On SelfishnessPosted by VI
Restoring mental health does not mean simply adjusting individuals to the modern world of rapid economic growth. The world is ill, and adapting to an ill environment cannot bring real mental health. Psychiatric treatment requires environmental change and psychiatrists must participate in efforts to change the environment, but that is only half the task. The other half is to help individuals be themselves, not by helping them adapt to an ill environment, but by providing them with the strength to change it. To tranquilize them is not the Way. The explosion of bombs , the burning of napalm, the violent death of our neighbors and relatives, the pressure of time, noise, and pollution, the lonely crowds; these have all been created by the disruptive course of our economic growth. They are all sources of mental illness, and they must be ended.
— Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist peace activist (Emphasis mine)
I’m no psychiatrist, no counsellor, no professional trained brain-shifter. Well, that’s not strictly true – I don’t have qualifications ratified by some external authority, however, I have well over a decade of poking my own head under my belt and also the knowledge that I’ve helped more than a few folks over the years.
I know this because they’ve told me, and it always surprises me. I like that surprise, because it actually tells me that I’m not set in my ways when it comes to talking to folks. Which is great because it means I’m still learning, still adapting, still becoming better at what it it is that I am.
Now, I am by no means perfect; I have my flaws, and many of them are fairly obvious. I’m still working on them though, which is the point, isn’t it? Because if we stop, we’re dead, to put it bluntly – everything moves, everything shifts, flows, changes, eventually decays and is recycled.
Nobody wants to be dead – at worst they just want to die, which is really an exit-strategy against pain and suffering or other pressures, be they internal or external. That’s completely understandable. My cousin took that route, and I won’t fault him for it; it was his choice and despite the fact that it led to a great deal of pain for his family and was, essentially, what broke me and began my descent into the depths.
I won’t fault him, because without that, it would have been far harder to break myself. Instead I shattered and found myself in some pretty dark places, and I learned some terrible things and experienced the nadir of my life to date. Without that, and without the love and support of my friends, I’d never be where I am now.
I wouldn’t be able to grin at death, smile at the grim and mind-numbing and find fuel for my dreams and thoughts in almost anything. I wouldn’t have become the peculiar person you all know and love, or at the very least are oddly fascinated by.
I have the quote at the beginning of this piece emblazoned on my brain, and as I’have already said I’m no psychiatrist, no counsellor, no professional trained brain-shifter – and that’s great because I can put all my effort into the second half of that equation, the section I have emphasized:
The other half is to help individuals be themselves, not by helping them adapt to an ill environment, but by providing them with the strength to change it. To tranquilize them is not the Way.
By now, if you know me at all, you’ll have become aware that I spend my life trying to be myself completely and that I don’t esteem herd behaviour that much. When I catch myself at it, I grow faintly annoyed, because I should know better, and actually do more than 80% of the time.
I’m not big on tranquillization – I dislike numbness and somnambulism and it actually makes me feel a little ill. I was talking to somebody the other day, and she knows who she is, about the numbness and lethargy. I was most impressed and gratified by the notion and demonstration of screaming for stimulants, let me tell you.
Stimulus is important and more than that, it it is vital because it is contact with the world. When I take part in a stimulating experience or conversation, the action it engenders reminds you that things can change and become something else.
It has been said that my writing has an intoxicating edge, and that that is wonderful to me, because it means that when you read it, you can become aware of things – you are stimulated and presented with options and choices that you were previously not aware of.
Yet somehow you could become aware of them, or at the very least you can recall times when you’ve been enlivened and stimulated, can’t you?
Times when you’ve felt so very vital and full of possibility that it feels like you might overflow and break your boundaries, move beyond other people’s image of yourself into something greater. We all have them, and for some they’re distant childhood and for others it’s just yesterday. It doesn’t matter when it happened to you, what matters is that you know what it felt like, doesn’t it?
Amidst that feeling, anything is possible, and that’s the key to it all. Amidst the thrill, the intoxication, the sheer inspiration – which is echoed in the constant everyday action of breathing; the act of inhaling. You are dead if you have expired, and so long as the possibility to inspire and be inspired exists you are alive.
That’s the thing you need to remember and consider at all times – every thing in all the worlds proceeds from that.
Because of that fundamental fact, I can quite honestly tell you that I don’t rightly care that no external body sanctions my actions. Nobody gave me leave to start breathing, did they? You’re supposed to keep breathing until you die, so they say.
Well I didn’t.
I stopped. I tasted death, and I started again. This is, needless to say, not normal, is it? So I’ve been flouting that since day one and there’s no reason to stop now because it’s easier or less painful. Thus, consider me a renegade when it comes to that, and that means I’m not exactly bound by conventional forms of morality.
This is of course beneficial to me, and hence to you, because I can do certain things far more easily than those tied in knots by certain moral qualms. When I communicate with people, everything I say or do arises from the notion that the universe is ambivalent and that the world is a constructed thing -built by people and their ideas.
All it takes it to disrupt the world, the everyday business of life, is to inject something odd, something different, something extra-ordinary into the system. This is easy for me, because I make it my business to find the extra-ordinary, to hunt it down in the wilds of the mundane, to bring its secrets up from where they have lain hidden.
Literally as well as figuratively, I’m an occultist – from Latin. occultus “hidden, concealed, secret,” pp. of occulere “cover over, conceal,” from ob “over” + a verb related to celare “to hide,” from PIE base *kel- (see cell)
So when it comes to people, everything I do is specifically designed to help you do the same, to open the cellar door and descend to find yourself. To give you the wine that intoxicates you, takes you across the threshold to the Otherland; to breathe enough breath into your lungs that you can dive into the depths of the ocean that birthed you.
All these things are metaphors, paths and ways which can be used to find your own runa, your own Mysteries. When you find them, you will begin to change your world, because you will understand how to do so. This is what I am absolutely certain of, and that’s because I’ve done it, and it has enabled me to do things thought impossible.
Gordon has an interesting post entitled The Doc Brown School of Self-Improvement which you should read, about the dangers of inductive reasoning and gives an interesting method of keeping tabs on your own processes. Because I’m a contrary sod, I’m going to take issue with a possible interpretation of the post, rather than the post itself.
The issue isn’t really the traps of inductive reasoning – in actuality the issue is that the past is not fixed, nor that the future is a plane of possibility. It’s an issue of propulsion here; if one is to project into the future, a kind of physics still applies. To get to this future requires energy, requires fuel – the plutonium for your flux-capacitor which, combined with the speed of 88 mph catapults you elsewhere.
Where does this fuel come from? How exactly does future-you come back? More to the point, how do you go back and tell your past self what they need to know? You’d have to have the fuel in the present to do it. Now, before you get us all in trouble with the counter-terrorism bods in your search for nuclear material, I’d like to invite you to consider another option.
Suppose, just for a moment, that your future, your extrapolation, is completely unnecessary. That in fact, all that exists is you now, that you are newly emergent from the maw of chaos, and that all your past was created to give you an identity to stop your newly formed consciousness from falling apart, or so you’ve been informed/discovered.
Both future and past are manufactured, born of the same stuff. Thought and Memory drink from the same skull – yours.
If that’s the case, if the terminals of your awareness are not fixed, then what of the awareness itself? Might not it be plastic and far more malleable than first thought? What would you change if anything was allowed and all was tabula rasa?
How might you become a fundamental thing, an axis mundi, the centre of the worlds?
I’m utterly selfish and that’s because I wish to be surrounded by people who have found themselves. I know what one man can do when he embraces his runa and focuses on becoming it in totality – what could a band of such souls do, working together – ask yourselves that!