Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Death of Our Innocence.

Today I watched the PBS movie Jonestown, The Life and Death of People’s Temple. It was a pretty remarkable film. Sometimes the right people get together and the chemistry is good. They didn’t dwell on the end.

I don’t remember where I was the day I heard about the massacre. I remember where I was when JFK got killed but for some reason I don’t want to tell you. Ironically, I was in Texas, but not Dallas. I remember where I was when Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were killed. I was in prison.

When Elvis went down I was with Gary Bonner who wrote “Celebrate” (dance to the music) and a few other things. An ancient woman opened her door as Gary and I were going up to his apartment. She was Irish. She said “Ah Gary, did ya hear? Elvis Presley died.”

All those places that I was, the things I did, the people I met, the dreams I had... sometimes it can be strange looking back on it all. There’s this person who was always me. I can remember him in many places. He was behind the personality. That person never changed. The personality changed. It was shaped by consciousness and circumstance; what happened, what got heard and the particular way I reacted to it.

I’m just some guy in an enormous crowd. I think I’m different. Most of us do. Well, we are different, unique as a snowflake. But, we have a commonality underneath. It is what makes us empathetic. Lacking that, and there are some that do, you are no longer human.

Now I’m sitting here writing this. I have written so many things and I don’t know who wrote them or why, not really. I don’t know why I do the things I do or feel the way I feel and I suspect that is something else we all share; sure, a lot of us are dead certain who they are and what they are about. I think of them as non-psychedelicized. It isn’t necessarily bad to be sure of who you are. It could go either way.

Before I took psychedelics I was delusional, in the same way that I think many people; people I pass on the street or watch from a park bench, are delusional. They think they are a particular someone and they aren’t anyone at all. That’s what I found out anyway. I found out that the ‘me’ I had been was just a particular collection of thoughts that were determined by who I thought I was. That vanished instantly and a completely new being emerged. To attempt to explain what happened to me is futile. I’d wind up making Proust look like he didn’t have much to say. Balzac?

Although I was changed, ‘made aware’ is probably a better way to say it... the personality continued to be what it was, except freer, more exuberant. There was this vitality that I had been unaware of before. I felt like I had become an old man even though I was just in my late teens. All of that veneer, the imagined weight and sorrow just melted away. It wasn’t based on anything real. Nothing that I had been thinking and feeling was real.

I had been going to the library. I lived in Washington D.C. at the time. I would sit in the library all day sometimes, reading Freud, Nietzsche and whatever heavy and ponderous things I thought would make me smarter, as well as explain to me how come I was the way I was and what did it all mean.

After the psychedelic event, these writers became unimportant to me. I had realized that it was very simple. It just was. Why it was, how it was, who it was were not important. It just was and that was a fundamental thing. Nothing else could ever have as much importance. Nothing else could ever be as real and as present. Life revealed itself as a pointless escapade; a game of solitary hide and seek. It was the personality’s world, not mine. Still, I was there and had to do something.

So, I took my personality out for a long walk called life, with mixed results. I laughed and cried, injured myself and sometimes others... did this, did that. Now I’m sitting here writing this and realizing that this will just go on until the envelope fades... until les visible is reality. Who was that masked man? Any of us could ask that question.

We’ve basically got two states. There is the state where we are occupied and there is the state where we are aware that we are. Sure, there are a lot of subdivisions but that is what it amounts to basically. That aware state is the same for everyone, may even be the same person. This is why people of a particular consciousness are aware of the same.

This is why some people freak out on psychedelics. There is this single issue of how attached you are to what you think you are. Just letting go solves that because what you really are then immediately presents itself. From wonder into wonder it continues forever. Not letting go can be really unpleasant. Psychedelicized or not psychedelicized it still goes on all through life; this letting go and not letting go. It’s all we are involved in. Where we are with that determines where we are with everything else.

Being ‘really’ cool is letting go all the time and the aptly named ‘uptight’ explains itself. What life does is push our buttons. The whole point of life is having our buttons pushed until we let go. We don’t have any other options. Death is letting go. Dying all the time is the gateway to immortality. Giving up everything makes you rich. Attaching no importance to anything besides being makes you free. We literally design our lives and... what a lot of funny architecture.

It’s because of this one thing that all of the virtues have meaning. To be magnanimous and compassionate becomes the natural extension of your being. It’s not an act. It’s the way it is. Because a lot of people don’t behave this way it can be difficult due to the personality push and shove. Simple truths... no big mystery about life except what you will never, ever comprehend. You can realize that whatever ‘that’ is, it is benevolent and so you have nothing to worry about. Do unto others makes good practical sense. It’s a law in operation.

Religion and all of the colorful garments that make up the visible life are just window dressing. The body beneath is the thing. I am fond of saying, when the truth takes off her clothes the world disappears.

We lose our innocence but... we can get it back. There is a sad irony about senility. However closely one cleaves to the essential self, however intensely one strives to let go (now there is an amusing contradiction in terms) that is the determinant of regenerated innocence or senility. We waste our lives if we concern ourselves with anything besides that which is.

Jonestown, the deaths of icons, our own personal betrayals of our essential self, the compromises and the lies, the sad appearance of a desperate world always on the verge, these things take our innocence one step at a time. What we are thinking and what we remember encloses and defines our world. Change the way you think and you change the world. We do not have to imprison ourselves. Innocence is a curious word. It means more than it seems.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Gordian Knot.

A lot of people know about the Gordian Knot. Fewer people know that it was Alexander who solved the riddle. Fewer still know the manner in which he solved it and even fewer people know the circumstances under which he solved it; the main players and the conditions of the time. This is the case with just about everything. Some people are more curious than others. Some people are more generally curious and some people are more specifically curious. This accounts for a lot of the professions that people choose. Curiosity isn’t the only reason; disposition, family, environment, opportunity and other things account for what people do and for what people are curious about.

In the Hindu tradition there is the word ‘samskara’. If you go to the internet for a definition; here’s one I grabbed at random, you find that the closest and best definition is far down in the list. That would be, ‘veil’. A veil is a covering that partially obscures the vision of the person wearing it. It also obscures the vision of the person observing the person wearing the veil. Veils run the gamut from sheer to opaque. We all have these veils, from sheer to opaque. We see “through a glass darkly”. The age itself can be darker or lighter depending on the amount of people sharing a common blindness. The cause of it is dependant on the degree of materialism impacting upon the human race.

It could be said, when compared to former times; times we have no clear recollection of, that our present age is one of greater darkness, despite the technological state of our culture. As far back as we can see in presently recorded history, the times have been mostly dark, with brief glimmers of greater clarity.

I realize that this essay is in danger of becoming like my preceding essay; dense and difficult to read. In these times we are more likely to want simple and quick discourses, preferably with video and music. We don’t want to have to think too much or concentrate on difficult concepts. It’s rare when someone can take difficult concepts and reduce them to simple understandings. We are more likely to find simple understandings presented as difficult concepts. So...

...let me segue before I lose you entirely.

Everyone has an opinion on why the world is messed up. These opinions are based on the thickness of our veils and the degree of our self interest as it proceeds from how much we can actually see. True vision and utter delusion and all the places in between are based on the idea that there is such a thing as reality. No one sees this perfectly but we all agree that there is such a thing. Common belief has a lot to do with how we shape reality collectively. Does that mean reality can be shaped? Does it stand alone? Once again, this essay is moving out into deeper water and readers are peeling off as it goes. Once more...

...heading toward the terra firma shore.

The idea that all Republicans are hypocritical, deluded assholes is something that could be argued effectively by any number of people. The idea that all Democrats are whining, overly accommodating, jelly fish, can also be argued without much difficulty. Libertarians and Independents, nihilists, ipod-bots and ‘none of the above’ have found a niche in which to maintain their rugged individualism.

Sex and Religion have a major impact on what people choose as their lens for maintaining social order; too much of one, too little of the other, some of this some of that. The serpent force, the primary energy of life, defines itself through the sex force and if you’ve got some kind of regulator attached to the hose; it could be a simple faucet or a much more complicated plumbing apparatus, then some part of that force can express itself in any of the myriad ways that we present and define ourselves. The thing is, it’s going to come out somehow and a chain is only as strong as its weakest link; that goes for plumbing and any technology where force applies.

Commerce comes out of this regulating. Art comes out of this. War comes out of this. Religion comes out of this; everything from Satanism to mystical self annihilation. And so it goes, by degrees... infinite in possibility and all of it judged according to how well it is controlled and stays within the margins, or can hide itself well enough to avoid whatever caprice might be operative as the laws of our time.

Laws; social and cultural constraints, freedom to come and go, freedom to be; all those samskaras that color the way we think it’s supposed to be. The red scarf of the Khmer Rouge is a collective blindfold when the sex can’t find its way to a greater expression. It’s always a part of humanity, just like all the other scarves we use as blindfolds and group identification bands. It’s the grand fellowship of collective blindness. We get to be comfy with our kind.

Here are ten million with a red blindfold and here are ten million with a blue blindfold and here are ten million with a yellow blindfold and all of them want to be more than equal. All of them want to dominate. So many million want to be able to kiss their same sex partners on the sidewalk and suck their cocks in the park the same way that heterosexual couples do. So many million object to this for reasons well defined and according to religion, or some idea of social health. It gets strange when the people objecting turn out to be hiding their own desire to do the same. It gets strange when the biggest critics turn out to be secret practitioners of the things they despise, because they get caught- because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

So many million want to have everything at the expense of others. So many million protest an inequity while using their protest as a means to personal celebrity and advancement. So many million want to drink poison but object to other millions smoking, ingesting and injecting poison. So many million want to make the world a better place but can’t help beating their wife or trying to fuck their wives’ friends, or their friend’s daughters or sons. So many million think Jesus is a baseball bat with nails in the sweet part. So many million think Mohammed is not just a right but a requirement. So many million think there is no God and millions more haven’t got a clue about anything and just want to hold on to the raft.

You can’t fix a system when the system is all about veil removal. You can’t fix a system that is based on another system that almost no one knows about and for which the system in need of fixing is nothing more than a temporary stage set. You can’t do anything about the final result of a process designed to free you from all of the delusions you are laboring under and which, along with your fellows, makes this a grim place to be sometimes.

All the tire patches and welded parts, all the town halls and churches, hospitals and prisons are just stages in a Pilgrim's Progress. You don’t know where you are going and you don’t know why and you don’t know who you are but you are determined to mold the earth some distance closer to the heart’s desire; your heart. The mistakes of others are as clear to you as your own are hidden. Every one of us could do a better job right up to the moment we are given that opportunity and encounter all of those millions with the blindfolds and agendas; all of which agendas conflict with every other agenda.

Before Alexander dealt with the Gordian Knot, many another, would be conqueror of Persia, had been mystified and defeated in the attempt. There’s something to be said for what Alexander did. The complexity of the knot defies ordinary unraveling; the same way you can’t please all of those millions anymore than Solomon could give the same baby to two mothers. The solution to both problems was the same. The outcome was different.

I don’t know what I’m trying to say here because I’m wearing a blindfold too. I’m just gratified that sooner or later it’s going to wear away or fall off according to some natural law or serendipitous grace and I won’t have to wonder about solving your problems or my problems. All of a sudden there won’t be any problems and if I draw my sword it won’t be about you. It will be about some impossible knot and it will all take place in my mind. You won’t even see it happen. Maybe that’s for the best.

Monday, July 09, 2007

How We Got Here From There.

Let’s try a little experiment. Turn on your TV when you know there is something really stupid on; something banal and unimaginative and that shows humanity in a poor light. It could be a game show where they compete for kitchen appliances. It could be a weep fest touchy feely thing like Oprah; something saccharine and cloying. It could be a soap opera where those basic emotions are toyed with and acted out in maudlin skits of needy petulance and self-involved reaction games. It won’t be hard to find. In fact, what would be hard to find is something informative and engrossing. But we aren’t looking for that. We’re looking for some trash.

You know its trash when you first see it. You’ve seen it before. Now watch yourself as you watch it. In the first few moments you are aware of yourself watching it. You have an objective position to it. Now watch as you get sucked into it. It only takes a few minutes and it goes through various stages of absorption on your way to forgetting that you are watching until you hit the sponge-like or subjective processing state. It’s a little like falling asleep. We’ve all been there at the edge of sleep, aware that we are in a position to fall asleep and then moving from the images produced by the mind, on in to various trance states until, and you never catch it while it’s happening, you fall asleep.

We experience similar things sitting on a park bench watching whatever may be passing in front of us. Sometimes we know that there is an ‘I’ that is watching. More often we are just watching. People vary. Some are more aware of the process than others. There are periods in human history where more people are aware than at other points. There is never a point where this portion is more than a tiny minority. There’s something uncomfortable about being aware that you are watching. There’s a more universal condition of being lost in, wanting to be lost in the experience.

Most people are uncomfortable with themselves and they want to be lost in something so that the focus is not on them, unless it’s one of those vanity things. During these moments there’s a real pleasure in being observed when we imagine, correctly or incorrectly that someone is interested in us. One of the great devices that effective salespeople and politicians have; that certain professionals and sociopaths have is the appearance of empathetic listening. Many a successful Romeo knows about this little trick.

A large portion of everything people engage in or want to engage in is for the purpose of distraction. Sex, drugs, rock and roll; or whatever form it would take for you, holds out the promise of losing yourself in something. In some way it’s connected to the irrepressible urge for freedom; the desire to get out of ourselves. Spiritual teachers will tell you that freedom and illumination can be achieved by losing yourself in service to others. Some would say it is also attained by retracting your attention from all things external. Meditation is based on this concept.

It’s been said that whether one dispassionately seeks the inner depths or passionately seeks the surface that they are both the same, differing only in perspective. That’s a very heavy concept and not easily reconciled with so much of the baggage everyone carries around with them. It’s also been said that one of the surest routes to liberation and a state of continuous ease is to forget your personal history; operate as if it didn’t exist. The whole of a person’s life, in the ordinary person’s life, is made up of events that seem to change the person going through them. Watching people is an amazing thing. When you can watch with real attention you see some remarkable patterns. A crowded park on a summer evening is a good bet. You can watch children running around with constantly changing focus. Then you see adolescents involved in a posturing self-conscious awkwardness, filled with giddy transitions that are all about a control that just isn’t present enough to contain the repeating sense of embarrassment over not knowing what’s going on, along with the under current of uncertainty over whether anything means this or that. It could be either one.

Then you see the later teen condition where romance and one’s degree of cool ease in motion comes around. Some have the appearance of it having worked out the technique through observation or possessing the seeming good fortune of being attractive to begin with. All kinds of types are displayed, including the rejected and those rejecting because a little James Dean or Jack Kerouac got into the mix. You can watch these ages move on to bent forms in stroll walkers or wheel chairs. Usually you don’t see the drooling senility but you might. You can also see the predators and the prey, in a crowded park, in the evening.

Some of these lives are to be considered successful according to particular social yardsticks and some aren’t. That doesn’t mean much given that success is more about how you feel about what you’ve done and who you are than in what others might think; unless you are in the majority and then it’s some mix of the two. Quite often what people feel about themselves and others has nothing to do with what they really feel because what they really feel never even made it out of the gate and then life is just a series of evolving postures until the posture gets really bent out of shape.

Usually people are moving toward some kind of satisfaction or dissatisfaction that will eventually etch itself permanently into their face. Usually faces will tell you most of what you want to know about someone. It’s not the face itself; it’s what they wrote into the face. On the satisfied track the progression is moving toward a condition of serenity. On the other it is to a condition where there is no peace and then you get situations where the TV is always on, or something is keeping time.

Whether people in general are more or less happy or more or less unhappy depend on the conditions they live in; the state of their society. It’s a curious phenomenon that I have observed when you go to a poor country and often the majority of the inhabitants are smiling and engaging, welcoming and often carefree in circumstances of want. Yet, in societies where all sorts of conveniences and entertainments along with the basic needs and much more than the basic needs are covered they can be resentful and suspicious, hostile and indifferent. It’s odd, that.

A person really ought to find out what is going to make them happy before they go too far down the road to accepting whatever the prevailing assumption of that might be. It gets harder to fix it without having to just walk away completely... after awhile.

It’s strange; all those disappointments that people have in common. Its stranger still when a society goes on churning out discomfort and disparity, paranoia and confinement and it never gets fixed. Many besides Thoreau have commented on this. Most of those for whom serenity and fulfillment are important have found that you often wind up keeping to yourself.

It’s almost as if life is some kind of a candy store. Some of the candy is poisonous and some of it just rots your teeth. In order to succeed while you are in the candy store you find that you shouldn’t eat any candy at all. It seems that those elusive conditions of joy and bliss and tranquility are achieved by forgetting about candy altogether. This flies in the face of the entire construct that depends on your wanting the candy. One might almost say that it makes you an enemy of the state. Pointing it out is almost certain to.

Roses and thorns, romantic love and attachment, loneliness and despair, alcohol and hangovers, hot blood and banked fires, the vain attempt to cosmeticize what we are losing, acquiring enough wealth to seal yourself off, regret, fear of the unknown and a prevailing sense of loss. I don’t know. It seems like such a waste of time. Occasionally I hear this music. It’s a sensation of large bodies rubbing together and its unspeakably exquisite, some kind of warm living rain precipitating. There are voices in it and bright images of some far location now near at hand. I can’t imagine anything comparable and it literally penetrates everything but somehow it isn’t enough for most people. All you have to do is take a look around.