Sunday Sermon [Playing the Whole Tape]

Hola mi Gente,

I hope you’re enjoying our Sunday doing what you like best.

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02-21-16_ Sunday Sermon [Playing the Whole Tape]

Playing the Whole Tape

If dogs could talk, perhaps we should find it as hard to get on with them as we do with people.

— Karel Capek (1890-1938) Czech journalist


A telephone call recently reminded of a commercial of some time ago. In it, a young man enters an elevator to find himself next to a beautiful woman. As he appreciates her form, he fantasizes about a life with her. Unbeknownst to him the woman is similarly fantasizing about him.

At first the fantasies are all pink cloud type bullshit. You know the myth: happily ever after, love, love, love. They are both very beautiful… blah blah blah. But then the fantasies fast-forward: children, arguing, and disappointments move in rapid succession. Then finally, the once beautiful woman is old and wrinkly, hardly recognizable. The young virile man is pot-bellied, bald, and ugly. By the time the elevator reaches the lobby both actors run away from one another as quickly as possible!

I used to love that commercial because I felt it offered a very important life lesson: that everything is not as it seems and that everything in life changes. The once beautiful woman will grow old and her body will fall prey to the brutal ravages of gravity. The once virile young man will become old, incontinent, and equally unattractive. More importantly, however, the commercial spoke to a truth of how our loneliness — this essential feeling as feeling apart from — drives unrealistic fantasies.

Similarly, when we see a seemingly happy couple walking hand in hand down the street, or through a park, all we see is what we assume is their happiness. We do this especially if we’re single and feeling inadequate about not being attached to another human life form. And let’s be clear: the fact remains that it’s very easy to feel a certain degree of inadequacy if you’re part of a culture that sees singlehood as an aberration.

But back to my initial tack. I run that commercial in my head all the time. More precisely, I use a similar strategy when I look at relationships with people, life situations, or roads not taken, in my daily life. If I see a woman who I find attractive, I run my fantasy on fast forward. I see a couple, and I run my projection of that situation in fast forward. I forget where I learned this, but it was taught to me as the practice of “playing the whole tape.”

It saves me from a lot of unnecessary drama. For example, the call I mentioned earlier was from a former lover who is now married. We had an off/ on long-distance relationship (she lives in the New England area) for a number of years. Frankly speaking, she was certifiable (so am I). She is beautiful, loving (in her own way), intelligent, but she was fuckin nuts. Sometimes, when I’m tempted to revisit that insanity, as I did when she called me recently, I “play the whole tape.” I don’t just play the tape to the part of where we are entwined in passionate love-making, but instead keep playing the tape past the orgasm to the insanity: the mood swings, the irrational jealous rages, and the fear of intimacy that makes her shut off huge expanses of her emotional landscape.

It’s the same when I see a situation that I might desire. I might see a couple enjoying a walk through Central Park, for example, and immediately it seems that the impulse is to idealize the woman or couple. But that woman, while a raging beauty, may be some other person’s bane of existence. Similarly, that couple may be on the verge of a divorce or separation. My tendency is to make the fundamental attribution error of seeing only the bucolic or idealized image of a beautiful woman or a “happy” couple. I am also aware that the opposite may be true, respectively speaking. But if I play the whole tape, the illusion that they are in an idealized world and I am not, dissolves.

What becomes obvious is that every idealized moment — whether actual or hoped for — is both full with life and empty, often forgotten without a trace.

And here’s my point (and it’s not an earth-shattering one, so it may be lost): When you’re able to experience these two feelings — fullness and emptiness — simultaneously, your life is free and becomes an expression of love. What that means is that you arrive at a state where there is no need for the indulgence of memory or fantasy, good or bad.

What this means is that if you choose momentary great experiences over the surrender to love’s expression, you’ll never “play the whole tape” and be lost in a world of confusion. You can choose: a routine and dreadful life, sprinkled with a few great moments, or the ever explosive offering of your heart’s deepest love.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…


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