Striving for Strife

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What else will humanity strive for? Would we be content merely to count our blessings, keep famine, plague and war at bay, and protect the ecological equilibrium? That might indeed be the wisest course of action, but humankind is unlikely to follow it. Humans are rarely satisfied with what they already have. The most common reaction of the human mind to achievement is not satisfaction, but craving for more. Humans are always on the lookout for something better, bigger, tastier. When humankind possesses enormous new powers, and when the threat of famine, plague and war is finally lifted, what will we do with ourselves? What will the scientists, investors, bankers and presidents do all day? Write poetry? Success breeds ambition and our recent achievements are now pushing humankind to set itself even more daring goals. – from Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

With a single paragraph, the brilliant Mr. Harari perfectly encapsulated what I have always considered to be the most frustratingly fatal folly of our species.

Over 5,000 years ago, a man named Lao-Tzu composed a deceptively simple book of ancient wisdom called the Tao Te Ching. Within its pages, he employed poetic verse in the service of dismantling the age-old notion that ambition is a virtue from which all progress and personal growth spring:

The Tao abides in non-action, yet nothing is left undone. If kings and lords observed this, the ten thousand things would develop naturally. If they still desired to act, they would return to the simplicity of formless substance. Without form, there is no desire. Without desire, there is tranquility. In this way all things would be at peace.

Lao-Tzu’s ideas inspired generations of Chinese truth-seekers to aspire to the ideal of the Sage through an ostensibly paradoxical lack of aspiration: “The Taoist sage has no ambitions, therefore he can never fail. He who never fails always succeeds. And he who always succeeds is all-powerful.” [http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/Philosophy/Taichi/lao.html]

I often describe myself as lazy in my self-deprecating attempts at humor. When asked, for instance, why I don’t seek a romantic partner, I reply that I am too damn lazy to put out the effort and that a woman with even a modicum of self-esteem would quickly tire of my unwillingness to make the kind of compromises expected in such relationships. But what can be viewed as sloth from one angle can become something quite different if observed from a different perspective. Might it also be accurate to say that, finding myself content in my current circumstances, I am making a wise decision to refrain from muddying the waters?

My self-declared laziness was called into question recently by a friend who observed that a man who writes as prolifically as I do must be the antithesis of a slacker. While I appreciate the implicit compliment in his observation, I disagree with its premise. When asked why I write, I always find myself bereft of a suitable reply. I do not desire fame or notoriety (in fact, I positively bristle at the thought); I do not wish to earn money with my words nor do I hope to be published beyond the confines of this web space. I am not engaging in self-therapy nor do I expect advice, praise or commiseration. In essence, I write for the same reason that my dog chases after his own ass: when left to its own ambition-free devices, the act of writing is simply the natural spontaneous behavior of the organism that I am.

Americans in particular find the notion of non-ambition extraordinarily distasteful. Our entire culture is saturated with messages of aspiration and achievement, success and wealth, superiority and victory. Such unfettered motivations are precisely what have us on the fast-track to self-immolation. We’re admonished to never quit, always pursue our wildest dreams and desires, and derive our very sense of self-worth from tangibly measurable “achievements”. Look where this has gotten us. Yesterday, every single person living on the Hawaiian islands was treated to a real-life reenactment of Dr. Strangelove and yet, less than 24 hours later, the national zeitgeist has laughed it off and as if on auto-pilot, immediately resumed its suicidal pursuit of “exceptionalism”, both collectively and individually. We are literally incapable of reevaluating our troublesome “values” of which we’ve sung the praises for almost two and a half centuries. Our selfish arrogance has been on such full display for so long that we feel it impossible to rein it in without bringing humiliation and shame upon ourselves. But what’s so fucking terrible about a little humiliation and shame? If accepting such a deflation of collective ego is necessary to derail our current course of self-destruction, then it follows that just such wide scale humility would constitute the next stage of beneficial human evolution. It also follows that the continued pursuit of self-gratification, image and acquisition would constitute the path to extinction.

Ambition is not an essential element of positive action, though it is often a contaminant of it.  Acknowledging one’s actions as positive is not an essential element of positive action, though it often serves to confuse the actor with superfluous concepts and ego reification. Ambition dilutes purity. Non-doing is not non-action: it is fearlessly allowing natural action to play out as it will. Each of us is a vehicle of natural action. We needn’t worry that a dramatic decrease in our material desires may render us inert and dumb. A true understanding of one’s place in the natural dance engenders behavior that is always skillful for the very fact that it is un-self-consciously so.

Being alive means that we will continue to encounter situations and events that require skillful action. However, we can only display such natural poise in the face of conflict if we dispense of the notion of conflict altogether. We can fight with life or we can dance with it. Which stands to yield the optimum results?

When the war is over and the battlefield is empty, do not remain crouched in your foxhole on alert for the next violent eruption. The wise warrior lays down his arms, goes home and rests by the fire with no thought of future sorties. He dispenses of the notions of glory and victory and savors the eternal moment of sacred silence. And this is precisely why he will live to fight another day.

Do not make declarations or statements of intent. Listen not to the voices of wealth-saddled misery beckoning you to keep them company. Dispense of ideals and shed your beliefs. Avoid task masters and those who dole out cunning advice. The true masters of the Universe have no names, hold no titles, and are unrecognizable in the flesh. Those who fear not death or failure are the true Immortals. If you can release your grasp, cease struggling, lay down and die, you will surely live forever.

A Resolution Solution

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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.

Free Will

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You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.  If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.  You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill.  I will choose a path that’s clear.  I will choose free will. – Rush

Are you sure about that, Geddy?  I’m about to question the entire premise of the words Neil Peart put into your mouth beginning with a couple of well-known quotes.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. – Quote falsely attributed to Albert Einstein but more likely something Bill Wilson overheard at a bar and co-opted for excessive repetition at A.A. meetings

The fool who persists in his folly will become wise. – William Blake

Pretty contradictory “truisms” coming from two of the most oft-quoted gentlemen since the Renaissance, wouldn’t you say?  This is an example of how we seem to always have a choice as to which “truth” each of us has the option to embrace in any given situation.  Of course, what both of the above statements have in common is that they actually contain no information whatsoever.  This is the best kept secret of self-proclaimed philosophers: depending on one’s mood, the weather and maybe even his or her gastrointestinal state, words can be spun to deceptively “prove” almost anything and if you follow closely the maxims of even the most brilliant of minds over the course of their lifetimes, I guarantee that you will find many statements that seem to cancel each other out.

So it would seem that along with behavioral volition, we also have the option of choosing our own outlooks. But do we?

The next time you have an opportunity, observe the behavior of a colony of ants or bees, or a flock of migrating geese.  Biologists call the collective intelligence behind the well-choreographed behavior of such animals a hive mind.  Individually, each member of such a group has extremely limited intellect and freedom of choice, but in a group dynamic, instincts cause the behavior of each organism to react according to the behavior of the others resulting in a perfect display of intelligence and efficiency.  This is why the migration pattern of birds always falls into a V formation for the most optimal space/proximity ratio of the individual birds to facilitate a smooth journey.

The next thing I’d like you to do when you have an opportunity (and preferably, an elevated vantage point) is watch the movements and patterns of rush hour traffic or a large crowd of people filing into a stadium or out of a subway car.  You will notice that the patterns within the collective movement are very similar to those you witnessed when you observed the actions of swarm insects or birds.  In the case of the traffic patterns, every person enclosed within a vehicle feels as if he or she is navigating independently while simply keeping alert for others who may create an immediate crash hazard.  However, from above, it becomes clear that this is not the case.  What you are witnessing in this dance of automobiles is the workings of a collective or hive mind.

I often wonder if this tendency for masses of people to behave as a single organism doesn’t perhaps apply to everything we do.  Of course, what I am questioning here is the notion of free will.  We all feel like we are at liberty to make our own choices; then again, we all feel as if we are self-contained independently existing organisms even though each of us is actually an ongoing, ever-changing process.  It has been observed that neural and brain activity always precedes the initiation of a behavior or even a conscious thought by a fraction of a second.  Have you ever wondered why the vision-gifted house fly seems to know when you are about to swat it before you even consciously committed to doing so?  This is because before you were aware of making a conscious decision to murder the fly, your entire system was already preparing for the action.  You could perhaps call this “subconscious will”, but does that really make any sense?  Can the workings of a system unknown to the actor himself still be considered part of a deliberate volitional act?

Large swaths of humanity have expended an awful lot of blood, sweat and tears in the struggle for equality, freedom and justice over the centuries.  What if all such valiant efforts are just a part of the individual roles we’ve been tapped biologically to play in service of what might just be another hive organism?  This would certainly explain society’s addiction to pigeonholing each of its members into “classes”.  Whether it’s the clear-cut financially measured delineations of lower, middle and upper classes in capitalist societies, the ancient Vedic caste system of India, the assigned life stations of Communist citizens, or the former serf/soldier/nobility divisions of Medieval Europe, we behave as if each of us were indeed born into an assigned role and that we are incapable of being anything other than what is already predetermined at birth.  You will also see this same pattern in so-called “primitive” cultures.  No matter what, there is a hierarchy among human beings sharing a culture and regardless of that culture’s surface features, an individual seems to only have the choice of dutifully playing his or her role or being ostracized, jailed or killed.

In the human drama that has been unfolding for a few hundred thousand years, there seems always to be a repetition of certain characters or players no matter the geography or the era: there are cunning villains, courageous heroes, reckless narcissists, good-hearted “innocent” common people, and of course, the “fringe” class shared by madmen, sages, drunks and geniuses.  The latter is generally considered the “subversive” class but despite the angry threats and protests against it from the top of this societal pyramid, it is nonetheless indispensable to keep the whole structure stable.  What would a cop be without criminals?  A Puritan without debauchery?  A king without subjects?  Because it is the nature of a hive to keep itself in balance, it cannot function without such seeming opposites among its constituents.  Draw a line from Caligula to T***p or Confucius to Gandhi and you’ll begin to see that humanity through its diverse cultures and eras has always been based upon the same pattern involving roughly 4 or 5 “types” of individuals necessary for civilization to function.

If what I am saying is true, while it may be uncomfortably humbling on the one hand, on the other, things might not actually be as catastrophically dangerous as they seem at the present.  Our imminent extinction has thus far been avoided, so why wouldn’t the surface features of our current situation likewise work themselves out?  Of course, “working themselves out” often means at the expense of the lives of millions of individuals, but this too is a repetitive cycle the “tragedy” of which is appended to mass extinction events after the fact.

If what I am saying is utter nonsense, then I thank you for reading because this would mean you had a choice whether to do so or not and you decided to read it anyway.   If you indeed possess free will, Dear Reader, then you also have impeccable taste.

 

 

Amnesiacs Raging At Ghosts

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If soap opera script writers are to be believed, a case of total amnesia resulting from a blow to the head is quite a common occurrence. And if cartoon script writers are to be believed, all it takes to reverse this condition is another blow to the noggin of equal force. This is pure fiction, of course. People do not forget the details of their identities and personal lives while retaining the ability to walk, talk, read, write and drive a car. There is no “identity lobe” in the brain that could suffer damage while the areas responsible for language, reason, impersonal memory and the application of motor skills continue to function normally. Regardless, I’d like to play with this idea for a moment. What if this type of amnesia actually befell a person? I’m not talking about memory loss resulting from dementia, alzheimers, drugs or psychosis, but a complete inability to recall one’s name, spouse, occupation, religious faith, political associations, family or friends while retaining the ability to communicate and function normally in all other ways. My guess is that someone “suffering” from such a condition would be the sole man or woman on Earth who knows what it feels like to be fully, naturally human. This person would be just like a staggeringly precocious and intellectual infant, yet he or she would be utterly free of regret. Whether you’re a mindfulness advocate perpetually admonishing others to live in the present moment or just a fan of the “Look Who’s Talking” franchise, you’d almost certainly find an individual so afflicted most fascinating and you might even envy their situation.

In a broader sense, every single one of us might just have such a case of amnesia and if so, it’s far from enviable. Despite the continuing march of scientific discovery, no one has yet been able to prove that the phenomenal Universe is anything other than a product of mind. A projection of consciousness that adjusts its hallucinatory images and sensations according to the beliefs and expectations of its spectators who are also nothing more than projections of consciousness. I’m speaking once again of pantheism, the theory that what we call “God” is every one of us. It basically posits that Consciousness is all there is and at some point, this Consciousness decided to play a game of hide and seek with itself. In order to play this game, of course, it needed more than one participant so it splintered into countless life forms all of whom are immediately saddled with amnesia as to “their” true identity. The game thus initiated, each of us run to and fro trying to figure out why we’re here, what’s our purpose and what awaits us after the deaths of our physical bodies. But we can never really hope to get those answers because of this very same self-inflicted amnesia. Refusing to admit defeat, we instead just started making shit up and repeating it with such frequency that slightly varied arrangements of this shit formed all of our personal belief systems. A caveat, in case this wasn’t clear: while this idea makes perfect sense to me, it is still just one more metaphysical best guess and I can offer no proof of its veracity. Therefore, my belief in this theory isn’t any different than a child’s belief in the Easter Bunny — or an adult’s belief in the Holy Trinity, Allah or Xenu. In fact, what it has most in common with these other theisms is that it appeals to the particular tendencies of my ego and therefore, contemplation of its implications is a meaningless exercise. It is precisely this ego and its misapprehension of the self as an independent and eternal entity that must be debunked in the spiritual practices aimed at liberation. Despite its insubstantiality, it is the sole idea from which we must liberate ourselves if we wish to vanquish neurosis.

All of that was a pretense for me to answer some very compelling questions recently posed by Tom Being Tom as part of his Liebster Award acceptance. Like me, he recently read the excellent book “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari — a book I highly recommend to everyone who reads — and his questions are infused with the subject matter of this incredibly fascinating and refreshingly philosophical history of mankind. Aside from the upcoming Q&A format, I think I can tackle his inquisitions without drastically changing the theme already established. Let’s proceed, shall we?

According to Harari, what separates man from beast is man’s ability to create stories that unite us into larger and more formidable numbers than any other creature on Earth. It may also be what separates our large groups from one another. Throughout history, man has created these stories and mythologies to not only explain nature, but to unite peoples. Of the hundreds of thousands of gods man has created, do you still believe in one? If so, why? Have you ever considered this question before?

I do not believe in any gods, per se, at least not of the popular anthropomorphic variety. By the same token, it would be inaccurate for me to identify as an atheist due to my predilection for pantheism described above. Not only have I considered this question before, but I’ve spent so much time in the futile contemplation of it that it has actually become its own obscuration — a way of engaging in discursive and irrelevant thought at the exclusion of the type of contemplation that dissects and defuses the ignorance inherent in such pointless eternalism. This is why Gautama Buddha allegedly answered a disciple’s theistic questions with the deceptively simple answer, “I don’t know.” He was trying to steer this student away from such a contemplative double-bind as that which we all still foolishly entertain. I am leveling this same criticism at everyone who may be reading this, of course, because not only is it the primary driver of our collective and individual suffering, it is the only one. The question of god is absolutely meaningless and it compounds our neuroses.

While the pantheist aspect of Hinduism may satisfy a certain intellectual curiosity for me, it does nothing to alleviate my delusion or even bolster my feelings of universal equanimity due to the fact that it is, after all, just another concept. Therefore, of the major world religions, the one from which I draw most liberally is Buddhism. Before cultural norms and superstitions began to attach themselves to this amorphous wisdom tradition, questions of reincarnation and the Bardo had no place in its cosmology. In fact, it can be said with some accuracy that the pure core of Buddhist thought dispenses of a cosmological theory altogether. That’s exactly the point. The reason Buddhism remains the major religion with the least number of adherents worldwide is due to its uncomfortable insistence on dismantling our precious egos. Here in the West, it is almost a heresy. There are only two pillars that form the base of Buddhist thought: interdependence and impermanence. And it just so happens that those two realities are the most distasteful to our sense of self-importance and our addiction to attaching invented meaning to our lives. The discomfort that arises from questioning our deeply ingrained sense of self is exactly what motivated people to create pacifying myths that purport to infuse reality with sense and purpose. But once a myth is established, it develops a mind of its own and insidiously infects every single person trapped in its cultural orbit. This can be seen quite clearly in the West in the way our alleged atheists express themselves in the very same religious language of extremes: things can be viewed nihilistically or eternalistically at the exclusion of all views potentially contained in the vast chasm between those two poles.

An example. Do you remember XTC’s 1980s hit “Dear God”? This purportedly subversive piece of pop sacrilege is nothing more than a self-contained contradiction. I would have expected more from the normally cerebral Andy Partridge, but maybe he was just trying to fulfill some contractual obligation for his record label and thus didn’t put much thought into the lyrics. The song reiterated the most common yet ridiculous mental habit of modern man: the tendency to attempt to negate the existence of God through anger at the very same God allegedly disbelieved by the one who is angry with it. In the final verse, Andy accuses God of drowning babies, waging wars and a host of other atrocities caused by his meddling in our earthly affairs. Then, after this exposition of the charges brought against the Creator, Mr. Partrdige perplexingly concludes, “…if there’s one thing I don’t believe in — it’s you, dear God.” What?! How could one of the premier artisans in the realm of thinking-man’s rock entertain such nonsense? Do you disbelieve the myth or are you angry at its central character? You cannot allege that you don’t believe in god in one breath while in the next detailing your petty grievances against it. If you are truly an atheist, you can only shine your spotlight of judgment on something other than god since you’ve allegedly relegated the very notion of “god” to the realm of fairy tales. If you claim to harbor no theism whatsoever, expressing anger at god is the same as raging against the inhumanity of The Grinch. This is because the whole myth game is rigged to create a convenient scapegoat. If you really wish to give a good ass-chewing to the entity behind your suffering and confusion, all you can do is yell into a mirror. But that would be too much like taking personal responsibility for your own lot in life and we have made what should be the only worthwhile human endeavor into an iron-clad social, psychological and cultural taboo. To fill the void created by this refusal to engage in uncomfortable introspection, God entered stage left.

I am of the belief that morality and ethics are independent of our myths. Those of religious faith who also feel empathy, compassion and forgiveness do so despite their faiths. Those who have little or no compassion hold up their faith as flimsy proof of their pitiful reserve of morality. Therefore, I think that the value of our mythology has passed. Whereas it once had the power to unite formerly independent pockets of culturally-diffuse humanity, it long ago turned a corner and became the very thing that divides and devours us. The only way to break out of this imaginary yet powerful force of myth is to tame your own mind in such a way that it no longer harbors the anxious desperation that relies on such mythology. In other words, you need to let yourself feel deep down in your gut the truth that you do not have an existence independent of everyone and everything else and that in the not-too-distant future, you are going to die. For the purposes of vanquishing delusion and its attendant suffering, you must also dispense of such eternal concepts as heaven, hell and an eternal soul. If these things be true — and again, there is no way to prove that they are or aren’t — they still do nothing to solve our most basic human problem of ignorance and thus deserve no acclaim whatsoever. The only way to discover your “eternal self” is to paradoxically understand that there is no such thing. The longer we continue to model our society and our sense of self on these dualistic myths, the deeper into the quagmire of suffering and strife we sink. If you’re an atheist, be a fucking atheist. That means when your cat dies, you do not have the option of shaking your fist at the sky at the unfairness of it all. Right view does not recognize fairness. Justice is a notion born of a gross misunderstanding of what and who we are in relation to each other. So what do you do? You shed a few tears for Fluffy and you move on in the knowledge that cats, like everything else, are by their very nature impermanent. And if that sounds cold, it’s only because it subconsciously offends your ego that congratulates itself for such natural drives as kindness to animals. Yet once an organism dies, it no longer needs your kindness. These kinds of after-the-fact declarations of love and affection only benefit the one feeling them. Fluffy is utterly unaware of your tears and even if she witnessed your touching display of grief, she still probably wouldn’t give a shit.

In summary, here’s a suggested practice: try to spend the next week blaming no one and nothing for negative events or moods that might arise. For those who are a bit more advanced than that, try fully experiencing whatever comes without applying the labels of negative or positive to it at all. If you can manage to do this even sporadically, you are on the doorstep of liberation. God need not apply.

By the same notion, we create more than just gods, we create imaginary borders and mythical unions called “nations.” We then exalt our own nation as the greatest one. Do you believe your nation is the greatest one? If so, why?

The latter part of this question is something I can answer quite succinctly: hell no. As imaginary notions go, the United States of America may just be the most dangerous of them all and this was true long before the advent of T***p. The US in its very short history has been the initiator of almost every major war fought since its inception and has incarcerated more of its own citizens than any other “free” nation on the planet. There are, of course, countries that treat their citizens with far more immediate cruelty, but none of them strut around like peacocks proclaiming to be the “greatest country in the world” or even more ironically, the “Land of the Free”. Fuck the United States of America. If that last statement rattled or offended you, then you are clinging desperately to a phantasm to bolster your individual self-esteem through association with an idea designed to foster a feeling of collective self-esteem. Do you see the relation to the god myth here? It’s the same psychological drive to invent meaning from meaninglessness. Ditto for the imaginary notions of money, culture and language. So really, for me to have started this paragraph with a scathing rebuke of one myth in comparison to others was nothing more than an illustration of this tendency to reify the legends we pull out of our asses. Clearly, I have just as long a way to go in achieving something approaching right view as anyone.

Take this quiz. Report back to me your coordinates on the grid. If you’ve taken it before, please do so again. Were you surprised by your results? If you took it before, have your results changed?

Your Political Compass
Economic Left/Right: -6.75
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.74

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Do you believe that man has ever stepped foot on the moon?

Inasmuch as this question assumes the existence of such a celestial body, yes, I do. Remember when conspiracy theories used to be fun? Questioning the moon landing along with implicating thousands of shadowy people in the assassination of JFK used to be very entertaining ways of wasting time on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Then, and very recently at that, the kooks who tend to really buy into such far-fetched theories and unfounded doubts became the loudest and most influential voices in society. The lunatics are having their day and if you think that’s anything less than an extreme existential threat to the species, you’re not paying attention. Just to clarify: the earth is round. It revolves around the sun. The moon is a satellite of the earth. It is close enough for modern conveyances to reach it. Oh, and there is photographic proof of man’s landing upon its surface for those who still believe the information gleaned by their senses. If that last thing seemed unnecessary to point out, then take a look at the next high profile civilian-shot or lapel-cam footage of a cop beating the living shit out of an unarmed “suspect” and compare what you saw with your own eyes to the almost always successful defense of the act as being somehow “proper police procedure”. It would be threatening to the system to admit that brutality itself is what cops consider “proper police procedure” so instead, shifty attorneys in the employ of police unions endeavor to make us question our own powers of perception. Incidentally, this is the one and only ploy utilized by the current occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in an attempt to cover their criminal tracks.

Is Bigfoot real?

Maybe. This central figure of modern cryptozoology seems to have some compelling evidence to back it up, but often this very evidence gets debunked years after it was released into the public eye. It seems to always be described as a primate and it is rarely endowed with any sort of supernatural abilities, so its existence as just one more specimen of the animal kingdom is very possible — perhaps even more so than the already verified existence of the unlikely platypus. However, the odds of Bigfoot’s reality become more and more slim with every forest habitat we destroy. The fewer untouched areas of wilderness that are left on the planet, the less likely it becomes that there is an as yet undiscovered primate inhabiting them.

If we are on the verge of technology that would allow a human life to continue indefinitely, as some believe, would you choose to do so?

A thousand times no. This question brings us right back to our central neurosis – the misguided desire for immortality. First of all, nobody ever seems to really think this through. Immortality would be a curse, not a blessing. An event that begins must, by definition, end. Without such an ingrained death wired into an organism as the natural pole to its inception, it would be impossible to appreciate the very fact of being alive. Remember Fluffy? The only reason she was able to lay around and puke on your furniture for 15 years or so is because she was destined to die from her very first breath of kittenhood. If you really want to celebrate her life, you must understand that the death aspect of it is essential to the whole process that she was (and still is as her constituent parts rot and disintegrate somewhere in your back yard). An immortal life form is an oxymoron. Learn to view it as such.

If we are on the verge of technological and societal achievements that would allow us to feed, clothe, and shelter all human beings on Earth at zero cost, as some believe, should we do so?

YES — absolutely. If our knowledge and resulting technologies can’t be used in service of the basic needs of all people, it is nothing more than vanity. At the present, our technology is forging a questionable evolutionary path that we refuse to acknowledge due to our addiction to convenience at all costs. More often than not, when friends “get together” these days, what that really means is they are sitting in close proximity to one another while at the same time completely ignoring each other in favor of their stupid fucking distraction devices. We have happily allowed technology to vastly increase our ego-driven antisocial tendencies, but we still fool ourselves into thinking that we’re communicating with others when we tap furiously on a schmutz-covered touchscreen, oblivious to the real people all around us to whom we could be communicating via that antiquated device called “speaking”. This is also just one more attempt at controlling our environment. The rise of “smart” home devices like Alexa (just an improvement upon “The Clapper” of the early 90s) illustrates our folly in bending over backwards to achieve maximum control over our artificial environments when the real power that so few of us seek anymore is to intuitively understand our inherent symbiotic relationship with nature. But the overwhelming feeling that would result from such a return to our roots would be an understanding of our inter-dependence — again, a truth that offends our anxiety-ridden desire for independence and immortality. Your iPhone holds no answers nor does it alleviate suffering but it does further solidify your delusions of self-importance. I wish this were nothing more than a fad with a correspondingly short shelf life, but clearly that’s not the case. At the very least, though, can’t we please press at least some of our limited funding and brilliant minds in the service of altruism? You can still have your precious phones, I promise you. But maybe while you’re busy retweeting another stupid meme, some poor kid on the other side of the globe can eat today.

I think I’ve pontificated more than enough for today, eh? Before I take my leave, though, I’d like to make one final statement. Usually when I compose a long-winded, finger-wagging diatribe of this nature, I tend to dial back some of the things I’ve said in the comments section when faced with a reader who thinks they have a uniquely personal reason for being exempt from such universal truths or the application of the antidotes to human ignorance. Comments like “Yeah, I understand what you’re saying, Paul, but in my case, I have no choice because…” will not be entertained in the wake of this post. You are not unique or precious and you have no legitimate “but”s to constitute a fly in my philosophical ointment. Nor do I, of course. There are only two approaches to this mysterious thing called life: ignorance or wisdom. The way of ignorance is always defended by declarations that begin with the words “yeah, but…”. So just for today, please deposit your buts in the ashtray located conveniently at the exit. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.

Identity Hoarding

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I’ve lost count of how many times I have come here in an attempt to linguistically negate our delusional sense of self. Dipping into the vast reservoirs of convoluted euphemisms that form the disciplines of science and philosophy, I’ve asked readers to reimagine this vague composite notion called “you”, redefine or even completely dismantle the “common sense” feeling that your skin-ensconced body/mind system constitutes either the beginning or the end of a person, and take a broader view of the elements essential for life in an effort to weaken the aforementioned sensation of inherent and self-contained existence. Now seems as good a time as any to thank all of you faithful readers for being such good sports in graciously entertaining my amateur attempts at grandiose philosophy and responding as if I had said anything sensible at all.

You see, in impetuously jumping to such lofty conclusions, I failed to notice that I skipped right over a vital step in dismantling this multi-tiered illusion of collective ego. To use an overplayed analogy, I was trying to run before I had mastered the art of walking.

The influence of Eastern thought on my writing — coupled with a novice understanding of its underlying message — frequently inspires me to get ahead of myself. A far more sensible starting point for an attempt at instruction in the lessening of mental delusion would be, perhaps, the parsing of the previous sentence, particularly the phrase “inspires me to get ahead of myself”. Right there, through the employment of the black magic of language, I created a duality. I verbally split myself in two. The phrase implied a primary actor — the one who gets ahead — and then posited a second entity through the use of the word “myself” upon which the primary actor is working. How many people was I trying to discuss in that sentence? The statement explicitly treated “me” as a multiplicity; funny for someone who is constantly caterwauling about the non-existence of even a definitive singularity called self as the basis of any life form.

Before starting this essay, I did a little random reading of recent posts on WordPress. To maximize objectivity, they weren’t those of bloggers I follow — many of whom are also readers of my page — but just an arbitrary selection of posts by authors with whom I am unfamiliar. Of course, I found myself reading dispatches from many people who seem to think they are actually multiple people inhabiting a single body. Phrases such as these were in abundance: “I am very proud of myself today”; “The me that likes to go out and party overtook the me that knows it should have stayed home and taken care of housework”; “I can’t shake the voice in my head that tells me I’m not worthy”; “This week, I am going to create a to-do list for myself and this time, I intend to stick with it”; “I am going to get (bland inspirational word or phrase) tattooed on my arm so that I never forget”; “Today, I am going to be kind to myself”.

Mind you, I’m not trying to mock these anonymous writers for their word choices because, of course, this is how we all speak. This is the language we’ve got, like it or lump it. And though we as a culture tend to over-utilize language to reinforce our anxious delusion of self, communication is nonetheless necessary. Can we really hope to overhaul not just one language but an entire system of related languages all of which were intentionally built upon the assumption that everybody literally means every body? That one’s fluid and unbounded system of energy, matter and consciousness is actually a static entity called “me”?

Contrary to popular belief, neuroscientists and biologists don’t have the slightest clue as to what consciousness is and from whence it arises. They have, quite impressively, figured out the function of various areas of the brain responsible for sensory apprehension, emotion, instinct and that infinitely questionable thing we call memory. But those are simply states experienced by consciousness — they are not, individually or collectively, consciousness itself. Admitting this agnosticism might be a great start in the pursuit of this elusive knowledge, but it would probably also be the end of the pursuit. Once it is known that something is unknowable, research in its direction becomes a wild goose chase.

So for now, let’s leave the metaphysics at the door for once and just examine the mass schizophrenia inherent in our species’ customary thought patterns. Before meditating on the insubstantial nature of “you”, why not begin by consolidating that “you” into a single idea? At the very least, this should minimize the number of “you’s” that need analytical negation.

The Romance languages we speak in the West were constructed to reinforce a power structure, a hierarchy. The perpetual subject-object split in our words becomes a perpetual subject-object split in our conception of reality itself. So the artificial relation of king to subject, master to slave, dominant husband to dutiful wife works its way through our psyches until we find ourselves thinking and speaking in a way that implies such a hierarchical structure within ourselves. This is why we believe that we have a good side and a bad side; a playful side and a serious side. Where might such sides be located in opposition to each other? To say that you have a devilish side and an angelic side is the same as saying that you have a devilish self and an angelic self. Replacing the word self with side does nothing to eradicate the illusion of multiple personalities inhabiting a single body, some of which are virtuous and some of which are sinful. Once these personalities are established in our minds as aspects of an ego, the mental erection of a power structure begins. The good and virtuous side should reign supreme and authoritative over the irresponsible and reckless side. An authority and a frequently unruly servant are imagined with every such conceptual split. But this split is itself the illusion. There is only one “you”, no matter how difficult I endeavor to make the definition of the word “you”. There’s still just one. But the fact that we feel otherwise is exactly what sustains the broader hierarchies of human society. While we are at war with ourselves, others utilize this distraction to climb another power rung for more widespread subjugation of those needed as underlings to sustain the superior feelings and positions of the overlings. And, of course, all of this is true for the simple reason that we continually reinforce it with words and concepts that hypnotize us into believing it to be true.

So perhaps the mythical “enlightened” human being is nothing more mysterious than someone who has figured out the duplicitous nature of society and the language used to describe it and in response, has gradually divested him or herself of the speech patterns that inform the thought patterns that inform the behavior patterns of a pawn within an inescapable power structure. As such, this might just be the most dangerous kind of person imaginable to those who perpetuate this illusion for selfish and neurotic ends. As soon as the artificial structure is questioned, it begins to disintegrate and if it disintegrates, there will be no more subjugation for the very fact that no one will be in a position to be subjugated. It therefore follows that there would no longer be a system in place that needs authorities and followers to sustain it. We would re-inherit our personal power by destroying the very need for interpersonal power. We would all be our own masters, our own teachers and our own therapists. Except it would be far less duplicitous than that. I just don’t currently have the words to describe it adequately.

So let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?  For those who wish to play with their own conception of reality, here are a few simple suggestions to employ in the upcoming week. Stop talking to yourself. Easier said than done, of course, but at least get started on this mental shift in the navigation of your daily life. Since it is obviously impossible for a single self to talk to itself, just ruminate on that logic until you begin to feel silly every time you have a thought like, “Come on, Paul, pull it together.” Who is speaking to Paul and why would Paul even listen to an unidentified voice admonishing it to pull some undefined something together? You will continue to think such thoughts because they have a lifetime of habitual reinforcement behind them. But little by little, when they arise, you will begin to feel the absurdity of such imagined conversations between non-entities and this will almost certainly cause the habit itself to dissipate. Stop being your own cheerleader and/or critic. Someone who performs an action cannot be the objective judge of that very same actor. No matter what, your ingrained ethics will cause you to have a visceral reaction to your own recent behaviors and that is the only guide you need. It’s called intuition and it doesn’t speak to itself. If you have the annoying habit of referring to yourself in the third person, stop. Just stop. And finally, try to minimize moment-to-moment conceptualizing of your experience. If you’re taking a walk, don’t try to analyze the details of why you decided to do so, what you could be doing that’s more “productive” or even whether you’re happy or sad or introspective or melancholy or anxious or depressed while performing the act of walking. Just walk. The rest will take care of itself if you simply let go and allow it to follow its natural path. You might just find that this little uncharacteristic stroll was the greatest gift you ever bestowed upon yourself for the very reason that you were incapable of giving something to yourself and for once in your fucking life, you understood that.

Fabric Softener

 

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I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. – The Beatles

Morgan Freeman really gets around these days.  While hosting the brilliantly mind-bending series Through The Wormhole for several seasons on the Science Channel, someone over at National Geographic clearly saw how perfect his temperament and delivery worked in the service of exploring foreign and often misunderstood ideas.  And what ideas are more rampantly misunderstood than the ones that inform people’s religious beliefs?   So earlier this year, NatGeo hired him to host a miniseries entitled The Story of God and now, as almost a companion piece to that religion-based series, he hosts a similar show called The Story of Us.  Pantheist that I am, I see little difference between the subject matter of these two recent programs and Mr. Freeman approaches both topics with his characteristic respect and genuine curiosity.  But I’ll get back to Easy Reader shortly.  First, we must take our own little trip through the wormhole.

The overarching aim of the paradoxically aimless discipline of Mahayana Buddhism is for the practitioner to attain a state of undisturbed equilibrium through the perfect conjoining of Prajna (wisdom, right view) and Karuna (compassion, lovingkindness).   I’ve talked an awful lot here about concepts that I feel illustrate the correct apprehension of reality – right view — in a necessarily awkward and imperfect attempt to show that the ideas explored by science and spirituality and philosophy and meditative awareness are all artificially separated, relatively specified aspects of an unbreakable Whole.  But if you view such expositions as being applicable only to the wisdom aspect of the Prajna-Karuna field, then it’s a safe bet you do not understand them correctly.  It is the job of that ornery yet insubstantial bogeyman we call the Ego to focus attention on one step of the grand dance at a time, as this reinforces the illusion that the observer himself is also a distinct and unique thing with definable boundaries.  This is what gives us our erroneous sense of self and it is at the heart of all interpersonal struggle.  A more holistic viewpoint would clearly help to lessen our anxieties, all of which have one single mental error as their basis: the mistaken belief in the self as an inherently existing entity with the skin marking its definitive boundary from and against everything else.

Meditation is the method by which one can begin to feel the reality of Universal interconnection rather than just understand it intellectually, but more detail about that is beyond the scope of this post.   For now, suffice it to say that Einstein’s use of the word fabric in describing the space-time continuum was more ubiquitously applicable than he even realized.  He was attempting to illustrate the idea of curved space in describing the movements of celestial bodies.  However, space itself is inseparable from the perceived objects within its field.  Space does not contain things, nor are things surrounded by space.  Every single phenomenal “thing” is, in fact, a space-thing where every outline or boundary is shared and hence non-existent.  But in order to really know this, one cannot rely on words or concepts – the very symbols for reality that we confuse as being reality.  That is the entire problem.  I leave it to you to decide how or even if you wish to embark upon such metaphysical explorations, but not before adding with a bit of urgency that at the current crossroads we face as a species, it is very important that you do.

Much like the undefinable physical boundaries discussed above, wisdom and compassion exist interdependently.  I could say that it is important to understand Universal interconnection in the scientific sense because it helps one to understand the logic of developing compassion and empathy for those who are simply different aspects of the same shared field.  Or, conversely, I could tell you that it is vital to practice compassion for self and others because it will expand your view of humanity’s (and by extension, the Universe’s) interconnectedness.   It really makes no difference because both of those differently worded statements actually made the exact same observation.  Is your skin the boundary of you or is it the boundary of the space around you?  The answer to both questions, of course, is “yes”.

The ego’s job is to discriminate.  Although the word itself has a very bad reputation, this imaginary yet effective illusion of individualism is also essential for navigating life in the phenomenal world.  Just because there is no subatomic separation between your constituent elements and those of a brick wall you are approaching doesn’t mean you should just keep walking into the wall.  I assure you, that wouldn’t be a pleasant experiment to conduct.  So we must necessarily pick and choose when a situation calls for Ultimate wisdom or relative wisdom.  Relative wisdom discriminates; it is what tells you to stop walking because there’s a big fucking wall just inches from your nose.  Ultimate wisdom understands that just because you wisely avoided an unnecessary and almost certainly unpleasant broken nose doesn’t really mean that you did anything.  You and the wall did not do a dance, but collectively you are a dance.  The wall was just as essential to the waltz as you were, and yet there was only one dancer, that can be defined simply (if esoterically) as Self.  The capital S is meant to differentiate it from our usual egocentric definition of the word self, to align it with the Hindu concept of the Atman, the god-spark, the breath of Brahman that both animates and is all things.  That’s it.  Whether your mind embraces this to mean that there is only one Thing or that there is not actually a single Thing in existence is irrelevant.   The way to proceed from there – from right understanding – is the same either way.

Now we see Lila, the grand dance, and all of its constituent movements.  These movements are no longer composite elements but literally elegant steps in an infinite masquerade ball – a way of playing with the phenomenal world gracefully, artfully, in the unspoken knowledge that no one is doing anything nor is anything doing us.  Actor and action are inseparable, as are life and death, inside and outside.  1-2-3-4, step ball heel toe, grand jete, repeat.

Back to the relative action.  Most of us are rightly very worried at the current state of our human interactions due to the growing influence of gross ignorance upon them.  “What can we do?” has become a rhetorical question born of sad desperation.  In truth, none of us can do a damn thing about the cruel machinations of nationalism and totalitarianism sweeping across the globe, but if you need to feel like there’s something you can do, go enter a booth somewhere in your district next November and pull the levers that make you feel best about yourself.  Someone will even give you a little sticker to pin to your lapel on your way out broadcasting to the world that you just pulled the best levers a person can possibly pull.

But if you really want to help, you need to continually remind yourself of the inextricable bond between all life forms until it becomes clear that charity is not helping others, nor is it helping yourself, it is simply helping and this is where Karuna merges with Prajna to form The Great Perfection.  This is already what you are, as am I, as is everyone, but without the proper experiential understanding, it cannot be integrated into the elegance of the dance, which is another way of saying that if you suffer from the delusion of self you will never understand the sheer power of the lovingkindness of Self.  The reason this is an essential thing to grasp is because once it is understood, you will be naturally guided at all times to the most helpful actions towards seeming “others” because you will know in a very real sense that he and she and they are all literally you.

Now back to Morgan Freeman.  An episode of The Story of Us explored the power of Love in various human interactions.  The final segment of this installment of the series had Morgan in London visiting a hair stylist with a very inspiring hobby.  His shop is located in a section of the city that has a significant homeless population and for many years, this man felt impotent to help in any significant way these brothers and sisters who had fallen on such hard times.  Then one day he had an idea.  After closing his business each day, he now goes out on the streets, stool in hand, in search of suitable recipients of his daily acts of lovingkindness.  When he finds a homeless person that seems a good candidate, he has a brief chat with them before setting them on the stool where ever they may be – in an alleyway, below an underpass – and then he proceeds to give his new friend a shave and a haircut.  That’s it.  And the emotional effect of his selflessness on these long-forgotten human beings is as great as if he had gone around purchasing houses for them because you see, the real tragedy is the fact that we are scared of our unfortunate fellow travelers in this dance, ashamed of ourselves for feeling this way and consequently unwilling or unable to conjure the courage to help them.  Our warm-hearted hair stylist understands this.  He knows that what these people really lack isn’t just shelter but dignity and he does his best to give a little bit back to them.

Whoever we are, where ever we are, we can adopt similar hobbies.  How better to quiet one’s neurotic stream of consciousness than to direct that stream outward?  Do you really want to save the world?  Do you wish to vanquish racism and xenophobia and hatred?  Ensure a better, safer world for your children?  Fine.  All you need to do is go help someone.  That’s it.  It doesn’t matter who, it doesn’t matter how.  Just help.  If you do this often enough, you will eventually come to realize that helping yourself and saving the world are two phrases describing the same exact thing.  If it helps to sweeten the deal at the onset, just remind yourself that in the mind of one Donald T***p, an act of charity is a hostile act.  So let’s be as hostile as our hearts will allow and transform our habitat – our shared fabric —  with the magic of love and compassion.

Gesundheit!

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Every time you sneeze, somebody dies.

In the unified field that is the phenomenal Universe, every action is significant and bears directly upon every other action initiated at that moment in time and ever after. Does this mean that those suffering from hay fever are effectively serial killers? Of course not. All I really did in putting forth that idea was manipulate our conveniently imperfect language to make an absurd proposition sound theoretically plausible. But the reason the statement was absurd is probably not what you think. In a very real sense, somebody does die every time you sneeze. Likewise when you fart, masturbate or scratch your elbow. But even if intentionally avoiding such behaviors were possible, their very lack of performance would result in the end of someone else’s life. It would also necessarily bring about someone else’s conception or birth, a compensating factor that would surely bode well for a criminal defendant, not to mention the lack of malice aforethought in the execution of the sneeze (or stifling of said sneeze). Finally, the infinite number of “compensating factors” contributing to anyone’s death or birth negate the appropriateness of blame or praise being leveled upon any single organism. My sneeze resulted in the death of some fisherman in Pago Pago only because you yawned at the same moment that I sneezed and because everyone and everything else in the Universe did whatever it did in unison with my sneeze and your yawn. The unfathomable multitude of specifics at any given moment creates a fateful perfect storm for somebody, somewhere.

I imagine that astronauts orbiting the planet experience a god-like feeling as they gaze down upon the earth whose only movement from that perspective is that of the shifting strata of the upper atmosphere. From that far out, the frantic non-stop hive movements of the organisms upon the planet could not be discerned even if they were unobscured by clouds. So for as long as an astronaut inhabits a vessel in orbit, the only activities of life he can discern are his own. God-like. Our normal lack of such panoramic perspective is the reason we had to invent God in the first place. Our extremely limited and specialized sense organs are the only obvious windows of perception at our disposal. We navigate our lives with the aid of extremely narrow spotlights that illuminate only one very small feature of our environment at a time. The more we try to widen our perspective, the less clear become its constituent elements. Therefore, compared to those of us currently tethered to the surface of the earth by gravity, our intrepid space traveler truly does have a god-like view of our spherical habitat.

But that, again, is just a matter of perspective. In a Universe that is suspected to have existed for almost 14 billion years and that expands its parameters ever further with each passing moment, the only entity that could possibly be afforded a complete singular view of a field on such a massive scale would have to be something that exists outside of it and this is where the notion of god comes in. Yet the whole notion of god as some kind of creative spirit that resides on a plane beyond phenomena and from which our lives were conjured is as patently absurd as believing that you should send a sympathy card to every household in the world every time you sneeze. If a singular force is indeed responsible for the creation and sustenance of all that is, it would also logically need to be all that is. So this thing we so quaintly anthropomorphize in scripture is us. Reading the bible or any other monotheistic religious text is similar to re-reading one’s own diary.  And like most diaries, it is fundamentally dishonest and self-absorbed in its tone. It assumes a split, a separation between us and our creator and this makes each of us feel separate and unique…and anxiety-ridden. Replacing our egotistic sense of self with the more accurate feeling that each person is just a movement within the whole threatens our erroneous sense of what we are. It reminds us of our utter insignificance as imagined “individuals”. But at the same time, if this really were how we understood ourselves and our place in the larger field, there would no longer be the residual fear of self-preservation. The Self as imagined correctly doesn’t need preservation — it just is unless and until it isn’t.

I’ve spoken of a human being or any other life form as a unified field as opposed to a self-contained system, taking into account all of the “external” environmental factors necessary for life as well as our symbiotic impact upon those factors. From a strictly biological perspective, this is accurate. However, any description of a specific “part” of the whole is like describing a field within a larger field and thus inaccurate. The “field” that is me is illusory for the simple reason that one can never draw a definitive border around my sphere of influence. The entire Universe is its own singular field of influence and I as an infinitesimal energy knot am inseparable and indistinguishable from the vast fluid Singularity. I chose that word, incidentally, because it dawns on me that when astrophysicists use it to describe the extremely pressurized theoretical point that allegedly exploded into the rapidly expanding Universe, they inadvertently trap themselves in a linguistic double-bind. A “thing”, in this case the mysterious pre-creation singularity of Universal potential, cannot be discerned without space around it and other “things” inhabiting that space creating the possibility for distinction and discrimination. And if something cannot be discerned even theoretically, that is tantamount to saying that it didn’t or doesn’t exist. Perhaps the real source of confusion is the same old culprit — language. The words “beginning” and “end” are inapplicable to reality yet they cause us to assume that every event and every process must have the quality of these arbitrary bookends even though every “end” is a “beginning” and vice-versa. Our minds are incapable of intellectually grasping anything that does not have a finite span, so in the absence of suitable answers to life’s mysteries, we imagine an impossible being that lives unencumbered by the physical laws which bind us. Really, that’s just our way of throwing in the towel in our collective and ongoing search for truth. It’s our reaction upon reaching a seeming exhaustion of natural explanations to assume such things can only be explained by the existence of something super-natural, as big a load of semantic horseshit as has ever been proposed. Supernatural is a meaningless fucking term. Or as Love and Rockets once put it, “You cannot go against nature because when you do go against nature, it’s part of nature, too.”

For as long as we continue to feel like temporary skin-enclosed biochemical systems wrapped around an etheric immortal soul, we can never hope to achieve anything more than our familiar neurosis-breeding false view of reality. At the same time, it is precisely this stunted perspective that allows us to discern small patterns within slightly larger patterns in day to day life. For instance, a spectator in the bleachers of a football game would have a much harder time keeping track of the interplay between 22 participants evenly divided in their goals without the aid of panoramic images being transmitted from the dirigible floating above the stadium. However, from that vantage point, the colors of the uniforms being worn by the two teams wouldn’t be nearly as visible so if the action on the field isn’t occurring in an obvious directional trajectory, the pilot of the blimp couldn’t tell you who was winning or even which team was playing offense or defense. So a collaboration of perspectives takes place — the overhead footage from the zeppelin, the in-the-action perspective of the referees, the slightly elevated viewpoint of the fans — all combine to provide us with the most complete picture of the play possible, but this can only be pulled together after the fact. What you witnessed at the moment the last play was executed is entirely dependent upon where you were located and as such was woefully incomplete and inaccurately understood. This analogy was meant to be infinitely expandable so that you understand there is absolutely nothing that can be understood without the correct understanding of our utter inability to understand anything at all. A Universe that conjures itself from moment to moment does not stop to contemplate its own meaning or purpose, and that is why it can paradoxically be said to understand itself completely. It understands, quite simply, that there is nothing that needs to be understood.

I am far from enlightened and therefore, I entertain just as many silly notions having no basis in truth as anyone. It’s what we call wishful thinking. And I’m going to engage in a bit of that right now just to illustrate its impracticality. One, two, three…AH-CHOOO!!

Nope.  I just waited 10 minutes and apparently, Donald T***p is still spreading his noxious fumes across the Asian continent as we speak, so my deliberate sneeze was predictably impotent. I wonder if that unnecessary experiment was worth the life of a poor fisherman in Pago Pago.