A bit off topic...Love, Pain and Transcendence.

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  • By Susan "The Wife" Bartley
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A bit off topic...Love, Pain and Transcendence.

Obviously, these blogs are supposed to be training related but my training kind of sucks right now so instead I am looking at bigger picture ideas. I hope that you don’t mind.


On Monday, which was Labor Day, Marc and I went to eat at our favorite burger joint.  After talking through everything that had gone on at the gym that morning, Marc started telling me about the book he was currently listening to.  The book is Beyond Biocentrism by Bob Berman and Robert Lanza.   Here is the description of the book as found on Amazon.com:

In Beyond Biocentrism, acclaimed biologist Robert Lanza, one of TIME magazine's "100 Most Influential People in 2014", and leading astronomer Bob Berman take the listener on an intellectual thrill ride as they reexamine everything we thought we knew about life, death, the universe, and the nature of reality itself.


The first step is acknowledging that our existing model of reality is looking increasingly creaky in the face of recent scientific discoveries. Science tells us with some precision that the universe is 26.8 percent dark matter, 68.3 percent dark energy, and only 4.9 percent ordinary matter but must confess that it doesn't really know what dark matter is and knows even less about dark energy. Science is increasingly pointing toward an infinite universe but has no ability to explain what that really means. Concepts such as time, space, and even causality are increasingly being demonstrated as meaningless.


All of science is based on information passing through our consciousness, but science hasn't the foggiest idea what consciousness is, and it can't explain the linkage between subatomic states and observation by conscious observers. Science describes life as a random occurrence in a dead universe but has no real understanding of how life began or why the universe appears to be exquisitely designed for the emergence of life.


The biocentrism theory isn't a rejection of science. Quite the opposite. Biocentrism challenges us to fully accept the implications of the latest scientific findings in fields ranging from plant biology and cosmology to quantum entanglement and consciousness.


By listening to what the science is telling us, it becomes increasingly clear that life and consciousness are fundamental to any true understanding of the universe. This forces a fundamental rethinking of everything we thought we knew about life, death, and our place in the universe.




Yes, these are the things we talk about over the dinner table.  Armed with the knowledge he is learning in this book Marc posited to me the age-old question “If life is cyclical and all about being one with the universe then why do we have to spend our lives in suffering?”

Again, WOW! 


A bit of back story.  I was raised as an Episcopalian which means I was raised following the Christian faith. I have studied world religions most of my life however and consider myself more of what I call a “Pan-religionist”.  (I think I made that word up, if didn’t and it means something other than what I use it for then I am sorry.)  To me, being a “Pan-religionist” means that I understand that I am a Christian simply because I was raised in a part of the world where Christianity was the dominant religion. I could have just as easily been born into a Jewish family or born in an area where Hinduism was the dominant religion and been raised in those faiths.  So, when Marc and I have discussion like this I usually approach them from my faith background.  He was not raised in any faith tradition and so his language is more cosmic in nature, the idea that we are all one under the cosmos and that is what links us together.


I don’t actually care what your language is, what his language is, or what my language is.  When Marc says “Cosmos” and I say “God” we mean the same thing. 


So back to our discussion and Marc’s big question.  Why do we spend our lives in suffering?  That question gets a lot of back and forth debate in religious circles so I threw out what others have said: “we suffer to find out who we are”, “we suffer now so we can have our reward later”, “we suffer in life because we can’t just have happiness there has to be balance.  Where there is utmost joy there must also be utmost pain”.  I EVEN quoted The Princess Bride “Life is pain your highness, anyone who says differently is selling something”.  But none of these pat answers worked for Marc.  He kept saying “If life is a circle from birth to death and back again and that is beauty and truth, then why do we slog up the middle of the beauty circle just to create pain”


I was interested in the fact that he was not able to come to grips with that question.  That no easy answer could pull him from the question, so I asked one of my own. “During those times of sorrow where you are working up the middle of your circle of beauty, have you EVER experienced true bliss?”  I wasn’t talking about happiness, and he knew that, I was talking about an experience of joy that was so profound that you felt immediately connected to all of life, connected to the greater experience that we all share.  And his answer was yes, that one time he had an experience that felt to him like the movie “Interstellar” (a great movie by the way) where he felt pulled into a transcendent state of well being but that just as quickly he was pulled back to reality.  It came to him but was gone in an instant.  To him that moment felt like something he couldn’t grasp and hold on to.


Then he turned my question around on me.  Had I ever experienced a moment like that and my answer was yes and yes a million times. For me, I have these types of moments often and I tried to describe one and it sounded so silly.  I have had a moment like that at the end of several episodes of the new season of “Will and Grace” (strange but true), I had them years ago at my summer camp when everyone was gathered hand in hand around a bonfire underneath a myriad of stars, and I have had them in chance meetings with people at a gas station where I say a simple “hello” and connect to stranger in a way so powerful that I can’t really be put into words.  And, in telling Marc of these things I realized that at times when I experience overwhelming feelings of LOVE, for whatever reason, or overwhelming feelings of PURPOSE, for whatever reason, those times are transcendent for me.


Who knows why we have such different experiences.  Maybe, being a girl and wearing my heart on my sleeve makes it easier for me.  Maybe dudes have a harder time.  I know Marc is setting out on a journey to find more of these transcendent moments.  I know he is working to feel the overwhelming feelings of Love, Joy and Peace that I can find in a chance meeting at a gas station.  I know true happiness will be found when both of us can string together these moments seamlessly.  But, I also know that with happiness comes pain and that I will have my share of that too. So, will he. For now, we focus on JOY.


Have you ever experienced this kind of thing?  If so, when, where, how and why.  What does this type of experience mean for you?  I would love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Susan Bartley Susan Bartley

    Hey Ted - Thank you for the comments. We would love to talk more. Marc is reading an digesting a lot of books on the topic currently. Do you have any to suggest? And then I come at it from a more theological perspective. Not many people like to think about this kind of stuff so we are always glad to enter into dialogue with others. I will shoot you an email :)

  2. Ted ONeill Ted ONeill

    Great post Susan. Re Marc's question...suffering is a choice based on your reaction to people , places and things. If you look at the things that are typically labeled as suffering they are the same as they were thousands of years ago. So, we as a species are slow learners. There are reasons for this embedded in our biology that we can choose to change once we know the rules. Most of us drag our bodies thru time and space everyday and are very aware of the things that "happen" to us. That is the Newtonian rule of "Cause and effect." In Quantum Mechanics, you as the Observer learn to "Cause an effect." It is a very different place to approach life from. Shoot me an email anytime you guys want to discuss more. Love your company and this was a great and unexpected blog post! - Ted from Diablo Barbell

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