Nov 9, 2009

Confessions of a Closet Mystic

As I've been traveling around the country, talking about the book and meeting readers, the number one question I hear is, "How much does Maya remember from your trip?"

Not "What does she remember from your trip?" or "Who does she remember from your trip?" but "How much?"

I find this a curious question, since I can't imagine what difference the quantity of a child's memories, nine years later, could really makes to a reader. So there must be a question behind this question, some impulse that makes people shape their inquiry this way even though there's another piece of information they really want to know.

I spent about the first six weeks of the tour trying to figure this out, and the other night at Women and Children First bookstore in Chicago, when an audience member asked the same question, an insight came to me in a rush.

I think people are asking this because what they really want to know is how much of the wonder and magic of early childhood gets carried into the pre-teen years and, by extension, how much of it might still survive in our adult consciousness today.

I'll try to explain.

A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with a friend and I was telling him how, despite all that happened to us in Belize, I'm still a skeptic at heart who applies a cynical eye to much that comes across my path.

He said, "Actually, I think you've got it backwards. I think this whole skeptic thing you've got going is just an act so people don't accuse you of being too woo-woo. I don't think you're a closet skeptic. I think you're actually a closet mystic but you're afraid to admit it to anyone, even yourself."

I immediately started crying when he said this, which means he's probably right.

Since the beginning of this tour, I've been trying to position myself as Everywomen, so that I can look out at an audience and say, "See! I'm actually very normal! I'm just like you!" in the hope that this will help them identify with my family and my story. When in fact, the more accurate statement might be, "I'm a normal person, yet I nonetheless have these beliefs. You're a lot like me!" Because I know that if you peek beneath the surface of most people, you'll find one or more stories of experiences they've had they defy easy explanation, or cross over into the mystical and cannot rely on common language for description. Whether it's a story of an incredibly coincidence that made you stop and say out loud, "What were the chances of that?" or a dream in which you received information you couldn't possibly have known when awake--it's something that can't be explained but that we nonetheless know can happen, because we experienced it ourselves.

So the reason I think so many people ask me "How much does Maya remember from your trip?" is not even because they want to believe that the open door of childhood can persist into the teenage years and beyond, but because they already know it can and are looking for validation through hearing our story.

Here's what I think: that we're a whole society of closet mystics who've been conditioned to believe only in the sanctity of scientific proof, yet who nonetheless carry within us the deep knowledge that a whole lot is going on that the scientific method cannot explain to our own satisfaction.

What would it take to get more of us to come out?


Carrie Wilson Link said...

"When in fact, the more accurate statement might be, 'I'm a normal person, yet I nonetheless have these beliefs. You're a lot like me!'"

I agree!

Deb Shucka said...

I think what you're doing with your honesty is going to help many find their inner mystic. It was an honor to be with you at Carrie's house as you discussed this.

Unknown said...

This blog inspires me -- an also somewhat closeted mystic--to no end. I love it. I love to think that you are taking a stand and making it easier for others to admit that there's so much more to life than meets the eye (or other scientific instruments) Thank you!

Lois Lane said...

Amazing interview today on Rosie Radio. I'm looking forward to reading The Possiblity of Everything. :)


Hope Edelman said...

Thanks, Lois. Loved doing that show. Glad you heard it!

Anonymous said...

Have you sold over 20,000 books yet of TPOE? I ask only because I'm trying to understand Amazon rankings. Thanks, Pete.

Eileen Flanagan said...

As someone who teaches and writes about listening inwardly for Divine guidance, I often have people "confess" to me experiences that they fear are abnormal, when in fact many people have them. I think it is a gift to people to have us writer/speakers share our experiences and give them permission to do the same. That would help many to honor their dreams and intuitions and I suspect would also help people to know when they are having experiences that are actually unhealthy or a sign that they need help.

Anonymous said...

I picked up TPOE without knowing a thing about it. I have to say it affected me deeply. There are so many things in this world that we do not understand but that nevertheless raise the hairs on the back of our necks. After I finished the book I found myself reciting the Lord's Prayer - something I have not done in many years. What is it about 'the God thing' that stays with us even though we avow to others and others that we do not believe in anything that we do not understand. I don't know but count me among those you think you are a closet mystic Hope and downplay it so that you will fit in. Many thanks for sharing your family's experience. If I lived near LA or had the $ I would take one of your writing workshops.