A Resolution Solution

duality-of-man

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.

35 thoughts on “A Resolution Solution

    1. Your scream post was both hilarious and wonderful. And believe it or not, it supports everything I said here. Because you didn’t imply that such cathartic screaming would solve anything, you simply acknowledged it as a perfect example of spontaneous exuberance of feeling — it doesn’t matter that the feeling you had in mind was negativity to be released. The spontaneity of an impromptu scream IS the unobstructed experience of being alive. That’s as genuine as it gets.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Well said. To this, I can only add sth wonderful I read recently:
        “It’s such a stupid question, in my opinion. I mean, how do you know what you’re going to do till you do it? The answer is, you don’t. I think I am, but how do I know? I swear it’s a stupid question.” Salinger

        and of course

        Simplify, simplify. So Paul, we’re back to Thoreau.

        Happy N.Y. to you too, drink however much pleases your soft palate, eat what makes you happy, indulge in things you find appealing etc etc.

        Let’s try not to be too unhappy, if you don’t always know how the hell we can be happier.

        Kisses to all and talk to you again and again in new year.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Brilliantly Paul as only Paul could be. ” Life does not fear death any more than a front fears its back. ” Good message! I happen to be in search of a message…perhaps you are delivering it to me, and I just refuse to see it because I enjoy the searching, not the finding. The analogy is the beautiful woman you finally get to date. After the date…it’s like…”meh! Next!”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! But of course, had I actually found anything of significance, I probably wouldn’t have felt moved to write about it in an attempt at positive reinforcement. This post — like many I’ve composed in the past — negates itself by its very composition.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Could you possibly get more 10+ character words into a single post? I think not. It’s posts like this that make me feel stupid; gee, thanks a lot!

    This: “[death] is a necessary and eternally present aspect of the life process conjured from gravid Emptiness at the very moment of one’s conception.” Gravid Emptiness… There are some phrases that one creates that will be remembered for years if not decades hence.

    To happiness, I must point out something I’ve recently been reading/learning. The source of this new found understanding is a book called The Shallows. Blogger Zarah Parker turned me on to it. The gist goes something like this: our minds are not rigid, in fact, they are so plastic, so malleable, that we’ve all been turned into subjects of a massive psychological experiment called The Internet. And with the advent of the smartphone, we subjects have had our minds warped so far out of whack that only severe reconditioning can get them back (to where we probably want them to be.)

    The book is worthy of a read.

    Essentially, if the internet and phones’ constant distraction mechanism has conditioned us, our brains, by rewiring them through alternate synaptic dopamatic reward loops, then, it follows that we can recondition them ourselves. This means we can force our brains to think differently. We can physically alter our minds with thought. If this is true, and it certainly looks like it is, then merely by intentionally thinking happy thoughts, we can train our brains, build the axon conduits which will more frequently allow experience to travel our joyfully induced neural pathways.

    Know that this is in opposition to thoughts I’ve held for decades; happiness was a discovery, not a destination. It turns out, one might be able to actually set a course in that direction.

    Stoically yours, AM

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am glad you raised the issue of neuroplasticity because if there is, in fact, a path to travel that can actually yield tangible results rather than philosophical ideas to be codified into beliefs, it would be the practice of altering the pathways forged by lifetimes of habitual and self-defeating thought. Unfortunately, my current knowledge of brain science is even sketchier than my understanding of Buddhist psychology, so I will leave the task of writing about it to those who know of which they speak. But it is profoundly significant — in fact, it may just be the only method for overcoming neurosis, the rest (like my amateur attempts at profundity) just serving to muddy the waters.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Apparently, and this is from my son and his newly minted psych degree, medications are one way of jarring the brain out of a destructive pattern of thought, long enough to try and remold the neural pathways into more beneficial patterns.

        This is all new to me. But the internet’s affects on our minds is, to me, incontrovertible truth that our minds can be intentionally altered.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I have long held the belief that our minds are entirely ours to control, rewire, and train. I was a miserable young man, surrounded by generations of rigid thinkers (if thinking is a term to apply), and I chose, years ago, to shed misery and traditional thought and induce my neural pathways to positivity, open-mindedness, and flexibility. Happiness has always kind of been a thing with me. Was I successful? I think I was. I think I reconditioned myself to becoming the man I wanted to be, instead of the man I was.

      I could be completely wrong about that, Anony, and the path of my life could be exactly what it would have been had I just gone with the flow of things. But I have no way to re-conduct the experiment of my life to find out. So I’ll just go with along with “the brain is malleable and I’m proof” theory until proven otherwise. 😁

      And you’re right about Paul. His words are the biggest I’ve ever seen. I hope he edits and rewrites over and over and over to make me feel better about my own efforts, but I suspect he does not. I think he’s really just that much smarter than me, and I need to condition myself to get over that. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Damn, agreed! You really need *spoiler alerts*!!! My resolution is to surrender… I blogged about it but it is posting January 1st. That magical time on the New Year’s clock really changes nothing but it feels good to SAY you have a resolution (with no need for pulling on those bootstraps)… surrendering all that is NOT positive, like the serenity mantra BUT not. I don’t know what to do when I’m surrounded by the ‘young happy couples’. They frighten me and amaze me at the same time. It’s like being at the Zoo. I really believe they ARE happy in their ‘burbs, their preferred habitat. Snapchatting with other happy couples… Could this be? Sorry! I’m off my game tonight… great post! Continue to talk amongst your peeps! Profoundly, Kim

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, George! But I will channel the spirit of Lao Tsu and counter that truly good writing — something which has yet to flow from my fingers — would necessitate non-writing giving unfettered reign to the organism/environment field to express itself as the act of writing without a self-conscious writer.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Although the date itself is meaningless, new year is as good a time as any to take stock and plan for personal improvements. Quite what that amounts to is different for everyone as we are all on our own paths, and at varying stages of understanding about our natures.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I’ve never made New Year’s resolutions. If I want to do something, I just do it. Time is a human construct, so the passing of one “year” to another is essentially irrelevant. unless you’re the type of person that needs a marker of some kind for action. Me, I have enough stress in my life without making some abstract promise to myself that I know I’ll just break anyway:-) Like, this morning, I thought “I should probably not celebrate another fine blog post with that glass of wine, since it’s only 11 am. Then I had it anyway. Imagine if I had to live with that kind of guilt on a monumental “I broke my New Year’s Resolution!” scale. At any rate, Happy New Year, Paul!! Can’t wait to read more of your writing in 2018!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Happy new year!! It sounds like you handled the wine situation with skill and precision. But if you hadn’t managed to do so, you could always have fallen back on rendering it acceptable — maybe even cosmopolitan — by referring to it as “brunch”.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Obviously I’m several days behind in my bloggering, since I’m reading Paul’s preparatory new year’s post on the 3rd of the next month. But I have a reason, if not an excuse:

    I holidayed the hell out of the holidays.

    I am not prone to seasonal blues, but I am prone to attending too many celebrations so am therefore subject to a succession of aftermaths, culminating in the ultimate defiance of all things resolute, the night of nights … New Year’s Eve.

    And, since the next day is a holiday, we all meet again in the morning for more of the same. 😏

    So I haven’t so much adhered to a series of resolutions to begin the new year (i.e. quit drinking, stay away from the internet, etc), I have simply been in a state of sleep and recovery whenever I haven’t been in a state of work or sustenance fulfillment. I unwittingly achieved the temporary self-improvement that others sought at will.

    I am now ready to return to my regular scheduled programming (albeit with a badly bruised knee; revelry has consequences).

    Paul, thank you for preparing me for my new year in a style no one can emulate, even if I got to absorbing the wisdom you gave several days past the arbitrary deadline. One of my favorite discoveries of 2017, was you. Thank you for continuing to be resolutely brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Tom, and happy new year! New Years Day hair of the dog is really the only sensible way to deal with that potential hangover, so I’m glad to hear you handled it with such aplomb. And that great discovery was mutual, of course.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post. I’ve not made any resolutions for more years than I care to remember, but from this point on I will make an exception: to reduce the amount of plastic I buy/use and to be more ‘earth conscious.’ The planet needs us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At least you rang it in. I was already up watching Dr. Katz, so I figured, “I might as well stay awake and acknowledge the change of year.” That was at about 11:00 p.m. Regardless, I did not stay awake long enough to reach midnight.

      Liked by 1 person

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