I do not recall ever feeling the way I do now after completing it. It isn't a very long book, but it is a profound metaphor for life - and potentially what comes "next."
In this read through a couple of things stood out to me. The first was a conversation about the rules and being an outsider. Once a person is considered an ousider, then they don't "have" to follow the rules. It makes sense doesn't it? The "rules" apply to those within a unit, and there are things done and said that are intended to keep everyone in line. All of those wonderful "shoulds" live in that place.
I have found throughout my life that I did not fit in. No where. A few places maybe a little, but that was only until I started to see things MY way. I truly can not think of one place I have ever really felt I fit - at least for very long. For a long part of my life it was a sad/bad thing for me. I often wondered what was wrong with me - never what was right. Since I did not fit in, *I* could not be right. (I could have been, if I had seen things differently, but it has taken til now for that to happen). I couldn't seem to follow where others went, but I what I didn't realize was that I likely wasn't supposed to. I didn't realize as I was stuck in the muck that there were other things I could do. I was too busy looking down at my stuck feet to see anything else.
Occasionally I would try to go my own way, but it did not work out very well, I would be criticized or judged if people were paying attention, and was alone if they weren't. I suspect I learned to be different in silence. It was safer that way. At least I would be left alone which seemed preferable to being picked on, judged, ridiculed, having to explain something I did not fully understand myself.
In the last year and a half I have become very outspoken. I have ruffled many feathers, and pissed people off. The people that I never truly fit in with in the first place have taken issue with my perspectives and my emotions and in general have criticized me. Well, I finally realized - even though I didn't know that I did - that because I no longer cared what those I could never please thought, there was no reason to remain silent, or try to disguise myself. I realized that for too many years I had been fighting who I was because I was never who anyone thought I should be.
And then, one day, I stopped. Although it wasn't an abrupt change. It wasn't an epihany I woke up with. It wasn't a conscious thing I did. It was a fluid change. It was a little here. A little there. It was something that started to eek out as a trickle, and is now something that flows like a river.
I can not even begin to fathom being silent now. I don't even want to be. There is just so much freedom in being who I am. In some ways I am just as alone as I was before, but at least I am no longer invalidating myself, fighting myself, questioning myself - based on what others think of me.
I still look at things. I still question things. But there is a difference, and that difference is a shift from who gets a say about who I am going to be, and how I feel about the person I am.
The second part that stood out to me in the reading, was the idea that there is no "heaven." The explanation the book offers is that perhaps there are different places we go to have different experiences. So when one experience ends, another begins, and we can have different experiences in these different places than ones we had before because we are at a level to appreciate new perspectives and challenges.
In that sense, we could potentially be in heaven. I have heard people say that there is no heaven and no hell. That those places aren't places at all. They more describe how our life can be. So maybe we are simultaneously in heaven and hell. I was thinking this morning about how we think things are absolute. If it is dark, then it is night. If it is light, then it is day. Day can't exist in night, and night can't exist in day, so they are absolute. Right?
Well. If you consider that those two things are a part of a bigger whole, then is there an absolute absolute? I don't think so. I started to think about this idea when I was thinking about the idea of absolute, pure love. I wondered if there was such a thing. Could there exist other things in a space of love? The thought I came to was no, but that love was only a part of a bigger whole - nothing of which can be filtered out totally and completely - even though our way of thinking often would have us think we somehow could/should do just that.
I could look at a red placemat, and then look away from it, and say it is blue, or that it doesn't even exist. But there is a reality that is still present in which there is a placemat, and it is red. Changing my words around it does not change the reality in which there is a red placemat.
Maybe we think we can change our reality, but what we are actually doing is acknowledging (finding?) a new one. Maybe that is what the experience of life is, a series of realities, one of which includes various types of deaths. If you think about it, death is very much alive in life. Every moment we are here is another moment expired. Every tear dies to a smile. Nothing is permanent. Maybe nothing ever ceases to exist in totality either, maybe realities just shift.
We just don't really think about it, as we go through our day-to-day gyrations. We have learned which things require our attention, and then those are the things that get it. We likely miss other things in the process. We likely miss lots of things. Lots and lots of things.
But then, maybe we are supposed to. Maybe it is the experience we came for. Maybe like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, we are meant to learn to fly, our way, and are meant to fly when we are meant to, and that by following that inner voice, which may be inner wisdom, we land exactly where we are supposed to be for whatever reality comes next.