Nothing changes on New Year’s Day – U2
This post is a public service announcement for those still clinging to the belief that a number change on the calendar will presage a new era of self-improvement and an energized pursuit of neglected dreams and desires.
The very idea, of course, reveals our continued iron-clad conviction in the superstitions of antiquity. More significant than the implied prognostication of such declarations of intent is the fact that they posit a duality. It may seem that I’ve been engaging in an insufferable game of semantics in my habitual attacks on this ubiquitous misunderstanding of our inherently symbiotic relationship with nature, but if that were so, I’d have lost interest in such a bland and self-congratulatory grammar lesson long ago.
The basic fallacy behind all of our aspirations and resolutions is the acceptance of a distinction between conscious and unconscious, body and soul, ego and id. The continued assumption that each of us is engaged in a battle between our better and baser selves as defined by religion, nationalism and all forms of imposed morality keeps us distractedly compliant to dubious social norms. We think we’re engaged in the pursuit of happiness and self-betterment but we are literally incapable of knowing ourselves well enough to personalize such abstract notions, so we continue to pursue them according to the rules laid out for us by the culture and its standard-bearers. In other words, you have been presented with someone else’s prescription for living a life of tepid, “reasonable” happiness and you so unquestioningly embraced this silly premise that you have never doubted its veracity for even a moment.
A person who lives life as a spontaneous actor in the play of the Universe is unassailed by guilt because he instinctively understands not only that existence is a game but that it is one bereft of competition since there are no independent participants to declare themselves victorious. She does not fear death because she knows it is a necessary and eternally present aspect of the life process conjured from gravid Emptiness at the very moment of one’s conception. Life does not fear death any more than a front fears its back. It is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be embraced concurrent with the experience of being alive. But here’s the bitch of it all: I cannot counsel anyone — including myself — in the proper methods for dissolving this deep-rooted illusion because to do so would be to reinforce it. Again, our modes of communication were built around this delusional acceptance of self and other, so its use in questioning its own premise is incredibly limited even if compounding the original confusion can be skillfully minimized.
Resolutions arise from the feeling of having led an unsatisfactory life up to the point of “resolve”. Sure, we tend to sound far more specific than that in our public declarations when we announce to those we imagine give a rat’s ass: “I won’t smoke”; “I will exercise more”; “I will cut down on the time I spend online”; “I will eat healthier”. But the dissatisfaction we feel within ourselves is always much bigger than these popular scapegoats could possibly explain. You are not unhappy because you smoke or are overweight or waste too much time on Facebook. But it is quite possible that you smoked and got fat and spent hours staring at monitors because you are unhappy.
You are unhappy because you buy into the nonsense that people are capable of “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps”, a shamelessly obvious oxymoronic cliché. One can only act in concert with one’s environment because the environment — from immediate habitat to the frontiers of the Universe — is an intractable aspect of the field that is more accurately described as the organism/environment. Such a field is infinite because there is no way to differentiate between the boundary of the organism and that of the space around it. Action occurs but it is never deliberate. It happens precisely because it includes not happening as its inseparable pole — whether it happens or not, neither scenario is a cause for distress because each sustains the other.
Alan Watts often spoke of the dangerous double-binds imposed upon us by our blind acceptance of societal norms. Some of the most outlandish of these contradictory directives are propagated by advocates of religious doctrine. One of the most aggressive statements made by people who claim to be awash in religious faith is the admonition to a non-believer that he or she needs to have faith. Not only is the idea of forced faith in inscrutable things utter balderdash, it’s carefully crafted balderdash intended to shame people into a surface level homogeneity. We are made to feel defective for our lack of faith while simultaneously encouraged to pretend we have it in the hope that it might someday “stick” through the power of repetitive self-hypnosis. This, incidentally, is the entire philosophy in a nutshell behind 12 step recovery, in case anyone thinks I’m being petty in my frequent public criticism of that undeservedly celebrated self-help movement.
In spite of everything I just said, I do have a New Year’s resolution to share. It requires no resolve or unnatural manipulation of bootstraps. It is simply this: This year, I will not because I am not; but worry not — for in not doing, all will be done.
Too esoteric? Then try this one on for size: “This year, I will relinquish control”. You’ll be amazed how smoothly life flows if you can just stop trying to fuck with it. If you don’t micromanage life, it will not micromanage you. And you will find that this arrangement has always been in place; you were just incapable of seeing it through the obstruction of your own desperate artifice of ego.
Happy New Year, Sentient Processes of Phenomenal Manifestation! Live well, drink responsibly and try to shut the fuck up once in a while. Remember: To be is not to be. There was never a question.