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October, 1999: 1 2 23 30


(1999-2002: Pre-Retirement Years)

10/1/99-Fri.-Four more fiscal years of state service remain till my proposed date of retirement. Each year seems to take more out of me. I should have started much earlier and invested half of everything I made. By now I'd be comfortably at leisure. This wisdom comes too late. I must make the best of things.

Today as I was leaving the building where I put in all these wonderful hours of indenture, I spied a pair of monk parakeets. Of course, they had made the sighting easy, being so very noisily social with one another from their togetherness perch that I was led to look for them even while still almost half a block away.

The joints are continuing to be greatly a nuisance, painful and of limited motion. I am baffled by what could be the reason that, within a few days, I am having significant problems with not just one but four or five sites, and that they seem resistant to any remedy. It is worrying. I suppose I should soon go to medic about it. However, the response from my physicians and health maintenance organization for problems taken to them in the past makes me unenthusiastic about my prospects of real doctoring on this matter as well. So, the best recourse seems to be to my own care and the body's eventual ability to heal itself, if given half a chance.

10/2/99-Sat.-Returning to the above topic, it is tentatively observed that today I am marginally better than yesterday with respect to connective tissue difficulties. There are still acute pains, but perhaps a bit less so and a little less often. Reason for hope.

Meanwhile, it dawned on me last night what may be happening, why I seem to have so many joint problems recently, as if all of a sudden. I think now it is not arthritis at all, or at least not for the most part. Instead, I believe it is muscle strains and/or sprains and that these, in turn, are made more likely over time as a result of multiple little tears and other injuries in the past, that did not heal exactly right, or, in other words, of scar tissue. Once the earlier injuries are healed over by scar tissue, the prior wound area is more susceptible to future injuries, because the scars make it less elastic or adjustable.

I recall now that many years ago I had been told by a physical therapist I'd been dating that I already had a lot of such scar tissue built up in my right shoulder area, which, she predicted, would eventually cause the very problems I am now having more generally. She just was concerned about that one joint area. But it appears that in the interim the tendency now has also affected my other shoulder plus my neck and right hip areas, among others, likely my lower back and right knee as well, since they have caused me a lot of problems before, though not since I had recovered from the last Colorado vacation.

The next important question is: should I keep up a lot of activity in the sore joints, hoping to maintain the best possible residual ranges of motion (R.O.M.), even if this is quite painful and may aggravate the already newly injured muscle and ligament fibers and bundles, vs. taking it easy on them to give them a better chance of healing, before putting them through their paces?

I believe now that the latter course is better, but that, meanwhile, one should not reduce one's overall activity level. Thus, if I continue doing regular things, exclusive of conditioning exercises, things like bathing and drying off, fixing hair, brushing teeth, putting on clothes, driving the car, doing a bit of yard work, going for long walks, and so forth, I should just have faith that, eventually, this alone will provide enough challenge to the vulnerable areas to help restore full function, but will also allow them to heal. I shall not, then, also try to lift heavy weights, repeatedly swing the hurt shoulder up to beyond its comfort level, etc., just for the sake of trying to "preserve" pre-injury R.O.M.

With all that lovely wisdom behind me, I was glad of Frances' offer this morning to show me one of her and Pepper's favorite walking areas, where we could get a workout without particularly pushing the hurting areas beyond their current limits. Indeed, we had a good, brisk hike before the day started getting too hot. I did not see them, in the sun's glare on my glasses, but Frances saw two deer that quickly bounded away. She also thinks she saw an owl. We finished and were back home by a little after 9:00 AM. I was definitely feeling better afterward!

Realizing that, as I get older, I'll be gradually more vulnerable to joint problems, I think: 1. it would be good to increase my activity level after I retire (and certainly also keep it relatively high until then); and, 2. after we have more time, in our leisure years (if ever!), it would be marvelous if we increase the frequency of the massages Frances and I give each other.

10/23/99-Sat.-This morning, Frances, Pepper, and I were up by 6:45 and off on a drive and then walk around a nearby shopping center/open field/woodsy area, where we had twenty-two deer sightings!

The temperature is at last significantly cooler than in the worst days of summer. Also in the past week we have received over an inch of badly needed rain, so that the danger is again ended for our yard plants and animals of death from thirst.

10/30/99-Sat.-The following is copied from an e-mail letter sent this evening to my brother, Ernie, after he had asked for more information about comments I'd made on "inner landscapes" and experiences in the 1960s:

"Briefly, according to one hypothesis, there is an inner landscape every bit as profound and meaningful, and possibly as real, though that is certainly arguable, as the external landscape of consensual reality, the ordinary, common sense world that you, I, and practically everyone else generally accepts as self-evident, the one that kills you if you fly an airplane into a Colorado mountain (as Ernie and Pete nearly did a little while ago).

The major difference between the inner and outer landscape is that the outer one is usually agreed upon by most everybody, with certain verifiable characteristics perceived and understood by more than one person at a time, what we call, simply "reality." But the inner one is less generally acknowledged. We usually assume it is only subjective, and indeed, this may be the case. But, subjective or not, it is, with a few notable exceptions, usually not recognized as real by more than one person at a time. It is called "inner" because the means to "going there" are usually very personal, rather than being involved much with the external realm, as through meditation, deep states of prayer, a profound shock, perhaps a near-death experience, sweat lodge retreats, and so forth.

The means that I primarily used in the few times I entered the inner landscape in the late 1960s were not ones I would recommend now and, in retrospect, I might not have used then if I had it to do over, because they were too intense to be assimilated easily into the personality or into a mature philosophy of life.

I became involved in 1965-1967, in Berkeley, with a group, led by a psychiatrist and his graduate assistant student therapist, calling itself Insight, Exploration, and Maturity Group (which we just called "IMG" for short). Its purpose was to use peer interaction, confrontation, and other processes to help members grow up, the theory being that most all of us, even if physically adult, are in varying levels of immaturity and that this keeps us from experiencing life to the fullest or, as the U.S. Army slogan puts it, being all we can be.

Perhaps the most interesting of the methods used included facing one's true, inner self, aided by chemistry. When IMG began, LSD was a quite legal means of exploring one aspect of the inner landscape. Some of the group members joined in order to develop a deep level of trust together, to be able to safely assist one another in exploring inner "regions" with this drug.

As it turned out, a political backlash developed and swept the land, so there was a wave of reaction to use of the chemical in any way. It was made illegal even to possess it, except for a few approved research projects. As a result, I have never used it myself. Many in our group had done so before the ban went into effect. Afterward, we switched to alternate, still legal methods. I did several times use one of these. These sessions were always supervised by a well-trained professional and done in a group setting, with facilitators on hand. It was certainly as well prepared for as most professionally conducted parachute jumps, bungee-cord leaps, and so on.

Participants went into these inner experiences with the same kind of bravado but seriousness as enthusiasts for such outer sports, because, in a sense, there was a certain danger of losing one's mind and, in that way at least, one's life. Even if one did not thus "die" from the experience itself, some might also be tempted later to take their own lives if they had trouble dealing with the material dredged up by the encounter.

We used Ritalin, injected a few moments ahead of gas. Then, we breathed through an anesthetist's mask a mixture of oxygen and carbon dioxide. We were, I understand, never in danger of actually dying physically, because we had the oxygen at all times and the whole process only took a few minutes to initiate using the gas/Ritalin mixture, after which extremely intense visions would last for many minutes or even a few hours. Different people had various reactions.

The method had heretofore been used as a part of legitimate medicine for severely depressed individuals, a danger to themselves because they kept trying to commit suicide. The material generated by this treatment could sometimes "blast" away the obsessively depressive thought processes that had them trapped in a spiral from which they saw release only in death. Instead, now they saw much, much more. They could not help it. The nature of the experience is so overpowering that one's reaction to it is awe, wonder, or, occasionally, horror, though, in the latter case, it usually just means the experience was cut short, did not go far enough.

For me personally, it was so profound that for a long time afterward I was certain I had seen the future and experienced the next world war, including the usual horrors of such a cataclysm and the deaths of millions, the sufferings of billions. I thought as well I had been to Hell. I came to better terms, eventually, with our father than I had done before (not to say that I had finished with that particular aspect of my own immaturity!). I also went to Heaven. It was so peaceful and beautiful that I had no desire to come back "here." Indeed, it was as if "angels," who had been guiding me in out-of-body experiences of "alternate realities" now forced me, against my wishes, back into my physical form and into "the-life-and-death-of-Phillip-Wagner," which, they said, I must finish. No short-cuts allowed.

As I say, it was in a form that seemed too intense, too much to readily assimilate. I could have stayed out there in CA, continued my involvement with that group, who were a fine bunch of folks. In some ways I wish I had, just as you once mentioned your regret at not staying in that state. But I felt it best to return to Austin and college at UT.

I went through a rough time then, not fully committed either to Austin or Berkeley, and, after a couple years here and a love affair that ended, I went out there again.

Much had changed in CA. Things had gotten more serious in many ways. The "hippie" areas of "beautiful people" had become high crime neighborhoods, with killings, people living on the edge, and plenty of hard drugs. The fiasco of our country's involvement in Vietnam had, particularly in that state, caused angry schisms that split our society. The folks with whom I had been so involved had for the most part gone their separate ways, just as I had for awhile. But a tight core of them remained.

Some of these were now "into" another intense group experience, more challenging than the one before, calling itself "The Fourth Way," modeled on teachings of the mystic G. I. Gurdjieff, as taught by P. D. Ouspensky. This was a very tough approach to life. I think you probably have the kind of drive and stamina to have taken to it, if you had once accepted the basic philosophy. But it was a hard path to understand. It was at once a very intellectual approach to alternate, or higher, states of consciousness and an unsympathetic, even brutal system. Its style reminded me of basic training in the Army. They tried to destroy one's defenses, and the ordinary ways of seeing and doing things, with shocks and group pressure. As with the earlier group, though, the object was worthy, to achieve a greater level of maturity, by facing the truth about things. In this case, however, the means were more extreme and the truth sought was felt to be absolute, i.e. about everything, leading, hopefully, to a greater self-realization and fulfillment, not unlike that taught by Jesus Christ, if one can imagine such an ideal goal using such cynical methods.

The means could be merciless, and things were not always either well supervised or safe from pathological influences. One woman had her jaw broken when she did not quickly enough accept something and the leader decided to use a "shock-treatment" approach to convey the lesson.

I tried "The Fourth Way" myself for about half a year. I gained some insights from it. But overall, it just never seemed to fit for me.

Then at one meeting I was singled out for ridicule and a mild beating and warned that I would be killed if, before I fully understood the teachings, I revealed what went on there to others. I decided Austin's more laid-back, conventional ways were preferable to what I'd known in CA and soon moved back there once again.

Ever after, though, I have been intrigued by the wonderfully vivid, rich 'inner landscape' experiences I had once had. I have sought, eventually through meditation, to recapture these in a way that allows for good integration with one's lifestyle, rather than in the dramatic, often traumatic methods used in Berkeley, means that were certainly interesting, even exciting, but that had not seemed particularly relevant to the rest of existence."

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