I’m slowly regaining a desire to write. But as a warm-up I’d like to clear my throat with this mostly second-rate rant on the state of the world.
I think we all come into this world like molten lava, with no settled opinions, shifting our gaze, shedding old forms of thought, constantly growing. I equate this molten lava with passion, and the fluidity of learning, and we still feel it in any question that burns, questions that interest us beyond any practical utility.
But we’ve also been born into a culture that systematically attempts to channel this molten energy into particular shapes and forms, where it cools and hardens into certainties and dogmas. This includes the hardened conviction that it’s necessary to quell the passions of children, and stabilize them into practical shapes that can help maintain the social system itself.
To me this looks like the work of the predator performing another of its “stupendous maneuvers” (Castaneda). Like some great wrestler, the human species is flipped 180 degrees on its back, where it submits to justifying the repression of its own young as a way of maintaining the inorganic life of the system itself. And so the social system stops being merely a tool for the promotion of human potential and becomes instead an end in itself, justifying the human sacrifice this requires.
This molten lava metaphor is supposed to represent the liveliness of the ever-growing human soul. But of course, the molten lava metaphor also suggests the dangerously destructive qualities of a human being, who can’t be corralled into working their fingers to the bone in support of this mechanical system of control we call our nation or our economic system.
And so we can watch the slow degradation of human intelligence in me and in most people as we age.
A 5-year-old who voluntarily gives up their blanky has walked away confidently from their old conception of themselves, easily dropping the blanky as an illusion of security, emerging thereafter from cocoon after cocoon with confidence (not necessarily in its Self, but in the world itself), becoming something unrecognizable and new to Creation.
The blanky-surrender is a huge expansion of psychic agility, empathy and intelligence, but only if it happens voluntarily, without the subtlest push from parents or teachers or shaming from friends. Because the moment there is any force from outside influencing the child, the break with the past will be partial, they’ll cling to some other illusion of security as a substitute, never really putting that stage fully behind them, with grave psychic, social and political consequences.
Nevertheless, in general, the molten lava of the human soul is constantly ridding itself of previous forms. Maybe a 13-year-old loses interest in their stamp collection or old toys. Or a kid enters college and finally decides to stop smoking weed all day and pay attention, which gives them the capacity to learn things they never thought they could.
But slowly the acts of surrender (in this culture at least) become fewer as we age. Especially with all these helicoptering parents overhead. Learning requires shifting our positions, remaining molten. But our commitment to the machinery of society (rather than to the sacred mystery of life itself) degrades the fluidity of learning into a competitive game of musical chairs, which aims for conclusion, and where the loser is threatened with having no place in this world.
And so our natural need to keep shifting and widening our vantage points, following those burning questions wherever they may lead, degrades instead into a search for a settled position, for a good seat in the hierarchy of the machinery. In other words, we submit to the rule of law and order, relax our empathy and trust the system to take care of problems, giving up more of our native intelligence in exchange for another illusion of security, and come to see the burning questions that drove us as chaotic dangers that could topple our now cherished place and points of view.
After being absorbed into the machinery of economic systems, trading the rocket fuel of burning questions for the circular plodding pushed by the profit motive, perpetual learning and growth begins to feel too exhausting. It was never exhausting when we felt passionate; it was the source of energy. But when we learn to value the machinery above life itself, every shift in orientation looks too bothersome. Of course, we’d also prefer to ignore our complicity in sacrificing ourselves and our children in support of this brutal machinery. So that’s another reason we stop wanting to learn – it accuses us of prior malfeasance.
But we’ve also learned to take pride in belonging to the institutions, corporations, nations and other inorganic identities (none of which have empathy, only carrots and sticks). And this pride is a substitute for real love, which we lost the moment we started competing at musical chairs.
That’s why we don’t bloom very often with old age, as I think we were destined to bloom.
What a weird world that prepares its youth for at least 20 years, telling them their destiny lies in that beautiful chair there, maybe a chairmanship or a presidential throne, filling their heads with delusions of self-esteem, only to deposit them upon graduation in a cubicle somewhere, spiced by weekends in a blasé playground.
Think of it, if a child is Very lucky they are the center of the world for a few years, only to emerge burdened with debt and scrabbling competitively on the cold surface of a world dedicated to improving the mechanics of productivity.
And the productivity of what? Toys and the machinery of even more productivity.
And what do these children of the world’s rich see in the surviving adults? They see adults who are still afraid of death, who have no burning questions, who offer no wisdom other than advice on how to compete better in the mundane world they never learned to see beyond. The surviving adults rarely deeply believe in the potential of a fully flowering human being, who is not self-deceptive, not faking it on some level. They see adults who have willingly become slaves to a system that admires lying pieces of shit in places of so-called “power.” We are showing them how to fall apart in the face of uncertainty.
OK, I got that out of my system. It wasn’t in itself an act of learning and digging, but even if it’s unhelpful, it was the cork that needed its moment to pop lightly in sound and fury.
2 thoughts on “A Minor Pop of Sound and Fury”
I am so self-righteous here, and I don’t even know the target of my anger, or why I started out with this tirade. But it’s not individuals who are to blame. It’s impossible for a teacher or parent or anyone to survive in this culture without going along with it to some degree. There’s no choice. We get plunked down in the midst of these disastrous momentums and it can’t be resisted. But we also tend to defend whatever we get deceived into joining. And I don’t think that’s necessary. Why can’t people at Exxon or Lockheed Martin or or in the army or in business schools, or even in fast food or insurance or anywhere be honest with themselves, even if only in private, and not defend and promote the predatory systems in which they’ve been coerced into joining? Why do we have to defend our way of life right up to the moment it destroys everything? Sometimes little people in me elbow their way to the frontal lobby and shout their complaints before being wrestled back behind the mind’s eye. I know the man who wrote this needed a mirror before he spoke, but let it stand, because I don’t really give a crap what persona I’m displaying from moment to moment. It’s a rolling sea of stories and characters erupting and dying, and it’s far more fun to let these things blossom and die in public, where I realize them more clearly, than to repress these personas and fail thereby to outgrow them.
And of course a lot of people are honest. Many of my friends. But as a general rule I mean, we become cheerleaders of the inorganic beings destroying us. So here I am now — the next persona — trying to downplay (like a politician) the statements made by the previous incarnation. It reminds me of something I wrote elsewhere, which you have to recognize as a comic image, not a real complaint:
“What hasn’t changed is this phony sense of a divided consciousness, this feeling of being the better half of a Siamese twin; the other a nincompoop dragging along beside me; a co-creation of my own desired destiny divided by the destiny friends and enemies consider more within my grasp. Probably this Siamese self is nothing more than my own recollected behavior sloughed off on an imaginary scapegoat. For no sooner do I act in the world then I become immediately annoyed by what I’ve done, rising in opposition to this now utterly deposed former incarnation who had been in his own day (of a moment or two ago) an equally enraged monster with regard to previous incarnations. The whole thing is a miserable sleight of hand that I’ve never been able to perceive at the right moment so as to unmask the phony scenario for good.”