Apples and Oranges Sometimes the Earth Stands Essay

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Apples and Oranges

Sometimes the Earth stands still.

And then it begins to fall.

Time can wind and unwind itself around the psyche until one feels both that one is at the still point of the turning world and also spinning as fast as possible, faster than Einstein could have imagined, faster than the golden apples with which Aphrodite lured and betrayed Atalanta. The sphere of the earth itself can turn into an apple and we can each -- to borrow the words of W.B. Yeats -- "search till time and times are done/the silver apples of the moon/the golden apples of the sun."

For me, the apples did not begin as apples at all, but as oranges. I was lost one night. Lost in a literal sense, lost in the middle of Los Angeles trying t find the house of a friend, going to a party that did not appeal to me but to which I had promised to go. I found myself driving and driving, wondering to what extent I had lost myself at least half on purpose, my subconscious coming to my rescue so that I would not have to spend an evening with people that I did not really know and who would remind me all too easily of how hard it is for me to meet with strangers.

I pulled to a stop at a corner. There was no stop sign, no hexagonal of red warning me not to proceed. But even if I did not to get where I was supposed to be going, there seemed to be little purpose in continuing to drive when I was so clearly simply getting myself more and more lost and tangled in this city-not-my-own. I felt the car roll slowly, slowly, slowly to a complete stop, felt the almost imperceptible but not entirely imperceptible way in which one's body continues forward for a moment after the car has come to a stop, following the laws of physics, reminding one that we do not control nearly as many things as we think that we do. We may command our cars to stop, yes. But our bodies continue to follow the deeper laws of the world, the world in which inertia is undeniable.

But even as I felt myself in tune with the basic laws of the universe, laws as old as anything that is still with us in this world, laws that began so long before life itself was being lived that it is impossible for something as new as me to understand them. Life itself is ancient, but for billions of years before and after the living things have breathed their first and last there will be the parts of the world and the galaxy and the universe that do not breathe, that do not live or love or die.

or get lost.

So I sat there in my car for a moment, not looking at anything at all, really. Not really noticing that I was in a particular place at a particular time. Feeling in a liminal world, not home and not arrived, somewhere in the realm between departure and destination. A place that is very much like life itself, I thought to myself. For we are always in the balance between having left the space and time that exists before we are individuals and the space and time that exists after we are no longer ourselves.

And in that moment of looking inward more than outward, and backward at least as much as forward, I looked up, directly in front of me, directly across the intersection. And there in front of me, as if it has always been there, just waiting for me to arrive at this place and at this time, was a window filled with golden suns, each balanced on top of each other, bound to each other not by gravity but by the intensity of the golden, orange color.

For they were orange, in fact, oranges in fact. A perfect pyramid of oranges stacked in the window of a corner grocery store. Not really a grocery store at all. A hole-in-the-wall, the kind of place where people usually go to buy individual cigarettes and small bottles of bourbon, vices selected in small portions not to limit their potential damage but only because this was the way in which they were affordable. Not the place where someone comes to buy oranges, spheres of goodness, orbs of grace.

And in that moment, I was transported. The oranges seemed to me a portal to a different world. Perhaps out of the world altogether, for such colored spheres can be a call outside of life, a signal of death-in-life. My experience of that perfect pyramid of those perfect oranges read to me like the following kind of near-death experience:

Just then I saw five orbs of light. They seemed to be playing, swirling round and about the being and myself. They had appeared from the outlying landscape and I noticed they were all the same size and shape but of different hues as subtle as shades of rose petals, save one which had a bluish hue. Two of the pinkish ones seemed exactly alike, the other two were yet deeper in shades of red and orange. Before I could ask, it spoke and said, "They, like all here are of you, who are of me, but these will come to you and you will care for them more. They will fly apart but come together at the time of the Gathering ...

I watched as millions of orbs systematically entered the many planets before me. They appeared as bees flitting from flower to flower, pollinating each, one after another. Michael took me closer and I could now see that so many of these planets had life on them. The orbs were joining with the creatures of these planets. Not every creature was the same on every planet but they all had some commonalities, a head, a body, extremities and the light beings would animate them for a time ...

I was now before the light being of gold again. Those five orbs were still darting about. I wanted to stay and explore this realm with all the other light beings but I was told I could not. (Famoso, http://www.near-death.com/experiences/research17.html)

In that moment I understood that we are all of us far closer to the edges of things than we think we are. We believe ourselves to be following orderly paths, pathways that others have established before us, turnings that our ancestors have vetted for perils and mined for treasures.

We do not expect, most of us, to be truly surprised in our lives. We expect to keep going on our path and not to be confronted with anything fundamental. We expect the boundaries between the ordinary and everything else to stay attached, well stapled at the corners. Baring quotes Joseph Campbell to this effect:

Visionaries of a new holistic and ecological paradigm are themselves deemed to be neurotic. They have moved out of the society that would have protected them, and into the dark forest, into the world of fire, of original experience. Original experience has not been interpreted for you, and so you have got to work out your life for yourself. Either you can take it or you can't. You don't have to go far off the interpreted path to find yourself in very difficult situations. The courage to face the trials and to bring a whole new body of possibilities into the field of interpreted experience for other people to experience - that is the hero's deed. (www.Annebaring.com)

I was confronted in that moment with the possibility of an unmediated experience. The possibility of a chance of being the hero of my own life. I understood this and yet at the same moment was unafraid at this potential. That was what surprised me, what still so long after still surprises me. Not that I felt that I suddenly stood at the intersection of life and death: That actually seemed relatively ordinary. What took my breath away was that I felt that I was balanced exactly at the pivotal point between mediated and fully felt and authentic experience.

Baring argues that such experiences, such alchemical transformations, allow us to become connected to the world and the universe in an experience-near way that is usually denied to us. The world -- even the divine elements of it -- are often withheld from us. This is the case, Baring believes, not because we have become distant from the divine, but rather because we have become enmeshed with a certain (patriarchal) conception of the divine:

The secular culture of the modern world has declared that God is dead and the idea of a transcendent value irrelevant. However, it may not be God who has died but rather the image we had projected onto Him, an image that was formulated according to the level of our understanding at… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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