Recently I had cause to be part of a discussion as to whether anyone else had been feeling currents of change building up towards Something Bigger. I see this a lot in the various spiritual subcultures I’m a part of. Something Bigger is usually seen as a mystical/spiritual trend beyond our ken, sometimes with an apocalyptic bent that grows more common as we approach the legendary 2012. The general pattern is this:
–Something bad or otherwise significant happens to someone; or, someone starts to feel fluctuations in the energy around them.
–The person(s) then goes into hyperawareness mode, looking for any potential explanation for what’s going on beyond mundane explanations.
–This may then spiral into a huge self-reproducing cycle of worry, anxiety, and speculation that defies any more down-to-Earth theories of what happened.
Now, I know damned well that there’s more to reality than just what we can interpret with our (subjective) five physical senses. What I disagree with about the above cycle is that although such occurrences may indeed be linked to Something Bigger, that Something Bigger is often closer to home than we may suspect.
A good example is this past week. Last Tuesday, I took my GREs, having graduated from college seven years ago almost to the day–I did well, but it was a significant event for me, and it wiped me out quite a bit. Since last Thursday, I have developed and been recovering from a bad case of strep throat (I don’t recommend it, by the way). During my recovery, we had a squirrel get caught in our upstairs, and I had to do some fancy maneuvering to get it back outdoors. Needless to say, it’s not been a fun few days, but I managed.
It would be easy for me to blow this whole week out of proportion, given that most of it wasn’t so great. However, I’m really a fan of Occam’s Razor–the simplest answer is the most likely. Not the only answer, but the first one I look to. In the case of my week, there is a very simple set of explanations:
–I have a weak respiratory system to begin with; I was that kid who caught every single cold and other upper respiratory bug that came through (except, amazingly enough, chicken pox, unless I managed to get a “spotless” version thereof). Saturday night my husband and I went out to a club, where you have a whole bunch of people in close quarters, so that’s most likely where I picked it up, though I may even have gotten a quick-incubating version when I took the GREs. Needless to say, respiratory germs love me; I can’t say the feeling is mutual.
–Taking the GREs stressed me out some, and additionally my sleep schedule got a little wonky, which meant there were a couple of nights where I didn’t get as much sleep as I needed. Additionally, I began my period last week, which also can temporarily lower the immune system.
–As for the squirrels, we’ve been dealing with them since last year. It was only a matter of time before they actually got inside.
I did talk to Squirrel, just to be sure. At most, the situation with the squirrel in the attic was a good lesson in observing how I deal with stressful situations, but for the most part, it was just a matter of an urban squirrel finding a cozy spot to live (albeit an inconvenient one). That I managed to learn something from the situation is a good sign, but I can learn from just about any experience–life is a process of learning, something you’ll hear from everyone from shamans to neurobiologists.
I think there’s a lot to be said for one’s perception. Say you have a crappy day, where nothing seems to go right. You may actually have some good things occur, but you’re so focused on the things that have gone wrong that what’s gone right goes unnoticed. In this case, your perceptions may have much more to do with your luck than any outside force.
Do I think there’s Something Bigger? Absolutely. However, I don’t believe it has anything to do with me in specific, any more than anyone else. Too often the kind of cycle I mentioned in the beginning of this post is accompanied by a feeling of “Ooooh, I can sense something, what does it mean for me? What is it about me that makes me able to sense this, while no one else knows what’s going on?” People try to make a bigger deal out of the situation than they really need to.
When I think of Something Bigger, at least in regards to the human species, I think less of apocalyptic myths, and more about the concrete cumulative detrimental effect we’ve had on the environment, on each other, and on ourselves. Perhaps the energy, the soul, of the Earth is changing. Perhaps we are feeling large-scale shifts in what we’re perceiving. However, I figure it’s less about the potential for a whole slew of angels and demons pouring out of a rift in the sky for a huge battle, and more about the building damage we’re inflicting on this world and its inhabitants (ourselves included), physically and energetically.
And if we perceive more unhealthy patterns around us, shouldn’t that tell us to look at our own health? Remember what I said about how having a bad day can contribute to feeling like everything sucks? Given how many people just in the U.S. suffer from a host of bad experiences and resultant conditioning, and how psychologically damaged even healthier people can be, it’s not at all surprising when people project that outward onto the world around them. We aren’t raised to have healthy relationships with ourselves, or with others, or with the environment, and it’s hard to keep ignoring the result of this lack of social health. While some people have done a lot of healing in this regard, it’s tough to find someone who is completely untouched by some trauma or issue.
The obsession with a mystical, out of our hands Something Bigger is simultaneously self-centered and self-denying. It focuses on the perceptions of the self, and the idea that the self may be more special in hir unique perceptions, or even more special by virtue of the Universe caring enough about the individual to enmesh hir (and maybe a few friends) in some vast cosmic plot–or even that the plot has to do with humans in particular. However, it is self-denying in that it neatly removes responsibility for any major changes from the individual. Angry spirits? Explain them away as an impending apocalypse on the spiritual planes rather than pissy land spirits who aren’t happy about the pollution and being ignored by most people, and ba-boom! No more responsibility! Or, alternately, explain it as something that’s absolutely fated and inevitable and there’s not a damned thing we can do to change it–again, we’re left free and clear (relatively speaking).
This is not to say that there’s absolutely no truth or possibility to the idea of an apocalypse. However, when I think of Something Bigger, my first thoughts go to things that directly tie it to the simplest answers. Only after definitively ruling out these possibilities will I look further. The exception may be if I get a direct message from a spirit that gives more complexity, but even then I don’t automatically believe everything I hear, no matter who it is. And I still test what messages I get against Occam’s Razor.
In my experience, when something is decidedly not simple, there’s no doubt about it in my mind. I may have to ask around for specifics, but there’s a certain “feel” to something that’s More, and it’s different than something that’s important to just me, even something so important to me that it feels Earth-shattering. We are capable of feeling very deeply on our own, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world is involved. Lose a partner through breakup, divorce or death, and you may feel that your life has no meaning–but the world goes on anyway. There doesn’t have to be any significant impact beyond the people immediately affected by a situation; while our actions have ripples, not every action ripples indefinitely. My getting sick and dealing with a wayward squirrel in the space of twenty-four hours doesn’t have to mean anything more than a few germs and a wild mammal converging on me at the same time.
I do think that the culture I am a part of puts too much emphasis on intellect and ignores a healthy approach to intuition most of the time. However, tossing intellect out the window with the bathwater is not the solution to salvaging intuition’s damaged reputation. You are not more spiritual the more wacky your stories get; healthy spirituality is that which can still interface with the rest of reality, rather than running at odds with “mundane” reality. Something Bigger does not have to be about the improbable–look to the very possible first, and then work your way out from there (if it’s even necessary). Even if Something Bigger ends up being more than meets the eye, at least you’ve made yourself aware of the more immediate issues and can work on them as well as the weirder ones.
Part of the reason I think apocolyptic visions are so common is the world is constantly ending. Our heroes and family die, an era passes and things we love pass on. I think people sense this and mix it up with trying to find meaning in bad fortune.
But I also think the world is constantly being reborn. Children are born, new ideas rise and change happens. I’m a big believer in life and hope.
Thanks for putting this struggle into words. I’ve been dealing with it lately, because on one hand, I’ve wanted to leave behind the religious/spiritual tradition which says attach meaning to even the most insignificant events and give them cosmic proportions. I frequently did that as a Christian but eventually realized I was crazy.
However, now on my new pagan path, I’ve been discovering what seem like lots of synchronicities that seem to be pointing me in a particular direction. Which isn’t really any different from how I used to be as a Christian. And that’s what I feared the most: exchanging one faulty paradigm for another.
Guess it’s just human nature to search for patterns and try to explain everything.
Well, I would debate that society doesn’t emphasize intellect. Some of the more “successful” folks I’ve ever met have been as dumb as a brick. Some locales *cough*rural Pennsylvania*cough* actually penalize intellect.
Also, remember Occham’s razor slices both ways (metaphysical and mundane). I use it to say that 2012 is just like last week, 2001, 2000, 1998, 1978, 1000, 666 etc. In other words, people (including “mystics”) are just projecting their fears and hopes onto some arbitrary date like they’ve done repeatedly in the past. When 2012 is over, it’ll be 2038 and so forth – the pattern will simply continue.
Are big things going to happen 2012? Yep, just like in 2011 and 2013. Though the natural events anticipated for 2012 (planetary alignment, sunspot maximum etc.) may contribute slightly to that.
Ash–That’s a good way of seeing it. That, and I think sometimes because our society in particular promotes anxiety, we focus more on endings rather than beginnings.
Riverwolf–Glad it helped! I think we do seek patterns because we want to have a grasp on things, and patterns = familiarity = safety for our primal brains.
Kreyas–I do agree that not everyone is the pinnacle of intellectual prowess. However, judging from the power that Science has in our society and the biggest decisions that are made, intellect does still hold sway a lot of the time. Your point about 2012 is spot-on–look at the history of world’s endings that have never come about. I think 2012 is as big as it is largely because it’s happening in a time where we have unprecedented amounts of media to communicate with in a very short period of time, so word about it spreads much more quickly. I imagine that previous predictions of the world’s end would have been more notable and widespread if communication had been equally fast.