Deciding What to Believe
Years passed. Harold remained my shrink until he died of multiple myeloma in 2016, the result of the proximity of where he lived to Ground Zero. I read Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious. I experienced profound moments of connectedness to “It ALL,” when hiking with my wife in the majesty of the Swiss Alps. And I came under the influence of the writings, and even a face-to-face therapy session, with the existential psychotherapist Irvin D. Yalom.
Yalom’s fascinating novel, “The Spinoza Problem,” examines the life and work of the 17th-century Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Jewish descent, Baruch Spinoza. Spinoza was excommunicated from Judaism because his ideology was considered heretical. He believed, according to Yalom’s novel, that “this worldly existence is all there is, that the laws of nature govern everything and that God is entirely equivalent to Nature.” Some have described the belief as “a deification of nature.”
That works for me. My conviction that Mona’s message was indeed a signal from the other side has subsided. In its place is Dr. Yalom’s assurance that our lives are but a parenthesis of existence as ugly or beautiful as we ourselves make it, sandwiched between eternities of nothingness on both sides.
That’s a philosophy I’ve grown to love, and to fit Mona’s message into as a powerful reminder, perhaps from my own individual unconscious, that we are all part and parcel of the natural world, with its ebbs and flows, beginnings and endings, living periods and eternal nonliving periods.
As my professor mentor said, when life is over, we’ll all be making food for worms. “Look deep into nature,” Albert Einstein said, and then you will understand everything better.”
When we die, I think, our “energy is woven into the fabric of the universe,” as Agnes McKeen, the mother of a son who died by suicide, was quoted in a column by David Brooks in The New York Times. We become, as Mona said in my dream, or whatever it was, “sort of… a part of… It ALL.”
Whether those were Mona’s words, or my own speaking to me from my unconscious, I believe they’re true. And for now, they’re words I live by.