The Titanic Analogy: That Sinking Feeling

Some time ago, when the movie Titanic first came out, Hillary and I went to see it. I couldn’t sleep that night; I was drowning in all sorts of feelings. And on some level, it’s still working on me. It has helped me to clarify an analogy that I find useful at times when describing this work. Please let me know how this hits you.

that-sinking-feeling-Ted-StraussIt’s as if we are all like separate boats, cruising on the surface of the ocean of Being (consciousness AND phenomena). Each boat is quite unique, and most of their owners have themselves well convinced that their boat is unsinkable—or at the very least, quite reasonably safe. Or they try not to think too much about it, which is reassuring. Or, they frequently think to themselves, “I am safe, and dry” —a commonly used mantra that induces temporary feelings of relief from those nearly incessant fears. However, each and every boat is outfitted by Nature with holes in the hull. The owners of these boats have noticed the leakage, but aren’t too concerned, because they have pumps doing the faithful job of returning the ocean to its rightful place outside the boundaries of their private boat.

Months, years, lifetimes go by, and all seems fine. But the holes in the hull get a little bit bigger every day. And the pumps need to be run faster. This takes a bit more energy, but that’s OK. After all, it’s part of the basic strategy for maintaining a boat that floats and is appropriately separate from the ocean. It’s what everybody does; it’s standard nautical practice (and those who sell boat pumps make lots of money). As time goes on, bigger, more modern, and more powerful pumps are employed. After each new pump upgrade, the owner sits back satisfied; he or she is relieved that the ever-present danger has once again been effectively kept at bay (so to speak).

Eventually, the hull gets very heavy with pumps and the vessel becomes quite bogged down. The owner of the boat notices with despair that, despite being outfitted with the latest in pump technology, it has become harder and harder to steer. In fact, it’s now harder to make good time in any direction. The energy required to run what is now a huge battery of pumps becomes far more than the energy needed to run the ship’s basic operations. Such a titanic amount of energy can no longer be generated; sooner or later, the inevitable crisis occurs. One day, quite suddenly, the whole operation shuts down. The owner frantically tries all known strategies to get the pumps going again, but the efforts prove futile. The ship’s captain sits in stunned silence, reeling with the long-denied implications. The rot has set in. This ship is going down.

If you’re lucky enough to be in our Sinking Down process, your sea-nymph friends are quick to assure you that you can live under water, even though you feel you’ll die there. As the boat sinks just below the water line, your frantic efforts to remain separate from the ocean reach a fevered pitch, and your friends are there to hold you close while you go through what feels to you like a death crisis. And all the while, your friends are saying “it’s alright; let the water in. Just accept it. We’ve done this, and we are more alive than ever.” And in one final moment of release, you let go of your former life and drown in the Second Birth.

In the next moment, you notice that you are still alive—in fact, more awake than ever. But something is drastically different. Your boat is completely interpenetrated by the waters of Being. There is no longer that long-familiar separation that used to characterize life as you knew it. And everything that once could only be dimly discerned while you cruised safely above is now directly in your midst. All is accessible in this new medium of Being. This is unexpectedly wonderful!

It doesn’t take long, however, before you begin to notice that the boat is still sinking, and that things occasionally get quite dark. Ugly sea monsters (the mere outlines of which you used to see from the surface) now loom before you in reality and make hideous faces that scare you half to death. Maybe this isn’t so fun after all! Many such incidents occur over the months, as you are getting your new “sea legs”. Your friends assure you that this is all part of the process. It will get better. There is a whole new world awaiting far, far below… in the unthinkable depths of Being.

The End. (Actually, The Beginning.)

© 1998 Ted Strauss
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