An amusement park near my childhood home offered many crazy rides that both thrilled and terrified me. But none more so than Hell’s Hole.
Actually, the ride was called The Rotor, but everyone called it Hell’s Hole. And the moniker was more than apropos.
The “contraption” consisted of a large, upright barrel that held about 10 people at a time. The barrel was rotated up to a high rate of speed. This spinning resulted in significant centrifugal force – the same amount of g-forces shuttle astronauts experienced during launch to orbit (3 g).
At this point the floor of the barrel was lowered, leaving riders stuck to the wall – whereupon those so brave would perform various maneuvers like hanging upside down. The ride was also fitted with an observation deck so non-riders could watch all the action.
While I was standing on the observation deck as a young teen monitoring the rotating fun, I was considering whether or not I wanted to ride. And then something so horrifically disgusting occurred which solidified my decision.
One of the riders vomited.
Vomiting at an amusement park is not so rare an occurrence. However, in Hell’s Hole, because of the centrifugal force, the puke was splattered right back onto the rider’s face.
But that wasn’t what deterred me. It was my own sense of dizziness and vertigo that nearly buckled my knees. And then I needed to vomit … right down into Hell’s Hole.
I remember wondering how I could possibly feel so dizzy and sick when I wasn’t even moving. How could my eyes and brain be so deceived? And then I recalled my high-school science lesson that taught how the retina captured images from the world upside down yet the brain “translated” those images into right-side-up perception. And if my basic cognition of external images could be so completely flipped, what else could I be belied into believing?
And so it is with everything we call “reality”. This world – with all its seeming issues, relationship drama, hopes, fears, and dreams – seems very tangible and significant. So much so that all our definitions of happiness and sadness arise solely from our experiences in the world. When things “go our way” – people do/say what we want, roadblocks are removed, opportunities are realized – then we say, “Things are good … I am happy.”
Conversely, when we quarrel with loved ones or don’t get things we want, we bemoan our situation and feel a sense of sadness. Or, if a tyrannical boss, awful colleague, inconsiderate friend, or nasty driver threatens our peace, we might even feel a sense of unfairness, anger, or rage. And anticipation over future occurrences likely leads to anxiety and fear. Our own personal hell hole.
Yet, like the upside down images, what we’re seeing isn’t real. It is simply our interpretation that gives it all its power over us.
I have given what I see all the meaning it has for me. (W-pI.51.2)
When we realize that all our experiences have nothing to do with what we see but are completely defined by our interpretations of what we see – then our entire world is flipped. And in this case, flipped right-side-up. From such a state, we can see the real world and experience a sense of peace and joy that transcend comprehension.
Join us in Monday’s class where we’ll explore the curious nature of perception and the ability to transform sickness into splendor, hell’s hole into heaven’s whole. I look forward to seeing you then.