“el abismo es una cama de plumas”
I remember once, in crossing the Atlantic, to have gone upon the deck of the ship at midnight, when a dense black cloud enveloped the sky, and the great deep was roaring madly under the lashes of demoniac winds. My feeling was not of danger or fear (which is a base surrender of the immortal soul), but of utter desolation and loneliness; a little speck of life shut in by a tremendous darkness. When I was young, I believed the same nonsense that a lot of people believe about happiness – that it comes from the flashy veneer of the American dream: money, status, and power. But then I grew up (unlike too many other people, who only grow older) and I began to see that these things often destroyed happiness. I learned that happiness only comes from inner qualities, such as courage, altruism, and optimism. Happiness comes from the self. But where is the self? Who is the self? Who are you? If you don’t know, you’ll never be happy, because you’ll never be able to connect with the inner core qualities that make happiness possible. You’ll just travel through life in circles, always going, always intent – never arriving, never content. You should, in fact, be able to describe exactly who you are, right now, in the proverbial 25 words or less. And yet, there is a solitude, which each and every one of us has always carried with him, more inaccessible than the ice-cold mountains, more profound than the midnight sea; the solitude of self. Our inner being, which we call ourself, no eye nor touch of man or angel has ever pierced. Such is individual life. Who, I ask you, can take, dare take, on himself the rights, the duties, the responsibilities of another human soul?… …if we’re ever going to be truly happy…we need to be willing to charge headlong into the inferno of our most horrific fears – eyes open, intellect and spirit at the ready – even as our survival instincts are screaming, ‘Run! Run! Get out!’ That takes courage, and that’s why courage is one of the prerequisites for happiness. Courage, they say, is not the lack of fear, but the ability to take action in spite of it. But where does that ability come from? What power grants the strength to overcome the sick, shaky feeling of fear? Only one power is that strong: love. In the ultimate analysis, human beings have only two essential primal feelings: fear and love. Fear impels us to survive, and love enables us to thrive. This complementary pair of feelings has been the driving force of human history. Fear is the product of the reptilian brain, hardwired into every fiber of our being, and love is the product of the neocortical higher brain, where spirit and intellect reside. Thus, the dance of the spirit and reptile – the shifting balance between the neocortex and the reptilian brain – is the dance of love and fear. For you to be happy, love must lead this dance. Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.