, time, and space — the building blocks of physical reality — can be considered the expressions of a single wholeness, a no-thing, from which every-thing must emerge and return. The most important aspect of this is that it is fractal; a feature of the actual, it must be seen as inherent to both the forming of discrete things and the pre-form void from which all things emerge.
If this is starting to sound too theoretical, I apologize. The fact of the matter is—and the reason why Schumacher College is so unique—is the fact that these words are actually based on the discoveries of a special kind of attention that is available to every person, but that one must cultivate for themselves. Unlike logic, this attention does not grasp, does not reach immediately to delimit nor define what is perceived, but rather allows the subject under question to become itself through you, through your perception, in the manner of an participant—an interlocuter in an unfinished conversation.
The wonderful thing is, you forget. Constantly. It is impossible to keep your face forever turned towards the infinite dark. We try, lest we remain separate, unseen and unseeing. The truth is, life is created through love, and love is renewed in the trying. And that miraculously, forgetfulness is temporary.
What made all this so joyful is the simple fact that I felt seen in my seeing. It is difficult to overstate how important this feeling is, this stepping-into-belonging, for human beings. For all beings.
Right now, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world but here. Even to confess this is the purest revelation.
It is now late in the evening, Friday night. I am still listening to Olafur Arnalds, perched on a small chair in an empty kitchen, hearing the soft laughter from the nearby annex where people are soaking up the week with wine and other good spirits.
I hope this letter finds you at home in yourself, in the simple honesty of feeling whatever you are feeling; of going through whatever is being asked of you to endure. As Bill Plotkin once stated, our contemporary society has entered what Jung once termed a Dark Night of the Soul—a period of obfuscated purpose, of collective uncertainty, of imperfection and incompletion. We are being asked to go deep into the sites of our greatest resistance, both collectively and personally, and find the gold therein.
I wish you every kindness on your journey. Let us speak again soon.