Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Letters from the Edge

I get messages of this flavor often: people turning to me to resolve quandries composed of personal experience, compelling moments in the past, and some measure of magical thinking regarding My involvement in their lives. 
Once in a while I answer the questions they want answered... but do you really know what you wanted in the first place?

Hi Mistress Elle,

I hope you don't mind this email. I have a question for you. I've been listening to your recordings on and off for a couple of months. Some of them I've connected with, some of them I have not. Upon re-listening to the first two on your syllabus I had an incredibly strange, and thought provoking reaction. I was wondering if you would be willing, if possible, to shed some light on it.

Before I can explain what happened after the session, I have to give you a little backstory. When I was 17 years old I went through, for lack of a better way to describe it,  a period of extreme happiness. This "happiness" was linked to what was happening in my life at the time. The people in it, the events surrounding me, and the future that was right around the corner. The feeling I had is extremely hard to describe. It was almost like a vibration that ran through my body - a happiness vibe. A year later, when things weren't going so well, I was able to turn my inner life around by focusing on those times and that feeling, getting it back, although somewhat muted. It's come and gone over the years and morphed into a different sensation.

A couple of years ago I was meditating to an Attracting Wealth program and some of that original feeling emerged. It didn't stay for long. I didn't really focus too much on it. I would like to note here that the session I listened to had a subliminal track underneath the meditation music.

Last week I listened to "Easy" followed by "Even More Obedient". When I had finished the feeling felt like it was beaming out of me. It was almost completely overwhelming. It was the same feeling that I had as a kid with one exception - it felt synthetic. The feeling was there, but it wasn't latched onto, well, me. It's like  it wasn't personal. It was strong but felt fake. Looking back at the experience with the meditation program, it was the same thing except this time the feeling was about 1000 times stronger. It was also accompanied by a splitting headache.

My first question to you is, have ever heard of anything like this? I know that  ASMR is experienced by a lot of people. Is this that? What would cause this?

Any insights you may have on this subject would be extremely helpful. *

Thank you for your time,

* - ANY insights? Okay!


It sounds to Me like you are wrestling with the intrinsically transitory nature of serendipity, or what some would call "real rapture". Part of the nature of our encounters with desire is the context in which we discover it. That context consists of countless variables that cannot converge in exactly the same way again, not the least of which is the newness of the sensation. No matter how we may seek to recreate a moment in which we felt the worldview-toppling tug of desire, the one element we absolutely cannot recreate is a version of ourselves that had not experienced it, and did not anticipate the experience of it.

C.S. Lewis touched on this in the opening arguments of "Pilgrim's Regress", and develops it as the central thematic arc throughout. His protagonist is entirely defined by his wrestling with this problem. Lewis later elaborates on the relationships between desire, pleasure, newness, and spontanaity in "Perelandra" in an overarcing argument regarding the nature of evil (in which he puts forward that it is not desire, but our wish to control and recreate encounters with desire, that fuels much of human evil). 

An interesting praxis for this theme can be synthesized by juxtaposing the impossibility of a self that knows what it lacks that is beyond its bounds (ala Kierkegaard) and the self that can only be whole in its ruthless pursuit of earnest self-definition (ala Sartre). I believe the resolution of this problem is a recognition and acceptance that while it is to us to choose as an act of self-definition, and that choice consistent with the epistemic implications of our merkwelt acts as a reliable moral and existential compass, it is the unknowability and unpredictability of genuine encounters with desire that connects that self to a space with which it can meaningfully interact. Even as it is an ever-changing and unknown "us" that we principally interact with, the moments that seem to transcend those bounds inform us of a context in which that "us" exists and thus we know ourselves to be not of our own making. Thus we are honest, if never whole.