The Web of Life: An Interview with Calvin
My son, Calvin, and I have been having some intentional conversations this month of June resulting in several Instagram and Facebook posts – his thoughts with my images. These chats weren’t anything new. Rather, they’re our familiar rhythm that has been flowing for 20 or so years – basically since he was old enough to start asking questions and telling us his thoughts which, as it turned out, revealed an interesting soul, a deep thinker, a sentient being who wasn’t afraid of the expanse of his thoughts and dreams (most of the time.)
So to shake it up a bit, I thought a more official interview would be a new way to connect, getting some answers about the way he thinks and how it relates to his everyday life, both now and in the past.
Ellen: We’ve been focusing on the theme “Web of Life” for the past couple of weeks (#WebofLife.) Since those were my words to define this concept of connectedness, can you tell me what that term or concept means to you?
Calvin: For me, the Web of Life means something very simple, and yet profound: all things connected. It isn’t mysterious or complex. In fact, the proof of this phenomenon is rather obvious, and yet we so easily ignore it. A reality in which an action has no consequence is impossible to imagine, and even if you could imagine that reality, I believe you’d find it largely uninteresting. What is action without its reaction? In my understanding it is equivalent to no action at all; nothing. The web then, for me, is another perspective on the dichotomy, or a different lens in which to view the unwavering oneness.
Ellen: I use the spider web as my visual for the metaphor of Web of Life. What image(s) do YOU see?
Calvin: The imagery of the web can (unsurprisingly) be drawn from everything, and so I see it visually in many, many ways. In literal networks, such as the brain, in which an individual neuron can incite, grow, and change, but always in the context of the whole. Extending this metaphor, every brain (human or otherwise!) in turn forms a single neuron in the collective awareness (sometimes fearfully known as the hive mind). We live and die as individuals much like neurons of course, but we also retain tradition, we learn as a species, we make deeper and deeper connections, much like a living brain. We operate in the context of a whole, a web of life.
The Internet could even be described as the “tightening” of these connections*. The same way that the mind of a child grows more and more dense as she plays and discovers, we as a collective consciousness are learning simultaneously. The universe is adept at this pattern in which the parts mimic the whole. It is the essence of the persistent and even frustrating goal of “finding oneself”. The frustration comes from the misconception that I am somehow separate, outside of it all. That if I could just understand me, I could understand everything. The great discovery comes as the intimate knowing that me and everything are in fact the same. This is the true source of any one individual’s creative potential. The expression of this realization outwardly, through any medium, will see it paid back in kind.
Only visualizing the web though is an incomplete picture. It can be felt, heard, etc. Possibly the topic of another interview 🙂
*The Internet is very easy to dismiss as being somehow artificial, or a separate entity from the human experience. It is, after all, made of silicon, copper, and software; hardly organic, right? It serves, however, as a very good example of technology’s uncanny ability to trick us into once again separating ourselves from the whole. If we are willing to look past the physical differences, we can begin to see it as an extension of our own awareness. It houses our collective memories, our communications, our thoughts. Its similarities to the brain and the web are anything but an accident!
Ellen: You are a deep thinker of most things. Dad and I have always known that. When did you realize you operated like you do – that you pondered life in this way? And was it a struggle or a fun thing to discover/uncover? Awkward or easy? Isolating or opening?
Calvin: There were so many stages of awareness that it’s tough to pinpoint. I think the earliest memory of this is when I natter-of-factly proposed one of my ideas about brain waves or some other strange topic that floated around in my brain 24/7 to my best friend and he immediately shot it down as ridiculous and impossible. Luckily, instead of me agreeing with him, I thought, ‘Huh, maybe everybody doesn’t have these same thoughts.’ I was probably about 11 or 12 years old. I do remember thinking though that maybe I was weird and was possibly going to have to fake who I was in order to be able to get along with people and communicate effectively.
A big awareness was in discussions about religion with some friends probably in early high school. I was very aware that although I was open – both listening and expressing – I was unable to feel understood. Later in high school, I had the awareness that we were both pointing at the color ‘red’ and screaming “RED!” Meaning we were both saying the same things but from different perspectives and even though I still felt somewhat misunderstood, I felt more peaceful because I knew this was no longer an argument, but rather a discussion and sharing…at least from my viewpoint.
I recently had the realization that there are a million ways to cut a pie. Or another way to put it, everyone’s on the side of the same pool looking in toward center. There’s no need to convince or shout. Now I feel like I can just smile at all of it – the friction, the different realities – there’s just no need to convince or compare. Even in science and mathematics – both things I really love and study extensively – there’s such a limited use of them when all that is sought is to ‘prove’. Both practices are useful, but only in their use of observation. They’re not reality. They’re not the ultimate measure. So I’m letting go of that in me – that need to prove. That’s been giving me a great deal of freedom.
Ellen: What opened you to this way of operating/thinking/approaching life and its mysteries/issues? Was it something that just ‘was’ and thus didn’t need to come into being? Or were there role models that sparked it?
Calvin: I do think that people are all wired in different ways, so yes, I think there was some existing patterning in how my brain works, but I would say that you and Dad saw that in me and encouraged it rather than squashed it and that gave me permission to continue down that road, particularly when I was in that early phase of thinking that I would have to fake who I was so I could relate to people in order to have friends. You guys encouraged and demanded introspection – to use the mirror of projection, look inside, understand what we see in others as aspects of ourselves, and change or understand our own selves in response. I ended up learning about myself through interaction with others using that mirror and I liked that practice. It served and opened me rather than the limiting I possibly could have put on myself.
Early on you also gave us the guided meditation tapes that helped me understand and appreciate the concepts of energy which again encouraged me to keep going down that road of understanding and allowing my thought processes to be OK and even interesting and cool. My favorite was the green light of unconditional love tape. That honestly saved me so many times.
Ellen: Your deep thinking crosses all aspects of your life – computers, relationships, free running, music, video gaming, esoteric concepts. How do you see all of these aspects/interests fitting together for you? How do you flow from one aspect to another in the course of your day? Do you do so easily or with effort?
Calvin: I recently realized that different activities really aren’t so different, e.g. music and computer programming. The real genius happens when two seemingly separate things get combined into one. That’s when people think the person or the creation is brilliant. I see it as being unified. It’s oneness – every interaction with the environment is the same; it’s all the same source. Our brains try to separate it all into categories which is good for survival, but not really good for creativity. I can see this when I read others’ computer coding. I can tell when someone is unified in their creative actions. It’s reflected in beautiful, creative code versus basic, black and white code. It’s really interesting.
I’d say the place where I still struggle with this concept of oneness and creativity is with relationships. I still try to sort out where I can let down my mask and be real and just allow. I kind of turned down the relationship volume in high school while I was still trying to understand myself; I think sort of as a survival mechanism. I’m still ramping back up and don’t yet have that same flow – that flow of social things – like I have in other aspects of my life. I still self check and often my brain won’t agree on what to utter in order to connect with people without overwhelming them. It’s pretty interesting.
Ellen: Have you noticed differences in how you flow with your thoughts/life/pondering now than at earlier times in your life? How do you see this evolving or how do you hope to have it evolve in the future?
Calvin: The second-grade me was the most creative person I’ve ever known. I feel like training and schooling and just life sort of took the play out of me. I was really worried that I had lost it for good. But I’m finding it again now. Operating from that awareness of oneness, I feel like I’m reaching critical mass as a creative individual with ALL of my creative thoughts flowing together at a rapid speed and I’m able to think like a child again. I feel playful. And unconstrained by myself. I’m understanding what real innovation and creativity are and it’s super exciting. So that’s kind of where I’m headed – continuing to explore and draw on that same energy and follow the flow – easily. We make it hard, but it doesn’t have to be. And I want to keep expressing as honestly as possible.
Ellen: Any other tidbits that come to mind? Any of your own questions to answer?
Calvin: Hmmm…I guess one thing is that I’m finally understanding what it means to be a visionary. I’ve been told that I am one – only in certain scenarios of course. I mean, I can’t plan a week of dinners to save my life, but I can see five years down the road clearly in so many other ways. Anyway, at the moment, I define it as being able to turn an idea into what it should be and then helping direct others to carry it out and move it in that direction. I’m sure that will evolve over time, but that’s where I am now.
Ellen: Thanks for letting me slip inside your brain for awhile, Honey.
Calvin: You’re welcome, Mama.