Yes, that’s right, I did it, and I feel quite happy with the decision.
Perhaps the decision was already made and I did not even know it.
(If you missed the dilemma & a premium subscriber you can read about it here.)
But as one subscriber said in an email about this “dilemma,”
You are the word/the art–second to last para. Dig into that and you will have your answer.
Thank you Vicky for pointing me in the direction of the answer.
So yes, I made a decision to change the name, and I am very happy with the choice—The Numinous Life: the search for truth, peace, and the sacred – whatever that means.
I believe this captures well what I am attempting to do here. This trinity of “truth, peace, and the sacred” bodes well for further investigation, and can map to the father, son, and holy spirit, and the Buddha, dharma, and sangha just as well.
Exploring these themes is a good thing in and of itself—with lots of room to riff on contemporary cultural issues, as well as the historical context within which these topics have their roots. I’m excited to see where it leads.
And it connects nicely to where I am at with my practice. So rather than me “on top of the mountain” preaching about this or that, it will be more interesting to write as I discover the numinous life. This will be a far more interesting read for you too.
I think this is how I got interested in looking across traditions where the religious experience is not shunned but celebrated. This has its own set of problems which I will not go into now but suffice it to say, my tradition does not suffer from those problems but it does suffer from its own set.
I will go into more detail about what and how I see the numinous life—why I feel it is something missing in the Western versions of Buddhism, and modern culture more generally, and how we can benefit from what it has to offer.
But for now, and fear of this being too long-winded, I will leave it at that.
What I’ve Been Thinking
My father is dying. And I’m not sad. That feels like something I should not say but, I want to be honest with you. Not for some vain means to shock. I simply feel compelled to practice radical honesty and cleave the ego from our conversations so as to get to the real heart of what matters.
Why am I not sad? Should I be? I’m certainly not happy to see him suffer. But I’m not sad. We are all going to die at some point. So what is the point of sadness? Well for one thing it is an expression of loss and grief of all the things you will never do together again.
It’s true, my father and I were different kinds of people. Our relationship was complicated. He did not understand nor seemed interested (or maybe just not capable) in understanding how I could be into art, music, and books, rather than football, beer, and money.
Indeed, I was odd according to my father and the younger me, judged him for this but, as I watched him during a recent visit to the nursing home and saw this larger-than-life man appear before me frail, frightened, and horribly confused about how to put a shirt on, and what shoes are, and where we were going and who I was. I came to see the value of being odd.
That is to say, my father has a worldview that will not support him now. You cannot take your money and friends with you on that last journey and this is beginning to dawn on him. That makes me sad. Materialism makes me sad. For it cuts you off from the thing beyond this life that can bring peace and joy during life and helps you through the journey of death.
I had a dream the other night. I was still half awake so it was one of those dreams where you are still conscious. Something entered me and I ask, “Who are you and what do you want?” It told me it was there to kill me. “Ok,” I said, “I am ready.” I will tell you about the dream sometime.
Death is central to practice. Christ and Buddha lived and died for us—both were spiritual teachings, and therefore, teachings on how to live.
With their voice, they are calling.
But if we do not take the time to listen then we may end up lonely and fail and frighten ourselves.
What I’ve Been Reading
I picked up the new book by Nick Cave, Faith, Hope, and Carnage.
Nick and I grew up in the same town. He was much older than me but we played in bands and at the same clubs back in the day. I was lucky enough to escape that world. But had friends that didn’t. Friends that are no longer here as a result.
I was very excited to get this book. But I was a little disappointed once I cracked it open to find that it is not a book written by Nick himself. Rather it is a book written by a music journo friend from conversations with Nick. I almost threw it in the bin right there!
I felt tricked. Lied to. Then I felt stupid. Stupid for not seeing there was another name on the cover. So I hesitated instead. Placed it near the bin. I could not bring myself to throw it away, despite the bitterness lingering. And it stayed there for 3 days.
I so wanted to read Faith, Hope, and Carnage by Nick Cave in his own words. To hear his thoughts on the tragic and untimely death of two sons and to read what he thought about his coming to a numinous life, a spiritual life. It wasn’t to be.
For the next 3 days, I walked past the book dozens of times shaking my head. Then today I stopped. Looked at the book sitting there all fresh and white and lonely. I picked it up and opened it on a random page. The page number was 227. Not that this number has any meaning to me but it was the first page of the chapter titled, The God in the Cloud.
Here is the opening:
I had this phone conversation last night with Warren. It was strange. It was about what went on around the actual time of Arthur’s death, because Warren was at my home in Brighton at the time. Maybe I was prompted to call him because of Tiffany’s poem.
I went looking for this poem. I could not find it. But I found this.
The young Nick Cave could afford to hold the world in some form of disdain because he had no idea of what was coming down the line. I can see now that this disdain or contempt for the world was a kind of luxury or indulgence, even a vanity. He had no notion of the preciousness of life.
My heart opened as I felt the humanity and grief of these words, and walked to my beloved bookshelf book in hand, removed the dust cover, and placed it into the library for safekeeping until the right time to continue the story.
The Numinous Life is a life I want. A life full not empty. A life of spirit, not the ego. Of giving, purely. Of receiving, purely. I want to play with ideas and words and birds of song dancing in the shadow-self to be revealed at the right time.
I will write straight and honest, it might shock. I will tell the truth even when it is hard to say. Why say anything if it is not true?
I want to explore style. Hone the craft of explanation. Become better through practice. I do not ask a thing of you but patience and compassion for a lost man finding his way through words and ideas and conversation.
That is to say, in the coming weeks, months, and years, I hope to explore these topics of truth, peace, and the sacred here, with you, and in detail.
And together with these weekly emails, I will start with writing a 10-part series of long-form essays and audio podcasts on the numinous life.
These emails will continue to be available to free subscribers.
My hope is to bring more light and joy to your life on a weekly basis regardless of whether you are a free or premium subscriber.
1. The title of this email/article was inspired by a lyric from a Nick Cave song, Jesus Alone. I first heard the song in the documentary, One More Time with Feeling.
2. Faith, Hope and Carnage – Cave, Nick, O’Hagan, Sean p.227
3. Faith, Hope and Carnage – Cave, Nick, O’Hagan, Sean p.226