Things Never Go as Planned

No matter how many times I say it to myself I still go ahead and make another plan. I’m not sure any plan I’ve ever had has worked. I’ve been trying to come up with a mode of life by which I need no plans, since they never work anyway.

This is harder than it seems, because necessities creep up on you. Food, shelter, money. I guess there’s a difference between plans of the body and plans of the Ego. The plans I make with my Ego attached are the ones which don’t turn out right. The Body itself makes “plans” too, although they don’t feel like plans. The body’s plans aren’t even “yours” since they don’t require consciousness to make. But we all have such plans. I think that in our sophisticated state of civilization we have tremendous guilt complexes about our Body’s plans, or at least I do, and I think it’s tied to the feeling of superfluousness we have at a very subtle level. As far as the advancement of our civilization is concerned, virtually everyone in it is superfluous – we sometimes substitute the word “consumer” – mindless, meaningless “consumers” of the material products of our fancy civilization. Only a scant few are changing it or advancing it in any meaningful way. The rest of us are just “consuming” it. This creates a spiritual pressure on my psyche. When I feel my Body’s instincts and I am able to recognize them with my conscious mind, I feel like total crap, I see the Zombie in me. Do you see the Zombie in you? The Ego, born and bred in civilization, looks with contempt on the mindless Id.

Why such contempt? All the wonders of our age are built on the wonders of preceding ages. Our whole idea of the meaning of life is built on the notion of progress. We have the wonders. But we don’t have the progress anymore. Thus 99% of everyone are superfluous. If we are of the Ruling Class mindset, that is, “college educated”, then we have been taught that we are the preservers of our culture. Yet here’s the catch. The meaning of Civilization, or let us say, the meaning of our Civilization, lies in that the individual is supposed to contribute somehow to the progress of Civilization. But we don’t. Therefore 99% of us possess a Civilization without possessing its meaning.

The Ego disdains the Body’s plans. The Ego disdains the Id. The Ego developed and learned under Civilization. The Body developed over millions of years in Nature. The Ego in our civilization is preoccupied with trying to derive its distinctiveness from all the other Egos. Why are we terrified of mass-mindedness? Speaking for myself, I recognize in myself a huge drive for power, a Will to Power. I want to be King. I think that our civilization has managed to suppress the inner human being’s natural drive to rule by allowing the power drive to channel itself into other means. Specifically, the advancement of technology and art. Bill Gates can sit and be King of his little self, safely ignored by Democracy, and George Lucas can do the same.

But what if we fill up all the creative gaps? Technology is not endless. It is limited by the laws of physics and the availability of sources of energy and minerals. The advancement of the Arts is also limited. With each innovation, innovation gets harder. When innovation is impossible, the meaning of Civilization has been removed, especially for those individuals of the Introverted Type. (see Carl Jung’s Two Essays on Analytical Psychology for a brief explanation, and his Psychological Types for a rather in-depth explanation). The Introverted Type is ruled by the drive for Power. But his moral life is ruled, at least within the modern West, by the righteousness of technological and artistic progress. The Extravert is ruled by Eros, the lust of objects – I’m not sure what civilization is like for them, but I can only imagine that so long as the Introverts are distracted by Arts and Techonology, the Extraverts can only enjoy too much the availability of positions of Power in the worlds of Politics and Commerce.

The moral life of the introvert is ruled by the righteousness of technological and artistic progress. So long as there are spaces left for innovation, the Introvert’s natural drive to Power will be fulfilled. Innovation garners much praise in our culture, and it’s been good enough as a motive force for living for a while now. But I don’t expect it to last forever. Eventually there will be too few ways for an Introverted type to attach his name to achievements. These achievements because of their novelty can occupy the high moral ground of being gifts to all humanity! But as I said, the achievement space is drying up rapidly. A whole new dimension of life begins to unfold. That dimension? Tribal warfare. Eventually even the smartest nerds will have nothing to add to the noble Arts and Sciences. What is left then?

The advancement of Power will never leave the human race. Those seeking security and power will soon be forced to choose to serve one tribe at the expense of another tribe indistinguishable from the first in terms of its essential morality. Nowhere is this conflict more poignant than in what it means to “Serve Your Country”. Rarely is it mentioned that the subtext of this line is, “yes – at the Expense of Everyone Else’s.”

We’d all like to think that we can serve our country without necessarily harming anyone else’s country. But how is this possible, barring the previously mentioned advancement of Arts and Technology? Perhaps certain advancements in Societal Relations could arrange a mutual benefit for two countries. But this of course at the expense of all the others. I have dwelt too long on the simple notion of serving your country. Perhaps you will be serving your Treaty Alliance. Or maybe your small little state at the expense of nearby Little States. But the day comes when nations will be morally indistinguishable from each other. The will be no way to justify a Crusade, for example, in which the war is against heathen filthy pagans. But there will be War nonetheless. Or more broadly, there will be Power Struggles.

The Western Ego has been obsessed with individualism for many centuries. It has turned to Technology as the last clear bastion in an otherwise overcrowded contest for individual fame-through-Innovation. Pretty soon this obsession with individuals, as a mode of competition with other Civilizations, will become weaker and weaker, as the net contribution to Civilization per person shrinks to next-to-nothing. We will have to choose a side. We will have to choose some as-yet-unknown side, on some as-yet-unknown groups of factions. The drive for Power, built up over millions of years and visible even in animals, will long outlast our Individualized West.

Nor can we hide behind the naive belief in the moral superiority of our faction over anyone else’s. The fight will come from our nature, our innate drive to Power. Our wimpy Christian consciences – developed under the Western World’s belief in the significance of individuals – are actually our weakness and we must try to advance our moral understanding as quickly as possible toward a broader outline which can handle the complexity of the amoral Struggles ahead.

My Ego hates my Id. But my Id is millions of years older than my Ego. My Ego derives its values from the Western Culture I was raised in. My Ego has no way of coping with the fact that I am a superfluous member of a massive civilization I hardly understand and didn’t ask for. It hates my Id because my Id has no concern for my Ego’s values. Because I am an Introvert, my Id is centered around the Drive to Power. The Drive to Power can hardly settle for the accolades associated with Unique, Individual Contribution to the Arts and Sciences. They don’t really seem powerful enough. It seems like the values of the arts and the sciences are drying up. Indeed, there is no contribution to make but one which has resulted from the kind of searching I am doing.

This Blog post is a Contribution, and therefore meets the demands of my cultured Ego. Perhaps I will achieve the Fame-through-Innovation I spoke of above. Perhaps such fame will satisfy my anguish, my dread of being superfluous. But now that I have contributed this thought, there is one less thought to be added to the total. The Drive for Power will remain even after all good thoughts have been thought. It will outlast our civilization. It will lead to a condition in which we must learn to be effective members of various groups. Perhaps we should jump off the moral high ground of individualism now while it’s still possible to make a dignified landing. Jump off it before it disappears and we are forced to make a crash landing.

Well, at any rate, things never go as planned. I didn’t plan to write the philosophical part of this post, for example. Perhaps my Body wrote it. (Id and Body are the same thing) But it is probably one of my best posts. It only came from a sort of subtle urge to write a post, not any particular post. But it sure is hard to learn to trust that type of thing. And I want it to happen all the time. My Ego wants it to happen. “Ego” and “Eagle” are very similar sounding. Which gives me a perfect opportunity to link to my favorite post again. “Toad” and “Id” don’t sound alike… well, they sort of do. “Toad” and “Body”?

Oh, and, uh…

Merry Christmas Everybody?

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Falling Into the Next Life

In which I interpret two verses from the Gospel of St. John (in the Bible)… I couldn’t think of anything else to do today. If you have any other verses you’d like me to interpret, biblical or no, just let me know.

“Unless a grain of wheat falls in the earth and dies it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life, loses it, and he who hates his life, in this world will keep it for eternal life.” – St John, 12:24-5

Abandon the drive toward self-preservation. Wrap up all the trappings of your life into a bundle. Tie the bundle very tight, for it is the seed of your next life. Have you reached the stage of maturity in which you might produce seeds?

“He who loves his life, loses it, and he who hates his life, in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Presumably “for eternal life” means “in Hell”. Wait, no. This sentence is most diabolical. Is the only good person the one who hates his life? In other words, would Ebenezer Scrooge have gotten into heaven if only he had died before Christmas, when he still hated his life, but after Christmas it was assuredly too late, bound for Hell as he was on account of the fact that he now loved? This twisted and sinister interpretation brings up the images of the witches and heretics burnt throughout the ages by the Church at the stake. Who can we blame? Three sources come to mind. We can blame the vagueness of the original thought as put down by St. John – without a clear meaning he’s leaving us to guess. We can blame the person or persons who translated the original into the mess we have today. We can blame those haters of life who see a perfect sanction and thus continue to praise the book which really should be burned or at least clarified as to what it means.

Having expressed my distaste for the sentence itself, I will proffer my interpretation, which is rather satisfactory. It is really saying, “He who clings too greatly to his life here will suffer badly in the afterlife, while he who is not too attached to his life here will fare much better.” It’s really about detachment. It’s worded so poorly however that it could easily be used as an excuse to abuse those who appear to love their life by those who hate theirs. It could be misinterpreted to sanction the bitter feelings people have towards people who enjoy life more.

Moreover, there’s a huge difference between what this Gospel would mean to the people of the Roman times and what it would mean to us. Everyone in those times was completely stuck in whatever social status they had. The message is that you’re not supposed to judge your eternal condition by the position you hold in this life, and for these people, that position was permanent. To all appearances, your social position was who you were. Christian ideas have so thoroughly saturated the modern consciousness that we hardly ever think like that. So the verse from the Gospel simply isn’t as profound as it once was.

But supposing one did want to follow Jesus in sacrificing oneself, there isn’t always a clear means by which one might give up one’s life. When Christians were minority, one might follow in Christ’s footsteps by professing faith, refusing to worship the Romans gods, and thus the body might be given up for Christ. That was only good for about three hundred years, before it was legal and proper to be a Christian. After this it was by no means clear how one might follow in Christ’s footsteps.

Proclaim your faith, whatever it is, loudly today and the closest you can get to losing your life will be to be put into a mental hospital or prison cell. Your social status will drop like a seed into the Earth. It’s not your life you’re losing, but indeed it can be a living hell being rejected by everyone who cares about you. Has the seed borne fruit?

You cannot predict the direction your inner work might take, but in bringing more consciousness into the world you are assisting the evolution of the collective as well as yourself. – Robert A. Johnson

I hope he’s right. Even Jesus didn’t know why God had forsaken him.

Two Aspects of the Christian Cross

A serious commentary about the Christian Cross. Basically sticks to the topic, I think. Takes a Gnostic view at the end, which caught me by surprise.

The image of the Cross has sustained two thousand years of meditation in our civilization. That track record alone makes it worthy of investigation.

Am I really going to undertake an investigation into the image of the Cross on this blog post? Is there anything to say about it that hasn’t already been said? Good questions. The Cross has been on my mind for some time. I haven’t read all the literature. Has anybody?  But I do believe I have been exposed to the bulk of the ideas pertaining to it. There’s no way I can make a complete commentary on it, that’s for sure. But I’ve never thus far made a complete commentary anyway.

The best strategy is clearly to dip into the discussion at precisely the points I want to make and then get out just as quickly. I’ve never seen a really good discussion of the meaning of the Christian symbol from a secular point of view.

Let’s put forth a continuum of interpretations which goes from secular to religious. There was a medieval theologian who tried to prove that the pain suffered by Christ on the cross surpassed all the pain experienced by all other human beings combined throughout history. Let’s assign this interpretation a spot at the extreme religious end of the continuum — it requires an extraordinary amount of faith, plus a mindset which makes it impossible for this theologian to relativize his comparisons between anything else and Jesus. It is characteristic of the bias of the medieval peoples toward religious interpretations of everything they saw. There may well be a smattering of Christians today who would believe this claim, but you’d have to ask them.

This view seems to me to be ridiculously sentimental. With each passing year the moment of the Crucifixion recedes further and further into the past, making an understanding even of the world in which Jesus lived very difficult. I have a good modern contrast. If you’ve read the Sorrows of the Young Werther, a short novel by the great German poet Goethe, you will see a type of suffering described which in many ways surpasses what I suspect Jesus endured. It’s basically about a young man who can’t have his girl and it drives him to madness and death. It’s a kind of novel and a kind of suffering which is certainly more modern and individualistic than anything from the Roman times. There is no hint in the story of Jesus about romantic love. If Jesus wasn’t dying for romantic love, then what was he dying for? You would basically have to project just about every type of suffering you’ve ever felt onto Jesus and His world. That is, project the suffering contained within your own psyche onto Jesus.

The thing is, you then lose sight of the real human being, who lived in a completely different time and place than you live, and about whom we know almost nothing. That’s the distinction between a secular and religious view. The secular view looks for a time and a place for the events in question, whereas in the religious view the Crucifixion exists outside of time and space and is not subject to scientific investigation. We know very little about Jesus. He’s a lot like Socrates, whom we only can know through what Plato wrote down about him. So we’re dealing with a mysterious character. It is my contention that if he had been allowed to continue teaching and his life not interrupted, he would not have attained the significance that he has. Therefore I propose to distinguish between two things, Christ’s Teachings, and the Christian Mythos.

OK, I’ve diverged from what I wanted to say. I need to get back to a rather simple point which provoked me to discuss the Cross in the first place. It was this. There are two aspects to the cross which provoke thought.

The first aspect is that people are of such a nature that they are capable of desiring the crucifixion of another. Under Roman rule, empire had suppressed the capacity to hate the Roman rulers. So we have to reckon with the typical power drive in people redirecting aggression to the Omega Wolf, in this case Jesus. This drive is everywhere with all peoples when they are forced to subdue their drive for dominance. Taking this into account totally ignores whatever effect Christ had as a teacher, emphasizing the fact that he was merely available when the local bullies needed a victim. It also emphasizes the inability of the local leaders to fight their imperial oppressors openly. This first aspect deals with the generalized phenomenon of scapegoating.

The second aspect of the cross has to do with individuality. Why did Jesus end up being crucified? It was because of his individual traits. He is so popular as a figure because there are so many people who feel something in themselves which they know would cause them to be crucified if they weren’t able to hide it. But what we’re dealing with here is the idea of self-knowledge. If a person is sentimentally praising Jesus for taking away their sins, there is clearly present some form of self-knowledge. You have to know that you have some sins in order to need them to be cured. How would you know that you had sins? Well, you could be told so by the people who raised you. But it wouldn’t mean anything to you unless you actually began to sense the presence of sin in yourself. It is the power of self-knowledge which gives people an ability to realize that they have a tendency toward sin. I’m not saying everybody is a tremendous sinner, though.

One of the limitations of mainstream Christianity is that it doesn’t give you much understanding of the outer world. It doesn’t say too much about the fact that external situations can affect the natural propensity to sin. It tries to play up the guilt aspect, suggesting that the presence of guilt feelings is more important than external factors. It suggests that you ignore your material situation, that your spiritual situation is always more important, as opposed to Marxism, for example, which commits the reverse error, that is, emphasizing the material conditions of a situation at the total expense of the moral character of the individual.

But I was talking about Self-Knowledge. The image of Christ on the cross facilitates the process of inward gazing, that is, identifying aspects of yourself which are different from the average. On the one hand, we hate such aspects, and we would like to crucify them, but on the other hand we love them, because they are us. Wouldn’t it be better to know thyself than to hate thyself? We can’t be anybody else, and maybe we should learn to relate to ourselves, first by projecting our different aspects onto the cross and then by integrating them into our lives. The cross is great because Jesus can be everyone’s friend. I think that’s why the first people believed in the Resurrection. It just seemed to them that every aspect of His character kept on living despite dying.

I guess I can end with the thought that precisely because Jesus is the property of everyone, clearly no two Jesuses are the same. (Will the real Jesus of Nazareth please stand up? ) I consider this His most profound strength, His greatest triumph. Only a man such as this could follow us into our darkest darknesses and allow us to feel companionship there.

p.s. Looks like this discussion isn’t as secular as I had originally planned!

An Excerpt from a Conversation

I just wrote this email to a friend:

Obviously the mention of the word “con-artist” twice in your email means I’ve sold the idea very poorly to you.  I think first of all that you assume that needing to sell people on a product implies that their life would be better without the product.  That’s not necessarily the case.  Selling simply means increasing people’s estimation of the value of a product to the point where they’re willing to risk spending their money.  I don’t think this is a bad thing.  Someone asking for your money should have to convince you of the product’s value.  Salesmanship is the means by which a person accomplishes this.

By “walking the streets” I mean literally meeting the person where they live, work or roam.  I raise it as a countermeasure to all the mental health professionals I ever encountered, who sit in their offices and act like the whole thing’s this secret, private, shameful affair.  There’s no way they can know as much about you by talking as by spending time with you in your own environment.  To really heal someone you need to know how they live, work, and play.  Unfortunately our culture has no role for healers of this type, as is evidenced by the fact that you think someone doing this must of necessity be some sort of con-artist.  But I take your comments as a clarification of the state of society’s predominant opinion on these matters.

The con-artists I’ve met were all psychotherapists.  I myself have a mixed relationship to the field, because I think I would be a very good one myself, but I couldn’t present myself as one of those I encountered, simply as a matter of principle.  I felt that they knew nothing and were totally incapable of helping me with my conditions, which didn’t stop them from charging con-artist type prices for their services.  Nonetheless I admit that I don’t have an alternative to their business model, or rather I don’t know how to market it.  Maybe I should stick with the life of the artist.  At least artists make money.

The regret here is that it would be great for me to be able to “get out” more, encounter more people, and it might be great for the people too.  I do believe that I have a healing presence.  In other words, I actually believe in the product.  I guess trying to turn it into a financial model is mistaking earth for heaven.

The idea is an attempt to fix all my problems at once.  Those problems: income; friends; and something which makes me feel important.  Truth is I can’t fix any one of them right now, let alone all of them.

-Salamander

Wrestle With Blog

“And his name shall be Bl-Israel, he who wrestled with Blog.”

Thus saith Blog.  And so came it to pass.  And he wrestled so greatly, and wrestled some more, until finally he decided that Bl-israel shall be his name whensoever he writeth about Blog.

And when Blog had done speaking, he layeth down his keyboard and screen, for he had many things to say about himself, yet he put them off until he had rested.  For paradox hath wearied my brain, and though Blog come nigh upon me like the north wind, nay but I must rest and check upon the morn all that hath been wrought in mine absence.

Thus saith Blog.  And thus it were.

Food for Thought

A short post.  Elaboration is death.

I’ve been listening to Thus Spake Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche, on LibriVox.org.  You should try reading it too.

I get the sense that Thus Spake Zarathustra is an ancient text whose meaning has been lost in translation, which we moderns don’t know how to translate into our language, in which the ambiguities of language make it impossible for us to know the true sense of it. Yet it vibrates nonetheless with the energy of an ancient text. It’s a very strange work, a modern work of ancient origin, which we can’t translate entirely, but whose rawness pierces through in such a way that it compensates our inability to understand its literal meaning, if it even has one.  It reminds me of Lady Gaga’s meat dress.

Solemn Commentary

I have no idea what the effects of isolation are in general, but I felt them tonight particularly hard.

My understanding is that isolation has both good and bad effects.  I don’t understand from the philosophy I read how one is to approach extremely long-term isolation.  A part of me is breaking away from old patterns.  I can’t settle for the degree of isolation I’m currently undergoing.  I suppose I will open up to more possibilities which are “out there” somewhere.  I could take a leap of faith into some random program, the chief goal of which from my standpoint is simply to decrease isolation.  I don’t know of any program which I’m actually excited to attend, per se.  In fact, it might just be a situation where any attempt to participate in any program would be advisable, so long as it doesn’t involve even more isolation.  People have such desperate need.

Does anyone of my readers know of good programs which might be good for someone like me to attend?  Here is a description of my day today:  Woke up, checked email and blog.  Went back to sleep, woke up a few hours later.  Walk to store to get some milk.  Read a book on the history of Christianity, ate dinner.  I live in the house of a retired man.  I pay nothing because he enjoys the fact that I’m here.  Unfortunately I no longer enjoy the fact that I’m here.  I think I know everything there is to know about this guy.  I think that’s actually the force that’s pulling on me today.  That there’s no more I can learn from being here.  It will take a few days before I can know for sure, since I’ve been here a long time and I don’t rashly decide something like this.  Anyway, after dinner, read book.  Come upstairs to this computer, determined to write a blog post.  Write for hours.  Decide it’s stupid.  Try again.  By this time it’s about half-past midnight.  Put the second attempt aside and write these few paragraphs.  That’s it.  And that’s basically a typical day.

Notable in my day is that I talk to no one of interest to me.  Sometimes I visit the woman who ended up being my surrogate mother, who helped me in adulthood to understand the nature of a mother, since I had never learned.  She is the active real mother of five children.  I visit her about once or twice a week.

I think I undoubtedly suffer from what might be called dreamer syndrome, in which my natural tendency toward being passive is counterbalanced by a rich imagination of a future in which I have intelligent friends and an important social function.  The internet is such a weird medium, too, because it totally facilitates the imagination at the expense of being able to experience things directly.  We’re all just ones and zeroes in a big warehouse somewhere.

I guess I need a better sense of where I am (don’t we all?).  Writing this post seems to have helped.  It’s just like the Eagle and the Toad.  Almost by definition, the toad can’t know who it is with respect to fancy glamorous things.  You just have to recreate your idea of everything entirely anew.  And then do it again.  The Eagle wants nothing more than for the Toad to catch up, but it has no choice but itself to learn the ways of the Toad.