Join Our 'Many Paths, One Mountain' Broadcast Every Sunday at 10am PT Sign Up

Book Outline – Tape Transcript 2

Marc Gafni » Blog - Spiritually Incorrect » Books and Telecourses » Hebrew Wisdom » The Pain of Eros » Unique Self / Soul Prints » Book Outline – Tape Transcript 2


from Marc Gafni

MAN: The story in the Talmud, which is about the path of yearning … about following my longing. About a little boy or a young man who reaches bar mitzvah, or confirmation, and he receives all sorts of presents, none of them particularly appropriate, he’s got to write thank you notes for all of them. The good news is that he saved up some of his own money in his piggy bank, as it were, and he goes to the neighborhood store and he says to the storekeeper, “I’ve been eyeing that kite. That big red kite behind you. I want to buy it.” The storekeeper says, “You have enough money?” “Sure.” Kid takes out his piggy bank, empties out the change, nickels, dimes, quarters, exactly the right amount of change to buy that big red kite. A little money left over, he buys some string, ties the string to the kite, goes to Van Cortlandt Park in Riverdale, New York, part of the Bronx, near the 100 bus, begins to fly his kite Sunday morning, happiest kid in the world.

And he lets out a little string and a little more string and a little more string, until the kite is flying so high you can’t see it. No one can see it. And an old man representing, I suppose, the establishment stops the kid and he says, “What are you doing?” And the kid says, “I’m flying a kite.” And he says, “What do you mean, you’re flying a kite? You can’t see it. No one can see it. How do you know there’s a kite?” And the boy says, “I know there’s a kite because I can feel the tug.” T-u-g. I can feel the tug. And that’s what it’s all about. To be able to feel the tug and to build my life based on that tug.

That’s the path of yearning. And I follow my yearning. Following my yearning is deeper than following my bliss, and it means that my longing is my inner master. It teaches me, it guides me, and again, I want to emphasize there’s two kinds of longing we’re talking about here. Longing can mean my pathology. My pathology always comes from a need, a desire to paper over my emptiness. Right? To cover up my hole. Right? So I long for the perverse, whatever that means. Okay? Right? And all of us, you know, the perverse can be the way I do business. Perverse is not about sexual per se. But I long for the pathological. I long for things to cover up the emptiness in my soul. In essence, that external longing. That … covers up the deeper longing, the deeper longing for what I really want. There’s a lower longing and a higher longing.

And in essence, my longing brings me to my longing. My yearning brings me to my true longing. I’ve got to follow it. So I’ve got to follow both my longing, which is apparently pathological. Right? My secret sort of kind of longings. I’ve got to sort of listen to them, because they’re covering up my deeper longing. And my deeper longing is who I really am. Okay? That’s my soul print. That’s my inner certainty. In the longing, I experience the certainty of myself. I experience my presence in my longing, in my absence, as it were.

Then there’s a couple more stories in this chapter, also powerful Zen master kind of stories, which talk about this idea, in my interpretation of the stories, you know, of understanding myself, achieving inner certainty, resolving the uncertainty of my identity through deep experience of my longing. Okay, chapter ten. Chapter ten is called the “Path of Fractols(?)” or the “Path of Holograph.” Right? This is the final path to inner certainty, to resolution of identity. To finding, to identifying my soul print. And this chapter has really three sections. The first idea is the idea of holograph. Holograph, as we know, means that in every part is the whole. What the idea means existentially, what it means psychologically, what it means in terms of my life, it means that in any moment of goodness, in any moment of fulfillment, in any moment of certainty is all certainty, is all goodness, is all fulfillment. If I can identify any moment of goodness in me, any moment of certainty, than holographically, right, from that point I can get to all of me. I can get to all of my certainty, I can get to my whole story.

And there’s a (Hebrew word) as it were which forms a core of the first part of the chapter. That’s number one. Number two, in this chapter, is the idea of partial fulfillment. A very important idea. Partial fulfillment means that we always look, in order to feel blessed, to experience blessing. In order to experience fulfillment, we look for nirvana. We look for complete fulfillment. And the truth is that complete fulfillment is unavailable in this world. We never get complete fulfillment. Right? Not in personal relationships, not in career tracks, not in the way we want our bodies to look … We’re never fully sated. And since we’re never fully sated, essentially what we do is we focus on the missing tile. It’s the missing tile syndrome.

In other words, we don’t see all the tiles we have, we see the tile we don’t have and then that missing tile drives us to drink as it were. That missing tile makes us nuts, and we experience … emptiness. We experience the missing tile. So the second part of the chapter talks about the ability to experience joy in partial fulfillment. And it goes through four or five images, which talk about shattering the tyranny of the dream of complete fulfillment, which is not available, and being able to be fully rejoicing in partial fulfillment and to derive my sense of self … in inner certainty for my ability to live in the world partially, in partial fulfillment. And to be fully joyous about that partial fulfillment. That’s the second idea.

The third idea in this chapter is what I call me at my best. And this is also extremely important. Who am I? So there’s two possibilities in the world. One possibility is what Freud taught, is that essentially who I really am is my dark, raging currents of libido, of sexuality, of violence. All right? My primal, my hidden self is who I really am, and my sort of polite, external self is just a facade. That’s one possibility. And the second possibility is that, you know, I am my pragmatic self, my functional, utilitarian self. Me acting in the world. I’m the sum of my productivity and my accomplishments and my ability to move in the world. That’s the second possibility. Both of those possibilities don’t offer satisfaction. I don’t think they reflect reality, you know, in it’s deepest sense.

There’s a third possibility, the one that we develop in this part of the chapter, and it’s a possibility offered by a twentieth century mystic who says the essence of who I am is revealed at my moments of greatness. It’s a wonderful idea. Usually I view my moments of greatness as being accidents, as being fleeting moments that don’t reflect my true reality. What I’m going to argue here is that me at my best is who I really am. The way I know who I am is by identifying me at my best.

And I tell a fantastic story about a kid having a bar mitzvah. And it’s in a family that’s difficult, a family they don’t believe in the kid and they talk about him in front of him in ways that you would wish parents wouldn’t talk about children. And he was the first kid I ever bar mitzvah-ed. And I spent an enormous amount of time with him and I really wanted him to just do beautifully. To just chant beautifully and to do these services beautifully, and I’d spend with him two or three times a week. Usually a rabbi meets with a kid every other week. And I discovered that although he was, you know, not the kind of athlete that his parents wanted him to be and that he didn’t look the way they would have liked him to look … He was a stunningly beautiful, wonderful kid. A voice of an angel. And so I spent an enormous amount of time preparing with him, and when it came to the morning of his confirmation, of his bar mitzvah, he got up and he was just stunning, he was beautiful. He was just unbelievable. And his father, who was the Vice President of my synagogue, had come in the day before the bar mitzvah to tell me what he wanted me to talk about in my speech.

And of course if you want to retain your job, it’s a good idea to listen. But I just completely forgot what the father said to me, and I got up to him and I said to him, “Louis, I want you to promise me one thing. You know, I know you’re going to go to high school next year and it’s not going to be easy. There’s going to be all sorts of tough moments and all sorts of, you know, really difficult things that you’re going to have to get through. I want you to remember this morning. I want you to remember how you shined. I want you to remember how confident you were. I want you to remember how beautiful you were. I want you to remember and I want you to know that this is who you really are. All the other stuff, that’s not who you are. This, this moment when you feel fully powerful, fully beautiful, fully gorgeous, this is who you are.” That’s me at my best.

And Louis moved away a few months ago. He moved from the town where I was a rabbi, and I got a letter from him. I didn’t hear form him for over a decade. I got a letter from him a year and a half ago. And he writes, you know, “Dear Rabbi, High school was shit. It was really hard, it was really tough. College wasn’t easy at all. But every time I went through a difficult period, I always remembered what you said to me. I remembered that who I really am, right, was how I felt that morning when it was just so beautiful and so wonderful and so stunning at my bar mitzvah.” And he writes to me that he’s just starting a job in three weeks. He’s starting a job as a doctor. He’d finished medical school and he was getting married. And he said what carried him through that decade, a decade and a half, were those words that Chabat morning when I was able to say to him, “Know that who you really are is you at your best.” That’s how I get to core certainty.

Me at my best is not a coincidence. It’s not a fleeting, passing, ephemeral moment. Me at my best is who I really am. And when we finish this section, developing the Biblical consciousness idea of confession … Confession is usually taken to mean I confess that which I’ve done wrong. In Biblical consciousness, that’s not what confession means. Confession means, at least in a number of contexts, I confess what I’ve done right, because what I’ve done right, that’s what obligates me in the world. That’s what calls me, that’s what beckons me. Right? What I’ve done wrong, well, if I’m a person who always falls and I’m a person who always fails, how can anyone expect anything else in me?
What creates expectation, what creates hope, what creates demands, what creates vision and dreams is me at my best. So my confession which drives me forward and demands me to reach constantly to me at my best is actually those moments when I was fantastic, when I was wonderful, when I sang beautifully, when all the words felt perfectly, when the paragraph came out in a stunning way, when I was most honest or most ethical or most loving or most giving. That’s me at my best. That’s who I really am.

Okay. There’s a bunch of other sections to the book, but I think that’s the core of it for our purposes. I end this section again with a fantastic Zen story about, you know, a moment of me at my best and how a couple, how in relationships, we need to go back to our moments of greatness together to recover those moments, to hold those moments in order to make the relationship work, because those moments, those are the real moments. That’s who we really are. And I talk about a meditation, which I try and do, and I offer to people before I walk into my home and see my wife, I stop for a minute at the doorstep and I stop and I try and recover, capture, conjure up a moment of my wife and I at our best. Because I know that’s who we really are. And if I walk in and take in all the pressure and all the anxiety of the day and she’s got her entire day and that’s how we meet, well, then we can’t really meet. I need to stop to think about myself at my best, to think about my wife at her best … to hold that image and from there to meet. That completely changes a marriage.

Okay, next section. From this point on I’m going to be far sketchier, because I realize it’s just taking longer than I thought it would, and I know you guys don’t want a long tape. Uncertainty. Step one, to affirm uncertainty as a value. Step one. Step two, to identify a new genre of myth, what I call the “maybe stories.” The Biblical maybe stories. Fundamentalists talk about the fact that the word “doubt” doesn’t appear in the Bible, and they suggest that the Biblical myth is about complete faith, about total certainty. I respond to that and I say, no, uncertainty has an enormous place in our lives.

Certainty is important, in terms of the certainty that I am true. But other than that, other than the certainty that I am true, that I am valuable, that I have a soul print … to resolve the inner certainty of identity … which allows me to embrace my own worth and joy … In most other areas of life, we need to entertain uncertainty. Uncertainty is a critically important value for three reasons. Number one, only by holding uncertainty can I get to my highest certainty. Right? Very often if I resolve uncertainty too quickly, if I’m unable to hold the uncertainty, then I resolve it for a low level of certainty. Only when I’m able to hold out will I get to a higher certainty.

I mean, the simplest example is a job. All right, I’m looking for a job, and I can’t take the uncertainty about not having a job, so I take the first one that comes along, because I can’t hold the uncertainty. Right? Only if I’m able to hold the uncertainty am I able to get, perhaps, to a much higher level of certainty or to the important job that I need to be doing. That’s important, that’s powerful, that’s why I need to be in the world. Number one. Number two, I need to hold uncertainty in order to avoid the seduction of false certainty. All right, we create dogma, we create systems of belief often because we can’t live without certain explanations as to how the world works.

That’s dangerous. It’s a very, very dangerous thing. One of the things that we talk about in a complete chapter is that often people will explain why other people suffer. People suffer because it’s punishment from God. People suffer because, you know, the karma moved this way or that way. We all need to explain suffering, or we can’t hold the uncertainty of saying, “I don’t know.” And often, we create false certainties. We give false explanations to suffering, because there is no real good way to explain with certainty why a million children died in the Holocaust. Why Kosovo happened. Why Polpaut(?) massacred the way he did in Cambodia. Why Stalin killed, you know, tens and millions of people with terror famines. There is no good explanation. It’s a great question in the world. And anyone who attempts to explain with certainty why God allows for suffering is basically offering a false certainty.

So that’s an example of false certainty. False certainty is something we need to avoid. We need to avoid the seduction of false certainty, we can only do that by holding on to certainty. And three, we need to hold on to uncertainty, because through holding uncertainty we get to authenticity. What that means is we get to our deepest self by being able to act in uncertainty. To be able to act in uncertainty is really what this world is all about. If we adopt a false certainty, or a low level of certainty, then our action isn’t from a place of authenticity.

Only if we act from uncertainty, which is often the true nature of the world, and we need to be able to act from uncertainty, whether that’s, you know, in personal relationships, whether that’s in business decisions … We need to be able to take dramatic action from our deepest place of uncertainty. We’ve done our absolute best to get to clarity. Clarity is not fully available. That can paralyze us. We need to break our paralysis and be able to act from within the uncertainty. Okay, that’s the idea of uncertainty. And we identify a genre of stories, which we call the “maybe stories” in the book of Exodus, and I point out, and it’s a stunning literary point that’s never been made, that the fundamentalists in this case are wrong. Although the word “doubt” never prepares in the Bible, or in Biblical myth, the word “maybe” appears eight or nine different times. And I identify the genre of stories, which I call the Biblical maybe stories. That’s number one.

Number two, the chief player in these stories is none other than Jacob. Jacob, the third patriarch in the Jacob myth … Two of the major stories of Jacob’s life revolve around the word maybe or revolve around the idea of uncertainty. And in great, great depth, we develop this myth and develop the idea that Jacob’s development as a person, Jacob’s maturation, Jacob’s spiritual growth comes from a (Inaudible) development in his life. When he begins, he’s unable to hold his own uncertainty. His voice is overridden by his mother’s voice. And we demonstrate this in the Biblical myth and in text in a number of beautiful ways.

Jacob’s emergence in the world is when Jacob’s able to begin to hold his own uncertainty, he’s able to act from that uncertainty. Okay? That’s the core idea. Again, we develop this in great depth, and it’s really very beautiful and very stunning through the development of the Jacob/Israel myth. The very famous story of Jacob wrestling with the angel. So we study that story from chapter 32 of Genesis, and we study symbolically in a Jungian sense, in an archetype sense and in a Thomas Moore myth sense and we identify what that story is about. We look at the story in which it’s based, which is the story of Jacob stealing the blessing from his brother Aseph. We see how they’re really thematically and textually, they’re really the same story.

In both stories, Jacob is asked his name. In the first story he lies. He gives the wrong name. In the second story, he embraces … gives the right name. He embraces himself. And from that place of embracing himself, he’s able to create an inner certainty of self, that inner certainty is critical because it allows him to hold uncertainty. Now stay with me. This is the key point. If I’ve created an inner certainty of self, if I’m sure that I am true, then I’m able to hold uncertainty about all the other things in the world that I need to hold uncertainty about. I don’t need to create false certainty. I don’t need to create false dogma to cover up my sense of emptiness, my sense of inner uncertainty. Certainty is about resolving the uncertainty of my identity. Once I’ve done that and I’m able to hold uncertainty for all the critical reasons that holding uncertainty is important.

Let me give one example of the inability to hold uncertainty. Idolatry. Idolatry in extremism, extremism being the modern form of idolatry. What idolatry means, and we develop this, again, at great length with myth. What idolatry means is the de-contextualization of a value. I take a value out of context and I free this value from the need to compete with other values. And I make it an idol. I make it idolatrous. This value becomes the only value. For example, abortion. There are people who are pro-life and people who are pro-choice. And what does it mean to be pro-life? It means I’ve taken one value, life, and I’ve made it the only value. All right? And it doesn’t need to compete with other values like choice. The same thing is true in the converse. All right, if I’m pro-choice it means I’ve taken the value of choice and I have, again, almost demagogically(?) made it the only value and freed it from the requirement to compete with other values, for example, life.

Same thing is true in any area of life. I’m pro-gun control. All right? So therefore, no one should ever own a gun. Or I’m anti-gun control because I’m pro-First Amendment, which means that if kids have to take AK47’s into school, then there’s nothing I can do about it because I’m not willing to give up my value of the right of a person to carry a firearm. All right? Any value that I make an absolute value and I free it … from the requirement to compete with another set of values, I de-contextualize it and I transform it into an absolute, that’s idolatry. The modern expression of idolatry is extremism.

Extremists, of course, feel better when they wake up in the morning. Because extremists don’t deal in uncertainty. Extremists can’t hold uncertainty. They can only hold certainty. So therefore, an extremist can never have too much of their value. An extremist can never sanction compromise. Compromise is death for an extremist All right, an extremist will ignore the consequences of their actions. That’s the nature of extremism. Extremism is basically to take one value, usually a good value, and to carry it to the extreme so that it’s completely pure. Right? We want separation of church and state, so we’ll make sure that there’s no Biblical study any place. We’ll make sure that we’ve taken “In God We Trust” off of our coins. Radically separation of church and state. We’ll make sure that there’s no Christmas trees showing anywhere in any city. Certainly not in a public building. All right? So I take a good value, separation of church and state, and I take it to the extreme and it becomes idolatry. It becomes extremist. That’s the nature of extremism. Okay. That’s idea two.

And idea three is related to waiting and we develop the “golden calf myth” in Biblical text. And we develop based on, you know, a welter of sources, the idea that there are waiting stories in the Bible, which are about the inability to wait. And the inability to wait is about the inability to hold uncertainty. All right? Waiting, the ability to wait is about having an inner core which allows you to wait with some sense of equilibrium. With some sense of balance, without losing my whole sense of self. And we’ve developed that in terms of a number of Biblical myths.

We talk about “Waiting for Godot.” “Waiting for Godot” is the great tragedy of waiting when I feel fundamentally empty, alienated. Fundamentally lonely. Waiting becomes the most painful thing in the world. You know, I need actually everything to happen on time. I need the false security of my routines. And I’m unable to hold the uncertainty of waiting. When the routine is shattered … when my structures of comfort are exploded and I’m waiting … that’s an enormously painful experience. It’s painful because I’m unable to hold the uncertainty of waiting. And so we explain the golden calf myth as a waiting story. Right?

You know, the mythical children of Israel are unable to wait until Moses comes down the mountain. They think he’s coming down at 4:00, he doesn’t come down till 8:00. Those four hours of waiting, in those four hours they built a golden calf because they needed a replacement. They couldn’t hold the uncertainty of being without Moses. Moses provided them with a false certainty, and that false certainty doesn’t appear when they’re left waiting. They can’t hold the uncertainty in waiting because they lack a basic inner core. Et cetera, et cetera. We then talked about transforming waiting in to longing. When I’m waiting, I need to be able to take that waiting, take that sense of uncertainty, and then transform it in to longing.

Okay … next idea talks about labeling. Now all of these ideas, incidentally, move through the Jacob story. We always come back to the Jacob myth and talk about different complexities, nuances, you know, mini-series, soap opera exciting kind of events. In Jacob’s life, and we understand them always in terms of Jacob’s … you know, ability or inability to embrace uncertainty, and we chart Jacob’s spiritual growth as he moves from holding false certainties to letting go of those false certainties and being able to embrace and live authentically in uncertainty.

Next we talk about labels, boxes. The boxes that we live in. The labels that we’ve received in life and we don’t let go of our labels, because our labels give us a sense of identity, a sense of certainty. A low level of certainty. Sometimes we need to shatter those certainties to break out of the box, to let go of the labels in order to achieve our full, powerful potential. All right? Our full, in mystical terms, our full messianic potential. Every person is a miniature messiah. Every person is the source of their own redemption. And in order to do that, we need to break out of our old labels, to break out of our old boxes.

And I tell a great story about an abbot who goes to a rabbi for advice, because his monastery is dying and the rabbi says, “Well, I can’t really help you with your monastery, but you should know that one of you five monks who are left, one of you is the Messiah.” And the abbot comes back and everyone thinks, “Wow, that’s unbelievable. The abbot must be the Messiah.” And then they think for a couple of days and they think, “Well, maybe it’s not the abbot. Maybe it’s Brother John who’s so learned.” Then they think another couple of days and they say, “Well, maybe it’s not John. Maybe it’s Thomas, because he’s always telling us jokes to make us laugh … And maybe it’s not Thomas. All right, maybe it’s Luke. Right? Luke, the pious, simple one. And pretty soon, each one of them thinks that the other must be Messiah. And slowly the monastery begins to grow again and people begin to flock to it, because can you imagine what kind of spiritual community is created by five people who think that the other one just may be the Messiah.

That’s about breaking free of labels. And when we label each other and we create a space which is safe for us … we can deal with the other person. But we basically stifle the other person. We don’t allow them to be the best that they can be. We don’t relate to their highest. We relate to the place that we’re comfortable dealing with them. And we need to shatter those labels, and only if we shatter those labels can we indeed reach the Messiah inside each one of us.

At this point, in chapter three and chapter four we go into what I call the “comfortably numb” section. All right? Comfort, comfortably numb from Pink Floyd … Noah, the word Noah in Hebrew means comfort. Noah’s Arc is really Comfort’s Arc. And we read again, you know, as a myth in the Thomas Moore style, we read the Noah story, read the story of Comfort’s Arc. And we see (Inaudible) and Noah basically is unwilling to challenge God. Noah is unwilling to break out of his box, or out of his arc. Arc means box in Hebrew. He’s unable to shatter his false certainties and reach for a higher certainty. I.e., Noah, whose name means comfort, is locked in a comfort zone. He can’t break out of his comfort zone.
And we talk about basically the uncomfortableness of uncertainty. Sometimes I create a false certainty in order to create comfort. I’m unwilling to change my mind. I’m unwilling to change direction, because it’s uncomfortable. All right? It’s difficult. We develop this idea further and we say that although people generally say the opposite of pain is pleasure, all right, that’s actually in fact not true. The opposite of pain is comfort. If I avoid pain my entire life, I will never get to pleasure. I will only get to comfort. True pleasure actually incorporates a dimension of pain. It’s a very important idea.

And we develop, you know, the path of passion in a whole different way. Right? In order to get to true pleasure, to get to true passion, I need to be able to let go of my comfort zone. I need to break out and try and touch something higher. We basically view the purpose of our lives as comfort, the purpose of our lives as longevity. Right? I want to live long. But living long isn’t the goal of living. Living deeply is the goal of living, and God willing, we’ll all live long as well. The question is am I able to let go of my comfort zones to touch what I need to touch? To risk what I need to risk in order to grow. The only way I can grow is to let go of old comfort zones.

And we develop the story of Noah, Noah who wants to go back to the Garden of Eden. And we, in a very original re-reading of Biblical myth, we point out that in Noah’s birth verse, if you read it carefully, there’s a hidden kind of meaning which essentially suggests that Noah wants to go back to the Garden of Eden. To go back to the Garden of Eden, though, is not as most people assume a great, beautiful, righteous thing. To go back to the Garden of Eden is to regress. To go back into a womb, in to a comfort zone, can no longer sustain me. It’s to take Mark Vonnegut, Kurt’s son, take Mark Vonnegut’s “Eden Express,” the name of his book. To take his “Eden Express.” The Eden Express is a name for a regressive motion. It’s called the Eden Express, because indeed, it’s about returning to Eden. Returning to a place of radical comfort. Returning to a place where there was no pain, and of course paradoxically, of course, there was no pleasure. That’s Mark Vonnegut’s “Eden Express,” which really talks about drugs and other forms of addictions, which are really about creating a comfort zone. Creating a false certainty. Not needing to deal in the uncertainty of this world.

We talk about the false certainties we create, the comfort zones we create. Right? Law. Blind obedience. You know, political party. And there are all sorts of things that … we use, even holy, even holy things. You know, often we use religion as a false certainty. We use it to avoid the necessity for … deep encounter with my higher self. To get to my higher self, I need to risk. I need to move into uncertainty. And in order to get to my higher certainty, I need to move into uncertainty. I need to let go of the comfort zone. Okay, we talk about this in great depth.

We expand this notion of giving up old maps. Old maps are the maps that helped me get through childhood. At a certain point, though, I need to give them up, although they provide me with a comfortable sense of certainty, of understanding where I am and what my place in the world is. But in order to genuinely develop, I need to give up old maps. Because old maps navigated me yesterday, they won’t guide me tomorrow.

Great story about monkeys who learn how to take food and hold it in their clenched fist. And when food is placed in a cage and the monkeys go to get the food, the bars are then made such that the monkey cannot take his hand out of the cage. And unless someone intervened, the monkey would probably starve, because the monkey doesn’t know how to give up yesterday’s old map of getting food. Yesterday it worked. Today it doesn’t. Can I give up the old map or will I starve? That’s true in every level. It’s true in relationships as well. I may have learned not to trust people in authority and come to the conclusion that people in authority are essentially not trustworthy, and I needed to do that in my youth because my parents weren’t trustworthy, and it was too painful to believe that just my parents didn’t love me or they didn’t pick me up from school, and if they weren’t trustworthy it was more appropriate, easier for me to believe that no adults were trustworthy. But once I had that opinion, and once I believed no adults were trustworthy, I could destroy my relationship with my employer, with my wife, with my friends. After all, no adults are trustworthy. It’s only if I’d give up that old belief that was important, crucial for me in childhood, and adopt a new set of beliefs, deeper set of beliefs, that I can move past this false comfort zone.

Next we talked about levels of certainty and uncertainty, and we basically suggest that level one, the lowest level, is complete uncertainty and it’s got nothing to do with whether the person is religious or secular. The person can be either religious or secular but hold no deep certainties, right, about themselves or about the world. They can be holding, you know, external certainties, dogmatic certainties, but no real deep certainty, either religious or secular. That’s level one of a person. Level two is I move from low-level uncertainty to low-level certainty. I resolve my uncertainty by adopting a dogma. I can adopt a secular dogma, communism. I can adopt a religious dogma. But I adopt a dogma and I look, I strive for certainty.

Level three is when my low level certainty is transformed from low-level certainty that it is true … to high-level certainty that I am true. I redefine the arena of certainty from the external to the internal. Okay? To my innerness. That’s level three. And level four, I go back and I embrace uncertainty. Again, but this time I embrace uncertainty at the highest level and I embrace uncertainty understanding that that is the highest level of authenticity. And as I’ve adopted many, many core certainties, beyond them I can’t move, at that point I embrace uncertainty.

Similar to the story of the master and the young boy, the young boy asks, “Who, what, when, how, where?” The master, the old, wise master asks the same thing. “Who, what, when, how, where?” And the outside, in terms of exteriority, it looks like they’re saying precisely the same thing. And indeed, however, such is not the case. When the young boy asks who, what, how, when, where, this is low-level uncertainty. He knows nothing. He hasn’t achieved any certainty of any kind. The old sage is a whole different story. When the old sage asks these questions as a boy, he gave answers to them, and those answers, in turn, bred new questions. Which in turn bred answers, which in turn bred new questions. So although the old man says, “How, what, when, where?” All right, that how, what, when, where embraces so many levels of certainty of answer that the nature of the question is fundamentally different than the question with the same words that the little boy asks.

We talk about addiction as creating a false comfort zone. We talk about the relationship between … drunkenness as one form of addiction when we talk about the Noah myth, the first drunkenness story in the Biblical myth and what does that mean? Why does a person get drunk? What moves into drunkenness? How does that create a false comfort zone that allows me to blunt the edges of my essential uncertainty of identity? We talk about depression. We talk about the relationship between passion and comfort. We talk about the shattering of routine. Routine is a form of comfort zone. In each one of these cases, we’ve got Zen stories, personal images and textual myth that we’ve together … to form the fabric of the text.

We talk about returning to the Jacob story, what moves Jacob to break out? How does Jacob break out of his false certainty, of his low level certainty? And we develop this notion of Jacob going back and recovering, you know, the dreams of his youth. Jacob going back and seeing again pictures of himself when he was 17, 18 and then trying to deeply access what his dreams were then. And then compare that face of the 18 year old with the face of Jacob the 50 year old and see is there any relationship between the two? Am I the person that I dreamed I would be? How do I go back and re-access and recapture those dreams?

In all of these cases, it’s critical for me to be able to enter uncertainty. When I’m 50 years old, and I’m 45 years old and I’m sort of established and I have a clear identity and a mortgage paid up and a car and I’m very set and defined, I feel this enormous sense of clarity, this enormous sense of certainty … I need to be able to give that up, to enter uncertainty, right, to recapture the dreams in a real way, in a powerful way.

ext we introduce the image of rock climbing. And rock climbing is an image which is important in mystical development and spiritual growth, because the image of course is in order to sometimes climb one place to the next, I need to for a fraction of a millisecond, I need to give up a hold on everything. And in that moment … it’s only through doing that that sometimes I can climb the sheerest face of rock. If I’m not willing to do that, I’m not willing to shatter the old, comfortable certainty and enter uncertainty, then I can never grow in any real way.

At this point, we have two chapters which talk, again, using the Job myth in great detail about the false certainty of theology. How we use theology to explain suffering. And we develop, again, in great depth and nuance and complexity and gorgeousness, we develop the idea that actually the highest level of service, the highest level of growth is the question, not the answer. To be able to question, the commandment to question, that is actually the highest expression of profound connection with the divine.

We talk about the need to protest, to cry out. And how protest is not about necessarily always changing the reality. We protest not because we think we can necessarily change reality. We protest because we’re unable to be silent. And the critical need to protest, to challenge. Not to accept easy certainties. We talk about Noah, who when God said, “I’m going to destroy the world,” Noah said, “Okay, I’ll build an arc if that’s what you want me to do.” When God said to Abraham, “I’m going to destroy the world. I’m going to destroy at least your immediate world, Sodom and Gomorrah,” Abraham said, “How could you do that? Maybe you’re wrong.” And in a set of verses in which the word maybe occurs five times, what we call the “maybe song,” Abraham challenges God and enters into radical uncertainty in doing so.

We’re not allowed to hold easy certainties of theology which deaden our sensitivity to pain. We develop a Moses myth and a King David myth, and we develop any number of myths that we weave together to unpack this idea in a very, very powerful way. The highest level of spirituality is the level of the question. Questioning is embracing. When I hurl a question per se, the question itself is the answer, because it only makes sense to hurl the question if I believe that there exists in the world, as part of the core reality of the world, not just the physical, not just the natural, not just the finite, but the infinite … the metaphysical and the supernatural. We talk about pluralism, and there’s a deep discussion about pluralism, about multiple options, about multi-culturalism as being rooted in the ability to hold uncertainty. I don’t need to claim absolute, exclusive truth from my position, right, in order to have a fulfilling, deep and balanced experience of living in this world.

To wrap it up, and again, I have done this in a much more skimming kind of way than I did the certainty section or the soul print section or the Eros section, only because … I realize that I’m out of time and I’m doing it a little bit too long. But to wrap it up, the ability to hold uncertainty is the ability to live in a healthy way in he world. The ability to challenge. To challenge false certainties, to challenge false idols … is the highest level of spiritual growth. To the ability to … entertain multiple options and not need to create a comfort zone in which I adopt one of them to the exclusion of all others is the ability to live in a healthy way in the world.

In the uncertainty book, we talk about each one of the six Maybe Myths in the Biblical text. Maybe Myths, the Maybe Stories is a genre that we created that we’ve identified. In each story, whether it’s the Jacob/Israel story, whether it’s the binding of Isaac story, whether it’s the story of Hagar and Ishmael … whether it’s the story of the brothers of Joseph … Each story, you know, per se is a beautiful myth. Has its own inner complexity, its own inner drama. And through looking at each one of the myths, we unpack the philosophy of uncertainty, right, as the road to higher certainty, as a way to avoid the seduction of false certainty and as the path to authenticity, as a core understanding of the world.

Finally, we add only the ability to hold inner certainty frees me from the need to create false certainty about dogma, about ideas. When I don’t have inner certainty of self, then I create false certainty of ideas to fill that emptiness. When I know that I am true, then it’s okay if I’m not sure whether it is true, and it’s okay if I live in a world of multiple truths, when I talk in the realm of ideas, paths and dogmas. When I have no clue that I am true, and often I’ll need to fill that emptiness with the claim that it is true. (Cut)

Okay, at this point we’re going to move to crying, to tears. Again I’m going to be extremely brief. But in a word … there’s a Biblical phrase which is “rise of heart,” (Hebrew word) and rise of heart is the Biblical myth’s way of saying something similar to what we call today emotional intelligence. Now emotional intelligence comes from, you know, brain research, comes from gardener’s research at Harvard and a number of other people around the country, and we’ve identified two parts of the brain. There’s the neocortex, which is the higher brain, it’s the thinking brain, and there is the amygdala. The amygdala is below the neocortex, and the amygdala is the seed of emotions. The amygdala is also the source of tears. The ability to access my tears is really the ability to be emotionally intelligent. The ability to distinguish between, to distinguish between different kinds of tears is the ability to have emotional depth, to have emotional intelligence.

And so we’ve developed, based on eight different Biblical myths, a “Dance of Tears,” and we identity through deep readings of stories very different kinds of tears, and we suggest through each tear story a different path towards fulfillment, towards depth, towards maturity in our spiritual journeys, in our psychological personal journeys of living. I’m not going to go through each story now. Each story has its own beauty, its own depth. Let me just go through the kinds of tears. Right? And of course a lot of the drama and a lot of the compelling nature of the tears book of the Dance of Tears is in fact to develop the drama, the internal drama of each story. That’s what I’m not going to do now.

But essentially we have as follows. We have tears of resignation. We have tears of manipulation. Those are tears which are ultimately negative, and we need to distinguish between tears of resignation and manipulation and other forms of tears. We have tears which move beyond words. Tears which express a cry, right, a prayer … a meditation that words can’t hold. That’s what we’ll call, for the time being, “tears of prayer.” We have tears of break through, break through tears, paradigm shift tears. All right? Break through tears are the tears that we shed when we let go of an old identity and open ourselves up to meet our deepest selves. That’s break through crying. Okay?

We have tears of radical surprise and identity. Tears of radical surprise when we recover a part of ourselves. All right, when we tough a part of ourselves, when we recover memory we have break through crying. When we identity something deeper in ourselves that we thought was lost. We have tears of joy. We have, you know, which come from peak experiences and we can’t hold through the normal vehicles of communication the depth of the experience. We have tears of vulnerability and love. We cry when we open up and we feel vulnerable, both in beautiful ways and in sad ways. But we express our tears or we express our vulnerability through tears, like love and vulnerability are often very, very related. We have tears of angels, and tears of angels, right, there’s an image in mystical texts for the absence of tears.

We have crying of a baby and crying of an old person. Crying in the face of … in the beginning of life, in the crying of a baby, and crying in the face of death, facing the end of life. And in explaining that and trying to understand it, because all crying is our spiritual teacher. We talk about crying of protest, which comes from a baby, a baby that refuses to accept the status quo, we talk about crying of longing. Same thing is true at the end of life. There’s a crying of protest … against death. There’s also a crying of longing. A moment before the person died, we could have told them anything, they were so close. And yet, often we fail to say things that we need to, that we want to, of people when they’re right next to us. It’s only after the person dies, when there’s an irreversible abyss, a chasm that separates us from them, that we begin to appreciate who they were and there’s so much we want to say, and yet they’re so far. And one of the great paradoxes of living is that we always appreciate what we don’t have … It’s so difficult and so necessary to appreciate what we do have. And so that’s crying of protest and crying of longing, at the beginning of life and at the end of life.

So we have tears that are shed by angels when we’re unable to cry, when we’re unable to access the trauma, and we talk about what does that mean to not cry? Are we able to escape our tears? Are we able to … or do the tears always somehow need to be accessed, even if it’s much later in the actually experience? We have tears of radical empathy. We have tears of redemption.

Finally, we have tears of transformation. Tears which are an agent of transformation and growth. We have tears of integration. Tears which allow us to integrate and experience our identity. We have tears of union. An experience of union. Can be an experience of a great beauty. Right? The scene in “Pretty Woman” when she cries at the opera. That’s tears of union. And in each one of these tears stories, all right, we develop the story and unpack the kind of tears, we identity the kind of tears that we’re talking about.

Now in the Jewish version of this book … the sort of core paradigm shift, eureka! understanding … is that Rosh ha-Shanah, which is the Jewish New Year, which everyone generally understands as a day of judgment, I re-understand that day as a day of emotional intelligence, a day of tears. And I point out something that’s really been entirely missed by a couple of thousand years of writers that all the major stories in the liturgy, in the mystical meditations and prayers of Roshashana all revolve around, the stories that were chosen … all revolve around tears. And I make the suggestion that essentially Roshashana, this ritual, is essentially a dramatic play. Right? It’s the dance of tears. The basic action is tears, and by telling the story and understanding deeply the story of the different actors and actresses and understanding the nature of their tears, we don’t only experience catharsis, you know, a sense of cleansing, which we always experience from theater, but we actually identity, merge with the actors and actresses, when we experience these tears in our own lives. There are a number of very powerful stories, and in general, it’s a very, very powerful oral presentation. Okay, that’s tears. Next, laughter. Let me make three brief points about laughter, and again, laughter, I’ve written about 70 pages on it, which again tries to develop … what are the underpinnings of laughter? What’s laughter about? What does laughter do? And really in laughter, we can identify, you know, four different dimensions. A, there is laughter, which is the deepest expression of living. All right? A deep, full-throated sensual, powerful laughter in which I feel fully alive. That’s one kind of laughter. B, there’s a laughter which intends eternity. All right? There’s laughter on the middle of Beirut and I’m getting bombed, and we all break out in laugh. All right, that laughter basically allows me to touch a place which is beyond where I am. All right? That’s a laughter which intends eternity, a laughter which allows me to partake of a different reality. All right, that’s what I’m going to call “laughter of nullification.” And it nullifies the reality that’s immediately around me and allows me to touch a deeper reality. Okay?

Laughter of nullification can work in different ways. It can be a positive laughter, and that’s a laughter that gives me courage, allows me to shatter tyranny. That’s why satire is so important. The senators ask each other when Rome is about to fall, “Are they laughing at us? If they’re laughing at us, there’s nothing we can do.” Laughter is a powerful, nullifying force. Political satire understands its power and uses it to topple regimes. That’s laughter of nullification, right? Laughter of nullification can be sacred laughter, or it can be fallen laughter. It’s sacred laughter if I use it to nullify fear, if I use it to nullify or to topple … evil. All right, it can be fallen laughter when I use laughter to destroy a person. Right?

The comedian who completely rips the person apart in a very deep and hurtful way, the kind of cruel jokes that we use. Racial humor. In other words, that’s laughter of nullification, that’s what we’ll call fallen laughter. So within laughter of nullification, we have what we call sacred laughter and we have fallen laughter. Okay, that’s number two. Number three, there is laughter which expands, laughter of expanded consciousness. That’s laughter that allows us to embrace paradox, to embrace opposites. You know, I remember a story in China, when I was in the middle of a difficult negotiation for a particular business deal, and we were there for three days and we couldn’t break the deadlock. And at some point someone told a joke and everyone laughed. And in that laughter, something relaxed in the room. Something softened, and we were able within three hours to close the deal.

There’s a wonderful mystical Talmudic tale about two men in the market place in Rome who were the Men of Eternity, and why were they called the Men of Eternity? Because they were the men who would live on eternally. They were the men of the world to come, as it were. And in trying to inquire who these men were and was special about them … one of the wisdom masters approaches them and says to them, “What is your trade in the world?” And they say, “We make peace and we cause people to laugh.” So most people interpret that as they’ve got two jobs, a day job and a night job. They do conflict resolution and they do stand up at night just to make people laugh, and that’s certainly a possible interpretation.

In my interpretation of the text, it means we make peace through laughter, and laughter is our form of conflict resolution. We use laughter, right, to basically soften the edges and to bring people together. So laughter allows us to embrace paradox, it allows us to embrace opposites. Laughter also, step four, allows us to embrace the paradox of ourselves. The ability to laugh at ourselves allows us to embrace our contradictions. To live … right, holding the complexity and opposites that we all are. So laughter, in essence, is a powerful inner master which teaches us how to live in the world and guides us in the world. Right? We know a person by what they laugh at. We know a person by who they laugh with. We know a person by how they laugh, and every person has a unique laugh. No person’s laugh is like anyone else’s. That’s a moment on laughter.

Next, silence. Two kinds of silence. There’s silence of presence and silence of absence. All right? The last seven minutes on a date you’ve talked about everything in the entire world. There’s seven minutes left, right? And basically you’ve got to take her home or she’s got to take you home and you’ve got nothing to talk about those seven minutes an the silence is thick and oppressive and you just want to get out of that car or push her out of it as fast as you can. All right? That’s silence of absence. That’s silence when neither side has been able to be fully present, and so the silence is sort of overwhelming and oppressive.
Second model is silence of presence. That’s silence when words won’t do. That’s silence when the moment is so full that it can’t be held by words. When the date was so fantastic and your words float into each other and your glances caught each other and the sexual energy was powerful and the shared vision was so clearly apparent, and you get to the last ten minutes of the night and you know, you’ve got to take her home or she’s got to take you home and nobody wants to talk. You just let the silence hold you. All right, that’s silence of presence. Okay, so silence is an inner master. To identity our silences. To know the difference between silence of absence and silence of presence. When I need to protest and I don’t, that’s silent of absence. When I get deeply quiet to listen to my inner voices, that’s silent of presence.

Next, anger. Again, there’s sacred anger, anger of protest, anger of change. Right? Holy rage. And there’s fallen anger. Right? There’s anger which is the motivating energy, which moves me to change the world, to challenge the status quo. Right, to protest. And then there’s tragic anger. There’s anger which … is about me being wrapped up in my own sense of narcissism and therefore, I’m offended when anything violates my ego. Those are two kinds of anger. And that’s part one. Part two is the relationship. We talk about the five dimensions, right, of the relationship between anger and intimacy. If I’m still angry with someone, I’m still involved with them, and anger is a form of intimacy. It’s one of the reasons we get angry at the people we’re closest to, and we develop that relationship between anger and intimacy in five different ways, five different characteristics, right, of anger and intimacy. Maybe six or seven. And that’s a whole really beautiful piece.

In summation, tears, anger, laughter, silence … are inner masters. They teach us about ourselves, they are our guides in living. The teachers are not the teachers of the church or the synagogue, nor are they the teachers of dogmatic psychology. The teachers are really inside of us, all right, the inner guides. The mystics say, “Through my flesh I vision God,” meaning through the deepest accessing of my own experience, I’m guided in the world. I need to access those inner guides, listen to them deeply and let them guide me in the world. It’s through those inner guides that I live deeply and I live wisely. Inner certainty … the ability to hold uncertainty. All right? The seven paths to certainty. The path of soul print and the path of yearning and the path of longing, the path of memory, the path of friendship, the path of falling in love and ecstasy. All those paths are the paths to inner certainty. The path of holograph, the path of my story … are all vital in attaining inner certainty. We’ve unpacked soul prints in depth. We’ve unpacked nine paths of Eros.
From all of this together, we’re going to have hopefully a fabulous, incredible, unbelievable book. I’m not sure how to cut the book. It could be certainty and uncertainty, which is fundamentally written, but need to be typed in, redone, but basically it’s there. We could add in soul prints, we could add in pieces on tears, we could take out … Right now there’s about 450 pages on certainty and uncertainty … I think a great book … We could cut it down to 150 pages, 200 pages.

Anyways, Bob, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. I love you, you’re the best, I look forward to hearing your feedback. I’m excited. I’m just ready to fly with this, you know, to teach, to be in every radio station … (END OF TAPE)

-Marc Gafni


Meet Dr. Marc Gafni, Visionary Philosopher,
Author, and Social Innovator

as featured in