The love letter mirror

Love-LettersAll the world is a mirror for me. Whatever I see and react to mirrors something in my internal universe.

When I respond positively to something, I am seeing something that stimulates my internal universe in a positive way.

When I respond negatively to something, I am seeing something that does not fit into how I think the universe should be.

Despite the fact that I can make split-second decisions on what I like or dislike, it’s actually an amazingly complex procedure to describe.

For example, what do you think of Miley Cyrus? Rush Limbaugh? Barack Obama? Sarah Palin? No matter where you go in your thoughts with any of these people, you’re making all your judgments based on your internal universe and the data you have fed into it. Unless you know these people personally and intimately, you are getting all your data through filtered, mostly opinionated sources. You may make snap judgments on them without even thinking. It doesn’t matter whether they are heroic or demonic to you.

THEN THERE ARE LOVERS

In a more subtle way, my relationships with lovers over the years works similarly. What I see and experience in the external world is a reflection of my internal world.

Every time I interact with someone, I see mirror images of myself through that other person. This also includes all the people real or imagined who stimulate thoughts about love and sex. It could be the stranger across the room who doesn’t even see me or know me. It could be a fictional character in a novel or movie. All of the stimulation, good or bad, is really occurring inside my brain because that’s where everything gets interpreted.

So let’s say that I am gawking at somebody I find uber attractive. Really gawking. Thoroughly entranced with that person’s presence.

We are conditioned to think that it’s that other person who is so fabulously gorgeous (or whatever other quality you want to assign.) We are conditioned to think that the other person, by being so gorgeous, has power over us, as when we are bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. Many of us are conditioned to seek the approval of the people we see as gorgeous (or similarly attractive quality.) Our ultimate prize is to have them think we’re great.

THE BIG MIRROR

But here’s the thing: it’s not really that person! That person is holding up a psychological mirror for me. It’s me! It’s my brain chemistry. It’s my mental filtering system. It’s all subjective, and in that sense, it’s all imaginary.

Of course, our romantic traditions don’t conceive or portray it that way. Most depictions of romance show men and women swooning over someone. “You drive me crazy,” we’re conditioned to think. “You are so gorgeous!” “You make me feel so good.” Yadda, yadda, yadda.

This phenomenon has become more intriguing to me as I age and can reflect on my life experience. I see more and more of my existence as symbolic interaction. Visions I pick up outside of me, whether a photo, movie, or something else my eyes see, stimulates an inner part of my psyche. Much of the time it has nothing to do with the actual person and everything to do with my internal life.

LOVE LETTERS TO MYSELF

The act of writing a love letter is usually thought of as an attempt to woo, persuade, enchant or in some other way influence another person. Many people write love letters out of the hope that they will get something back, be it adoration, a sensual reward, praise, or “winning” someone’s heart.

Yet apart from all that is the reality that in writing a love letter, the writer is primarily playing with his or her own inner universe. The writer is playing with symbolic interaction and conditioning. It’s often an ego thing. We sing the praises of someone outside of ourselves, having decided that winning that person’s heart or gaining that person’s approval would boost our life, our esteem, even our status.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

Have you ever been in love and lost? Have you ever felt that your life was ruined because someone you adore doesn’t feel the same way about you? Have you ever felt really lousy because you feel empty and alone? Have you ever spent your life in what seems like an endless quest to win someone’s approval?

I’ve been through all these situations. They and many more could be soothed quite dramatically if I just stepped back from the drama and realized that most of it was coming from my own head. It’s coming from my own programming and conditioning. The best way to get my power back when I am feeling way out of balance is to remember how much of my reality I am creating.

Emotions charge like speeding locomotives. It’s like a trance. So when I feel myself swept away in a strong surge of negative emotion, I intervene with my intellect. I’ll say to myself something like, “OK, what’s going on here? Why am I so creeped out/pissed off/dejected and lonely?” When I slow down enough from the emotional flood to think clearly, I will recognize it as a story I am telling myself.

It is said that the outside world mirrors our inside world. If we tell ourselves stories, the external world will attempt to conform to that story. We see what we expect to see. That’s why if we expect to be hurt or betrayed, our external world will bend to help make that happen. Then we can say, “I knew I’d be hurt.”

SYMBOLIC INTERACTION?

If we expect to be hurt, for example, everything we see will appear to be evidence supporting the premise. Everything external will have a symbolic meaning inside.

Jealous lovers often look to their partner’s words, deeds, and activities to see signs of wrong-doing. They’ll look for the slightest reason to blame their lover for being flirtatious or inattentive. The last thing they will do is blame themselves for creating the reality they fear and acknowledge that their suspicious nature colors their every thought.

No, this does not mean that if someone cheats on you, you caused it. But it is to say that we have more control over our reality than we are led to believe. People seem to be much happier when they look to what’s good and right in their lives. Feeling grateful for what you like is the best way to invite more of the same.

LOVE LETTERS TO PHOTOS

I like to play with my internal world. Sometimes I will see a photo of someone and I will become such an emotional softy from it that I want to write that person a mushy love letter. I may know the person but these days usually not. The love letter I want to write is based on the feelings and fantasies the photo brings up for me. The process of writing is my way of playing with those feelings. I am not attempting to make anything happen in real life outside of basking in the creative joy of letter writing.

It is also wonderful to know that when I do write love letters to people in photos, I am writing to an internal part of me that is reflected in the vision. It’s no different than if I were to write a love letter to a photo of a beautiful cloudscape or water scene. Hey, that’s a pretty good idea.

Dear Beautiful Cloud …

A call for meatier woo-woo

BaseballIs there some unwritten law that prohibits characters in woo-woo movies and novels from being inquisitive about their paranormal encounters? Do they always have to be so thick-headed in the face of revolutionary changes to their reality?

If I saw Shoeless Joe Jackson standing on a baseball field that I made out of a cornfield after a voice told me if I build it he will come, I’d have a few questions. I’d show a little spunk. I wouldn’t just leave it at, “Oh, Shoeless Joe Jackson is hanging out in my field. Hi Shoeless.”

Don’t get me wrong. Field of Dreams remains one of my favorite movies. That’s largely because it whet my appetite for more answers about why we’re here on this planet.

Yet I’ve always wondered why authors and screenwriters are so reluctant to mix it up with the good stuff. Even the late Roger Ebert wrote in his 1989 review of the Field of Dreams, “The movie sensibly never tries to make the slightest explanation for the strange events that happen after the diamond is constructed.”

Sensibly?

SPLAIN YOURSELF, LUCY

Personally, I want explanations. I want to be challenged by an artist’s vision of wha’ happened. I would have loved a sequel where we follow Terence Mann as he enters the mysterious clubhouse deep in the cornfield, presumably to discover all those juicy secrets hidden from those of us stuck in the flesh?

Why are we so reluctant in our mainstream media to wonder aloud about our cosmic nature? Is it all marketing, marketing, marketing — don’t want to offend anyone by creating a vision that contradicts someone’s dogmatic religion? Is it a case of separation of church and entertainment?

Personally, if I were Ray Kinsella and met my deceased father on a ball field at twilight, I’d have a few questions. For starters, “Uh, Dad, has it occurred to you that you’re dead?”

Or is that not appropriate guy talk? Don’t wanna get too much into feelings! Gasp!

“Ray, Son, you live on an spiritually challenged planet. You want simple, pat answers and tie-it-nicely happy endings. So let’s just cut the curiosity crap and have us a catch.”

“Dad, how can a dead father materialize in Iowa, regress thirty years in age, and have nothing to say about cosmic human destiny?”

“Sh-sh-sh. Now, now. See if you can catch my curve?”

HOLLYWOOD HO-HUM

A somewhat daring film in the spiritual cinema genre was What Dreams May Come (1998) based on the novel by Richard Matheson. It at least dared to toy with some metaphysical concepts like creating your own reality with your consciousness. The film showed how Dr. Chris Nielsen’s external world in heaven changed as his inner world changed.

Even so, the heroic doctor and family man (played by Robin Williams) who’d lost two children in an earier fatal car wreck seemed peculiarly lacking in spiritual curiosity once he figured out he was dead. It takes him forever to ask, “Where’s God in all this?”

Seriously!

His guide Albert (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) replies while gazing skyward, “Oh, he’s up there … somewhere … shouting down that he loves us, wondering why we can’t hear him.”

Is it just me? Isn’t that the most banal reply from a spirit guide who just may (just should) have more insight into the workings of the Universe? You can just read into the script the discussion at the studio about not jeopardizing market share among the religious audiences by laying out a bold vision of the afterlife.

Don’t get me wrong. That movie thrilled me, too. It was a giant leap ahead of the pack in spiritual cinema. Siskel and Ebert gave the film “two enthusiastic thumbs up!” Still I wondered why it was so timid. Or as Roger Ebert would have said, “So sensible.”

On the rare occasions when movies follow someone who’s died, they seem to have swallowed dumb and dumber pills.

I’m especially amused (as in wanna throw a book at the TV) when the freshly crossed ask, “Am I dead?” And some get all upset that the answer is yes. Dead? Dead? I’m dead?

It’s amusing because they generate brand new thoughts. They still think therefore they still are. But it does not occur to them that they have entered a new environment, are still conscious, and that all the crap they learned about dying was uber misleading.

MY QUESTION

So I was wondering — is it ultimately all about money and market share? Is there any unwritten rule in the literary and movie-making empires about characters openly asking poignant questions about their new living situation — or is it a matter of too much information?

I do find this strange because the movies are none too shy about killing people. The industry kills people right and left in plenty of creative and visually exciting ways. It milks death scenes for every last teardrop. Yet for all the carnage and farewells shown on the big screen (with DVD and streaming video beyond that), the industry doesn’t seem to want to invest much talent in exploring what happens beyond the red line of death.

Behind every tombstone in every cemetery in the world dwells a huge question mark — where did I go after I went to the morgue?

LET OUR ARTISTS GO

I support our mainstream art in panning the goldfields of speculation for sparkling nuggets of cosmic wonderment. Science has seemed to be dragging its collective ass on investigating what happens to dead people, so perhaps it’s up to the arts community to throttle up the exploration.

Places all over the Internet house virtual museums of anecdotal evidence of soul survival including near-death experiences, after-death communication, out-of-body experiences, mediumship, and so on. Even my casual perusal of Facebook groups yields stuff that would make intriguing movie magic.

Art is art. It is often fiction. It speculates. But because it is free from having to be scientific, it lets us explore “what if” possibilities with more gusto.

In one of my current projects, I follow a successful advertising copywriter through his fatal car crash into spirit. I have been inventing a heaven for him to dwell in. So far that sounds like Defending Your Life, Albert Brooks’ inventive romantic comedy about an ad exec who winds up in judgment City for his afterlife review trial.

Some friends thought the 1991 film wimped out by going for too many laughs instead of exploring what heaven was. Yet I found the whole afterlife trial so compelling that I used it as a spiritual anchor. I often found myself wondering how my actions would play out if there was such a life review. Later as I studied more about near-death experiences and the life reviews many of these people faced, Defending Your Life seemed headier than ever.

But it also just whet my appetite for more. I keep thinking that if 10% of the movies we devote to crime and war and other forms of killing were devoted instead to exploring spiritual possibilities, our cosmic purpose for being on earth, positive solutions to our planetary woes, and what happens after death, we would be a much different society.

What do you think?