As they say, “There’s a lot to unpack here.” But my stuff will never get unpacked. How can it? I have way too much baggage. You too? I thought so. I’m not worried though and neither should you, because eventually it all gets put in its place. Fraught, little David may experience pangs of free floating anxiety at his mountains of baggage to be dealt with, but serene, knowing David is completely equanimous about his barrage of baggage. More baggage, I might add, than can be found on Carousel 8 at LAX International Terminal after an Airbus 380 unloads its baggage hold for its 525 passengers. That’s a lot of baggage and a lot to unpack. So let’s start.
You may wonder how you produced so much baggage to begin with. I mean you were just going for one lifetime on planet earth. It was advertised as a 28,000 day, 27,999 night, no expense paid trip to the 3rd rock from the sun, but somehow you managed to pack enough for 3 lifetimes. And now you’re stuck with all this baggage. And because of the profligate manner in which you spent your onboard ship credits (Free Will), you managed to produce a whole other lifetime of karmic baggage. You forgot rule number one: when you’re in a hole, stop digging. Well at least you were smart enough to avoid the Time Share sales pitch. You were smart enough to avoid that right? Don’t tell me you’re going to do a 2-hour Time Share sales pitch – well, more baggage for you. I just think you could’ve invested your time more wisely.
This idea of “stop digging” is akin to the doctor’s creed of “First do no harm.” And as this pertains to the traveler’s journey here on earth the creed should be, “First, just bring what you need – which is nothing. Well nothing but an open heart and a closed mouth. And stop producing more baggage. Jesus Christ! Can’t your stuck mind be a little more flexible?” We wish it was that easy. But who among us isn’t guilty of trying to shape our world to suit us and consequently produce more baggage than Samsonite does in a year.
Oh, d-d-dear. What’s to be done about all this unbidden baggage? It feels like there are 1200 separate Pandora’s Boxes in my head. Who would want to open them, let alone unpack them? Let’s examine quickly the schemes and plans I’ve hatched to rid myself of unwanted baggage: Maybe Goodwill will take it. Maybe if I ignore it, it will just go away. Maybe if I get rich enough I can distract myself for an entire lifetime so I don’t really notice my challenges while I focus on fun stuff like writing clever little essays or choosing just the right tone for my spray tan or binge-watching Real Housewives of Cell Block H – Yuk! In all cases, never underestimate the power of distraction.
Examples of the Fusty, Unhelpful and Stymieing Baggage We All Carry Around
- Wondering if there’s going to be yet another Patti LaBelle tribute on BET
- Can’t stop thinking about that Facebook guy who only “friends” people named Shane Carter, Brenda Tucci or Karl Backscheider
- Knowing your nostril holes aren’t symmetric and worrying others might notice it
- Never made amends for stealing and eating Phillip Piccotti’s lunch one morning in the 5th I was hungry and there it sat unprotected under his desk. And he thought I was his friend. I could hear the siren call of his mother’s bologna and Velveeta sandwich on Wonder bread beckoning me. I had motivation and opportunity and I stole and ate it during a film about photosynthesis when the lights were out. Forgive me Phil.
- Still suffering the sting of Hogan’s Heroes being cancelled in 1971 without explanation. I mean one day it’s there and then POOF! – gone in the flash of a peremptory executive fiat. The cancellation was doubly painful because they were just starting to showcase Corporal Louis LeBeau’s POW French cookery. Such a waste of comedic potential and just more baggage for me.
- Worrying there might not be a Welcome Back Kotter reboot
- Cringing at people who dress up like Mariah Carey then go out and hope someone says to them, “Hey Mimi, what are you doing here?”
- Wondering if anyone really misses Jesse Helms – not even Mrs. Jesse Helms misses Jesse Helms?
- Worrying this list might be a little “stars of yesteryear” top heavy – more baggage. Does it ever end?
And, as I Continue to Take this Baggage Metaphor Way Too Far
I think it’s obvious, you don’t ever really unpack your baggage; you can only transcend it. I mean it never goes away. It’s always there. You think you’ve rid yourself of some baggage forever and then some driver from Lost & Found shows up at your house saying, “We found this in unclaimed baggage and thought it might be yours. Deal with it – again.” Just when you thought it was a non-factor, it’s back.
Our challenges can seem overwhelming at times. We feel stuck and when apprehending all our earth-binding baggage weighing us down, mutter in despair, “Well I’ve given up trying to travel with all this baggage and I’m never going to be able to unpack this tower of Pandora’s Boxes – and even if I could, there’s no place to put it all. I’m really hoping Goodwill can do me a solid and take my entire donation even though it’s of a highly personal nature – like a mattress or a handkerchief.”
Transcendence of one’s baggage isn’t as mysterious as it sounds. As we evolve (if we evolve), we find ourselves not standing so close to our baggage and not identifying with it so inseparably. We come to realize we are not our circumstances. They are predicaments or situations, not our essence. Ta-da, we’ve found wiggle room, which perhaps we can expand into some breathing room and eventually one of those rooms Christ referred to when he said, “There are many rooms in my Father’s house.” I mean JC is a Superhost when it comes to the heavenly Airbnb game – he charges nothing for the room and only suggests self-reflection as a donation, to your own cause. And the beauty part is, JC doesn’t make you suffer through any Time Share presentations. It’s a sneaky good deal that few take advantage of.
The good news to be found in all this talk about insufferable baggage can be found in the lyrics of John Lennon in “The Ballad of John and Yoko”: ♫Last night the wife said, oh boy when you’re dead, you don’t take nothing with you but your soul…sing.♫ See, you can’t take it with you, so there’s a quantum of solace in knowing that your baggage doesn’t have to trail you throughout the cosmos.
Meditation: The Only Way Out?
Well I’ve had my fun kvetching and kvinvestigating EBS (Excess Baggage Syndrome). Now I’d like to propose some not so flippant modes of amelioration (there, that sounds serious enough). It is said by people much smarter than me (and there may be a few – billion) that there’s a thin line between fishing, and just standing on the shore like an idiot. Similarly I believe there’s an even thinner line between meditating and just sitting in a chair like a pompous idiot.
Meditation has been around ever since man first thought, “There’s got to be another way out of this thing beside waiting to die.” And I’m not one of those people who’ll commit suicide to circumvent the process and see all revealed, before it’s my time. No I’ll never commit suicide, but only because I have commitment issues. Therefore by process of elimination (I suppose there’s a joke there), that leaves meditation as perhaps one of the few effective methods of transcending one’s baggage.
And so, many of us went fishing – internally – hoping to land a whopping and nutritious truth and not just some little epiphanies we’d have to throwback. We wanted to catch a magnificent truth blessed with authority and staying power. Not something that will evanesce like so many half-baked, silly essays on the topic (Ouch that one hits a little close to home and to think I’m the one aiming this dagger at my own work).
An so it came to pass (sounds almost Biblical) that we sat in our little chair, casting away our thoughts into a sea of tranquility, while thinking all the time, “Am I really fishing for something worthy or am I just standing on the shore like an idiot?”
Meditation has many different names: contemplation, mindfulness, navel gazing and trying to cop a feel off of God. Thankfully, words are not experiences. That is, no one has ever been able to capture the essence of something as ineffable as cosmic consciousness (whatever that is) using words. Words point to it maybe, but certainly they don’t capture anything close to the felt presence of immediate experience (Terrence McKenna’s words, not mine).
Although the point of meditation is to still the mind and let what is be, the sad truth is we’re all looking for a little action. Y’know – some supernatural vibratory frisson. A little out-of-body kissy-face with the Great Beyond, even though were supposed to sit there quietly, almost piously and without expectation. These 2 opposing notions (action vs. quietude) seem at odds with each other and that’s why so many people are just sitting in their meditation chair like an idiot waiting for something to happen. So we end up just paying homage to meditation in a hollow exercise of box checking. Clearly this is the wrong model of meditation, but often is the default mode of the Westerner’s meditative experience.
However, it must be said that meditative experiences can also be so powerful they’re indescribable. No amount of my colorful verbal confetti can touch it.
To be truthful, I’ve had some very tedious experiences during meditation while I was reverently looking around at the vacuous darkness inside my head. I practiced this discipline as long as I could stand the insipidness of it and then called it quits. Inexplicably, and as a result of this rote exercise, later in the day I somehow feel a fullness, a satisfaction, a palpable sense of well-being. Meditation “works” whether you judge it or not
Can You Really Change Your Stripes?
Yes. People change their identity all the time. My friend Matt D’Onofrio started out as a boxer then became a greeter at a casino where he was forever known as a Welcome Matt. My other friend (I have 2) Chuck Bronco re-“branded” himself as Charley Horse. My life coach Robert Smith used to take a lot of criticism so he changed his identity – While still absorbing plenty of flak she came out as a transgendered woman known as Roberta Flack.
Such Plans, Not so Much Dashed as Down Regulated
With great candor, humor and insouciant savvy, I set the table for my concluding remarks. But now I have neither the stamina nor the inclination to see it through. We were close. We were on the precipice of great and noble things because I had planned on applying assiduously great effort in describing the delicate contours of consciousness – to limn an understandable paradigm of consciousness by amalgamating, synthesizing and reintroducing so many of the numinous tropes I process on the Internet with prodigious avidity. Things like the Default Mode Network (DMN) of the human operating system – that which gives us our sense of “I” and place. Michael Pollan describes this with bracing clarity.
I also wanted to advertise the efficacy of Psychedelics turbocharging one’s experience through God-given plant-based botanicals like DMT (the psychoactive ingredient in ayahuasca), psilocybin (found in peyote mushrooms) and LSD (Lucy in the Sky w/Diamonds). Gobsmacking inexplicable psychedelics that “down regulate” the DMN thereby activating the latent connectivity operating behind the veil. This natural suppression of the DMN (aka ego) gives rise to a natural ecstasy we’re all not only entitled to, but fully bathed in if only our DMN wasn’t so tenacious in hogging all our attention here on Earth (that’s where meditation comes in; or psychedelics for some). And the DMN is no boogeyman. It’s great when driving a car, sensing danger or getting a massage. But it’s just a processing machine. Maybe even an overprocessing machine we don’t recognize as separate from us. And therein lies the massage…I mean the rub.
I had such plans to detail all this hidden, yet self-evident cosmic architecture in a measured and understandable flow chart, but instead opted for a rapid disgorgement of these in a firehose of fast-tracked truths presented in shorthand.
My point is, when the Default Mode Network is down regulated by any of these substances, the greater lights come forth and that’s what we are so damn wistful about: When we see a cat preening, When we feel compassion or when we act selflessly. That’s our home. Is it more complicated than this? – Sure if you let it. But if you Let it Be. Let it Be. Let it be yeah Let it Be. There will be an answer, Let it Be.