Is it too small a story to say I do things independently, as if I were an outside agent? Is it more reasonable to say that it’s the environment that thinks through me and through every tree, bird, person or breath of wind, each an energetic and idiosyncratic manifestation of earthly intelligence?
This body becomes an aspect of its surroundings the moment the assertion of my differences ceases. if I’m not constantly thinking about myself, I dissolve into the world itself.
It requires a story to create a sense of independence. Relax for a moment and I disappear. But disappear only as something alienated from earth and others.
You could tell the story that the woods “inspire Me”. But that’s a story that misses something large. Inspiration IS seeing that tree’s connection and inseparability from intelligence. Intelligence arises between you and me, between trees and me too, and the little stream below where I sit carries the voice of my own intelligence.
This may sound fanciful, but it’s a more practical vision, a more factual one. Less dependent on an imaginary being who somehow “sits in” this body, who carries the name “I”, a little director I used to call “Zingryo” as a kid, sitting on a throne behind the eyes. He is “me”, and when he thinks about himself he is thinking about an Other of sorts, as if this Self he is thinking about were somehow still outside him, always one step removed, as Beckett observed.
In the woods, every realization of connection, every insight that sees through the falsity of this arrangement, takes the shape of the branches overhead, or the clouds or whatever is noticed. I can’t have the same perceptions and insights without them. They are inseparable from the realization that this Me is unreal. The Self is too artificial against the backdrop of these real woods. They are not merely an inspiration to “me”, because these rich harmonies of order, which is another word for intelligence, can be noticed in the things themselves. The thoughts are not as rich without that whole-hearted, honest participation of these surroundings.
This is another way of imagining who I am. It seems more valid than the constant assertion of an imaginary observing Self, a ghost in the machine.
We’re only switching the imaginary being at the center of perception from the imaginary Self who is radically cut off from everything (that’s the common story) to another imaginary center, but one that seems to reflect a bigger insight, the insight of an utterly melded living world, where intelligence is not tied to separate things, but belongs to the whole and to the particular body within that whole, with no separation. That means we sometimes see in an altered way that every idea I have emerges from the environment. And a natural environment is far more involved with intelligence than a man-made world which merely reflects our own thinking.
People often find it hard to imagine how some tribal people used to see “spirits” in trees and such. But it’s more amazing that our culture tends to see spirits in corporations and governments. Or entities inhabiting our own bodies. And few of us realize how easy it is to begin to See the world in a wholly different framework, which is like walking into a parallel universe.
We are so deeply, gullibly absorbed into this particular refraction of reality (and each refraction is infinite, giving us the impression that there is “no room” for another view). By this particular refraction, I mean our everyday, marketed, packaged reality.
Our realities become hallucinations the moment we take them too literally, losing our squid-like capacity to shape shift, becoming rigid with certainties that make this world seem so small and dull.
We don’t see how this world of corporate and national spirits is utterly similar to living in schizophrenic delusions.
The schizophrenic finds evidence everywhere that appears to confirm the actuality of their hallucinations. Material realities begin to take the shape of our perceptions. If we’re sane, then our perceptions reveal an implicate order (a living quality IN the material, a magnified essence that moves deeper than material itself); and if we’re not entirely sane, then our hallucinations mine this material world of its intrinsic depth and meaning, valuing only what serves the hallucination, creating lifeless, graspable, manipulated artefacts that are seen as evidence of its authenticity.
Maybe some people think that Seeing spirits in trees is crazy. And it might be, depending on whether it’s a literal story or a metaphoric and mythic story of spirit. But these same people might think nothing of their commitment to the inorganic being of an organization. And they will point to all the products that are “real” that this corporation has produced as evidence of its actual existence. But there is nothing lively in these realities. These products, laws, norms, values, dollars, armies, hierarchies of power are not actual facts, but only artefacts of our convictions — dead matter from which we’ve sucked the energy and life. Proof only of our blind devotion to a predatorial spirit.
So when I sit in the woods, susceptible as I am to pareidolia, seeing faces and landscapes in almost every object I encounter, faces that are detailed and rich, morphing with emotion and intelligence, peering through me at times, so that I begin to realize my own dishonesties in the object itself, how do I know it’s not real? How do I know it’s not the environment opening into a different dimension of intelligence?
I think it’s too easy to dismiss this. But everything we know is only an agreed-upon and highly cultivated form of pareidolia. We learn to connect the dots of an unfathomable world in particular ways. But sit a while and look into the heart of material reality, and things begin to assemble themselves in very different ways, and who is to say what is more profoundly real?
I suspect that this world is an endless onion of parallel realities, and that a change in the way we connect the dots opens up the possibility of walking into those worlds. The danger lies only in being wholly submerged into any of them without maintaining a negative awareness of the limits of each one. But this is just as true for the shared, corporate, predatorial reality that we believe in so gullibly. We are living the worst danger, in that we do not see the illusions sustaining this fragment of eternity in which we seem to be stuck.
I’ll let this lie here for now, but there’s much more to consider. The schizophrenic is merely the one who falls into a parallel world and fails to see “through” that world to other possibilities. The one who loses the capacity to remain suspended no matter what reality they encounter. The general human population equates to those schizophrenics, because we have fully lost ourselves in a world that is self-destructive. We have connected the dots in a certain bizarre way and fail to realize what we’ve done.
Look, the particular bend in that branch, as it moves in the wind, is also a thought rising up the trunk and turning shyly from a fear, behind which the clouds are parting. The insights depend on the trees or fields or skyline, or a brain or eyes, which shares in that bird’s flight and sudden appearance next to me in the moment I stop daydreaming, not a cause, not a result. It’s the entire shape of a conscious moment. How can I separate the honest thought from the movement of my surroundings? There’s an intelligence in the environment, and the movement of clouds and branches and brains is a harmony of distinct, but not different, elements of that intelligence.
And I wonder if it’s not more honest to say the world and I think together. And that there is no real intelligence until I give up the delusion of being a separate Self.
6 thoughts on “Everyday Schizophrenia”
So beautiful. Before reading this I was outside, and I happened to look at the field poppies in my garden. They are two to three feet tall. The flowers, bright red flecked with black, and with yellow centers, bloom for only a day. With the usual noisy mind I looked, and then for maybe no reason thought slipped away, and they looked back at me. We regarded each other for a while. A few moments of intelligence, so simple and so immense.
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That means a great deal! That’s a beautiful message to receive. Thank you very much. Jeff
[…] short of its potential, but here it is). 5) an essay that is still barely a gleam in the eye – on Pareidolia, which turned out to be a smaller thing than I first imagined it might […]
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I didn’t quite reach what I was trying to reach in this essay. Here’s a quicker summary. There’s a strong, structural basis to what looks like pure poetic license here, because all we’re doing really is switching the imaginary being at the center of perception from the imaginary Self who is radically cut off from everything (that’s the common story) to another imaginary center, but one that seems to reflect a bigger insight, the insight of an utterly melded living world, where intelligence is not tied to one separate thing, but belongs to the whole and to the particular body within that whole, with no separation. That means we sometimes see in an altered way that every idea I have emerges from the environment. And a natural environment is far more involved with intelligence than a man-made world which merely reflects our own thinking.
[…] 1) An Honest Fairy Tale 2) Negative Knowledge and the Eruption of a Metaphoric Mentality 3) Tentatively titled essay, “Learning to Tell Honest Stories Rather than Truths”: 4) Tentatively titled essay, “Dear Fellow White Men (to start with)” — having second thoughts now (a later me). (Came out as “Starving the Tree of Racism”) 5) Essay on Paraeidolia (came out as “Everyday Schizophrenia”) […]