Alone in a world of believers

You are blessed and cursed to have found your meaning in the question of meaning itself.

Blessed to be motivated to take a journey of deepest discovery, not only of the universe without, but of the universe within.

Cursed to be born in a world of believers, who are constantly and continuously tricked by the illusion of certainty and absolute meaning.

You have, through much existential suffering and malaise, arrived at some profound insights: meaning does not exist without, but within. Believers believe in what you have found to be myths; believers implicitly believe in the immortality of their egos, which you have failed to locate in yourself; believers expect judgment from a cosmic judge, now, today, and at every instant in the future, and you have realized you are your own judge.

You were once a believer. You too believed in absolute cosmic meaning. You too assumed and behaved as if your ego was immortal. You too were constantly feeling judgment, worried and fretting over the standards set by your fellow believers, and by the ultimate arbitrator. Put that all together and you have a wonderfully adapted and adaptable foot soldier in any environment at any historical time. Self motivated and self monitoring. Guided by shared myths. An immortal soul assured of favourable judgment resting peacefully every single night.

But you were not a believer for long. Something did not click. Too many doubts led to too many questions which led to your lifelong search for meaning. And let nobody tell you this was an escape, bred of laziness, for the spoiled and weak souls; you have shed more tears, had more sleepless nights, agonized in both body and mind for hours and days, months and years, non-stop. You had to know. And knowing is never achieved without great cost.

You have truly lived as a restless and tortured soul for far too long. The illusion holding power over the believers was not quite powerful enough to hold you. And yet it was not weak. It clashed with your spirit, and created for you great tension and anxiety. You could not reconcile your experience in the world with your true essence. At times you lashed out, arrogantly pointed out all the faults of the universe; other times you turned your anxiety inward, assumed the fault must be in you, and lay for days in bed. You were never still, never at peace, never at ease; there was always tension.

And after all the struggle, which is still ongoing, you have clarified the old and arrived at many new insights. Meaning exists, but only insofar as a ‘mean-or’ exists. So it is right to say meaning exists in the universe, but wrong to say meaning is universal. The ego is an illusion, an amazing trick of the mind, and even if it did exist, it would not be immortal. And finally, after all is said and done, so to speak, there is no judge, no judgment, external to the one in our own heads.

Are these hollow truths? No. Do they matter? Yes.

If meaning is subjective then you have the power to create your own. If the ego is mortal then you should not sacrifice today, in the form of existential anxiety and fear, for the hope of a better future. And, most importantly, you are the judge of your own meaning and striving and deeds. You do not have to fear the wrath of some cosmic lawgiver. If you are true to yourself, and strive according to your own standards, that is good enough.

The world of believers is caught in a web of illusion that serves a purpose, one of which each is unaware. We are, after all, evolved apes running the software of the mind adapted for survival on the plains of Africa, in a world at a time far far removed from the one we inhabit today. And yet, that software has not been, could not have been, updated in all this time. For the updates of evolution take eons, and are never completed. And besides, evolution does not care about your existential suffering, or your search for meaning. Evolution is an amoral process, an algorithm. If you are successful at continuing the legacy begun by the laws of evolution, the grounds of your success will be selected. It really is as simple, and as amazing, as that. What better way for a highly intelligent, social, purpose-seeking, conscious animal to succeed in a universe without absolute meaning – where neither its ego nor its anxieties are worth a damn outside its own head – than to have that creature not only invent, but wholeheartedly believe in, a set of myths, values, meanings, governing rules and cosmic judgments, eternal rewards and punishments?

Believers have not suffered nearly the existential malaise and doubt that you have experienced. Of this you can be sure, because they are believers. That is not to say your path is in any sense better than any other. That is not to say you are superior in any way to anyone else. It is simply meant to illustrate that you are on a different path than most people. You were destined to discover these insights. And the path was hard, and will continue to be overgrown and poorly defined. Not many people have trodden this way. But those who have would make good company. In their presence, at least, you would not feel so alone.

You were born a seeker. You could not rest. Your doubt and anxiety fueled your journey. And you have uncovered some valuable truths.

Each path a life; the worn and barely used alike. The majority of your fellow travelers rarely, if ever, escape their guiding illusions, paths crisscrossing the world, forming wide corridors and highways of frenzied activity. They may have tread many more an empty mile than you, but in your stubbornness and reluctance to step off the curb, you have made the longer journey.

As I lie awake staring at the faint light filtering through the space between the boards in my mind

Raising head,

Lifting eyes from dark,

Stepping outward,

From underground.

Strange hollowness,

Echoes in mind,

Empty of pretense,

Confident in not knowing.

Optimism seeking light,

Broken long dormancy,

Entering the world without,

Blinding, suffocating familiarity.

Same grey streets;

Same concrete buildings;

Same managed woods and rectangular fields and forgettable faces on Sunday walks on worn paths.

Same hierarchies.

Same games.

Same pretense.

Same narratives.

Same flow. Same responses. Same predictability.

Tender optimism. Knowing nothing. Utterly incapable of playing.

Words and ideas left unformed.

Nervous air from lungs passing silently through clenched and clenching teeth.


‘Why? Why would it change out there?’

‘It is here, in here,’ the boy said, pointing to his temple. ‘It has always been.’


Confidence gone.


…the shaking….the shaking….the shaking….

of a leg…


Most people, most of the time, have nothing to say.

Yet they talk!

How they beckon! – Join us. Come join us. Prattle prattle prattle. –

Words strung together, stretching back through ages. Narratives weaving, myths uniting. Layers and scales; minds to civilizations. One unbroken, unbreakable web.

Pretense. Opinion. Myth.

Words, words, words.

Nothing to say. Narratives left unformed.

Underground.

OCD

Order born of fear.

Claiming the seconds that make up the minutes that make up a life.

Doubting, too, these thoughts.

Notes – What is consciousness?

Immediate thoughts after meditation session:

For a brief time I was able to invert the common experience of consciousness being located behind the face and in the middle of the head. I was able to expand the location of consciousness to fill the four walls within which I was seated. I am still pondering this phenomenon. I wonder, if consciousness is a type of software running on the hardware of the brain, a software that models reality, incorporating images and concepts and relations. Does it make sense to assume it must exist somewhere? Sure, consciousness depends on the brain, but it is composed of non-material entities and categories (or so it seems – a claim very difficult for a materialist such as myself to digest), and as such, does not from necessity need to reside anywhere. If consciousness is not a material thing, it cannot be located anywhere. Is consciousness a realm of reality unto itself? And if not, how could the material realm produce such an illusion?

I opened my eyes at the end of the session and looked at my field of vision (a brown leather couch, a bookshelf to my left, a world map directly ahead, lamp and black side table), and was able to understand that this view was being created in my mind, and I was aware of it in the arena of consciousness. Though the software seamlessly makes me think those things which I see are out there in front of my eyes, and I am here, at a node where light waves reflected from those objects converge (which indeed, I think is safe to say, is an accurate description of the physics involved), I was able to grasp the experience of conscious awareness of this field of vision more fully, more accurately. That is, the images ARE NOT OUT THERE, but are in my mind, and I am consciously aware of those images. This deceptively simple realization was hard to achieve, and lasted only moments, but it was real and, I believe, accurate.

Conversations with myself – #4

I’ve resisted writing. There is little new to say. Old terrain, worn terrain.

And I annoy myself. And how!

But it goes round. This thought.

And that.

Fueled by fear. Fear itself.

Fear of failure. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of weakness. Fear of being seen. Fear of second place, of ridicule, of pain. Fear of letting you down. Fear of expectations. Fear of correctness. Fear of rules. Fear and more fear. Fear in the day, as I fret over my place in this universe. Fear in the night, as my mind slowly consumes itself in waking nightmares.

EVERY SINGLE DAY, EVERY BLOODY NIGHT.

Oh nausea! Ennui! A restless rest and static floating!

Oh, would that I melt and become water, flowing downhill to rejoin the eternal ocean. Oh, would that my fear achieve its apparent aim, and utterly obliterate the connections that hold me together.

Obsession of obsessions: obsessed with my obsessions.

One day, I promise myself, I will release this fear and angst, baked and hardened kernel feeding my doubt. I will give it back, down through the ages.

No blame. No blame. As if the universe can be faulted for a thing!

I will return this gift bestowed upon me, the one that has consumed me, dictated my life, for thirty-five years and ten months to the day.

But right now, this instant, I am afraid.

Mission statement for 2019

Don’t mistake the crowd for the truth; failing to fit in does not mean you’re broken.

Your horizons might extend further than your neighbour’s, your colleague’s, your friend’s; trust in your own eyes, let others trust in theirs.

With deference to Hamlet, might I add: there is also nothing either right or wrong, but truth to one’s self makes it so.

The greatest gift

The greatest gift you can give another is a piece of your deepest self.

Not your time. Not your money; but something more precious still.

Is it understanding, or compassion, or attention that you offer? Is there a word bringing these together?

Love?

That piece you offer freely, that is the gift. You offer without reservation. You say ‘Do with it as you will’, though, of course, you hope and trust the other treads lightly.

And that’s the risk you take…

…and the pain you can inflict.

Optimism

Set me adrift in the blackness,

Let me spin aimlessly like a homeless globe,

Traversing endless light-years without bearing.

Release me to the void.

To the black velvety comfort of a lightless horizon.


I see. I hear. 

Nothing.


A selfish bastard denying the world. One final cowardly display of spite.

I spit at thee and shut up my eyes and ears to all thy photons and surfaces and waves.

You – life animate and inanimate – force me to understand; you squeeze my head until it pops. 

And I say NO! NO MORE!

I do not understand. I do not see it. I do not hear it. I am dumb and selfish; dumb for not seeing, selfish for not wanting to see.

It makes no sense! And I know!

I am absurd and I can’t help it!


I feel the dark beckoning, offering infinitely more promise, more hope, more strength, than your cold, demanding, rational chaos. 

I am selfish. I see. I hear.

Nothing.


Now release me, let me drop, so that I may go spinning, aimlessly, optimistically, through the blackest void.

Alienation: an experiment

Here’s an experiment. Tomorrow, before entering the world, wear your hair a different way. Don socks that don’t match. When asked ‘how are you?’, don’t lie. Frown.

When the queen walks in, remain seated. 

Be honest. Be yourself tomorrow.

Unless you are infinitely agreeable, unless your hair looks equally good parted, unless you are God, prepare yourself. 

Prepare for the onslaught of thinly veiled snideness, disapproval, disdain; prepare for unsolicited opinions, for rolled eyes, for mockery; prepare for all the tools at society’s disposal to keep you in line. To hammer you to conformity. 

You’re a glass half empty kind of person? You best have them walkin’ papers signed and stamped! 

DO NOT ROCK THE BOAT!

You got that?

And always, always remember: FOLLOW THE CROWD. 

I dare you: wear your hair differently tomorrow.

The wall

metaphor-existential-wall

Spent a lifetime talking to that metaphorical wall,

Beat my hands and head until they bled.

Through streaming tears pleaded desperately, 

‘WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT FROM ME?’

Spent a lifetime talking to that metaphorical wall,

Until yesterday,

When I chose to listen.

Aphorisms – 2

Heed not too quickly the disapproving gaze, it may be the clearest proof yet you are on the correct way.

Aphorisms – 1

I’d rather fail a thousand times, before succeeding at something I despise. 

‘Choice’ does not save the concept of free will

There is plenty of interesting science demonstrating that we choose, subconsciously, fractions of a second before we are consciously aware of the choice. And yet, test subjects are adamant, they freely, consciously choose. 

These results are interesting, but are not, to my mind, necessary to dispose of free will; the concept itself is logically unsound.

Consider the problem philosophically. Ask yourself why you would choose one choice over another? Keep it mundane: fish or pasta for dinner. Look closely enough and there will be a reason. You feel like fish. You had pasta last night. What is the reason? Now ask yourself, why would that reason decide the matter? Why would it matter that you had pasta the night before? Is it because you are a person who likes culinary diversity? Have you decided pasta is not healthy two nights in succession? Are you watching your starch intake? Regardless of the answer, you are guaranteed to settle upon a reason.

So, you are the type of person who decides by reason. Why are you that type of person? Why do reasons matter to you? (Could it be because you are part of the universe? And to act in any way requires a cause? Yes, even the statement ‘because I felt like fish’ is a reason; feeling is causal). Did you choose to be a reasonable person? Did you choose to feel that way? And if the answer is yes, why did you choose to be reasonable, why did you choose to feel that way? What would it be like to exist and to act without reasons and feelings? Is that even possible? (I think the answer is clear).

And let us suppose you are unreasonable. Let us say you actually take great pleasure in being absurd. You do everything contrary to good sense and what your gut tells you. Is that freedom? Wouldn’t identifying the opposite of good sense be the first step, and once you have identified that you proceed accordingly? Haven’t you just substitute a good cause for a contrary cause? Aren’t they both causes? Have you actually found freedom here?

Or suppose you really have no preference. Let us admit that the choice between fish and pasta is truly a stochastic one, a flip of the coin. You need to eat, so the question of freedom does not live or die with the need to eat, but with the choice of food. Yet. if you choose by the flip of the coin, where is the freedom in that? In the absence of any preference, any reason, you leave the choice to fate. Your choice is no longer a choice.

‘Choice’, or better, the illusion of choice, depends on the state of your brain before a choice is taken. What are the impossibly complicated environmental, cultural, genetic causes that set your brain in that state before the choice? Did you freely choose each of those states? (As if that were possible). For each one of your behaviours, your choices, there is a cause, a reason, you were not free to choose. That is because each of those causes and reasons had, in turn, a cause and reason for their existence. Take this truth and work step-wise backwards to the womb, and you can only conclude the person you are and the reasons you decide upon to act are the result of causes completely beyond your freedom to choose. And not only your freedom, but the freedom of your mother, of your father, of your grandparents, of their parents, of the common ancestor of chimps and humans, of the common ancestor of mammals, of its ancestor to all animals, of the organisms straddling the eukaryotic and prokaryotic divergence, of the first self-replicating molecules, the precursors to life, of the molecules composed of the elements from the exploding stars of the galaxy, of the galaxy, of the universe, of the freedom of existence itself. 

Logically, the concept of free will makes no sense. 

An introvert’s reminder

Arrogance is bad. Arrogance grounded in ignorance is even worse.

Independence may be a defense from the truth, a form of self-righteousness and silent arrogance.

Don’t seal yourself from the world, and claim superiority.

We may be our own worst (or forgiving) judges, yet removed from the tempering wisdom found only in human contact, our judgments lack facts.

A mind turned inward fails to recognize its reflection in the arena of social interaction.

The eye can’t see itself.

No one is an island.

Venting

Don’t hide behind clichés to justify yourself. Don’t blame the craziness of this world for your crazy actions. Take some goddamned responsibility.

Yeah, this life is crazy! Simply acknowledging that does not excuse your craziness, does not give it justification, does not clear the path to forgiveness and understanding.

Let me tell you, you don’t bring order to a chaotic world by increasing the chaos. There is no second law of social thermodynamics, wherein your personal order is attained at the expense of increasing social disorder.

You decrease overall chaos by first dealing with your personal chaos; get your own house in order before throwing yourself into the gears of the universe.

See it for what it is. That is the first step. Selfishness. Insecurity. Anger. Aggression. Weakness. Immorality. Willing blindness. Self-deception. Denial. Deceit. Lying. Obstruction. See it for what it is.

What is your role? Take the lead in judgement upon yourself. Develop some moral fortitude. Admit and attempt to remedy your mistakes. Few of us are so far gone that we can’t be pulled back from the abyss. Give yourself that first helping hand. Surely you must know, if anyone does, your actions are wrong, hurtful, dangerous, destabilizing. You simply have to ask yourself: ‘how would I feel?’

How would I feel?

How would you feel?

Bring some order to this chaotic world, and with humility and honesty, answer that question.

The switch

The mind has made a switch,

From days inward searching spent,

To heed the call of assumed responsibilities,

And rejoin the careening wheels of society.

The mind has made a switch,

And slides sadly into this communal pit.

…rhyming Homer with Homer…

Insight my mind has not brought!

Endless loops with doubt fraught!

Infinite thoughts pitifully caught!

Stagnation has only wrought rot!

Lyrics #8 – A Murder of One – Counting Crows

Check song out here.
Blue morning, blue morning
Wrapped in strands of fist and bone
Curiosity, kitten
Doesn’t have to mean you’re on your own
You can look outside your window
He doesn’t have to know
We can talk a while, baby
We can take it nice and slow
All your life is such a shame, shame, shame
All your love is just a dream, dream, dream
Well, are you happy where you’re sleepin’?
Does he keep you safe and warm?
Does he tell you when you’re sorry?
Does he tell you when you’re wrong?
Well I’ve been watching you for hours
It’s been years since we were born
We were perfect when we started
I’ve been wondering where we’ve gone
All your life is such a shame, shame, shame
All your love is just a dream, dream, dream
Well, I dreamt I saw you walking
Up a hillside in the snow
Casting shadows on the winter sky
As you stood there counting crows
One for sorrow, two for joy
Three for girls and four for boys
Five for silver, six for gold
Seven for a secret never to be told
But there’s a bird that nests inside you
Sleeping underneath your skin
Yeah, when you open up your wings to speak
I wish you’d let me in
All your life is such a shame, shame, shame
All your love is just a dream, dream, dream
Open up your eyes, you can see the flames, flames, flames
Of your wasted life, you should be ashamed
Yeah, you don’t want to waste your life, baby
You don’t wanna waste your life, now darlin’
You don’t wanna waste your life, baby
You don’t wanna waste your life, now darlin’
Oh, you don’t wanna waste your life, now baby
I said, “You don’t wanna waste your life, now darlin'”
Oh, you don’t wanna waste your life, now baby
Oh, you don’t wanna, you don’t wanna waste your life, now darlin’
Change, change, change
Change, change, change
Change, change, change
I walk along these hillsides in the summer ‘neath the sunshine
I am feathered by the moonlight falling down on me
I said, “I walk along these hillsides in the summer ‘neath the sunshine
I am feathered by the moonlight falling down on me”
I said, “I will walk along these hillsides
In the summer ‘neath the sunshine
I am feathered by the moonlight falling down on me”
I said, “I will walk along these hillsides
In the summer ‘neath the sunshine
I am feathered by the moonlight”
Change, change, change
Change, change, change
Change, change, change
Oh change, change, yeah
Oh, change, change, change
Oh, change, change, change
Change, change, change change
Change, change, change, change, change

Quote #8 – Thoreau

Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star. – Henry David Thoreau

The war of the obsessed mind

With my fingernails broken I scratch,

Every single hidden crevice and patch,

Until I, tediously excavating the last,

Finally from this space move past.

 

And yet with doubt constantly plagued,

Trapped wild beast mercilessly caged,

In my head the war bloodily waged,

Inane, insane, engulfed, enraged.

 

Have you yourself lost in loops been?

Thoughts’ ends and beginnings unseen?

Round they wrap choking tendrils keen,

Life to degrade, destroy, demean.

 

Life is suffering, so I might as well

Live my life in this self-made hell.

Your head may shake, yet can you tell

If your four walls aren’t but a cell?