Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Legacy of Ed Wood or the Director that Simply Couldn't



Ed Wood in promo shot of his movie "Glen or Glenda"
Ed Wood
Golden Turkey Award Recipient Ed Wood is both inspiration and comfort for aspiring directors and artists out there. He gives each of us hope that it is possible to do what you like, to make movies and create art. At the same time, he is relentlessly persevering, despite the fact that he lacks talent and vision. But who cares, follow your passion to the ends of the world and let the chips fall where they may.

Most of us who, all modesty aside, may be more talented than Ed Wood become roadkill on the road to success. After receiving rejection after rejection, even our thick skin becomes eventually pierced. We give up, take up another profession to pay the bills. We sacrifice our teenage dreams because of the reality of life. Being an artist takes more than courage, hard work and dedication; it takes endless perseverance and an insane amount of luck.

In the case of Ed Wood, he was so thrilled and passionate about making movies that he basically forgot about all the rest. The financial part is always a pain in the neck when it comes to film-making, but if you are crazy enough about your projects you will do whatever it takes. Rumor has it that Barbet Schroeder threatened with cutting off his fingers if he did not get his directorial stint of “Barfly,” a movie about another artist, Charles Bukowski, who went to extremes to live out in flesh and blood his poetry and fiction. It seems my life is too tame, “sane” and inane to make me eligible for the category of bleeding heart artist.

Notwithstanding, Ed Wood is also a source of comfort for us. He was by any standard a mediocre artist. His writing is often cited as jewels of bad lines, such as, the following quote from Plan 9 from Outer Space: “Earth people, who can think, are so frightened by those who cannot — the dead.” It is true that it takes talent to write bad lines like those and not everybody can do it, but it came naturally to him. 

At the same time, his directing skills were less than apt, not to mention his attempts at acting. He compares himself to Orson Welles who preferred to write, act, produce and direct his own movies, in other words, to have absolute control over his work; yet it is evident that the two are the apples and oranges of comparison.

Although I may be too harsh on poor Ed Wood, it is not only him I am targeting. He is just a random victim I have chosen for my own purposes here. He is the incarnation of the tragicomic artist who brims over with enthusiasm but seriously lacks talent. He is the one who is courageous enough to stand up despite the adversity of critics and the public and do his own thing. He is the M. Night Shyamalan who, Sixth Sense excepted, somehow manages to survive disaster after disaster; not even Titanic failures can diminish their love for the arts.

And when it comes down to it, who can really stop them. These guys will find funding, even if they have to scrap up money from the streets, work as a dishwasher in restaurants, or even get baptized. They truly inspire me, not for their work, but for their unfailing confidence in themselves. And I prefer them with their blind faith and passion over all those artists who work for commercial reasons only and do not see art as an expression of life, who do not breathe and sweat art, but regard it as another job that brings in a paycheck at the end of the day.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Giving St. Paul a Chance and his Influence on Christianity




Saint Paul falling off his horse in Caravaggio painting
The Conversion on the Way to Damascus
 by Caravaggio

I have for some reason or another always had preconceived, mostly negative, notions when it comes to the legacy of St. Paul. Despite his invaluable contributions to Christianity, I have objected to many of his views, methods and even his personality. So I decided to look into the matter and give St. Paul a chance by investigating him, myself and everything in-between to reach a more balanced and hopefully more open-minded perspective.

The Personality of St. Paul

As a matter of fact, Paul the Apostle appears to have bipolar tendencies, since he moves from humility to grandeur, from being a servant to an equal of the Lord within instants. St. Paul embodies indeed striking contradictions. He was a persecutor of Christians turned into a persecuting Christian in a flash. He turned famously from Saul to Paul when he was blinded by the lightning flash of Christ's truth and fell off his ass, i.e. donkey.

He was also somebody who was eloquent in writing but supposedly miserable in public speaking. Yet it cannot be denied that after his miracle-like conversion, he was passionate and fully dedicated and convinced of his noble cause and that nothing could stop him. Apart from his courage, he was at an advantageous position, being not only of Jewish origin, but at the same time a Roman citizen fluent in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. As such, he could reach a variety of people during his numerous trips.

One of his greatest contributions has been the fact that he managed to open up a Jewish religion to include and embrace Gentiles as well; in other words, to turn a specialized religion into a universal one. The humanity of the teachings of Jesus interpreted and filtered through this saint's vast knowledge became hence appealing to the masses and spread like wildfire inciting and inspiring millions as a result.


On Original Sin and the Problem of Evil

One of my “thorns” with Christian doctrine has been the problem of “Original Sin.” According to this belief, Adam committed a grave sin by eating of the “forbidden fruit,” blemishing and cursing all of subsequent humanity with his deed.

In the ancient past, it was a commonly accepted belief that one's sins will be spread over and transferred to future generations, so that the sins of the father equal the sins of the son. In ancient Greece, for example, shame that was brought upon a family was not that easily erased but remained for various decades and stained the family name.

Today, with our firmly established concepts of individuality and responsibility for one's acts, it seems rather unfair that one person's wrongdoing should reflect to another just because of blood ties. We are not guilty of other people's sins, no matter how close they may be to us. Much less, when the sin is committed by someone eons ago in an undefined place far far away with whom we have very little in common except in an abstract form. And well, all Adam did was eat some fruit. Big deal.

But I think the view of St. Paul on the matter becomes a little clearer when we replace the overcharged and problematic term of sin with evil. What Adam did was wrong not because of its act, but because he disobeyed God's orders. This would mean that he may have acted not out of curiosity, but out of vanity or rebellious pride. His act then could be interpreted as one of open defiance with an underlying evil motivation.

As a result, this attitude may have remained with humanity; it is genetic. The evil -- or estrangement from God and the good – that is passed on is that dark unconscious that each of us carry inside from generation to generation. It is that force that made Cain commit the first murder of history by killing his own flesh and blood Abel. It is that which estranges us from our fellow being and leads to war and destruction. That such dark forces dwell in humans is not illogical considering the horrendous deeds of our history continuing into the future.


On Sex and Women

My other objection has been his treatment of sex and his view on women. St. Paul may be in large part responsible for turning sex from a pleasurable activity to a sinful and shameful act. His ideal persons were those who fought against the prickly thorns of desire, did not sleep with any woman (or man?) and who became fully engulfed in their divine mission of preaching the gospels. It seems then that the best one can do was to become a monk and live a cloistered life. For those who were “weak,” they could marry and have children, but they should still control their sexual appetite and not fall prey to the fleshy entanglements of lust.

At the same time, he along with his spiritual brother St. Augustine, fought hard with his own sexual demons. Since the two saints were so immersed in their own struggle, they saw women as temptation and the supposed cause and constant possibility of any saint's downfall. They were not unlike recovering drug addicts who cannot bear the sight of drugs in case of a relapse.

Yet unfortunately, and undeservedly of course, women had to take the fall. They turned into instigators of sin, hence evil. The charming and beautiful Eve was suddenly the main reason why Adam behaved the way he did. In its extreme, it may lead to the ridiculous assumption that the world would be a more tranquil place without women.

Again, I will try to give St. Paul the benefit of the doubt. At other times, he claimed that both men and women were equally endowed for spiritual greatness. His views on women being "inferior" in society, the wife serving the husband and the husband taking care of the wife may be rather a reflection of the times. We must not forget that St. Paul was living in a pre-feminist era that did not consider women equal to men, while Genesis with its insistence on woman being created as man's playmate out of his ribs did not help in this matter.


Above the Mosaic Law and Being in Direct Contact with God

St. Paul rejected the traditional observance of rites and rituals, generally known as the Mosaic Law or the Torah and replaced it with the idea of a more direct contact and interaction with God, through faith. He built on ideas, such as love and forgiveness that had surged mainly with the advent of Jesus, and these ideas along with the issue of faith had a direct influence on St. Augustine, Martin Luther and the later Protestant movements.

In fact, St. Paul was not so much interested in the life and teachings of Christ, but rather in the fact that he was the Messiah. And the token of proof of his Messiah-ship was the Crucifixion and the subsequent resuscitation and ascension to the heavens to be at God's right side. Christ's resurrection was purported to be seen by a handful of people, including himself and the Apostles, but for the rest of humanity, it was to be taken on the article of faith.

Faith in the unbelievable became then an important aspect and cornerstone of Christianity. It was the unwavering belief said to redeem all of humanity regardless of status and position. Since faith knows no boundaries, it had an equalizing and democratic influence and made Christianity, at least in theory, accessible and appealing to anyone, whether slave or master, uneducated or learned.

Because of his teachings, St. Paul came into conflict with the authorities, making him a revolutionary in their eyes. His ideas were deemed controversial, and he had to spend time in prison. As he was completely dedicated to his ideas and causes, he eventually ended up dying a martyr for what he professed to be the truth.

As can be seen, I have tried for some reason, God knows why, to defend the case of St. Paul although I have only scratched the surface. After reflecting on his struggles, accomplishments and legacy, I find a certain type of admiration for him. He was like any person or saint, not without flaws. Yet at the same time, it makes him more human and a little more accessible to us. We may understand his motivations and his beliefs, while retaining the right to disagree with certain aspects of his teachings. Yet his decisive influence on Western thinking and on Christianity itself is beyond doubt.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Writer's Block and the Artistic Nightmare of Having Nothing to Say


Poster with Marcello Mastroianni of Fellini's movie "8 1/2" on writer's block
There is a wonderful dream sequence in Fellini's 8 1/2 in which the inspiration-troubled director Guido has to face a multitude of questions and comments by obnoxious journalists hungry for news and information about his latest, abandoned film project. Guido cannot take the pressure anymore and seeks refuge under the table. There is a close-up of a mad woman with a diabolical laugh who shouts in English the sarcastic words that are deeply piercing to any self-respecting artist in the world: “He has nothing to say.”

First off, writer's block is a serious condition. It is the mental equivalent of having a leg cramp. Sometimes worse, it is a broken leg. The same way, your employer cannot expect you to go to work in such a condition, you won't be able to get writing done when afflicted with this serious ailment. It basically feels like you are drowning in a wide open ocean and find nothing, no floating wood, not even a straw to hold onto. It is every writer's nightmare, and each of us will have it as regularly as the seasonal flu.

But there is a deeper problem, and this may secretly nag in the entrails of any artist with serious literary or artistic aims and ambitions. It may pop up at unexpected times: Am I original? Or, to put in a more direct and harsher way: Am I relevant?

They say that everything has already been said. Nothing can be truly original anymore. Ideas have been out there since Plato and have found expression; you may think you have come up with it, but guess what, somebody has already beaten you to it. This may also explain the feeling of paranoia in some writers who guard and shield their work as if it were a religious relic. Ideas can be truly valuable and may be stolen the same way a thief robs you of money.

It is also why many writers may fear the Internet for those reasons. The Internet is growing at the speed of light. There are literally millions upon millions of blogs and articles swarming through cyberspace. Whatever I may blog about has been done a million of times before, and it is all accessible at a simple click of the mouse. It is equally exhilarating and frightening.

The Internet is also where thieves and hackers roam. They prey upon what you do, steal your ideas, sometimes even your identity. They present your ideas as their own. They maybe even sell it and make a profit, while you are struggling on a day-to-day basis as a starving writer. All this is not fair, not only because they are using someone else's work, but because they have not experienced the labor and pain associated with creation, the sleepless days and nights and the deeply disturbing impotent feeling of writer's block.

Apart from all those concerns and ideas and the competition writers experience with one another, we give ourselves an occasional hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves whether we have what it takes. Blogs are truly artistic and non-commercial in the sense that you are your own boss, that you do not have to follow an editor's or publisher's guidelines, but at the same time, you become fully responsible for your material. It also brings with it anguish and feelings of insecurity. Is it good enough? And will people actually read my blog? What do you think?

Personally, I find it very difficult to know which of my articles will “succeed.” By success, I mean popularity. There have been so many “surprises” that it becomes confusing at times. Sometimes I think I have written a pretty decent article, only to find out that it has only one or two views per month. Others that have barely made the “cut” get a rush of visitors. It is often hard to be objective and accurately judge how good or relevant your own personal piece of work is and what impact it may have.

Perhaps it comes down to the following two viewpoints. One, write what you are truly passionate about, something that resonates within you, that you find deep and meaningful and want to share with others. Two, you will have to deal with the fact that, like Sartre claims, you are the object reflected in other people's eyes. That's what being a social animal entails. People will raise you to the heavens or rip you apart, or even raise you to heavens to rip you apart. They will make you believe you are a true artist or will let you know in unequivocal words or shrill diabolical laughter underlining their superiority and control over you: “He has nothing to say.”

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Influence of Imagination on Fear and Anxiety



Scary Tim Burton Character from Bright Lights Christmas event in Vancouver's Stanley Park
We all have fear and anxiety once in a while, which are necessary and natural reactions. There is, however, a slight difference in meaning between the two concepts. Fear is the more natural, and if you like, healthier response compared to anxiety.

Fear usually involves a concrete sense of danger. You are faced with a certain threat in the environment and have generally two choices: fight or flee. I personally prefer the second one, to escape and evade the danger. Let heroes choose the brave and valiant option of facing the threat. I would rather live a coward than die a hero. To justify my cowardice and to restore a little bit of personal dignity, part of my decision to avoid harm onto myself is the feeling of ongoing responsibility I have toward my wife and son.

On the other hand, anxiety is the feeling of fear but toward a vague object. Anxiety is the uneasy feeling, the queasy sense of danger, regardless of its validity. It is, for example, our constant fear of the dark. Of course, in evolutionary times, this had the real purpose of protecting human life because of dangerous animals lurking around. Similarly, there are certain areas in every city that one should avoid at night for security reasons. Nonetheless, to be afraid of the dark within the safe confines of one's home is rather exaggerated and not substantiated. That is the type of fear I am referring to here as anxiety.

Now I am not claiming that everybody can control these feelings of anxiety. To a certain extent, we cannot help feeling anxious, as anxiety persistently resists the arguments of logic and reason, like the anxiety over an upcoming exam or job interview, regardless of one's preparation, chances or qualifications. In other cases, it can be part of a mental disorder, such as agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces, or its confined version, claustrophobia.

The same way fear of heights means anxious feelings about being faced with heights, claustrophobia is the anxiety of being in a closed oppressive position. The odds of getting stuck in an elevator are generally not that high, compared to how many times we take the elevator in a given year. But once we have had the unfortunate experience of being stuck, it may translate into a general anxiety regarding elevators. We would rather take the stairs from then on.

In this case, the imagined fear or anxiety is greater and disproportionate in relation to the occurrence itself. People rarely die from being stuck in an elevator and sooner or later, help will come. We have then a case where our imagination adds fuel to our fear. We become terrified of the possibility of the event to the extent that we feel paralyzed. Such emotions can be observed in social or romantic situations when we feel our throat tighten and our voice falter when talking to an attractive person. We often feel threatened when faced with beauty and desirableness.

But this kind of fear does not make sense and is counterproductive and eventually nothing but a figment of one's imagination. What harm could come from such a social situation, for example? At worst, the beautiful stranger would refuse to talk to us or reject our advances, even make fun of us. The actual event is indeed half as painful as we would imagine it. Rejection, in any form and at any level, may hurt, but it is a part of life, and it is really, all things considered, not that big a deal.

In all those instances, it is imagination, not fear itself that we need to fear. Our mind distorts the information, becomes irrational and becomes stubborn and blind toward the actual facts. The true hero is not so much the person who fights the threat, but the one that goes through life with his head up high and with the confidence that fear may be partially real, but is mostly a product of the imagination.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Surgical Procedures and Feeling Compassion at Hospitals


Author of "Arash's World" blog awaiting surgery
Recently, I had to face a minor surgery under full anesthesia. Any surgery, minor or not, brings with it certain risks, or so I was told and was given a note to sign my life away and accept full responsibilities for any possible complications or consequences. This part I am always wary about since basically your life will be in the hands of people who, no matter how accredited or professional they may or may not be, are dissolved of responsibility for their actions.

There is the period of serious fasting before the surgical procedure. No food for at least 12 hours before the surgery and only sips of water until about six hours before. More difficult for people like me who like to have more than three meals a day, and I was forced to skip my daily ration of coffee. They give you IV serum, but it is devoid of caffeine, so of very little use for my coffee-craving body.

Then they make you lie down, naked under the hospital gown, and you wait for your turn. As I was idly awaiting my fate, I saw various beds being wheeled past me. The nurses pulled a cord, which opened the door to the operating room, and both patient and bed disappeared within this mysterious confined space as the doors automatically closed.

A little later, I would see a hospital employee take out two heavy black garbage bags. Watching movies and programs about serial killers may have thwarted my mind because I was reminded of Dexter with his packed dismembered bodies. Anyhow, I began to get more curious and anxious about this secret operating room.

As the patients were carted away, and I had eye contact with them, there was a moment of real compassion between us. I felt sorry for them, not in any condescending way, but in the unifying sense that we had a similar fate. For a brief moment, our destinies had been intertwined and become common. 

Regardless of the type or severity of the surgery, we would be knocked out and operated upon and faced a certain amount of risk concerning our lives and well-being. We knew that there was a chance we would never wake up, never see daylight again nor the faces of our beloved.

This bond I felt was genuine, the same way a parent will recognize another parent's pain and suffering or the same way prisoners might empathize with each other. And if we extend it toward life in general, we all face indeed the same destiny. We all come from God knows where and go to God knows where. 

All we have is the interval between which we call life, but there is always the possibility of death since “no one gets out of here alive.” It is a question of when (time) and of how (manner), but that it will happen is as certain as apple pie. (I have never fully understood that expression, but I did have apple pie earlier today.)

So why not feel the same compassion I felt in the hospital? Why do I forget that we are facing death, that we have a return ticket to this other place we cannot know anything about? How can some believe that they are exempt from this fate simply because they have more money? They may be able to get the best possible medical attention and extend their time on earth, but even they cannot escape the democratic hands of death.

For the rest of us, we prefer not to think about our own mortality because it is a “downer” or “mood-killer.” In fact, most of us are good at deluding ourselves and denying our own mortality until we face moments of real danger that wake us up to the ominous foreshadowing of death.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Catholic and Puritan Conception of Work and Money



Two young girls walking through snowy forest grounds
Winter Morning Walk (1864) by George Henry Boughton

The Catholic religion has contributed to our concept of work through the establishment of monastic orders in the Middle Ages. Although work at the time was reserved to mostly monks and religious devotees, they did, however, organize their labor by following an established routine with a tremendous amount of discipline.

Of course, their work had different aims and objectives than it does today. Monks wanted to glorify God through their diligent efforts. Whether they engaged in botany or medicinal research, or the transcription of books with which they preserved knowledge for future generations, the monks did it all for the glory of God and did not expect any material rewards in return.

The main reason Catholics did not believe in monetary values or expect anything in return for their efforts was that they believed that everything in the world was ephemeral and of the body, and hence not important for the salvation of the soul. This had a significant impact on their perception of and relationship with work.

Since St. Augustine, there has been a clear division between the eternal, spiritual, divine world of God and the transitory, ordinary human world. The eyes of every devout Catholic had been on the afterlife; in the meantime, one had to submit to this life and bear its challenges and sufferings. Anything regarding this world lacked value except what touched on the development and growth of the spirit. Money was seen as temptation and an unwanted and undesired invitation for sloth, lust and sensual gratification and should be avoided at all costs.

Although St. Augustine had also developed the idea of divine grace, that it is ultimately God's predetermined decision of who was allowed to reach heaven, regardless of their acts and behavior in this life, the Catholic Church preferred to follow the precepts of free will, namely that salvation was something to be earned through good deeds and the building of constant resistance against temptations. In other words, the Catholic was not interested in making money, which was worthless to him, but wanted rather to gain points within God's scoring system.

Whenever the devout should stray from the path, be it an accident or a temporary lapse of reason, there was always the opportunity to obtain penance and forgiveness via the intermediary of God, the priest. During confession, sinners had a chance to repent their deeds and to return to the righteous path, mainly thanks to the priest's -- and by extension God's -- forgiveness.

Two observations are essential here. First, salvation lay in one's hands and within reach, and certain slips were allowed, as long as repentance followed. Any person, even saints for that matter – I am looking at you St. Augustine – were given a second (or third and fourth ad infinitum) chance, if they truly felt sorry for their actions. A Hail Mary and a good deed here and there ensured that the reputed sinner made amends with the spiritual and divine world.

The fact that one is given the option to make up for errors helps one develop a less tense or more relaxed attitude. It does not mean that one engages in illicit behavior, yet there is a remedy at-hand and deep down one is assured that God in his infinite wisdom and kindness will understand and forgive our follies.

Not so with the Puritan lifestyle with its Protestant and Calvinist influences. The Puritan is more pessimistic toward life, which is nothing but empty time filled with spiritual traps and temptation. And more importantly, the Puritan is left to his own devices. There is no magical cleansing ritual, no Catholic priest to absolve his sins. On the contrary, any sins are there to taint his soul forever and to risk God's eternal condemnation.

In fact, God is watching every step and thought, and nothing can be held secret from His eyes. God is tough like in the Old Testament, and he wants the Puritan to be tough on himself. Any sign of weakness could seriously diminish the chances of an afterlife, while second chances are for the weak, unrestrained and undisciplined. God demands more of his Puritan folk.

This may explain why Puritans were so “anti-life.” They may have even despised this life that offers nothing but pitfalls for their souls. They rather chose to congregate among their own people to stave off wrongdoing and sinful thoughts; they wanted to prevent "negative" or "harmful" ideas from entering their minds. Their education was built on lessons of being strong and tough. Where the Catholic's life was based on deeds, the Puritan's focus was on a rational mode, focus or plan for life that ensured no missteps whatsoever.

As a result, the most important characteristics in life were hard work and diligence. They had a lot of discipline and led a frugal life. They cut down on sleep because one should only sleep the amount of time that is necessary. They led a life of rigorous self-examination and believed in a hierarchical order of the family. Children ought to obey their parents and wives their husbands.

Yet most interestingly, they had a fatalistic notion about salvation. In their eyes, God had already made his selection and only the elite had been chosen by Him. The problem lay in the fact that nobody knew for sure whether they were among the chosen or not. So they looked for signs. If a person led a commendable and faultless life, they believed that he must have been touched and blessed by the Holy Spirit. 
 
This furthered the thought that anyone successful in one's life and undertakings must have had divine approval. Economic success and money were not sought after for their intrinsic values, but rather as an embodiment and concrete expression of one's spiritual status and was generally used for the betterment of the community. As such, in the words of Max Weber, the spirit of capitalism had found its fertile ground in this Puritan worldview.

When we look at the two views side by side, we may notice that the first had a more relaxed and even detached attitude, whereas the second was more uptight, with its followers always on their toes like nervous Samurais roaming the dangerous and perfidious streets. Their sense of paranoia may have led the Puritans to work even harder and, paradoxically, become physically richer in this transitory world.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why Epiphanies Come in Infrequent and Small Doses

Camera light effects in Stnaley Park Vancouver


There is nothing I enjoy more than an epiphany now and then. Epiphany is defined as a sudden flash of insight and realization where one's thought processes become cleared up, one feels an intense, almost mystical love and a sense of peace for all beings. It is universal and embraces all creeds and religions.

In Zen Buddhism, it is often referred to “satori” and it is one of many steps toward what is the ultimate goal of life in their tradition, the state of enlightenment or Nirvana. In the Christian tradition, it is the full and tangible realization of God's harmonious order in the universe, where everything falls into its right place, and one is filled with a sense of divine awe and humility. At the same time, certain drugs have been known to lead you to the same intense experiences that each religious and philosophical tradition translates into its own lingo.

So the question remains why don't we have epiphanies more often? Why is it only once in a blue moon? In fact, we could benefit from such experiences on a regular basis in our life so that we can make choices not based on ignorance and hatred, but on respect, love and companionship.

If epiphanies are your constant reality, then consider yourself blessed. You are enlightened, self-realized, with God or even God Himself, and your feet are five inches above the ground at all times. You have managed to transform daily chores into an expression of art, your whole being into an assertion of the universe, and you are happy with little, while nothing upsets you, and you see yourself as part of everyone else. There is no ambition and no reason for pride. If this is you, send me an email and let me know your secret.

For the rest of us, it is a fleeting moment. Yes, beautiful but transitory like the flame of a candle. And it is fragile because it can evaporate from one moment to the next. But it is necessary for the epiphany to be so singular in its occurrence so that this experience can become salient and set itself off from previous “mundane” ones. The more the discrepancy, the stronger the impact.

This is one reason why some people can suddenly and radically change their whole lives, resulting from such an experience. However, it is equally manipulated in a masterful manner by cults and sects that take advantage of such states. For me, who believes in the value and principle of moderation, it is best to take a spoonful each time. Once you have an epiphany, count yourself lucky and hope it occurs again. It may be baby steps toward the ultimate realization, which you may end up calling what you will, but it is the safest path.

And because of the fact that it is infrequent, that it comes unannounced and unexpectedly, it gives the experience a whole different dimension of gratitude and a welcome sense of bliss. And you simply can't wait for your next natural and small dose of epiphany.