Ultimately, our wyrd is our own – and we ourselves are the only ones who can ever really understand it. However, once we begin to grasp how it works within our lives, we gain some sense of choice within it – but only if we do make the effort to watch how it weaves its way through us. You’ll find some more practical tools for this if you look in the Wyrd reading section; but for now, here are two sections from Tom Graves’ book Wyrd Allies, both exploring the weird way in which our boundaries – our definitions of ‘I’ – become somewhat fluid in the face of the wyrd:
No matter how much they get in our way at times, it’s important to understand just how much we do need those boundaries – we won’t be able to stay sane without some kind of boundary to draw a line between ‘I’ and ‘not-I’. In the absence of a clear, firm boundary, ‘I’ becomes lost, and in some cases quite literally wanders from personality to personality in the same physical person – as in multiple-personality syndrome – or even between different physical people. The latter may sound more than just weird – crazy, even – but it’s well-recorded in one form of schizophrenia… The same ‘unbounded telepathy’ is also quite common in people who’ve over-used certain drugs such as LSD and marijuana: an occultist friend suggests that those drugs ‘tear holes in the aura’ – in other words they fragment the boundary between ‘I’ and ‘not-I’, sometimes beyond repair. And that’s what ‘telepathy’ usually is: a muddled mixture of vague memories and blurred images without any distinction as to whom they belong – so perhaps the many people I’ve met who’ve said “I’d love to be telepathic” wouldn’t be quite so keen once they’ve understood what real telepathy is like…
|Which leads us to an interesting philosophical question: are our minds ever really our own? How much do we share them with others? How much do we want to share them with others? These questions aren’t as trivial as they sound – though the answers may indeed be weird…
It isn’t easy to do, because the process of watching itself tends to get in the way: but experiment with watching what seem to be ‘your’ thoughts, feelings and memories as you go through a day. How often do you spot a thought or memory that seems at first to be one of your own, but doesn’t connect with anything else – that is not part of your present or past as you know it? (A hint: don’t ‘try’ – just allow them to present themselves to your awareness.) So where do these ‘foreigners’ come from? Where do they go? By what paths do they weave their way through you? Weird indeed…
Sympathy and empathy are the means by which we become ‘in touch’ with others, sharing threads of the wyrd that pass through ‘I’ and ‘We’ and ‘I’. But this only works when there’s a full understanding of the boundaries between ‘I’, and ‘We’, and the other’s ‘I’ – and a full understanding, too, that to connect with others, in sympathy and empathy, is a choice.
It’s sometimes difficult to see that we do have choice in this: more usually, it’ll seem that either we’re in sympathy with others, or not, and there’s not much we can do about it. And it’s certainly unwise to pretend that we feel what we don’t feel, or that we don’t feel what we do: so where does choice come into it? The short answer is that while we can’t control what we feel, we can direct our response to what we feel: but to do that means that we first have to be aware of what we feel – and also when what we feel actually is our own feeling, rather than one that’s drifted in, through sympathy, along the threads of wyrd.
That sounds a bit weird, perhaps, but we’ve met something similar already: those ‘foreign’ memories that we learnt to watch for, back in the practical work on boundaries. And this time we have, if not an explanation as such, then at least a better understanding of what’s going on: like those two pendulums on the string, we can find ourselves drifting in and out of being ‘in sympathy’ with others, which means that we’ll find ourselves sharing ‘foreign’ feelings much like those ‘foreign’ memories – or perhaps find ourselves unable to ‘connect’ with others, no matter how sympathetic we may be, because we’re ‘out of phase’ with them. With awareness, we do have the choice to change this.
|Back to the café again! Most of what we’ve done there before has been about boundaries: this time we’re looking more closely at the threads that cross those boundaries, weaving together ‘I’ and ‘not-I’ as ‘We’.
So find a convenient quiet corner, and relax: close your eyes, and allow yourself to become of the space around you. Feel the limits of your physical boundaries: then explore the blurred edges of your ‘I’ – the warmth or coolness around your hands, the way your hair extends outward into ‘uncertain-I’, the way your breath moves into and returns from a space you share with others.
Then expand this blurry bounded-yet-unbounded sense of ‘I’ outward into that shared space carefully, yet respectfully, so that your ‘I’ overlaps the physical space occupied by others. When we tried this before, some while ago, you watched for a feeling of ‘unsafety’, as they came too close to your boundary for comfort: this time – remembering from that previous example that you can ‘disconnect’ from them whenever you need – reach out to bring yourself ‘into sympathy’ with them. Notice how your feelings change as you link with the threads of ‘We’ – the relationship between your own ‘I’ and that of the other person. Focus your attention on one person at a time: any person will do, but if they become aware of your ‘connecting’ to them – as they may well do, given the nature of the wyrd – it’s best to withdraw back into ‘I’, and try again with someone else. In what ways do your feelings change as you expand into ‘We’? In what ways do these feelings differ as you move into a felt sense of ‘We’ – a sympathy, and an empathy – with different people?
On some occasions, or with some people, all you’ll get from ‘We’ is a sense of ‘nothingness’, or perhaps even a definite ‘No!’ If that’s the case, you’ve hit a boundary: it’s best to back off, and quietly ‘disconnect’ from that person – move yourself ‘out of sympathy’ with them. In other cases you might feel swamped, as you reach out to connect with some person: again, back off, and reconnect with your own sense of ‘I’. Try again later with the same person: what difference – if any – do you feel? Watching what had previously seemed to be your own feelings change as you move into and out of sympathy with others – connect with and disconnect from that sense of ‘We’ between you – which feelings belong only to ‘I’?
Sympathy and empathy only exist in relationship: which means that, to make it work, we have to be aware of two people – both ‘I’ and the Other – at the same time. This takes some practice… it’s all too easy, for example to try to be sympathetic with others – or particularly to reach out in empathy to others – and become so focussed on trying to connect with the other person that we lose track of ‘I’. Reaching out to others in sympathy or empathy shows us how we relate – interweave – with others: but unless we remember to retain a full awareness of ‘I’ as we do so, there’s nothing left ‘back there’ to anchor the relating to… which can lead to problems all of its own!