Daniel June to the Students of Life:
Greetings! After finishing my last essay, Mood Alchemy, which was such a flight of ideas that it could only be what I call an "allay" or complex intermeshing of ideas, I have written an essay proper, much simpler and direct, which I entitle "charging the focus." The essay regards my first thoughts about using daily stresses as charges, to charge our ideas, and using charged ideas as tools of power. The stresses of life, the screaming children, the screaming boss, lead some to seek release in alchohol or sex or whatever, but i am suggest that these "charges" can be digested and refined and used creatively. I explain how in the essay.
Take care, Caretakers!
Charging the Focus
I once fell into a skirmish against a man who greatly outweighed me – perhaps double or triple my body mass, and disdainful I would challenge him to a fight, he roared in my face, and though it never came to blows, my adrenaline so flooded my system that I sought to discharge the energy by challenging two friends to arm-wrestling contests. The first was a woman with swarthy treelike arms whom I think I could never have bested were I not utterly pumped. The second, an old army veteran, used a trick on me; as soon as I said “go” he threw his full weight into me, and flipped me right over. I learned the value of abrupt discharge, as thunderclouds that have long charged themselves with excessive static electricity suddenly burst down in electrical torrents.
Working a cake decorating job, for which I had no training whatsoever, and at which I was expected to get it right the first time, and quickly, I remember my most successful venture was designing a birthday cake for some toddler based on a television show whose characters wore elaborate costumes. Knowing of the cake in advance, I did not plan for it, nor strategize, nor write anything down, but the idea of it lay smoldering in my mind, burning with a bit of stress and anxiety, just enough to keep exciting and a bit intimidating, so that when it came to finally to make the cake, I was cognitively psyched and ready, and sculpted the figures out of fondant so quickly that my boss was impressed despite himself.
However the brain in fact works, chemically, , we can speak of the focus, phenomenally, as being “Charged” through anticipation, and being “discharged” through execution. As the charging process requires anticipation, either through hope or dread, and as the charging process can either empower, by giving a sort of “static electricity” that can be worked with, or it can disempower, similar to a clock that is wound and so overwound the gears stick, we do well to manage the charge on the mind, the focus of awareness; to punctuate our expectations with foretaste, knowing how to get the optimal charge for performance, and not too much.
Such ego-control, or self-possession, comes naturally; we know how to get ourselves psyched for an event. High schools throw pep rallies to “raise team spirit” and get the fans, and hence the players, riled and ready for a vigorous competition. Sex is the same way, and they say most of the pleasure in sex is through anticipation.
Since anticipation is the charging of the focus – really, of certain ideas near the center of focus – and since those ideas are charged through the imagination of their use, charging is a process of fantasy, both conscious and unconscious. Viscerally, we feel the charge in the muscles of the eyes, and since all mental and spiritual events have an analogue in the body, are the experience of what the body does, we can say that they eyes are especially to be equated with focus, and what objects we see, or “see” in our imagination (which is still felt in the eyes), are through the focus of those final ocular muscles.
Yet it seems that a mere dreamer isn’t good for anything, that such a person who has a vivid imagination may use it not for preparation, but as an end in itself; that he could, after, dream of saving the world, and then not bother to save the world in any way whatsoever, no matter how modest; the imagining of the act was enough not only to excite him, but also to fulfill him. If we wished to give a bad name to masturbation, we would call such fantasy merely masturbatory; however, as with masturbation, we can take such repeated fantasies as the fine-tuning of an autistic language, a private language, and not let the edge be spent, merely in our head, but in the willful creation of an except and demanding grammar – nothing need be lost. If love costs us power, we can yet build subtle intimacies with love, either with lovers or with the ideas of love, whatever it is we love, people or ideas. In this, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with being a dreamer, even in being a “mere dreamer,” so long as he creates subtle memories, and from those memories a refined language, and through that language, a gift, the gift of soul, to the world, which is always, really, a world of language above the world of bare facts.
It takes all sorts to make the world go round, but knowing that proverb doesn’t take the edge off the mutual repudiations against our neighbor, friend, or enemy of being of the wrong sort, being selfish and individualistic at the expense of the community. In one sense, such a position is impossible; man ontologically is not a parasite, he is by nature a tree, a giver, somebody who through sheer delight at existing, at absorbing the sun of the world, produces in his mind and soul something useful for the world as well. In this, the cant, the rhetoric, the condemnations of man against man for being parasitical should be taken as a moral tone, a control tone, but never so literally that we take it man has the capacity to be in fact a parasite, something unworthy of existing, which diseases and parasites unworthy of, if anything is. We each produce spiritual goods from our heart; the heart is a secret garden, and there is no man or woman, child, or elder who we can rightly say, it would be better if they had never existed. In this, as a principle, we are optimistic, and rephrase the question only and always, “how can I bring out the divinity of this person?” “what is there to praise in this person?” “how can I be being myself, help others to be more themselves?” and so forth.
As for being all we can be, of realizing our potential, of empowering ourselves, if we aim at our actual abilities, and call that our perfection our perfect station in life – for how could anything impossible rightly be called “perfect”? – then what brings us to this exalted state, our personal best, requires the ancient god’s best wisdom: “Know Thyself,” or in other words, use self-reflection, a knowledge, a time alone, a time spent in reverie, in dialogue of self-with-self, of self with the divine, which is possible, in principle, even for atheists, once the practice is accepted and embraced as imaginative and not, to his relief, literal.
The experience of being charged found expression in the old metaphysical notion of tribal societies, where, for instance, a man who had become a god on the battle field was “manna,” and could not rightly return to his village until that excessive power had been discharged. The old Aryans and Tuetons included berserkers, who went mad at battle, and fought with intense ferocity. If we count all such states of mind as a sort of hypnosis, we come to appreciate the powers of hypnosis and self-suggestion. Everything that has been achieved can be achieved again, and what you are capable of you perhaps haven’t guessed at so far. By finding those ancient stories, or modern, the myths, or histories and biographies, that remember themselves in your head, they give you to yourself, they mirror you back on something that is in you already. Not for nothing one story, one myth, one idea obsesses you, and the rest remain cold. You have discovered a spark that resonates to the energy of your own soul. That spark, in entering you, opens the charge by which your own energy spills forth out of your inner self.
Be unashamed, therefore, about what crazy ideas, what abnormal fantasies, what ludicrous or excessive events and ideas most capture your fantasy. The best moments in your life come when you acquire the courage to declare your evil as what is best in you. When you are no longer ashamed of a thing, perhaps an event in childhood or youth that to this day still makes you blush, when you realize that shame is merely modesty, and modesty merely the shrewdness of hiding real treasure, you will no longer blame yourself for making the mistakes you had to make, couldn’t not make, but will come to your own, to your memories as to a great treasury full of artifacts and talismans that required only your blessing, your recognition of them as such, to come into their own, to come into your possession, and empower you.
The metaphor mind is able to toggle between a needed expression and different similar objects. We are charged by one thing, but discharge into another. The woman who makes us crazy can seldom become a wife. The idea for lover itself, the template, gets so flooded with her contact that it excites us whoever fills the role – love is forever different, all people are different, because I met you, though I may give you no gratitude whatsoever and praise this next one up to high heaven in your place, not knowing my appreciation makes her what she is, and I can appreciate her because you fist showed me how. The metaphor, the carrying over, is in a language of terms, a terministic screen that charges the fundamental structure of my world. Mystic experiences are like manic profundity, when the eyes open and we want to hear every song, and we hear the hidden soul of each song, and every story and idea returns to us deep and profound. Having seen Ama face to face, all else is henceforth sublime.
The pressure of a repressed yes, something we say no, a healthy no to, but feel deeply yes towards, comes out in a new form, in a dignified form, as God, as religion, once spiritualized in our womb. The drug addict who converts to Christ merely molded his drug into the shape of Christ. What matters is we find an external receiver for the fountains of energy coming from our inner self. The ultimate God, or important object of our devotion is not arbitrary, we can’t force ourselves to love this god or that cause or this political party, but as to what we can and in fact must honestly love, that is of less importance than how we love, for we are pouring forth a new substance into the world.
Frustration adds charge to a thing. Frustration is dammed energy. Deliberate practice—the sustained failure of innumerable attempts, empowers us to pour energy into the subtle form once we can perfectly execute it. From there, it intensifies. The question in life is how to master life, how to master our art, how to master a few instruments, very few, to with the simplicity of Thoreau take a few instruments, perhaps a few self-made terms, and do everything with them.
In this, my love for Ama is basic, and survives all life’s inquisitions. Ama, my always, I strive across the day with you.
We see young Emerson, at his basic task, writing his journals, begin with some antihuman sentiments, with hyper idealism, by which he damns the real. He will dismiss his mother the universe, dismiss Hinduism, dismiss atheism, dismiss Plato in favor of Christianity, only later to realize he set aside the best things in his over-eager piety. When he would finally meet God face to face, Plato and the Upanishads would be closer to his heart than the gospel. But even they were secondary testimony, merely able to shake him away from tradition, so we could look up at the sun directly. For Emerson, Nature is meditation. The book of nature is read afresh, and of course, as with all books, what matters most is what you read into it. What you create is your heaven, the substance of your heaven; these other authors give you a dish for tasting to teach you the way. The dragon’s lullaby is the lisp of tradition, whereby the spiritual treasure remain undisturbed; but to slay every scale of thou-shalt, to learn the lesson of transgression as well as obedience: this is how we charge our heart with regrets and failures and the taste for success.
Every establishment is an education. Establishments are schools, and institutions such as universities, marriages, religions, exist, in all their incredible pomp, to protect a few integral ideas. Those ideas are worthy all the fanciful accouterments. The theater, the sport, the business, are situations, are worlds, with forms we can wrest free and use for creating our own life. We cease to regret a thing when we see its necessity and use.
We take religion as a shrewd millennia old program for charging the mind with powerful tropes – and people give their lives for this. The shocks of anxiety that so many have, all are rounded out when a myth dignifies them. Do we suffer? The gods suffered too. But Romance is the secular religion, and is closer to our instincts. Give all for love. We feel it, that love is all – and the love of romance, Eros, is the deeper love, since is procreative, it is most deeply creative, and man at his center is a creative being. By joining any of these institutions – marriage, religion – or by joining an establishment – romance, business – we adopt the framework of terms implicit within them. They are languages. Our own experiences are fit into the language, so that some of our anxieties are staved off and deflated, and others are exaggerated and exasperated. The hang-ups of a given religion become ours when we join in. We begin to like certain people, hate others; like certain music, hate others; get a new aesthetic sense of the world. The ideas of our judgment are changed; we’ve let in the icons of the religion, the charged and encharging images, they filter the screen of the mind, and set charges and discharges in our mind. We enter a war, we are given peace – simultaneously. War opens art. Great wars are followed by great art, just as a nation in its prosperity produces the greatest spiritual gifts. The anxiety of fighting feeds the spirit of creativity. Utter peace would be fruitless, would be barren; but war, or war under kinder words, such as competition, challenge, interest, excitement, must father all things, and add power to all things.
As the stresses of the day build up, and we talk to ourselves, talk to Ama, to keep our head, as the various screaming children, screaming customers, screaming bosses weigh down the spirit; knowing how to delegate a charge, how to handle and isolate a charge, is maturity. How to not discharge it into aggression, into sarcasm or sneers? Nor should we succumb to vices, since all a vice amounts to is the squandering of a charge to gain a sense of relief. Tobacco, alcohol, drugs, over-eating, gambling, and every other thing that can be called a vice is addictive in that it gives a sense of relief for an overcharged and over-stressed system. The vices are called deceptive in that though, say, alcohol dulls the edge of anxiety, it can lead to addictive behavior that multiplies anxiety-causing problems in our lives.
And just as bad as that, it dampens our charge, disperses our energy, by unfocusing the mind and giving us a warm pleasure of dizziness where we would better have our sharp wits for a deliberate attack. Though it takes more willpower to set up the good habits, they do the same trick as the bad habits in taking the edge of life’s suffering. But rather than wasting the charge of the day, they put it towards achievement, from which one can build a personal empire of pride.
A charge is ultimately spent in “differentiating” the energy of the self. We speak of the self ontologically as the inner sun that in its need for this or that gives us the energy to achieve it. That energy is differentiated towards its goal. If we are hungry, reading a book will not fulfill us. But education and personal desire, the habits of it, further differentiate energy, so that a man may perhaps freeze to death rather than wear a dress. The need for warmth isn’t enough, he has different needs feeding into the same energy, and would above all wear something that represents his personal style. He would pay a sizeable sum for the correct outfit, though at the bare necessity level, clean rags would be sufficient. Yet as our desires become frustrations when they lack flexibility, when we are all charged for this girl, but this girl won’t have us, but no other girl in all the world will do, we need to step back and un-differentiate the energy, digest it, return it to its less intense but more universal original form.
Being exasperated by the stresses of the day, the image behind the stressed energy might frankly be to murder the boss, spouse, or child, who are hammering us with their demands. That basic violent image is deep and unacknowledged, but the affect of it is quite conscious, and so we dispel the energy into different shades of approximation: we are sarcastic or kind. Ultimately, cruelty and kindness are aspects of the same frustration: one wants a sense of control, and can control others by changing them, by having an influence over them. The man who pleases a woman sexually might get an ego boost, as in a way the phallus is the ego, and what strokes his ego strokes his sex. Yet a man may get a kick simply by making the woman submit to the enormity of his ego, and her feeling sexual pain may be enough to give him that same sense of importance, of being noticeable, that he will be remembered, respected, if not enjoyed. Since in sex it is generally assumed that the man is responsible for the pleasure of the woman, his importance can either be in making himself felt, or in making her respond. Returning to the level of friendship, we can impress our friends through sharp wit or subtle kindness. Knowing how to be kind is an art too – certainly some people are artless in their flattery, or kindness, or saccharine words, so that though we know they are nice, we can’t stand to be around them. They seem fake, unreal. An intelligent man can’t be praised by just anybody, but only by other intelligent men and women.
When creating a masterpiece, and in this sense, a love affair can be a work of art, a business deal can be a work of art, a conversation can be a work of art – “the best of life is conversation, and the greatest success is confidence, or perfect understanding, between sincere people” said Emerson – we have all our energies differentiated as paints are pigmented, and each inflection has its place, and this lifetime of various frustrations adds so much color and subtlety to the artistic creating of a perfect life. Art is life. In this, the sufferings, and even the deep-seated traumas, which make caves in our soul, which fill with energy, ultimately empower us, giving us a substance by which to create.
What matters then, in holding a charge, is not to diffuse it or give it up too soon. Spend hours in meditation or in self-conversation. Learn how to play with a spark, to intensify it. And during the day, when stress overcharges the mind so that you lack the self-control to discharge the energy safely, and fear you might hurt others or yourself, remember the virtue of Silence, of cloistering an emotion, an idea, in silence, and holding it down and letting it acquire a usable shape before opening it back up and expressing it. Knowing how to hold a charge means learning how to set it aside, to let it go, to forget it, until you can digest it, take the knives out of it, take the edge out, and gain the essence thereof, and finally respond to it with an exact and devastating expression.
We can be silent by distracting ourselves with busy work or day dreams. Fantasizing processes an ideal, prepares a form.
A form has a shape and a resonance by that shape. Whether we feel pity or hate, seeing cruel news events lets us express cruel frustrations. Fantasies of all sorts, sexually included, need not be literal. We create energy into a usable shape. Once they have shape and form, an idea is produce, and can be used in many ways. Myths, fairytales, and fantasies empower. They are always allegorical. If the day weighs on you, dream a little and digest the pain. Pain is the raw material of pleasure; from pain comes power, from power comes pride. Taking the time to focus the mind, to distract the mind, to approach a problem without its overbearing charge, to approach a problem metaphorically, in a form that lacks static electricity, gives us control and possession of our experience, and ultimately empowers us.