Part of my motivation in founding the Freehoodship was to provide a platform or context for me and others to finally pursue lines of thinking that we had over and over again allowed to dissolve like vapor trails in our souls. I know that in my case, I have had ideas come back to me at various times in the course of decades even — and I’m still fairly young — without my having really taken them up and made something of them. One reason I haven’t is that on a few occasions it’s taken a decade or two of incubation for the idea to become viable. The Freehoodship, itself, is an example of such an idea. Early on in it’s evolution, it had appeared to me more as a standard brick and mortar school, though with a non-standard approach and curriculum. It didn’t seem to me viable in this form for many reasons, the most obvious of which having to do with financing — there wasn’t any! The Freehoodship as it now exists retains some of the essentials of this earlier form, but it’s also now obviously quite different. Most of the other reasons I never acted on these reoccurring ideas are less reasons than excuses.
Yesterday evening in the “Games that Transform Culture” class/project that I’m leading at Rudolf Steiner College, the participants and I took up, at Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, one of my perennially neglected reoccurring ideas. This idea has to do with the affects of one’s inner life on those around one as well as with how one can best connect with another human being, even a stranger. In other words, does our active cultivation of a rich and non-judgmental inner life have an objective beneficial effect on us and all the people around us, and does it allow us to connect more deeply with them when a conversation with each of them is logistically impossible. An important source of this idea is one of Rudolf Steiner’s self-development exercises. In the exercise, the meditant is asked to treat her ideas and feelings as deeds that affect not just her inner world, but the world at large, even if she does not act on these ideas and feelings. Like Steiner, I don’t believe this exercise is just some “What if?” scenario to purify an isolated consciousness, but an actual recognition of the more and more non-dualistic nature of reality. The goal of the exercise is to begin to take more responsibility for the content and gesture of one’s consciousness and its influence beyond what are considered its traditional borders. It is my feeling that we have to begin to take responsibility for the influence of 500 years of the scientific world view which has birthed in us the tendency to habitually objectify everything in our environment, even other human beings. What I mean by this, is that we nowadays immediately move from the sense impression of an exterior reality — what the thing or person looks like, sounds like, etc. — to superficial judgment without often seeking to penetrate to a deeper understanding, to interiority. What’s interesting is that commercial environments like malls actually seem to encourage these snap judgments. It is for this very reason that we went yesterday to Sunrise Mall to challenge ourselves and experiment with this particular perennially neglected reoccurring idea of mine.
To some degree, I think I have so far misrepresented the principles and purpose of the experiment I designed for yesterday’s excursion. I didn’t mean to imply that it was an outcome based experiment. In fact, we did this experiment to cultivate a non-outcome based consciousness. To my mind, outcome based experiments are a form of control, and I was not looking to control, but to create. Yesterday evening for me was about creating an event that involved the interplay of the interior and exterior worlds and that made, through our active imaginations, reality as big and diverse as we could possibly make it. The experiment was based on the premise that all human beings are individually engaged in a mysterious and amazing process of becoming, that each of us is a worthy protagonist of even a Russian novel. Last night’s research was into how we can, in this flux, generate more possibilities for loving the world and its people.
So what was the experiment we ended up doing? In actual fact, we did the experiment as a mission inspired by the work of Dennis Klocek. Its first step was for each of us to walk through the mall and find, at random, five images, anything from a burbling fountain to a sign advertising “50% off.” The second step was to document the images with a digital camera, pen and paper, or our memories. The third step was to take each of these five images and link them, without thinking too much about it, with one of the following psychological concepts (they’re psychological because I’m designating them as such!): issue, belief, process, reversal, and lesson. For the fourth step, we found a person in the mall with whom we could practice overcoming our nasty habit of objectifying others. We were, however, to observe this person from a distance, as we do most people, without him or her being aware of our activities. Naturally the goal is to do it without appearing creepy. The fifth step asked us to imagine a rich fictional life for the subject. We were to achieve this by employing the images and their corresponding psychological concepts just as a writer would a generative device. For example, if the image that corresponded to “issue” was of an airplane taking off, we might imagine the subject’s issue to be the inability to get started on some important task, such as earning a degree or ending a marriage. We could then, with the help of the corresponding images, imagine the subject’s belief structures related to this inability, the thought processes connected with it, the eventual reversal of fortune in relation to the issue, and the final lessons learned from the whole experience. The goal of this fifth step was to construct a rich and vital interiority for the subject (“subject” being an unfortunate term because of its distancing and dehumanizing connotations) that would awaken in us a strong affinity for him or her. That it was a fiction was unimportant. And anyway, it was only the details that were fictional: we all have issues, beliefs, processes, reversals, and lessons to learn.
When I think about the mission now from the perspective of a day later, I feel it was most effective in teaching me how little I know about how our inner life wordlessly affects others. I do, however, feel as though I established a more genuine interest in the woman who was my subject. I hope none of this sounds creepy — it wasn’t. This interest was built by my heartfelt active intention to connect with her and the tools I used to do it. Ultimately, my intention was to take just a small step towards becoming a better human being, one more able to perceive and appreciate the genius of others. I want to do more research in this area. I’m surely going to do this mission again.