My conscious desire to learn more about the mystery of identity, ultimately who I am, goes back some 25 years but only became urgent due to Parkinson’s progression before my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery in 2014. About eight months earlier, I had taken up the search for a crashed A-6 Intruder attack jet from my old squadron, an ultimately successful endeavor that jump-started my curiosity and ended up providing the framework for my journey of self-discovery.
The proxy challenge of finding the submerged jet and the introspection demanded by writing about it (The Lost Intruder, 2017) inspired me to a different level of awareness, although only temporarily. It was not something that I was consciously seeking, and the path to where I am today has little to do with the physical searching experience. It was merely my unconscious way of cutting through the noise—my fears and desires—to reach a sense of clarity.
Somehow, I knew, both superficially and deep in my being, that this altered state of consciousness would be fleeting, that brain surgery would relegate it to the furthest reaches of awareness. But I also knew—to the extent that I know anything—that it would be there waiting for me. I just needed to figure out how to access it at will.
This is what drives me, spurs me to action when Parkinson’s mire of chaotic weariness promises nothing but pain and death. This newest search makes me smile and laugh with a child’s genuine glee, maybe because I know at my core that joy is always potentially close at hand. Joy is in the act of smiling, not despite or because of discomfort, but in nature’s reassuring acknowledgment of pain as essential humanity. It is what “is.”
We are Human Beings, meaning both physically Human and ethereal as Beings. I am vastly ignorant beyond this point but freely insert religion here if it brings you comfort: most belief systems that I’m familiar with should find no contradiction.
Attempting to balance the influence of Human and Being on our actions in this world is a challenging but worthwhile endeavor, and the quiet respect of empathy may be the key to achieving equilibrium. Compassion and gratitude, indispensable ingredients to lasting happiness, are within all our reach, perhaps best realized through everyday acts of humble kindness.