An emperor thinks in empires.
A king thinks in nations.
A governor thinks in provinces.
A mayor thinks in cities.
An elder thinks in villages.
A farmer thinks in fields.
But a philosopher thinks in worlds.
An emperor thinks in empires.
A king thinks in nations.
A governor thinks in provinces.
A mayor thinks in cities.
An elder thinks in villages.
A farmer thinks in fields.
But a philosopher thinks in worlds.
Aged around three I gazed at my hand and thought ‘I can’t believe I am actually here! I can’t believe this is real and I exist!’
I remember it distinctly. I recognized myself, and the stupendous odds of my ever having incarnated.
It took twenty seven years, but just this week it truly hit me that the world actually is, and the world actually fucking exists. It actually is, it really is, it moves through time, it is. I can’t believe it is actually there, its incredible! The stupendous odds of it.
Strange things happen in this universe.
Imagine sitting in a chair that is hard and uncomfortable. No matter how you wriggle, you always end up with an ache somewhere. The top of the chair digs in to your back, so you hunch further down into it, but that only makes things worse in the long run. So you go back to how you were at first, having forgotten the feeling of a wooden bar against the top of your spine. You turn sideways, but now your neck is cranked at an awkward angle and in futility you begin to massage your shoulders. So you hunch down.
This is what my consciousness feels like inside my head. Disjointed, disorientated, confused. Uncomfortable with itself, it struggles between uncomfortable places.
I believe this is for two reasons, both metaphysical and intellectual: the first is that I have not accepted that there is no centre, that consciousness is intrinsically afloat on a stormy sea, and the second is that change and loss is the nature of all things.
I will focus on the second. Everything comes from something and dissolves back into that something. Change is a blessing when you are in pain, for it won’t be forever. But it is not a nice though to think that what is familiar to you, people and places, will someday cease to exist. This is especially true when we have a strong sense of memory and the places that made us happy.
Good days are the ones we want to hold on to, but inevitably they come and go. And when we really think about it, we were never truly in control of the millions of factors which fed into those good days. Indeed, that is what made them good!
So longing to recreate them is futile. What has been has been. Things are gained and lost. People in our lives also; found and lost.
Trying to predict every factor that feeds into this impossibly complex ‘equation’ that is life / lyfe – such a thing cannot be done. And is not desirable – imagine how terribly contrived it would be if everything fit your dreams to perfection and was entirely of your creation; there would be no other autonomous people, just you directing everything.
Yet insecurity and instability are frightening, so it is understandable that we want a foundation of control. We could talk about balance here, but I feel that will be naive. What balance? What sense of control?
None of us will ever be given one for long. Consciousness, echoing the nature of all-things as transient and permeable and centre-less, cannot sustain itself forever. It evolves by virtue of what it is.
Even this article has no coherent central theme, just fragmented paragraphs loosely linked together. That is more profound then you may think, if you can work your head around it.
Holding on is anxiety, letting go is anxiety!
Perhaps this universe was made as some kind of joke, one that we human beings, limited in power and perception, can never truly see the funny side of. The joke is really cruel because we have the infinite abilities of thought and imagination, without the inner-strength to truly make sense of this great something (which doesn’t have much of a meaning anyway), we are beholden to. Sometimes it is funny, at least when people take it a bit too seriously and fight to hold on to their illusion. But largely it is tragic, and it is only in being together that we can survive in such a universe for long.
God has been taken away from us and there is nothing to take His place. Well, except for the microorganisms which feed on the bloated corpses of the fallen perhaps.
Oppression is not a solid thing. It is not a tangible entity. I feel it inside me as a pace of life, a compulsion, a chimera of fear and desire and desperation.
A cursory think about the capitalist system reveals the truth of its oppressive nature. What would happen if you decided to take a spontaneous holiday from work? You would become unemployed. To make ends meet you would have to go to a job centre. They would force you to look for work or participate in some kind of scheme to acquire the basics of living. You would be forced to do things equally as unpleasant as work. In other words, beyond set holidays there is no option to ‘opt out’ of this society for any duration of time. You have to be constantly active, most of the time.
This driving force to endlessly do things is the invisible motor of capitalism. It makes people hugely “productive”. So “productive” in fact that they have no time for hobbies, they have no time for relatives, they have no time for volunteering, they have no time for their children, they have no time for those with mental health problems, they have no time for artists. In fact, they have no time for anyone but the busybodies who think that everyone should be forced to do things, all the time (in other words, the bosses profiting from this sorry state of affairs).
As if this false economy of constant motion is somehow a noble end! As if endless consumption and the environmental devastation that follows is an inevitable law of human societies. Please! Do not be such an underachiever.
Human beings who are forced to do things they do not want to do become miserable. And human beings forced to do things they do not want to do, will do so in a half-assed, second-rate way. Left to their own devices, human beings will naturally labour to improve their lot. This is not only because they have to, in order to survive, but also because labour can actually be rather pleasant when done for the common good, and at one’s own pace. Doubly so when we can actually enjoy the products of our labour, rather than feeding the super rich parasites draining us all.
Pause. Take breath.
We are emotional beings, children of nature. We are not machines waiting to be driven by a crankshaft. Any mechanistic, deterministic view of humanity has to die; we must be liberated from the tyranny of forced work. This race for productivity, to make more and more and more without even having the time to enjoy the fruits of our labour – the quickest way to describe it is a load of old bollocks. The most severe way as a deep waste of potential, and massive cause of anxiety and depression.
To feel like you have to constantly fill your life is a waste of that life. A window is useful because it is an absence of material; a bowl is most useful when it is empty; a wheel runs swifter that has gaps in it. The right to philosophical contemplation, to idle play, to whimsical creation, or just to lie in and have an indulgent wank, is essential to human happiness. Why is our society bent against such simple pleasures and basic securities?
Until the basics of life are provided for, and until labour is performed at our own pace for the common good of all, endless miserable work is the lingering doom we are going to have to live with. This is our inheritance of the archaic capitalist system, which no one really believes in, but the cowardly, uninspired masses go along with for their apathetic lack of hope in humankind.
If you believe that people should be allowed to work as what they want to be, rather than what they are forced to be, congratulations, you are a liberated socialist.
Feeling trapped and hopeless, you only have to ask yourself one question. The answer to this will determine whether or not you will remain trapped until your body expires, or whether you can change your circumstances. The question is thus: do you want to move forward?
Do you want to take one small step toward your freedom and happiness. If the answer is yes, then you are not truly trapped, nor are you without hope. By taking one small step in the right direction, you are upsetting the cage surrounding you. By taking one small step in the right direction, you are disproving the ideas within and without that you are unable to do anything.
It might feel like a futile step. It might feel like a stab in the dark. But there is nothing wrong with that. There are two reasons to be optimistic about your one small step. The first is that it demonstrates a functional conatus. This nice Latin word is a key concept from the philosophy of Spinoza. Effectively, the essence of any mode (or thing) is its desire to continue existing. Everything has a conatus – a person, a snail, a chair, a wall, a molecule. Everything. By attempting to gain more freedom, you are affirming your will to survival. More than that, you are increasing your power-in-the-world. Your one step forward is not just an intellectual exercise, it is an execution of direct action. You are safe in the knowledge that you are doing what is best for you, and this is a sign of self-love. The second reason to be optimistic about your one small step actually comes from a lack of knowledge. Namely, scepticism about cause and effect. You never know how much of an effect your own small step will take. I liken this to a questing knight, roaming through a harsh cavern alone. She does not know what lurks beyond, but she isn’t going to get out by staying where she is for too long. So, she has one certainty; shield raised before her, sword on guard, she must push forward whatever may come. And this ‘whatever may come’ is a great question indeed, and there are too many variables for it to ever truly be known. Therefore, knowing that the only certainty is to move forward, you can push through the darkness never truly knowing if it is a futile gesture, or will eventually lead to something good. By chance or fortune, the path must reach somewhere.
Looking at my own life, I can see two massive turning points, both small steps. One was setting up a philosophy stall which made no money, at a time when I was ‘trapped’ and living in near absolute poverty. Through the stall I happened to meet someone who saw a light in me. That person, six years later, has helped me find work which will help me survive in this horrible capitalist system without selling too much of my free time. At the time, on the morning of setting up that small, I could never have envisioned meeting her or the effect she would have on my life. The second turning point was around five years ago, volunteering to help plant some birch saplings on a common. I quickly became attached to the saplings and became their primary caregiver. When developers came to destroy the common and the trees, we dug the young woodland out and potted them up. Fortunately a team of cool squatters rode in on their skateboards (true story!) and occupied an abandoned car wash where we could store them. I was ‘trapped’ in a flat again, but eventually took the plunge, bought a tent for eighty quid, and joined the skaters! My first experience of squatting was a huge dose of freedom, which eventually led me to Grow Heathrow; a place of near-total freedom. Those are just two examples of massive positive impacts on my life, growing out of small deeds.
I do not believe that all oppressions are in the mind of the oppressed. That is letting the moneymen and the militaries and the heartless psychopaths who run society off the hook (lol Theresa May). It is also ignoring the sheer negative effect of material deprivation, and our simple mammalian need for warmth, love and nourishment. But there is some degree to which we can oppress ourselves. For in the dark ichor of our minds we might miss the small degree of freedom in us. We must first unmake the ‘woe is me’ attitude, stop engineering the universe against us, and instead recognise where we are disadvantaged and how we will overcome it with our comrades. For freedom, and hope, is simply represented by the will to continue; the will to keep on crawling forward and fighting evil come what may. No one and nothing can extinguish that – it is our essence. Even if it seems we are throwing eggs against a castle wall, it is something; a symbol of resistance and therefore self-worth. You can always manage this, however small a gesture it is.
If you are feeling trapped, as I sometimes do even now, hold on to this light of hope. You are still breathing, and you still have awareness. The seemingly patterned world around you – though it may seem like a solid block, an eternal fortress where there is little of hope or justice – is actually in flux. However slowly it may seem to be evolving, it is. Massive social change could be just around the corner, a tyrannous King could be just about to die of a heart attack, the waves may soon rise and change the priorities of shallow civilizations.
The love of your life might be waiting for you the next time you stand at a bus stop. You will only know if you go out there to meet her.
Propelled by self hatred
You are shit. Worthless child, go do something! > Big dreams! Big visions! > Very little done, action just to placate inner loathing > You are shit. Worthless child…
Propelled by self hatred we are never able to achieve much. The self-hatred is not a healthy motive. It is an abyss, and the energy it saps undoes much good. It is an anxious state, which requires unrealistic, impatient thinking to escape, further reinforcing it. The root is never addressed, the root being obsession with the past, and the narrative created by the tortured mind. Feeling like anxious crap leads to trying to do everything at once and getting confused, hamstrung by foolish mis-ambition. Get rich quick, instant success – instant escape from a deep inner-dissatisfaction. The grass is always greener on the other side, but all the sheep are racing across the bridge to get it, and they all get stuck.
But propelled by mindful action.
Be in this present moment > Act without anxiety or comparison > One step achieved. Next! > Be in this present moment…
Able to achieve great things, eventually! To do instinctively is with zen confidence. Nothing is done for the sake of an ego, and no void is being filled. Action is an end in itself, a desire to see a beautiful thing created. The smith is amazed by his own forged axe, the director amazed by his own work. It is like being an audience member to your own work. When finished, it is to be shared, not wrapped in rights and other protective crap. Ambitionless ambition, motiveless motion, desireless desire. Whatever happens, you create something to bring joy to others.
And when my celestial forge burns low, and I hold in my hand a treasure of the highest artisanship, I toss it over my shoulder to be wield by Mankind, however they see fit…
Are you telling me that it doesn’t all add up? That the sum total of all the hatred, fear, spite, cruelty, envy, self-destructive, irreverent, thoughtless stupidity and shallowness doesn’t stain the collective consciousness of the world we live in?
I often wonder why I feel like crap for no apparent reason. Maybe it is because, even if I were in blissful homeostasis, there are mothers shivering in cold flats, fearing the return of an abuser. There are injustices of war, the murder of the innocent, rape, pillage, the waste of so much potential. There is labour exploitation on a massive scale for nothing more than the esteem of fickle, shallow citizens of the rich world. There are easily treatable diseases killing people, and easily filled stomachs left empty. Animals tortured for fur and meat, ancient forests destroyed to build coal pits and golf courses. Callousness on a mass scale, against a droning machine which seems undefeatable.
I do not want to dwell on the darkness of life. I do not want to paint a bleak picture. I just want to identify why we might feel the darkness within, seemingly without explanation. This can lead to a true hope, and a true optimism – for we will know what needs to be done, and gain purpose from that.
Being present, we can appreciate today. But we cannot truly rest until justice is done; the light brought to every corner of the world. Wounds must be recognized, given space and time to heal.
It all adds up, and much has accumulated. The soul of humanity is stained, but that does not mean we cannot free ourselves of this pain. What is made can be unmade, and a pyramid of skulls can be dismantled, one by one. Love and courage is enough, love and courage our battlecry!
The ego is undeniably linked to the ‘thought stream’ we are conditioned to accept as an inevitable part of us. To exist in our minds, and identify wholly with the ‘thinking thing’ is a necessity of our materialistic individualism. Without endless thinking, there is no way to atomize individuals.
It makes sense. All identities are composed of thought-language. In reality, there is no British, no Turkish, no nothing. These are things that exist only as language and tales told in the mind. Conflict and argument is likewise of the same aspect.
The ego – i) needs to feel identity. It will do this by ‘othering’ people to strengthen itself. On the most deranged level, this results in the ‘othering’ of entire nations, races, creeds.
The ego – ii) needs to feel right. Chronic arguers and pontificators spread their mission for the sake of their ego and bored minds! What else are they gonna do with their time? The more that are like them, the more they can confirm themselves as ‘right’. It is a duplicating virus.
The ego – iii) needs to be in conflict. The ego thrives on conflict and challenge. It entertains itself with fighting, and asserts itself through dominance hierarchies. For some, fighting is a philosophical necessity, not a breakdown of communication!
Why then was this destructive force unleashed upon the world? Well, the ego is not always a bigoted, hate-spewing war machine. It can conceivably have some limited use. Thinking is important, it is just that in our postmodern age thought has taken over, and feeling is diminished. We are conditioned to believe our thoughts; hence they are the final arbiter of what is real. Likewise we are conditioned to always be active, and to see stillness and rest as an unproductive waste of time. Humanity is an out of control juggernaut, and as we grow in our power to spread destruction through new technology, so does it become a matter of survival to melt the ego down and take control of our true, creative power.
I do not want to paint a sorry picture. We have to have hope, and this can come by looking at the good already in the world, and the enlightenment to come.
What will the new, spiritually evolved humanity look like? Open, honest, sensitive. En masse meditation, populous yoga, effortless labour, non-competitive markets. It won’t be utopia – that is the province of the desperate ego. Utopia is in the future, dystopia also. The new coming will be in the present, of the present and for the present. Utopia is the work of an endless, projecting, over-analysing, neurotic, fearful mind. The new coming will be somewhere between yin and yang, both and neither, balance, imbalance, harmony and discord.
It is coming. Whether we bring it about through our evolution, or annihilate the Gaian life support system in our endless futility, change is coming. The ego is melting.
One day there was a boy who dreamed of a perfect world. The spinner in Bangladesh would be paid fairly, the earth would be respected by its denizens, the animals would not be eaten for their flesh and wars would only be real in games.
The boy wanted this dream so badly that he started to avoid the darkness of life. He started to see other people as dragging away his dream and trampling it, for few seemed to show sympathy.
So the boy did less and less until he did pretty much nothing. For that was the only way to stay pure. And the less he saw of those around him, the more terrible they became, caricatures in his mighty mind.
Eventually the boy found his Eden. But in a year or so, he realized that the pain was already done, and no utopia could survive Man. So the boy let go of his dreams of a perfect world, and a thousand doors opened. Now he could strive to make the world a better one, rather than perfect, and that he did (although deep down, he still had his inspiring dream).
Our desire to categorize things, and understand things, requires a degree of simplification. Reality is immense and a total understanding unknowable. People are immense and a total understanding unknowable.
So when we simplify people, we deny them their full complexity; the many shades, moods, perceptions and ideals bundled together to make their person. Simplification allows violence; it is not only demeaning but also other-ing. Us and them, real people and the simple-people.
Memories can also be simplified into ‘general feelings’ of the past. General sadness, general frustration. Break it apart – how, why, when? What really happened? Who was that historical figure really?
The truth is always too big to be grasped. Be satisfied with your handful, and accept complexity.