How do we shift from Kinetic Man to "Energetic" or "Noetic" Man?
I suspect that there is a triggering event - a predisposition - and reinforcement that in the end locks in the shift.
I can only talk for sure about my own journey - so I will start there and then look to the general.
Here is my own Triggering Event.
I woke up in 1992. I was just 42. I was on vacation with the extended family by a lake. I had been in emotional turmoil for months. It was a kind of nameless turmoil. I could not label it but I could feel emotional tectonic plates moving inside me. I felt almost as if I was pregnant. Something was coming that was inside me. I was fighting against it with all my might.
For at least a year, I had been increasingly unhappy with work and with my whole life. I had been the most Kinetic of men. My public life was very successful. I was the youngest SVP in the Canadian banking system. The consummate insider. The perfect courtier.
At home, we were the "perfect couple". My family life looked great on the surface.
But I felt like a donkey in harness going round and round in pointless circles - a beast of burden - doing nothing worthwhile at work or at home. All my life was surface and it felt like dust. There was no animation. No juice. No life. but I had no idea that there could be another life. It was all ashes.
So I was lost. Condemned. Trapped.
I had hoped that getting away for 3 weeks would help. I had never before taken such a break. After all I was Kinetic Man who was a superman! I thought that maybe I was just tired and overwrought. Maybe a good holiday would get me out of this feeling. Little did I know!
I awoke in the very early morning, I felt that something was wrong. Specifically, I "knew" that Robin was in pain. But there she was, fast asleep beside me. But this knowledge that she was in pain was so vivid and so real, I could not dismiss it as a dream, and so I woke her. She groggily told me that she was just fine and rolled over to go back to sleep.
Just then, our bedroom door opened and Hope, our daughter, staggered in, doubled up with pain with terrible cramps.
I had got the person wrong but not the situation.
But this was not the end of it. It was if, I was now like a radio and I was tuned in to all who were around me. I could feel people's emotional state. I went to sleep with the radio off. I had felt the radio go on in my sleep and now it would not turn off. The volume was set at full and all the stations were playing at once.
My world was filled with emotional noise 24 hours a day. I could not switch it off.
I wondered if if was becoming schizophrenic. I was so scared that I called on the help of the company doctor who put me in touch with a psychiatrist.
It was not schizophrenia. I did need therapy and spent 8 years in some form or another. Another story -So what was it?
I think in retrospect, I had an event. A physiological event - just as Jill Bolte Taylor had when she had a stroke. For some reason, the pathway to my Right Brain opened up. Not as bad as with her - she was incapacitated by this - but enough to change me forever.
So in retrospect, the Triggering Event was caused by pressure. A sense aged 40 that my life was empty and meaningless but that I knew of no way out. These are not unusual feelings for men aged 40. Some choose to lock it all down and to go on. Others buy sports cars and go off with younger women and try and do the whole thing over again. Some take to drink and drugs and bad behaviour.
I did not choose my reaction. My brain chose for me and broke through the wall to the right hemisphere.
I think it did this because I was predisposed. The barrier to wholeness was more like a hymen than a brick wall. It was a slender barrier designed to be broken by a force of life. I think that it is meant to break with the "right" stimulus if it has been thinned out by a predisposition.
What could have prepared me for this? I think I know now.
I grew up a child of nature. I ran wild - literally. No TV for me until I was 7 and then only a few hours a week and then none for a decade. My sense is that TV is the great dis-connector!
The pivotal experiences for me were in Africa. From 8-12 we lived in Ghana. When I was not at school, my sister and I were all but alone to do what we wanted to. We were all but unsupervised. We would wander for miles. Kill snakes and rabid dogs. Make tree houses. Get adopted by the locals. Go fishing with the villagers. Spend days in the surf. The kind of thing you would never let your kids do.
Aged 18 I went back to Africa. I spent 9 months living under canvas in the Kalahari Desert - every night under big sky. Every day walking for 11 miles through the desert. I became connected to the immensity and to the immanence of nature.
Nature had marked me. She had shaped me. She then just bided her time.
Perversely, I was also connected in my early life to the world of imagination. I draw a veil over my family life only to say that it was emotionally brutal. I retreated into the world of my mind. Books and what was in them became my escape. By 8 I had read hundreds of books - even war and Peace and Moby Dick. I would read every free moment. In my teens I might read at least a book a day. My imaginary world was as full as my real world.
My hypothesis is that predisposition is surely affected by a connection to nature that is real and visceral and by an imagination that has been well exercised.
This is why I worry so much about so many kids today. Over organized, isolated from nature and from danger. And maybe worse, having their imagination fed rather than grown. Will they be ready or locked down?
Sorry, I get ahead of myself.
Did I go mad or get "better"? The quick answer is that I found a way of living with this.
After a few months, I began to learn how to at least alter the volume and to reduce the number of open channels.
But for a few years, I was very awkward. I was like a 16 year old boy who had put on a foot in height in six months. You know how they bang into things and are so awkward because they don't fit into their new space. Well this is how it felt. I had very limited control over this new way of being. I kept banging into people emotionally. Like shaking a hand too hard. It could hurt and I was very disruptive both at home and at work.
I was an adolescent all over again - not sure of anything - least of all who I was. Not a good person to be connected to!
While I learned to keep the radio volume down most of the time, work became increasingly hard for me. I started to ask myself the kind of questions that could not be answered satisfactorily. Why were we doing what we did and more importantly why did we run the place the way we did?
Was shareholder value important? What were we really doing for our clients? How did we serve them really? The answers kept coming back that this was all for us. We told everyone that it was for them. Customer "Service". Serving the customer. But we served only ourselves. And who was us? Us was me and the elite executive team.
We said that people were important. We said that no one was more important than our staff. But I could now see that this was simply not true. It was not even about the shareholders. It was about "us" - the elite at the top.
This was no vague feeling. I was in charge of compensation and performance for the bank. I was in the one place where I could see the reality of what and who we really stood for.
After a year or so all I could see was the disconnect. One day in a big meeting I said this. As the words left my mouth, I knew that I had just fired myself. Of course, the bank were very decent to me. After all I was an insider - one of the best connected courtiers. I was not out the door - but I was gone. Three months later I was indeed gone from the corporate world. The only world I knew.
One thing only I knew for certain. I could never return to the corporate world.
So I struck out on my own - for a while doing very much the same kind of work that I had been doing before.
But I found that this was not enough. Here I come to the reinforcement aspect. I suspect that many reach my point. But if their new life is not physically reinforced, they can slip back. Worse, for in doing this, they choose a life of dust.
I was still surrounded by the energy field of the world I had left. A big city like Toronto is bursting with Kinetic Energy. In this raw state, this can be a kind of torture.
I was still also in relationship with my family in the same old way. Leaving the bank had been huge but on its own was not enough. I did not have a real relationship with my wife or with my children. By that I mean that we had not put all our cards on the table. It was still too scary to do that.
One morning early, the phone rang in my home office and it was a person called Marie MacDonald. She was calling from PEI. She said that we had never met but that she had heard me give a talk. She wondered if I might consider coming to PEI and giving this talk to the deputy ministers.
By saying yes - I also put my marriage and my relationship with my kids to a full on test. I would not know for years what the outcome would be - but I suspected it would be an outcome based on what was true rather than what we all hoped for.
This physical change forced the light to shine on us as a family. What was at the core of our relationships. Could we be truthful about who we were? Would we still have each other when we found out?
It was the dislocation that forced this upon us.
Now it has been 15 years here on PEI. I think it has taken all of this time to heal from all that has taken place. There is no short cut I think. There is more to come - how do I let go of all things and all people - for that now aged 60 is what is to come? The biggest test of being connected surely?
So in closing, what is a Connected or Energetic person versus a Kinetic person?
I think I know the answer to that now.
A connected person is a person who fits with themselves and their place. They are their true selves. They are attuned. They have an internal energy that is connected to everything and to everyone. They care very little about stuff or status. They care very little about the Jones think but they care a lot about people and the planet.
They know that their death is inevitable and that is what makes life so precious. But they hold more lightly also to life as well.
The rainy and cold day is as precious as the sunny warm day - for one day there will be no days.
They love their children and fear for them for they see the future ahead of them. This is why they cannot retreat from the world and the struggles that lie ahead. But the irony is that they know that if they wish to affect people or the planet, it will be how they live or be rather than what they want to do with others that will have the best chance.
So they know that it is in their being that they have any chance of helping all children have a better future.
How we we predisposed to become more connected?
Our great teacher is nature herself. If we let her, she will reveal all we need to know.
Our best classroom - the outside and taking risk. Our best tool - our imagination.
What is the kind of event that triggers the breakthrough?
The way there is a broken heart.
There is no painless way to break through. I think that torment and pain and desperation are the crucible that throws Paul off his donkey on the road to Damascus. It is the scourge and the cross that precede any resurrection. For me the power of the Christian story is not its literalism but the message that all can transcend a literal and kinetic world, if we are prepared for the humiliation of the cross. Our kinetic self has to die.
The how do we return to participate in the world again, if this process of death and resurrection is so painful?
The hero's journey is clear on this. Prior to the Return is a time in the desert - removed from the world that we know.
It helps to separate from the world for a while. So reinforcement is I think that process where we change our surrounding environment to fit our new self. It is the time and the place where we are re-shaped literally.
In my own case, PEI brought me back to how life is lived in a place that has a human scale - warts and all. It also brings me back to the rhythms of nature. Where the seasons play an immense role - where the weather is more than a conversational gambit. Where there is work to be done outside all the time.
Coming to PEI, forced me to separate from my family - to test it to its core. We came back together as a new family with a new foundation and with new promises and new commitments based on sharing a crucible.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because I think that we as a species stand on a cross road.
The choice will be I think, Collapse or Descent.
The difference will be I think evolutionary.
In the lead up to the end of the Ice Age and the breakout of Homo Sapiens was an evolutionary event. About 60,000 years ago a subset of Homo Sapiens, acquired complex language. As evidence of this evolutionary breakthrough, we see a take off in innovation in tool making and in cultural development.
We see the beginnings of spirituality and we see the amazing beginning of art.
This group only survived the transition.
It seems that the acquisition of language rewired the brain. It took man from the moment into eternity.
It seems that the acquisition of text also rewired the brain, losing us the connection to the connection. This severing was not all bad. It Enabled us to create an immensely powerful intellect.
But our intellect is not up to solving the problems that affect us today.
I fear that we have become less than human. Our disconnect from our true selves is at the heart of our disconnect from nature.
It all starts with each one of us. Here is how Joseph Campbell sums it up:
....... we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the heropath. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the centre of our existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world."
".....The modern hero, the modern individual who dares to heed the call and seek the mansion of that presence with whom it is our whole destiny to be atoned, cannot, indeed must not, wait for his community to cast off its slough of pride, fear, rationalized avarice, and sanctified misunderstanding. "Live," Nietzsche says, "as though the day were here." It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse.
And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal - carries the cross of the redeemer - not in the bright moments of his tribes's great victories, but in the silence of his personal despair."
The Hero of a Thousand Faces - Joseph Campbell, 1949
More later this week on what to do about "Being" - for without the return, there is no completion