Sitting in my neighborhood Starbucks, I realize a profound disturbance. We live a life of unconsciousness. Society has numbed and dumbed us just enough so that day-to-day life is lived just under the brink of awareness. We are taught not to question, to follow authority and tread along in the name of progress. Oh, yes, you can have your political opinions, and yes, sure you can be whoever you want to be when you grow up, and yes, yes you live in the land of democracy—let freedom ring! But meanwhile no one is actually awake. Besides, individual freedom does not exist until universal freedom is recognized. I understand now why the first few weeks after coming home I felt like I was in a daze. It was not that I was reaching for the dream-like trance of TBB. No, I was reaching for the reality and active consciousness TBB provided. Returning from TBB means living in limbo. You are alive, but you live in society’s dreamland. Most of the time, the people around you are living examples of the unconsciousness you left behind eight months ago before you died a social death, but when you see them you do not question their existence—you question your own.
This theme of consciousness versus unconsciousness is prevalent in all three pillars. On my gap year I discovered multilateral consciousness (which is really just a fancy way of saying I learned how to not only stand on the three pillars—love and community, challenging your assumptions, and looking inward—but also practice them simultaneously). What does society’s unconsciousness look like in this context? Respectively, a lack of emotional literacy, honesty, and vulnerability; a blinding faith and trust in the system born from a quasi-factory line education meant to booster ego; an unrecognized fear of depth and of introspection and a humility deficiency. There’s plenty of evidence from my past which says that I have been developing the three pillars for quite some time now. And perhaps similar evidence can be found in your past and even your present. However, for me, the difference between the past pre-TBB and the past during TBB is consciousness. And that has made all the difference. During those seven months of travel, I actively pursued love and community, constantly challenged my assumptions, and committed myself to looking inward. It was a lived reality during which I was fully awake, and my struggle to remain awake is what leads me to the type of exhaustion as if I am treading water.
My original intent for this post was an explanation behind the pillar “Challenge Your Assumptions.” Instead, I ended up here. Before TBB, I would have forced my canoe down the intended course rather than the purposeful course. I would have listened to my head space’s “supposed to be” instead of my heart space’s “this is.” I would have followed the plan when I could have let the writing take over me. In all essence, I would have heard my ego over my soul.
I say this because I want to emphasize that society is not consistently unconscious. The moments when the soul is heard over the ego is consciousness; when art is created, observed, or heard consciousness exists; when love is recognized, that is consciousness. We all carry within us the ability to reach the brink of awareness, even beyond the TBB community.
The late poet laureate Mark Strand once wrote, “I think what happens at certain points in my poems is that language takes over, and I follow it. It just sounds right. And I trust the implication of what I’m saying, even though I’m not absolutely sure what it is that I’m saying. I’m just willing to let it be. . . Because if I were absolutely sure of whatever it was that I said in my poems . . . I don’t think the poem would be smarter than I am.”
Living in limbo comes with the responsibility of awareness and education—at least for me, because living in limbo means fighting to keep that consciousness alive, fighting to keep yourself “alive, awake, alert and enthusiastic.” Living in limbo means more than just wanting the poem to be smarter than you. . . It means letting it.