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Derek Best has contributed to several publications, including Macleans Magazine Canada, and Omni Magazine, USA. He is has also produced many documentary films for Television. For many years, he has been interested in A Course in Miracles, a metaphysical thought system, and maintains the official website for that organization. "ACIM", he says "is central to my personal way of seeing the world." This site is strictly personal however. Derek has an eclectic range of interests, and writes about them here as the mood strikes him.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sociopathic thoughts

If you practise Course thinking enough it sometimes becomes embarrassingly difficult to distinguish yourself from a sociopath. Conventional coveted values of birth and death and family and friends give way to a kind of bemused universal acceptance, which superficially resembles indifference. NOT getting excited (for example) about children's day or fathers' day has the appearance of indifference. Inside it feels like clear vision. There's the rub... what psychopath doesn't believe he has clearer vision than the others?

I'm tired of America's love affair with itself. If I see one more movie which smugly depicts New York City as the glittering skyscraper capital of the world, or brags about Manhattan's "seven million inhabitants." First of all the seven million figure pertains to all the boroughs, not just Manhattan. Second - seven million is a small town to anyone who's ever done much travelling. The "medium sized" city of Chengdu which was destroyed by last month's earthquake in China was ten million people. Seoul is twelve million, Mexico City is eighteen million, Shanghai is twenty million, Tokyo is twenty eight million. New York city is historic indeed but is not at all the unique colossus it is presented to be; architecturally or in any other way. America is rapidly marginalizing itself politically and culturally.


Anonymous don said...

Before studying ACIM I convinced my family we should leave it all (a 9-to-5 in New York) and start an organic farm in WV. Uh oh. Now my wife says, "What happened? Why don't you care about nutrition, healthy food, or the body like you used to?" Yikes.

7:15 AM  
Anonymous colleen said...

I completely agree. This is a mom and apple-pie culture and while there is nothing intrisically wrong with that, it is sill a distraction to make an idol of it. Still I feel if we alienate friends and family with our beliefs we must be doing something wrong, mustn't we?

10:43 AM  
Blogger eolake said...

Dear Sir, I only read one post so far, and already I love you. :-)

Anyway, a sociopath is not just indifferent, but destructive.

And if you worry about being indifferent (I have too, sometimes), clearly you're not quite serene yet, are you? :-)

8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok Derek... where three months... where you at?

10:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FIVE MONTHS?!?! Derek, where are you brother?

6:53 PM  
Anonymous marian said...

Hi Derek--just thinking about you. Hope you're okay.

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

now SIX months and counting... Here's hoping that you are okay and that we will hear from you soon, D

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, D... We miss you... You coming back ANY time soon?

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crickets....... Silence.....

It has been a very long time, my friend..... Hello?

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nine LONG months without a post, Derek... Where art thou? Hope everything is ok and you are well.

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Derek.... It's June the third, Brother.... a full year since your last post. We miss you and wonder where you are - and hope you are okay.... - D

10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two and a half years of silence.... I hope you are well and life is good for you.... Merry Christmas, Derek.



9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three Years and Counting.... It would be great if you popped back up, Derek.



11:03 PM  


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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night - only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." George Orwell.

Am I conflicted because my happy little cocoon owes its existence to might, muscle and cruise missiles? Does my bloodless, stressless, vegetarian, non-sectarian, humanitarian, libertarian, egalitarian, cavity-free, low-cholesterol life really represent reality, or is that only found in the land where ignorant armies clash by night? (see below). I ask myself just how superior do I feel; up to date on all the newest studies on what is good for me and what is bad for me, with all my books and thoughts and empty postures --- my life of sugar-free wannabe purity --- my struggles with the leading edge of nothing.

There is no truth to be found, vortexing down into the mobius interior of quantum physics. There is none to be found puffing a Cohiba in the park while discussing theology --- none to be found comparing the "great body of law" with that of living breathing organisms, and none to be found dreaming up more and more clever ways to send chatter around the globe.

"But it is only natural" the ego cries, to defend the obsession with solving the insoluble. Yes it is --- and there's the rub. Canute could not hold back the tides, nor any more can we, yet we rise in the mornings and lay down in the evenings only because we believe we progress toward the eventual inevitable conquest of that problem. Who dares speak out against hope and progress? Not once do we dare stop panting, pushing, hoping, believing, dreaming that entropy is a myth and all the golden edifices of today will not transform into the flattened ashes of tomorrow... Dreaming ... "keep the dream alive," they say, for without the dream what is there? Far be it from me to suggest the end of dreaming is the end of all time. That is not yet a welcome idea.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night
-- Matthew Arnold.

The ego is not yet ready to give up "the struggle for peace" in favor of peace itself.

Memorial Day Weekend, 2008.


Anonymous Rachel said...

The ego is not yet ready to give up "the struggle for peace" in favor of peace itself.
That's excellent! Did you write that Derek? That's the most profound thing I've read for a long time. How perfect and how true!

11:54 AM  
Anonymous dorothy said...

I will miss the weekly Questions and Answers. It was by far the best site on the web about ACIM. In my opinion you should continue your work with the Course, you are a blessing.

11:11 PM  


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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Clear mind and defective soup.

Lots of microscopic ducks in the park, swimming doggedly in single file behind their duck mothers. What to feed ducks? I've tried bread and they eat it, but I can't help thinking they'll get acne and get fat. I tried oatmeal but it just floats on the water for a while while they swim around in it and ignore it. Once I gave them half a pancake left over from breakfast and they really enjoyed that: syrup and all. SOmeone told me they like corn, so I bought a can of green giant and offered it to them. ... no interest ... When ducks don't like something they seem to have a sixth sense about it. They don't even try it. Not one little test nibble. They just know it's yukky and ignore it. It turns out, however, I was almost correct: they do like corn, but it has to be cracked corn. They go nuts over that. Put some in your hand and hold your hand out to them and they gobble it up out of your palm. That's a really odd feeling.

The mind is simplified in proportion to the visual cortex. This month I went to Florida for a few days to see a doctor and managed to fit in one day on the beach. Beaches are visually simple. They have broad simple planes and long straight lines. All the clutter and confusion of trees and buildings melts away, and so much of the static din of everyday life subsides with it. The mind can see further, straighter, deeper. How would it be, I wonder, to live on the inside of a perfectly white sphere, with even concealed lighting and no doors, windows, or furniture.

Note to Campbell's soup company: I have yet to buy a can of alphabet soup that allows me to spell my own name. There is always at least one letter missing! What did I ever do to you?


Blogger Lucy said...

Thanks so much for your work on the ACIM questions. I recently discovered the site and I'm working my way through all the questions. Your understanding of ACIM principles and your ability to communicate that understanding in your writing is exceptional. I wish you would publish it in a book.

2:34 AM  
Blogger Derek said...

Thanks Lucy but you must thank all the folks at FACIM for the quality of the answers. I'll pass on your kind comments.

3:20 AM  


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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Closing of ACIM site.

Just an informational post. Nothing inspired today...

We are bringing the ACIM questions and answers site to a close this summer. There will be no further additions, though it will stay available online as a reference source. I feel like I'm saying farewell to a comfortable old house in which I have many happy memories, but all in all I'll be glad to move on to new challenges. My personal thanks to all the thousands of people who have participated over the years with questions and comments that always provoked, always stimulated, and often moved me deeply. My thanks too, to the people at the Foundation for A Course In Miracles for allowing me to be a part of this six-year project. I have grown a lot because of it, and because of all of you.

Have been in a strange space the last few months ... frantically, constantly busy, sometimes working half the night: but despite being on that treadmill -- less and less interested in conventional goals and achievements. We published a question about that this week at http://www.facimoutreach.org/qa/questions/questions292.htm#Q1342. I cannot claim I am the "happy learner" but a kind of peace is settling over me. I don't know, maybe it's just fatigue. Maybe it's old age and life is just losing luster. One side effect has been - I have lost all interest in reading books or columns or blogs about The Course. Seems like I passed through a door somewhere a few months ago, which clicked shut and suddenly shut out a whole lot of noise. With the noise gone, I realise how much I don't need it.

Went to see the new Narnia movie tonight. Fairly boring. Too long, too loud, too pointless. Too much CGI. I felt as if I were being assaulted by the music which clamored from start to finish, trying to tell me how to feel about every detail. The kids (in the movie) were fairly ineffective as heroes. Too bland, too British. They were like "the Railway Children." I do see they've re-issued "Last Year At Marienbad" up in Chicago. I'm hoping it will come to other cities. If you haven't seen this 1961 French classic, please do, if you get a chance.

Charlton Heston died ... when I was a boy I saw Ben Hur about 20 times and it was probably responsible for making me want to go into Film and TV work (which I did.) Now 50 years later I saw an interview with Gore Vidal about writing the script, and he was saying the only way to make the dialog scenes between Heston and Boyd (Ben Hur and Messala) anything but wooden and dull, was to postulate a homosexual relationship between them as boys. That's why Messala feels so spurned, and turns on his boyhood best friend. he is a jilted lover. They told Steven Boyd about this but they didn't tell Charlton Heston. Heston just "acts" and grimaces his way through it. Wow! Life has strange rivers.

I sent off to Hong Kong for a DVD of Ben Hur with Chinese subtitles, so my wife can understand the plot, but I can't sit through it any more. To me it is wooden even with the interesting new sexual undertones.

I miss London, you know? I had a flight booked there last month but I had to cancel it because I was just too busy with medical stuff. Maybe next year.

It turns out my nurse who spends one week a month with me giving me treatments has a husband who has a house down in Florida that sits empty most of the year. Occasionally he'll go down there for a week. But here's the odd thing -- she told me the property taxes are $14,000 per year. The house is in Volusia county which I know has a pretty average tax rate, so that must be at least a million dollar home. Just sitting empty! Why does that bother me?


Anonymous marian said...

Sorry to hear about the Q and A closing down--although I have to admit the questions have been fairly repetitive for a while now. What always inspired me was the kindness and care that went into the answers.

Sounds like you are shifting your focus in some positive ways, no? I liked your newsy post. Although I cannot comprehend sitting through Ben Hur even once, although I believe I did, as a girl. Definitely a boy's movie.

will you keep your blog, do you think?

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about ACIM blogs and sites... I've drifted away from them as well (sadly, not because I don't need them)... but the one I always read and get the most value from is the FACIM Q&A site... I can't tell you how sorry I am that it is closing down... it is very well done and I am always amazed at its content and, as Marian said, the kindness and compassion that shines through... sad news indeed... thank you for your years of great work on that site.

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've just recently found the Q&A site. I love it! Thanks so much for helping to create it, and for leaving it up. Two questions: Any idea how long it will stay? Who actually answered the questions?
Thanks again and all the best to you.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your website has been the highlight of my week, and a great joy. I am so sorry it will be ending. I wish you all the best with whatever you do next.

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm stunned. I had been reading your Q and A for over a year. My primary purpose was that I was looking for ACIM success stories.

I have been practicing New Age/Eastern religions/spiritualities on and off for 25 years. ACIM was my most-current Path. It definitely brought me back on track. But the second time I went through the workbook and read lesson 189.7.5 "Forget this world, forget this course and come with wholly empty hands unto your God.", I knew I was done.

In my worldview all spiritual movements like ACIM are not paths, but maps to the path. Once the map gets you to the path, you can put the map aside and enjoy the journey, guided from Within.

I found my ACIM success story--you!

Godspeed on your Journey,
Vic Smyth

2:22 PM  
Blogger Derek said...


"The map is not the territory."
-- Alfred Korzybski.


3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear people,
I am a 20 year student of the Course. I've completed the Workbook Lessons at least 14 times.
During the very years Helen was 'scribing' the material; I daily sojourned in Central Park, across from her flat (as it events), and had the very strong inclination that a book was about to manifest which would "explain why the world is the way it is, and why people behave the way they do."
I'm now reading Ken's "Love Does Not Condemn" the 2nd time. I read it 20 years ago and it has 'informed' my perceptions these two decades. Perhaps I review it, this time, at greater depth.
I'm 61 years of age. This finds me at point of clambering out of the worst several years of my life; including such reverse of fortune as to leave me homeless for 2 years, 'til a year ago.
Having achieved a small windfall, I've a few dollars to invest in Course-study materials.
I was wondering what might Ken's recommendations for an advanced-student, and one who is on the heal from recent wounding, who can expend but $40-60, might be?
Thank you,

Jim Kendall ~ Jim.Arjuna@gmail.com ~ 1111 Fourth St. - #4, San Rafael, CA 94901
(415) 525-1585

9:55 AM  
Blogger Manu said...

I found the Q&A site a few months ago.I am so glad I was led to it as it answers every question I've had and in a wonderfully complete way.
Believe it or not, but now whenever I'm feeling not centered, I click on a question almost at random and reading the answer helps tremendously. I tend to refer to it more than the Course itself!

Thank you Derek, you have simplified understanding and practising its thought system so much.
Manu Anand

12:33 PM  


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Saturday, February 02, 2008

The End of the Big Apple.

There's an apple perched on the shelf by the door. It's a bright green apple and it's large -- about two or three feet in diameter. It doesn't fit too well up there so it's half on and half off the shelf. I'm not sure what door this is exactly. It seems to be in the corner of a dark room. It is half-open, plain, and perfectly rectangular like those little computer icons for "exit." That's all I can really tell you about the room I'm in. It's dark in here, and other than the area by the door it is all dusk and nothingness. This doesn't seem too unusual: nothing does in dreams. Nor is it surprising that any effort to inspect the door or the apple cause it to disappear from view like Alice's house in "Through the Looking Glass." One thing I've learned about dreams is - I can't direct them. Any effort I make to consciously control my actions results in the dream vaporising. So I have to be perfectly passive, but here's the catch 22 - I have to make a conscious effort to be passive - and that conscious effort always ends the dream. So whenever a dream gets interesting enough to rouse my curiosity that's the kiss of death. There's a very small time window after that in which to explore the image, float across the floor, zoom through the window, finish the piano concerto, ask my mother that question, save the cat from choking on the spaghetti, see her face (who is she?), cram the cherries into the crystal jar and struggle with the lid, and buy the broken-down car from the Indian man who sits in the office - except I'm suing him because he didn't give me the glue to fix the chair and he doesn't know that, but if he finds out he won't sell it to me.

It's hard, very hard, to lie prone at the epicenter of a dream and just do nothing. For one thing the buzzing kaleidoscope of the dream is too attractive. Not attractive as in beautiful but attractive as in gravity. Every little flickering phenomenon dislodges us and we begin rolling toward it like ballbearings on a tray that just tilted. I wonder how might it be - to be completely tranquil? Completely at peace. Completely without concepts. That's the trick, you know... not to ignore the bubbling static of the world, but not to recognize it ... or try to. The Buddha sits in a world of formlessness, formless herself. The Buddha does not say "Ah that is an apple but I will ignore it." The Buddha sees no apple and says nothing. The Buddha sees no green. Apple is a concept. Green is a concept. Concepts are labels we use to assign forms to the formless because formlessness is non-identity, formlessness is fear. Concepts are the atoms and molecules of consciousness. We click them together and rearrange them like Lego for the ego, forever trying to model what we think lies beyond the fundamental dualistic division of me and not-me.

Nirvana is a sanskrit word that is hard to translate. One explanation is - the highest happiness, release from karma - but that is more an outcome than a translation. Another good one is - to cease flickering - like a flame that becomes steady and calm. The best one I ever heard was from Kalu Rinpoche at an Ashram in Toronto in 1976. Was I a seeker in those distant days? Hell no! I was a cameraman. Rinpoche came to Toronto and I went to Union Station to film his arrival, in yellow and saffron robes, greeted from the train by a Buddhist dance troupe ??!?! Then I went to the ashram to hear him speak - through a translator. Someone asked: "What is nirvana?" He answered all questions in Tibetan so the translation is not really his, but his translator's translation ... if you can follow that ... The answer was: "Nirvana is the end of all concepts."

You know, when I started writing this I had no idea what I was going to say. Now I've said it and I've no idea if I said anything. It's all a dream anyway.


Anonymous Wixom said...

Just when you thought it was safe.. I don't know Derek, you get me all charged up thinking about one topic, then you abruptly switch to something else. My son does that too, and we have medication for him (lol). Wixom.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous AE. said...

Derek Derek Derek I think you mean well but if there was a choice between reading this or clicking on an ad that said "congratulations, you're the one-millionth reader and you've won a free laptop" I'd take the laptop. DOn't take it personally, they're both old-hat, it's just that yours is even older hat. Those who believe in it, do it. Those who are just faking sit around and dream up endless clever ways to analogize it to others hungry for harmless pseudo-spiritual cocktail-talk drivel. Every month a new book explains the disappearance of the unverse, but its still here for most of us. Love you. AE.

6:22 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

Hi AE.
How are you? I love you too, you atheist buffoon.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous marian said...

Although I hate to say it, and I can already hear the whistling of the psychic tomatoes that are flying in my direction from this lively crowd, AE has a point.

This is something I have to remind myself of every single day. There's great pleasure and distraction in talking about the spiritual path, and it analyzing and comparing various systems of saying the same thing. I do it, and I love to do it, and will continue to do it.

But at a certain point one must put one's money where one's mouth is and actually DO it. This involves quieting the mind, quieting the mind, quieting the mind.

Nothing will change and no concept of conceptlessness will make any sense without a daily practice of stilling the internal dialogue, and then learning to do the same thing over and over and over again, a hundred times a day, bringing yourself out of the internal dialogue into the present moment.

This discipline is the basis for learning any system of mind training, like ACIM or the Tibetan mind-training slogans. There's no progress without a quiet mind.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous AE. said...

Derek - To you I am an atheist. To God I am the loyal Opposition. (Woody Allen).

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Robin said...

Marian makes a good point, but then she proceeds to do exactly the same thing, which is talk about it instead of do it. But what are any of us doing here? What could anyone ever do in any discussion? I think sometimes there is more value in the way something is said, than in what is said. Why else would poets keep on writing poetry? Some people have a gift for juxtaposition of images and ideas that jolt us out of our stupor, if only for a moment. And they might be writing about fact or fiction, love, or war, apples, or hobbits, or outer space. Wish I could do it. Enjoyed your thoughts as usual, Derek.

4:39 PM  
Anonymous marian said...

Robin, how can you be sure I am not talking about it AND doing it, rather than talking about it INSTEAD of doing it?

I'm just saying that talking about it as a substitute for doing it will never end in realization. There's no harm in talking about it—however artlessly we may do so.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Robin said...

You are absolutely right Marian, of course I can't be sure what you or anyone is doing outside of this column. Sorry if I seemed to imply something else. That's my point really. We can't know anything about what anyone does when they're not writing. All we know is: when they're writing, that's what they're doing. Writing. I checked out your blog and there's no doubt you're a good person who is working hard on yourself. Still you spend time writing. I don't feel that's a substitute for anything. I'm sure it's paartly for your benefit and partly for others' I'm sure. If you didn't write, I couldn't read your thoughts. If Derek didn't write, I couldn't read his. I just finished reading "Strength to Love" again - does anyone want to call Martin Luther King's writing a "substitute" for realization?
The flow of thoughts and words onto paper is an integral part of the process of self-realization, and the two are not mutually exclusive.

7:35 PM  
Anonymous marian said...

Thanks, Robin. I started writing to track and clarify my own process of learning--for myself. Then it occurred to me to open it up for people to read. I knew that I wouldn't be where I am, had not others done the same. It's been helpful beyond measure to me to read about other people's journeys.

And you're absolutely right. I may think I know something about someone's state of mind when they write, but chances are good that I'm incorrect.

6:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Derek, 'tis been too long... where are you at?

8:53 PM  


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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How do we know when to say no?

This opinion was kindly written and contributed by "Marian," and is very timely and appropriate to the present discussion. Marian and I have known each other via mutual internet blogs for a couple of years (and yet she still talks to me!!) We are both students of ACIM, so I asked her to guest-write for me. You can visit her blog here. Feel free to leave comments here for her if you like.

There's a Simpsons episode in which Old Gil, the sublime, hapless, unemployed victim, insinuates himself into living with the Simpsons, mainly because empathic, soft-hearted Marge can't say no. Days, weeks, months fly by and he's still there. Marge swears every day that she's going to throw the bum out (he's not a good house guest, obviously) but chickens out. Finally at the end of nearly a year, she reaches her last straw, storms into the house ready to throw him out, and discovers that he's already gone.

"But I have a big 'NO' inside of me waiting to get out!" she says. At this moment, Homer walks into the room dangling a thousand-dollar bill from his fingers and says, "Hey Marge, want a thousand dollars?" And of course, she yells, "NOOOOOOO!" And he takes his lighter out and incinerates it before she can say, "Wait! I mean YES!"

Why are we so confused as to how to respond to people whom we believe are less fortunate than we are? Is it possible to see someone as a victim if we ourselves don't feel like victims? And if we can clearly see the ways in which the pained person has chosen his or her fateÑthen what constitutes help? What is kindness?

Let's start here, from A Course in Miracles:
"The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself. No matter what the form of the attack, this is still true. Whoever takes the role of enemy and of attacker, still is this the truth. Whatever seems to be the cause of any pain and suffering you feel, this is still true. For you would not react at all to figures in a dream you knew that you were dreaming. Let them be as hateful and as vicious as they may, they could have no effect on you unless you failed to recognize it is your dream." T.27.VII.10.1-6

And here, from Jane Roberts/Seth, The Nature of Personal Reality:
"Again, if you are ill you may say, "I did not want to be sick," or if you are poor, "I did not want to be poor," or if you are unloved, "I did not want to be lonely." Yet for your own reasons you began to believe in illness more than health, in poverty more than abundance, in loneliness rather than affection."

Even if we accept these messages as true, which I do, we must still admit that telling someone who is in pain, or who has just lost everything, or who is grieving, that he is doing this to himself, is not kind. Nor would it be kind to say that this is all just a bad dream. Using the movie analogy, if there is a fire in the projector, we will see the fire on the screen. In this life, when we are burning with guilt and confusion in our minds (the projector) we experience the fire on the screen of life -- the projection.

Is it ever correct to throw water on the projected fire? Can using magic to alter the illusion ever quench the fire in the projector? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It depends upon how willing the person is to change their mind. But the real question is, how do we access that knowing? How do we know if we are actually helping, or just being a nuisance and making the overall situation worse in the long run? When are we acting just to appease our own delusional guilt, and when are we actually helping?

We can only help someone at the level at which they are willing and able to accept help in this very moment. In future moments, they may receive something deeper from the gesture we make today, but right now, we can only pour our help into the shape of their receptacle. Knowing whether it is our business to do the pouring is a matter of the heart, not the mind. Within the framework of this dream we call life, we run into trouble when we begin to make intellectual decisions about whom we should or should not help. Thought, which is both the existence and the vehicle of the ego, is not the place to look for advice on this matter.

If the suffering person's help-receptacle has a leak, then we will be pouring that same form of help into it until we are exhausted, or until they are willing and able to patch the leak. Sometimes, as in the case of Mark, the leak is an addiction to a certain type of ego sensation. Sometimes, as in the case of aid money to Africa, the leak is corruption on the part of the distribution officials -- an addiction on the part of many people to a certain type of ego sensation.

As is the case with all decisions, because we are so messed up in the judgment department, it is imperative to get quiet, go silent in the mind if only for a moment (in the case of a panhandler) or for a longer period (in the case of a longer involvement) and ask for help in seeing clearly. Are we helping because we ourselves are suffering, and so we have an increased projection of suffering upon the people in our lives? Are we hoping that by helping someone else we will alleviate our own inner guilt and purchase our own salvation? Are we simply afraid to say no? Do we have a belief that it is wrong to say no, and a fear of repercussions if we do?

As any parent will tell you, there is tremendous relief to be had in throwing money and material goods at a nagging problem to make it go away. But in many cases, the resistance to saying no to someone else's demands is exactly the same as our inner resistance to saying no to our own ego. We are terrified of that feeling of emptiness when a demand is made. We aren't hungry, yet the ego demands food. We have things to do, yet the ego demands the oblivion of television or the internet. We know we should remain silent, yet the ego demands that we speak. We know we shouldn't give our child what she is asking for in the store, but the ego is terrified of the disapproval of our fellow shoppers when the child throws a tantrum. If we are afraid to stop our habitual responses and say no to the ego, we will be afraid to say no to another person. We will not truly understand the constructive and loving importance of sometimes saying no.

The ego IS fear. And if we are tempted to say no to someone when they are asking for something, we will always experience a flash of fear. So how do we tell the difference between this type of situation and plain old selfishness? Doesn't the Course tell us that if our brothers ask us for something "outrageous" we should do it because it does not matter? That we should do it because otherwise our opposition establishes the dream as real?

The answer is probably this: if we would feel fine about saying 'no,' then we'll be able to say 'yes' appropriately. In order to make a correct decision about anything in life, we have to have access to a complete palette of responses. If some of the responses are cordoned off by fear, or its handmaidens of political or religious dogma or intellectual philosophy, then we cannot act correctly. So in this case, if we are afraid to say no, (or yes), we are prejudging the situation and throwing the election -- no matter what it seems the Holy Spirit may be saying. We are deciding on the answer before we even ask the question.

So where is forgiveness in all of this? Forgiveness means we overlook our opinions about the nature of reality. We release ourselves from any concepts and beliefs we have about what is happening in front of our eyes. We accept it and respect it, without demanding that if be other than what it is -- without demanding that it be different. So when someone is impoverished, our first thought is not a knee-jerk reaction that says "this should not be happening." Our first thought is not "how can I change this?". We should not automatically assume that anything needs to change.

I'm not saying, of course, that if you see a child running into the street in front of a car you should not do the automatic and loving thing. But what I am saying is that even if a person seems to be experiencing a life of great hardship, we need to have ultimate respect for their choice of lessons, before we decide that we should intervene. It's not a decision, again, that should be made from a religion, a philosophy, or a dogma. It's a decision that is made in the present moment, from a position of silent receptivity to the part of ourselves that can see what we cannot.

There are people in this world who have a hotline to their Source, and who can help without becoming a nuisance. For the rest of us, I think it's important to learn to get our preconceptions out of the way first, before we try to help someone -- preconceptions not only about what help would look like, but about whether or not help is appropriate in the first place.

Here's one last quote. This is from Eva Pierrakos, channeling "The Guide," Lesson 175, Consciousness
"Since the possibilities are endless, infinite, and limitless, the consciousness can explore itself also by confining itself, by fragmenting itself off -- to "see what happens," as it were. It experiences itself: instead of expanding more, it contracts, instead of unfolding, it tries out how it feels to draw in; instead of exploring further lights, it wants to see how it is to feel and experience darkness. Creating is fascination per se. This fascination is not eliminated simply because what is created is -- first perhaps only by slight degrees -- less pleasurable or blissful or brilliant. Even in that may lie a special fascination and adventure -- just to tentatively try, if I may use these very limited words.
Then it begins to take on a power of its own. For everything that is created has energy invested in it and this energy is self-perpetuating. It takes on its own momentum. The consciousness who has created these channels and pathways may experiment longer and more than it is "safe" because it no longer leaves itself enough power at the moment to reverse the course. It may get lost in its own momentum, unwilling to stop, and later it no longer sees how to stop on this course. Creation then takes place entirely, or primarily, on a negative scale, until the results are so unpleasant that it seeks to get a hold of itself and counteract the momentum by "recalling" its real knowledge of what could be.
At any rate, it knows there is no real danger, for whatever suffering you human beings feel, it truly is illusory in the ultimate sense. Once you find your true identity within, you will know it. It is all a play, a fascination, an experiment, from which your real state of being can be recaptured, if only you will truly try."


Blogger Simon said...

Hi Derek!

Marian, like your voice on your own site, it is your stellar use of analogy that really helps drive your points home and communicate what you are trying to express through the poor medium of words. I really do think you do a fabulous job of that.

I know that one of my own short-comings is making intellectual decisions where the mind has no place to interfere. Whether you choose to call it gut instinct, or an inner voice, or a matter of the heart, I often ignore or suppress that impetus in favour of the more familiar mind that makes all the rest of my decisions for me. Always relying on the old fall-back, you know? No matter how right it may feel to do something different, or how wrong to continue in one's old ways, the thought of change induces fear, which is then ego, which tries its damnedest to steer where it wants.

As in your own post of today, a wee bit of inner silence (or a great glop of it, depending) is really called for to suss out the correct action. Or inaction.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Jack B. said...

I have been reading this column a while & something seems a bit self-justifying. Maybe thats the wrong word but there's a lot of complicated talk here about a response that any New-Yorker would think is second-nature ; "Don't get involved." I feel like there's only 2 clear possibiities ; 1. Every man for himself, or 2. All for one and one for all. When we start dissecting the great gray middle ground we are really in the field of ethics, which is an area of endless and futile debate. These types of opinion seem to just find "spiritual" ways to gussy up the old trolley question that drove us all nuts in first year ethics. I'll put a link here but I don't know if this blogsite can show links Trolley Question
Jack B. Boston U.

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Sandra said...

In response to Jack I don't think the Course tries to "gussy up" ethics. Ethics is about behavior and the Course avoids all issues of behavior and operates at a much more profound level. Ethics is not the solution to the problem, it IS the problem. According to the Course there is no satisfactory solution to our "problems" because we don't really have any problems. We just think we do: and THATs the problem. Sandra.

4:21 PM  
Anonymous marian said...

hi jack, I can see where you are coming from, but I think if you reread what I wrote you may see that it's not so much that I'm saying "don't get involved." I'm saying that there are times when what we do in the name of helping someone is questionable, not only in terms of our hidden motives, but in terms of whether we are actually doing anything that is truly of help.

So I'm just saying that it's important to be more mindful, and not react with a knee-jerk philosophical or emotional formula, and instead to take the time to get quiet and see, because it IS one for all, whether what we are doing is correct.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Jack said...

I think I do see where you are coming from but I just accuse you and others who rationalize standing back and not helping others of being inconsistent. For all the high spiritual psychobabble I hear about "teaching people to fish" instead of giving them fish I've yet to see it applied consistently. That means if it was your son or daughter who was in that desperate position you would have the same attitude and say - wait a minute my love - let me pause here and get in touch with my inner self and see if it is really the best thing I can do for you in the long run. Heck no, you'd drop everything, call 911, whatever it took to get the kid home and warm and dry safe... even if the "kid" was 20 years old. I don't say there's anything wrong with that but I do say there are obviously other stronger more "human" mechanisms that affect our actions. There's no ethical or spiritual standard that seems to matter when the stuff hits the fan. This is what causes all the neuroses and the angst in people who believe in holding back from helping those in need. We know we can only do it selectively so at heart we know it's bullshit. Jack B.

10:48 PM  
Blogger will said...

This discussion has really made me think. Great stuff. What makes the Course so difficult to get your mind around is there is only Forgiveness. The rest is ego. There is no gradient of who to help or who not to. When I read about Jesus I think if he saw his mother or a leper on the street it was all the same to him. No more weight with one than the other. He was doing Forgiveness. This is the first time I've ever thought about it in those terms. I wonder if he even thought about 'helping others' in the way we are talking about it.

12:47 AM  
Anonymous marian said...

Hey, jack. I still think we're agreeing more than disagreeing. As the mother of a 20-year-old son, of course I would drop everything, etc. And I do, often, in other circumstances as well. I'm talking more about "helping" that is the result of some kind of guilt, or fear, or desire for something in return, be it salvation, or relief of one's own guilt, or recognition of some sort. I would never hold back if I have a heartfelt desire to help. I'm talking about the times when the desire to help has nothing to do with the heart, and more to do with the ego. Anyway, thanks for commenting...

7:34 AM  
Anonymous marian said...

will -- thanks, good point. Of course, we would not be here, were we only able to "do forgiveness." We're here because we are still choosing to do otherwise.

Sandra -- right. But I think the concept of "having no problems" is one that we come to only after some pretty deep study, and it's a difficult one to grasp for someone who isn't familiar with the Course or its language. Rather than a deep and abiding truth, it just sounds like a rationalization.

7:49 AM  
Blogger will said...

Marian, When I had this 'Aha' experience last night I was thinking of Jesus on his human level, doing (being)Forgiveness; like you and I, here and now. Trying to get inside his head so to speak. If you do that using ACIM as his reference, how he lived his principles, it's pretty intense. He probably never thought about helping others in the sense we are so concerned with. Probably not much of a humanitarian either. When he saw the sick and dying it may have held little or no interest to him whatsoever. You can see why the bar is set so high. It has nothing to do with what we see as appropriate behavior or thinking. If you see him as asking us to do that you can see why it is so frightening.

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Sandra said...

Thats right Marian, its a deep and abiding truth. Just how much "study" is needed to reach it is debatable. Do you see it as your calling to always talk to a beginners level? Theres nothing wrong with that but one reason I like Dereks blog is; he doesn't pander. Sandra.

12:04 PM  
Blogger will said...

I have to laugh. I feel like Marge Simpson with a big YES inside.

Jesus isn't asking us to love one another in the way we are talking about here, He is asking us not to.

Just have to write this stuff down while it's rolling around inside my head.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

Sounds like you are definitely on the right track.

12:29 PM  
Blogger TOR Hershman said...

You should watch moi's YouTube film/research
"The Origin of Jesus Chirst."
[Spoiler - Ovid did it]

12:40 PM  
Blogger will said...

I'm still ruminating...

Think of a Jesus finding it almost intolerable to be around the sick, the dying, the lame and blind, the poor and homeless, seeing it all as a manifestation of the hated ego.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous marian said...

will, I think it's likely that Jesus probably didn't indulge in hatred or intolerance of the ego or its manifestations. He wouldn't really see it as threatening to his own peace in any way, would he?

2:54 PM  
Blogger will said...


Help me out here, help me walk through this. What adjectives would you use instead of intolerable and hated?

4:43 PM  
Blogger will said...


I have to say as I sit here thinking about it, that the way Jesus describes the ego in ACIM, hated and intolerable seem right on the mark. I am reluctant to back down.

Good coffee at my house today. Strong!

4:52 PM  
Anonymous marian said...

Will, I can tell you're drinking good coffee!

Here's the thing. When we attack the ego, we become the ego, because only the ego attacks.

So although he wants us to understand that listening to the ego is not in our best interests, if we wish to awaken, and although he uses strong language to get us to realize this, he also wants us to simply SEE this fact, without having an emotional reaction that ropes us back into attack mode. He simply wants us to be mindful enough make a different choice.

Does that help? It's like you can take your hand off a hot stove without cursing the stove, because really, you are the one who chose to put your hand on there in the first place.

So when we attack or indulge in hatred or blame, we make the dream real. We project our own delusional guilt outside ourselves, so we don't have to experience it internally. This applies to the body, to the ego, to anything that is perceived as "not self."

6:17 PM  
Blogger will said...

I think your missing a great opportunity to stretch and grow here but it has been fun and I've enjoyed reading your piece and visiting. Thank you. Maybe Derek will call in some others to write and we can roast them too!


8:10 PM  
Blogger Aileen said...

WOW! I feel as if I'm late for a party......Like you say on the post, Marian, I think the key in deciding whether to help or not, is to get the ego out of the way. Once we’ve identified what’s in it for the ego, and we let it go, (this could only take a second) it’s automatic that the most appropriate and loving response will surface out of our right mind. This response will take into consideration all the history and particular details of the situation, without our even being aware of them. As the Song of Prayer Pamphlet says on p2: “God answers only for eternity. But still all little answers are contained in this.”

8:00 PM  


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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tied Up ... conclusion

There must be fanatics out there who troll the Internet daily looking for any mention of their sacred cows so they can immediately send angry comments. One small mention of Ayn Rand, a relatively insignificant literary figure with a hard-core cult following, seemed to attract a storm of protest. The comments from "Richard", an Ayn Rand groupie up in Toronto were pretty typical of the ilk. Either you completely submit to the dogma, or you are "refusing to be rational." There is no question of disagreement. That does not compute. Some people are just plain old control freaks, masquerading as philosophers. The Internet is a rich hunting ground for them.

About a month has gone by. Mark still does not have a job. I have fixed up a couple of interviews for him with business colleagues. Both seemed keen to meet him but neither hired him. They both gave me different excuses - along the lines of - "we really don't have any vacancies," which is not what they said when they asked to meet him. It could have something to do with his appearance, which is getting very shabby. Whenever I give him a ride somewhere these days I need to deodorize my car afterwards. The other day I gave him money for a haircut, but he didn't get a haircut and he didn't give back the money.

He's living in a homeless shelter now. I don't know exactly where it is; as an "inmate" he's not allowed to say. The shelter is in a church building and consists of about 30 mattresses on the floor, with a shared bathroom. Sometimes there is hot water. No phones, radios, computers, etc., are allowed. The church does not want anyone knowing it is a shelter so no-one goes in or out directly. Instead, all the residents have to congregate at some church "office" about 10 miles away, every evening at 7.00. Then they are given a breathalyser test and placed in a small inconspicuous unmarked bus, and ferried down to the shelter where they must enter quickly through a back door. They are not allowed out again till 7 am, when they are taken 10 miles by bus back to the office and released for the day. I think they are given sandwiches. He can stay there a maximum of 30 days. That's usually about the time of day Mark calls me to ask me if I can take him here or take him there. If it's job-related I will often agree, but it's surprising how few actual job interviews he goes to, and how many coffee bars all over town he wants to go to, for no good reason.

He is now getting some kind of counselling through the Easter-Seals organization. I'm not sure to what extent this is psychological, and to what extent vocational. I do know he berates them as "idiots" who just want to "control" him. Nonetheless I've noticed some adjustment in his attitude since he started going there. He now occasionally makes a point of thanking me for my help, and talks a lot about how he is responsible for his own situation and has to be constructive and make the best of it. This is all good I suppose, but I can't help thinking it is just lip-service. I think perhaps these topics come up in counselling and he is just echoing this new lexicon (with his oratorical flair) to show me and show the world how adjusted, humble and contrite he is.

I know, I know: now I am the cynic. But I have my reasons for my suspicions. First, these concessions to humility are usually only made at the start of a meeting. By the time an hour or two has elapsed he is back to his old negative self. Second there is the strange matter of Mark and the Internet. Why are his long empty days spent in one coffee-bar after another, where he nurses one small cup of the cheapest brew for hours. Every time I pick him up or drop him somewhere it has to be at a Starbucks or a Caribou or Panera ... all places that have wireless Internet. He is never without his laptop. As time went by I began to wonder what on earth was so important about the Internet. We all send and get a little email and need to look up a few things here and there ... but there is no need to live day and night in cyberspace, any more than one needs to live in the Post Office, or in the library. I would ask him; "Mark --- why the hell do I need to take you all the way to ______?" He would answer "Because they have free Internet there." I would ask: "What on earth is so important about the Internet? You need a job, not an Internet connection." He would say mysteriously: "Well I need to dig up some stuff online." Well fair enough. Sometimes we all need to "dig up" some stuff online, but all day? Every day? Month after month? When you're out of work and homeless? What is that all about?

A few days ago he hung out at my house for a few hours. I gave him a chair and a little table for his laptop and left him alone. Later I needed him to look at something so I said "can you come here for a moment?" He said "Hang on -- I just need to finish something ---" and he was typing busily. Then he was sitting back looking at his screen for a minute, then typing again, then waiting, and so on. He had a kind of half-smile on his face. I realised he was chatting online. I know it was none of my business but a little alarm bell was ringing in my head. I asked him outright "What are you doing?" He said he was talking in a "support group." "What kind of group?" "Oh," he said nonchalantly, "It's Al-Anon. Some of those people are pretty messed up."

How many of "those people" did he know? How did he know they were "messed up"? It occurred to me that this was what he did all day long, and had been doing since I met him. He lived online in some kind of support group, and was for all intents and purposes addicted to it. Not an hour could go by when he did not have to find some way to log on and participate. Everything else, including finding a home, finding a job, making and keeping friends in the "real world", was secondary. He could tolerate and rationalize being penniless and rootless, he could tolerate living in a world of "idiots" that constantly tried to victimize him, but he couldn't tolerate being without wi-fi and a laptop. Were these cyber-people his real "family"? Did he really have deep, lasting, meaningful relationships with "Anxious in Alaska", or "DayByDay in Denver" while his exterior life crumbled?

I would guess probably not. Calling them "messed up" is a fairly strong clue. He obviously doesn't see himself as "messed up." With his natural dominant traits and his flair for dogmatizing I wouldn't be surprised if he were dishing out advice and rhetoric to gullible minds. He had an Internet following... a little kingdom where he could be king, unlike the cold unfriendly wastelands of the world in which his body lived. It was that half smile that said as much. There was something so out of place about it on a face so habitually careworn and creased. it was not a benign smile of affection or forbearance. It was a crocodile's smile; all salivation and anticipation of a forthcoming kill. It was the smile of Richard III: "I can smile, and murder while I smile..."

He is probably very good at it. People who become "sponsors" in 12-step groups are sometimes covertly very controlling types, who want to dominate the lives of others. The naive new 12-stepper is an easy mark. But to do this it is necessary for the sponsor himself/herself to ignore his own plight. Perhaps not ignore it, but certainly use it as a tool to gain credibility and an advantage. If the sponsor ever recovers and moves on, they no longer qualify to sponsor others. Fortunately in the world of 12-stepping no one ever recovers from anything. To do so would be to stop being a victim, which would be too radical. Instead you just move up the seniority list.

So the day arrived recently when my phone rang at 8 am. I knew who it was of course. Mark knows perfectly well I tend to work until very late at night, and don't get up before 9. He knows this but he seems to think he has a free pass because of the "urgency" of his situation. On that day he wanted me to pick him up at some Starbucks and take him to fill out an application for a driving job in a town an hour away. Something inside me clicked. I said - "I'm sorry, I'm tied up today." There was a long terrible pause. Then he said "OK, what about tomorrow?" I said "I'm pretty busy tomorrow too. In fact I'm tied up all week." There was an even longer pause which smelled of "deeply wounded" then a few faltering remarks about "well -- ok --- I guess I'll work something out --- " etc. Then: "See you." and he hung up. He never bothered to ask how I was, but then, he never did. I tried to go back to sleep but I couldn't. I was afraid I'd just sent him to jump off a bridge.

I know I've painted him as a selfish irresponsible pig, but that was this week. Last week I painted him as a hapless victim of circumstance who slipped through the net. The week before he was a fallen God who could find no comfortable home on earth. Yes, all the same person. Which is the real Mark? Is he the hopeless hapless victim, or is he a predatory irresponsible bum? Which is the real Derek? Am I the Samaritan who tries to dress the stranger's wounds or am I the one who passes by on the other side of the street? Am I healing myself by trying to heal the life of another, or am I taking on too much responsibility for the plight of others. Can we/should we/must we try to change the world into a kinder gentler place, given that the world was designed to be a place of insoluble problems and endless suffering, laced with just the occasional promise of happiness for bait? What would Jesus do? What would you do?

I know what I did. I uttered those prescient words -- "I'm tied up." It doesn't matter how you say them -- to someone who is totally dependent on you they are a death sentence. To someone who is just using you they are a notification that the game is over. Either way they are three words that mark the end of an era. What did I achieve with them?

Time and my fridge door will tell.


Anonymous Wixom said...

Entertaining but I don't knowhow close to the truth. Seems like Marks passion for his internet friends is the only passion in a bleak life. Maybe a lot like those guys who attack you with Ayn Rand dogma. If its the only thing they have in their bleak little life, no wonder they're so adamant about it :-)

12:31 PM  
Anonymous K said...


Guilt over hurting another, and guilt over failing to help another are very much the same thing in the ego's bag of tricks. They are part of a ceaseless campaign to keep us "mindless" or focused on illusory problems in an illusory world. As long as we agonize over such issues we never get in touch with the real source of guilt, which is the guilt in the mind that is projecting all this unreal chaos.

All evidence to the contrary it is actually foolish, even arrogant, to think we can truly cause pain or harm to another. It is possible to act in such a way as to verify (to him) any beliefs he already holds about pain and victimisation, but you can't be the real first cause of his pain. That is far deeper and more ontological than any issues of employment or abode. Like you, your friend has the power to change his mind and get back to the truth (though it is not easy.) Can you really believe your mind is powerful enough to take away what God has given? He will reclaim it when he is ready. The exact timing of that is not your concern, and you should not punish yourself.

Please remember no-one can feel attacked unless they choose it. That billions of people worldwide feel attacked is evidence that billions of people do make that choice. We can choose again. K.

8:31 PM  
Blogger will said...


I have to agree with what k said. I don't think I can actually do it, but I agree! Guilt over how I act or how I treat others has been of life long fascination (grin). After three years of ACIM I am just beginning to climb out of the ditch.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous jean said...

i have the feeling there"s a theme here but i don't know what it is. sounds like you are talking about some religious or philosopical system but what kind of system justifies not helping people in serious need? i'm willing to give you benefit of the doubt, you're not cruel, you're following some belief. what is that belief? it isnt christian. i never heard of anything like that. how would you feel if you were the guy who is down and out.?

7:25 PM  
Blogger will said...

Over the past week I tried to post a comment but my computer skills were just not up to the task. I was so surprised by my recent success that I forgot to mention what a great piece of writing the last three weeks has been. I really looked forward to each blog.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Derek said...

I usually don't respond to comments but it would be rude not to say thank you for your nice compliment. Hope you will contribute more in the future. D.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Derek

Thanks for the Ayn Rand comment. Ayn Rand saved my life, no doubt about it. Back in the summer of '87, when the Oliver North hearings were going on and I was a lost college kid, I picked up a battered copy of Atlas Shrugged and devoured it in 3 days. Finally a person saying there was Life in the world and that human ability wasn't something to be ashamed of.

Years later, as an ACIM student (something Rand would have vehemently disapproved of), I knew in my heart that Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead were the only things I could have accepted at the time. ACIM was too theoretical. So perhaps these novels were ways in which the HS was calling me home.....

I like your blog because it shows that an ACIM students can still question the world and have doubts. I love ACIM but have real doubts sometimes because it is so darned vague!!! Like this situation with Mark....I too have a situation that is so difficult to deal with. ACIM sometimes feels like a stone around my neck to be honest, especially when trying to handle real-life problems. I think that a lot of it comes down with common sense really...

Thank you for your honesty. Hope you continue with the blogging.

6:17 PM  
Blogger Manu said...

This is a perfect ego trap to reinforce the underlying sense of guilt and maintain the illusion. Christian as well as other belief systems that believe in the attraction of guilt will want to do something in the world. When one achieves salvation through forgiving the self-created illusion, the illusion and everyone in the illusion disappears, and that's how one help one's brothers.

10:46 AM  


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