Turning 50 this past November has reinforced a sense of the passage of time, and it has inspired me to think about trying to achieve a more satisfactory synthesis of the experiences I have had so far, while I still have the mental and physical capacity to do so.
Over this break I've mainly been interested in reading. With the Amazon gift certificate that my brother sent me for Christmas, I bought two astrology books and an Interpol CD. Uncharacterisically for me, I read both books in their entirety already. Actually, they were both brief, but that hasn't stopped me from failing to finish books in the past.
After finishing the first of the books, I began to search online for another astrology course. I found a modestly priced course on Hellenistic astrology given by someone who is in his late 20s. Through browsing around online I learned that he has participated in what appears to be the strongest current wave of the revival of ancient and medieval approaches to astrology. I had dabbled in medieval astrology before, but had trouble finding ways of moving forward with that that felt right to me. Another participant in this wave of the revival of older approaches is a Ph.D. in his early 40s who has done translations from Latin, Arabic, and Persian. He also happens to be gay. (I'm not sure about the 20-something, but I think he may be as well.) Right now I'm slogging through the introductory material on the history and philosophy of Hellenistic astrology, including a perusal of Marcus Aurelius's Meditations in their entirety.
I found that, the last time I became interested in medieval astrology, I developed a desire to resume the practice of salat. Eventually I came to regard that as something of a fluke, or perhaps a necessary revisitation of past experiences. I then returned to my Hindu practices as my normative spiritual practice. In the interim, I have taken more distance from the Amma organization and I have begun to put more energy into reading contemporary philosophy. I found myself doing spiritual practice less frequently. When I began to read about ancient and medieval astrology again, and then started reading Marcus Aurelius, I found myself resonating with things about the ambience of Islam, and I started practicing salat once more. We'll see where this goes.
Over this break I have also read two novels: Rudhyar's Rania and Scott Heim's Mysterious Skin. Each in its own way helped me come to terms with my experiences over the last several years. From Rudhyar's novel (written in 1930), I was able to reflect in a more detached way on the interpersonal and psychic dramas that can occur among people on the spiritual path. Among the things he pointed out were how, when two people are drawn together for some kind of spiritual "work," it may be the case that others around them interpret the relationship between them in sexual terms, and so may at least one of the participants. Even without any sex transpiring, there may be wild jealousies, betrayals, etc.
I read Heim's novel only after having seen the film adaptation twice. My partner discovered the film online, and I saw fragments of it while he was watching it. Then I watched it in its entirety on my own and found myself quite moved by it. I began seeking out more recordings of music by Harold Budd, who collaborated on the soundtrack for the film (in addition to the few that I had heard previously), and discovered which of his albums I preferred over others. By the time I watched the film a second time, I was well acquainted with the soundtrack album as well as others that have a similar atmosphere. I also researched a bit about the film's principal actors online. It appears that the film has gathered something of a cult following. Here's the opening track from the soundtrack album:
Since the film (and the novel) deals with the sexual exploitation of boys, it naturally made me think of X. I was able to see how one of the characters, Eric, who was not involved in the abuse, gets drawn in emotionally and persists in helping the principal characters to remember and work through aspects of their past. Watching the film and, especially, reading the novel, helped me to come to better terms with how I got pulled in to X's situation in ways that others found difficult to understand, as did I. I guess it comes with the territory, that when people have unusual and powerful experiences that are difficult to come to terms with (and difficult to talk about openly), some of the sense of being driven by mystery and secrets will tend to rub off on people with whom they are associated. There can be a compulsion to want to help (and to want to receive some credit for it), but that usually means a commitment to having one's needs go chronically unmet.
In retrospect, I don't think that the Amma organization was so much of a destination for me as a way station in which I learned some difficult and complex things about human nature.
Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of my mother's memorial service. In general, although my approach to life is still colored significantly by feelings of loss, disappointment, frustration, etc., I'm beginning to get the sense that some of my experiences of the last several years are starting to peel away from the particular circumstances that gave rise to them, and that some of the tendencies or preferences (musically and otherwise) that developed (or seemed to develop) in response to difficult situations are beginning to take on a life of their own, and that this may lead to potential future growth (as opposed to merely the rehashing of feelings of woundedness connected with past experiences).