Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Guided Contemplation and TV

I guess that there is some flexibility in defining Meditation vs Contemplation, I'll leave it to those interested in semantics to clarify that. But for me I'll call this Guided Contemplation.

Realigning myself after the passing of Anita has been a complex and emotionally vexed task, I reckon its the same for anyone who has lost someone who not only did they love deeply, but had become part of themselves.

The questions which I needed answers to (many of which I still have no answer for) are ones which can not be found in normal searching, nor can they be found in asking others; for the answers must come from me.

Its not that I have not tried reading and talking, I most certainly have, but its just that the answers didn't come to me that way.

Long ago I settled into the idea that if you pose a question in your mind the answer will eventually come. You just need to be cognizant of the question so that when the answer is presented to you that you recognise that answer for what it is (and don't miss it because you were gazing out the window).

However the complexity of the questions I need to ask myself here are themselves a puzzle.

Limitations of Language

I have long felt that our spoken language is good for many things, but its not good for everything (well, that's why we have maths right?) and that humans being visual creatures sometimes symbolism (communication in images) is so powerful. We can conceptualize something in an icon.

The Twentieth Century saw the rise of motion pictures which are often more powerful and communicative than any single image or any spoken word can be. I'm quite the visual person and have related to some movies strongly in my life. Anita and I are both SciFi fans (among other things) and I especially liked X-Files, So it is no surprise that we came to love the TV series Fringe. We watched the first 4 series together. There was something we could relate to in the characters too, as well as the fantastic impossible stories. Olivia as a character had many of the attributes of Anita and I personally could relate to both Peter and Walter Bishop. It was something which we both enjoyed so much we had to own the all the series and watched them at least twice.

Seen From another Angle

A little while after settling here in Finland I decided to watch the series again (for something to do) and at first it just reminded me of sitting with Anita on the couch. Then I began to see some interesting parallels which I had not really observed the same as when we were watching them together. For I was quite different and thinking quite differently.

So much happened which reached out to me, I began watching the series again with a mind towards seeing what was in it for me now. Interestingly quite a lot.

There are many themes in the Fringe TV series which are perhaps neglected by many. One such theme is that of "Struggling with  the idea of God" another is "Self Development" and another is "Forgiveness". These are all interwoven among at least 60 episodes with reference between them as the characters develop.


I myself have been struggling with the idea of God for many years of my life, probably since I was in primary school and asking questions of the Catholic Nuns (no, I never got any decent answers). Anita and I discussed God many times and she totally rejected the ideas of the various modern religions (all of the Abramahmic stemmed religions) and felt more in touch with the 'traditional' religions of Finland.

I was personally down that path back when I was in high school and came to the conclusion that for complex reasons I felt that socially Christianity was more coherent to my socialization, but that I took guidance from other religions (Taoism, Buddhism , even Bushido and Shinto).

Being a scientifically oriented person I have grappled with a view of God that means something to me, some time ago I wrote this blog post, where I tried to explain how I see that Creation as an idea could fit within what we know of the physical world. Of course like everyone I'm left without knowing ... without proof.

Unlike many I simply can't just take it on faith and move on. I need to have something meaningful to me. So knowing that the answer to that question is elusive I simply keep my mind open to answers.

Dr Bishop

Getting back to Fringe, in one episode Dr Bishop (Walter) said:
When you open your mind to the impossible, sometimes you find the truth.
Which triggered me to think of things: for many things in this modern world are quite impossible to the people of even 100 years ago. My father (born in 1928) used to marvel at 3rd person shooter games (I got him hooked on Wolf 3D and then later Doom) where there was "just so much inside there, how do they fit it all in there". To someone from the 19th Century the modern world seems impossible.

Yet clearly there remains much for us to learn which defies our current grasp of reality.

A new perspective to viewing

So I began watching Fringe again with my many questions of God and what is the spirit and Anita as the goals of my TV guided meditation.

It happened in one episode that Walter was dealing with a woman who was a Christian, and he replied to her with the words: "Nisi credideritis, non intelligetis", which I have verified as meaning something like "Unless you will have believed you will not understand" (attributed to St Augustine) I've also seen this translated as "Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm"

Oh my ... this answered nothing but forced open my mind again to the question. How do I know that what I believe is right? Without proof how do I know that what I believe is not just the propaganda of men who seek power?

This is a question which I have asked myself many times over. I feel that I have some answers to that but they are difficult to enumerate clearly.

In an aside Walter says to Oliva (when she is doubting herself):
"I know what it is like to feel unequal to the task required of you, to feel incapable. I'll never be the man I was [plot note: someone had removed parts of his brain to prevent him thinking certain things], but I've come to embrace those parts of my mind that are peculiar, broken. I understand now that's what makes my mind special. You should see yourself the way I see you. You have no idea how extraordinary you are."
Olivia replies:
I know you want to believe in me, I want to believe in me. But Believing does not make it true.
Ohh, how this felt like conversations I'd had with Anita and conversations I've recently had with myself. Perhaps Believing does not make it true, but if something is true but unseen, then the faith needed to guide you is only had by Believing. Which sits me right in front of St Augustine again.

White Tulips

On this subject of Faith a recurring theme within the series is of Walter seeking Gods forgiveness. For over his life Walter has changed from being a denier of God to wondering if his actions [which broke the universe] have been an offense to God.

In an episode about Time Travel (featuring Peter Weller) Walter confides in the time travelling physicist (Dr Alistair Peck) that that he is looking for a sign from God that God has forgiven him. For if God can forgive him of his acts then perhaps his son Peter can forgive him too. He says to Dr Peck that he has been looking for a specific sign to make it clear: a white tulip. Dr Peck again travels back into time (so that none of this existed for Walter) and leaves him letter with a drawing of a white tulip on it. Walter (not knowing where it could have come from)  feels he has had his sign from God and is comforted.

This leaves me asking: does this suggest that God does not exist, and that it is only the messages that we do not understand which are interpreted as signs by our minds (seeking to find answers in chaos) or does it suggest that while God can not enter the universe he created (following my computer model view of the quantum universe God kicked off and we call creation) that God is able to influence things in some way?

I don't know.

More white tulips appear in a later episode where a woman who looses her husband (in our universe) and her husband (in the other universe who looses his wife instead) find each other.

They think they are seeing ghosts of each other across the boundary of the two parallel universes. Their strong bond and strong grief for each others loss tears at the (already made thinner by Walters earlier damage) weakening boundaries between their tangent universes. After the woman on our side is convinced (by Peter and Olivia and something the man says) that the he is not her husband, she lets go of her connection to him, realizing he is not her husband. When she is sitting talking with Olivia there is a vase of white tulips in the background behind her.

Messages to me

I have felt there to be many significant and poignant quotes and complex situational references about our relationship with God and about difficulties in coping with loss. For instance Walter says:
"Its sad. I don't think there's anything sadder than when two people are meant to be together and something intervenes."
When Peter has been erased from time and both he and Oliva are feeling a sence of loss that they can not explain.

Of course this series was written as a general work of fiction. However that does not mean that the human experiences in it can not speak to me, or at least speak in a way that evokes  responces and gives me answers. While contemplation is often done in a more simplistic way, Fringe and its characters somehow allow me to see segments of parallel with my own circumstances. When these moments occur i stop and reflect on what just caught me. I then work through that and spend time on reflecting howI feel about it. Kind of like a guided contemplation.

One of the earlier messages in the series which stood out to me was the one that Peter had:
Be a better man than your Father
This stands out to me because it is a goal that I have always had: To be a better man than my Father. Its not that I think that my father is so horrible, but just that as I grew up I saw that he developed into a better man than his father, and while I could see his inadequacies I felt that rather than focus on that as a negative aspect of his character I instead wanted to make myself better.

Lastly (and to round this up) Walter comes up with the idea of comparing the human soul to energy. Applying the laws of thermodynamics: human thought and our souls represent energy. Energy is not lost it only moves from one place to another. Even though it is dissipated it does not disappear.

This tugs at my hope that somehow the energy of Anitas soul does not dissipate beyond recapture. I don't know if my thoughts of her and my love of her helps that in any way, or if somewhere she has flowed to another 'container'. I hope so.

To my Anita ... and to the ones whom you love. May their souls be there for us later


Aunty Lou said...

I really am going to have to get the complete Fringe series. I did thoroughly enjoy the eps I watched before commercial television kept moving it around. Time, day etc.

I like the way you are able to use the program to guide your thoughts. Don't laugh, but for many years I have used Tarot cards for the same purpose. I don't believe that there is some supernatural power/influence associated with their use - the fall of the cards sometimes simply help me see things from a different angle, or in a different conjunction. I guess we all find the answers in different ways/places. It is just often those answers bring up even more questions. Ahhhh life,eh?

leve said...

The Fringe series was also one of my favorites. I remember very distinctly the show you mentioned with the widow woman in one reality and the widower in the other reality. I did not realize at the time though when I watch this series, that the concept of the alternate realities, doppelgangers, and the isolation chamber which Olivia used -- seems to be based on the work of the Robert Monroe Institute which does remote viewing. Even Walter (his character), with his LSD tripping, reminds me a bit of Dr. Stanislav Grof, who is a psychiatrist originally from Prague. Stan and his colleagues had explored using LSD as treatment for mentally ill patients in the late 1960s. He later moved into the field of transpersonal psychiatry.

May you find some healing in your writings.

obakesan said...

Thanks leve ... and thanks too for your fleshing out of Walter. I'd grown up at about the time of "Altered States" and also done a Biochem degree ... but I only did a little Psych. I'm sure there I'd have read more of Dr Grof

great reading :-)