Limbic Resonance and Authenticity
The Year of the Fire Monkey, 2016, could not be more on point: Four friends have died, all unexpectedly and some tragically. I can almost hear a lone trumpet playing that old military death knell, “Taps” resonating in the back of my mind: a stirring and often overwhelming call to action for me who remains, conscious and above ground.
It is really hard to make any sense of incomprehensible loss; still, I perseverate. Luckily, my path/process is guided by some gifted mentors to whom I am answerable, and for whom I am really grateful. Collectively, they have probably invested hundreds of hours of concentrated effort with me, each of them knowing that the secret of life is to fall seven times, and get up eight.
At midlife, I have no answers for why people are taken from us, how or when they are. But through the process of enduring calamities, I have come to a more intimate, grace filled understanding of my fellow human beings. My experiences of stepping up to help a loved one through the loss of his mother, and choosing to be a surrogate uncle when that same loved one himself passed on, have afforded me a chance to take an honest look at my values.
Do I live my life in a way that is consistent with what I preach? How can I let go of my need to control and enjoy more generous? Am I able to give more of myself while also honoring my own limitations? How can I do more of the things that help me stay connected to God and to my fellow human beings?
Interestingly, these questions are central to two remarkable new TV series: Sense8 (Netflix) and The Path (Hulu). Usually you wouldn’t catch me spending hours in front of the tube. But these shows got me on a deep level, and I am starting to understand why.
Sense8, directed by the Wachowskis of The Matrix, is a whirlwind of a story centering on eight people from around world who suddenly become connected through a series of unexplainable (and undeniable) coincidences. Each character becomes aware of their fantastic ability to experience empathic knowledge of the others. Sensates are mentally and emotionally connected—they feel each other’s thoughts, emotions—even memories. According to the Wachowskis, their idea was born after a conversation about limbic resonance, evolution and empathy, and a theory that the most evolved of our species are those who are highly empathic.
By contrast, The Path is a dark (and often sexy) look inside a fictitious religious movement called Meyerism, a movement whose followers hope to “bring light where there is suffering.” Members are called to “climb the ladder”of belief toward enlightenment. Each rung of the ladder represents an advanced level of knowledge. With all its veiled resemblances to Scientology, there are also many scenes in The Path which resemble, somewhat eerily, my own experiences in the Mormon church, and PromiseKeepers, the evangelical Christian men’s movement.
It’s beautiful and heartening to see intimate experiences of loss and identity reflected in the brave characters in these shows. While the shows are completely different, both share at least one message: Human beings do not exist in a vacuum. We need one another.
I’ve stopped questioning the existence of these empathic synchronicities; I’m a believer. Now I’m trying to accept and learn from them in my day-to-day experience. I am learning to practice attunement: When I sense I should call a friend, I do. So often that friend remarks “Oh what perfect timing, I really needed a mental lift right now.” Many of my closest friends have remarked with awe and wonder about their own experiences of synchronicity, and how this limbic resonance has accelerated our bonds of love and friendship.
Accepting the fact that I need you requires making myself accountable, and uncomfortable. It means having humility. It means asking for help. It means having the courage to be transparent, showing up in this moment. And this moment. And this moment. And it means living so authentically that it makes me a little queasy.
It means letting go of the belief that I am Superman, while seeking to develop super powers. (If the ability to feel so deeply for another human being helps heal that human being is not a super power, I don’t know what is).
Each of the characters in Sense8 is flawed, and none are super heroes in the sense of lightning bolts coming from their hands, or having the ability to fly. But each possesses a unique “super power”. Discovering that gift in myself, and putting it to use — for good — is now my quest. Learning how to flow toward the people, ideas and activities which awaken my passion is probably my most important priority. And that seems perfectly congruous with the mission of a super hero.
I have no answer for the grim, uninviting sting of the reaper. But the loss of my precious friends has resurrected my sense of worth, and purpose.