As we go about our daily business, the daily business of being who we are and doing what we do, we extend ahead of us a kind of invisible force-field. We bring this force-field around with us wherever we go, only it isn’t a force-field as much as it is a type of artificial or man-made reality. It’s a hyperreality!
Another way of talking about this force-field, this tailor-made artificial reality or hyperreality is to say that it is ‘a bubble of purposefulness.’ We bring this bubble of purposefulness along with us wherever we go – as we have said, we extend it invisibly ahead of ourselves as we go about our daily business. We extend our purposes, our goals, our agendas ahead of us wherever we go. Of course our purposes, our goals, our agenda go ahead of us – how could they not do? Our goals and purpose are us; we bring them with us wherever we go just as we bring ourselves. We hardly ever divest ourselves of them, we hardly ever – if ever – travel lightly. Even when we think that we are travelling lightly our baggage is never too far away from us. If anything happens to challenge us, frighten us or annoy us, then there is our baggage as plain as day, there for everyone to see. It’s there every time we get anxious, it’s there every time we get angry or resentful. Our baggage – our hidden agenda – is always close at hand no matter how chilled-out we might think we are.
As we go about our daily activities we create around us a bubble of positive reality , a bubble of asserted or defined reality. We push it ahead of us like a shopper pushing a shopping trolley. We push it into every situation that we encounter. This is what we do – we promote the positive reality. This is our daily business: no matter what we might think we’re doing, what we’re really doing (when it comes right down to it) is promoting the positive reality. We’re making definite assertions with our minds, we’re judging and labelling, we’re creating a defined reality for ourselves which is a continuation of the defined reality which we’ve latched onto a long time ago and which – for some unexamined reason – we don’t want to let go of….
Our purposes are the positive reality. That’s why purposes and goals seem so great to us – they seem as great as they do seem because they represent the indefinite extension of our bubble of positive reality, our invisible force-field. They are our way of not letting go of the known. We’re ‘keeping it going’, we’re ‘consolidating our territory’. Security-wise, this feels very good to us; there is a great satisfaction in doing this and it is this sense of satisfaction, this sense of validation or vindication that we most want in life (whether we are willing to admit this to ourselves or not). This is the ‘sweetness’ we crave, like a heroin addict craves heroin, like an alcoholic craves drink. This is the mind-candy we keep sucking on. Contrariwise, when we lose ground, when we have to give up territory, when our basis is threatened or compromised, then this feels very bad to us. It feels very bad indeed, it feels worse than anything, it feels bad to the extent that we are driven ceaselessly in everyday life by the need to either consolidate our territory or fight against having it compromised. We’re driven by the need to impose our own brand of order on the world (which isn’t actually ‘our’ brand of order at all but just something that we have picked up along the way, something we have ‘randomly acquired’).
Having picked up or acquired this particular brand of order, we then go into the business of promoting it full-time. We go into the business of producing it ourselves. We’re producing this particular bubble of positive reality all the time. We’re producing it, producing it, producing it. We’re constantly generating it for ourselves. We’re bringing it with us wherever we go – we can’t take a single step without extending the bubble of defined reality ahead of us. Even if we tried not to, we couldn’t help doing it. Deliberately not producing the positive reality is an absolute impossibility! After all, suppose that I do have the conscious intention to stop producing the bubble of positive reality that I’m trapped in: if this is the case then my purpose (my new purpose) is to ‘stop endlessly extending the force-field of purposefulness ahead of me wherever I go’. My purpose is therefore to have no purpose! This however is of course just as much a purpose as ever and so there’s no change to what I’m doing. I’m just carrying on the same as ever, only I’m sailing under a different flag this time. ‘STOP’ equals a purpose just as much as ‘GO’ does and this is the prison of purposefulness.
A parallel way of talking about the prison of purposefulness is to say that no matter what I do (and no matter how clever or forceful or persistent I am in doing it) it’s still me doing it. It’s no good me imaging that there is there a ‘right thing’ for me to do that we then enable me to escape from the trap that I’m in because all things that I do are the trap! I can go on looking for the right thing to do (or the right way of doing it) forever and I’ll never find it. I’ll never find it because I’m caught up in a paradox that I can’t see to be a paradox. I’m caught up in an invisible glitch, a glitch that I’m bringing along with me wherever I go. There’s no solution to this so-called ‘problem’. Me trying to find the solution to the problem is the problem and so I’m going to go around in circles forever…
Our normal everyday way of being in the world is to be stuck in the bubble of purposefulness, and working hard to keep it going as long as we possibly can. This is all we know. This is the prison we drag around with ourselves ever day; this is the prison that we have got so used to that we never even see it any more. We don’t see it as a prison. We don’t see it as anything because we’re not really conscious of doing it. On an unconscious level however it is something that is very, very important to us; on an unconscious level it is something that matters very much to us. Maintaining the bubble (i.e. maintaining the prison) is something that we can never really let go of, because it is so very important to us on an unconscious level. That we should be in this prison, and that we should continue indefinitely to be in this prison, is very important to us therefore but we don’t see that what we’re doing is promoting and maintaining our own prison, and neither do we see that this is what we are actually doing all the time.
No matter how very used to doing this we are, no matter how inured to it we are, there is nevertheless something deeply perverse about what we’re doing. There is – whether we can see it or not – something deeply inimical about the bubble of positive reality that we are maintaining around ourselves the whole time. We unconsciously assume that we’re helping ourselves, that we’re benefitting ourselves, but the exactly opposite is true. We’re acting against ourselves, therefore. We are – as the saying has it – ‘our own worst enemies’. No matter how familiar we might be with this bubble of ours, this bubble that we are dedicated to preserving, there is a particular unpleasant quality to it – it’s as if it has a bad smell that we just don’t seem to get. There is something ‘off’ about it, something very unwholesome about it, and yet we don’t spot it at all. We’re too used to it to spot it. We’re so used to the sickness that we see it has health.
What’s so ‘unhealthy’ (if not down-right inimical) about the bubble of positive reality that we keep on maintaining is that it’s a made thing. It’s a construct. We very rarely see the reality that we swim around in every day as being a made thing (or ‘construct’) because we keep ourselves busy and don’t attend to the actual nature of this reality, this man-made world that we live in. It’s not the world of houses and roads and cars and cities and industrial complexes that we’re talking about here (although obviously that’s man-made too) but our inner world, the world of our thoughts and beliefs. If we were to become very still in ourselves, and cease to preoccupy ourselves so much with our own thoughts, our own games, our own purposeful pursuits, then we would clearly see that we are living in a world of our own thoughts, and that this is a ‘manufactured world’. We would see that the world we are living in is not the real world, but a world that has been spun out of our own ceaseless mental activities…
Very clearly, if the bubble of positive reality that we’re talking about here is made up of our own purposes, our own goals, our own agendas (as we have said that it is) then it is a manufactured world. We have made it ourselves. It’s something we have done. The bubble of purposefulness that I surround myself with is of course my own creation – if it is ‘on purpose’ then it’s not natural, if it’s ‘on purpose’ then it’s a construct. The thing about this is therefore is that as soon as I ‘tune in’ to what is going on and notice that I am living in a world that I myself have made, that I myself have arbitrarily constructed, then I see that there is something not healthy or not wholesome about this. It’s not a pleasant feeling to discover that one is living in a reality that is one’s own construct – there is actually something extraordinarily ‘repugnant’ about it, we could say. As Jung says, to live in a world that is made up entirely of our projections is to be fundamentally disconnected from life, fundamentally isolated from life. To be living in a world that is made up of our own unrecognised projections is to be in a state of solipsistic withdrawal from life. It’s like being wrapped up in a cocoon – a cocoon of oneself!
To be living in a world that is made up of our own thoughts is a fundamentally fragmented form of existence but we do not usually experience it as such. We don’t generally feel this ‘isolation from reality’, this ‘fragmentation’, this ‘fundamental dissociation from life’ and this reason for this is that we live as part of a huge mass of people who all share the same positive reality (or pretty much the same positive reality). This is a collusion – it’s a collusion on a massive scale. This collusion creates the illusion that the constructed world that we’re living in isn’t a fragmented or dissociated mode of being but rather that it’s ‘perfectly normal’. Hyperreality passes itself off as genuine reality. That’s what hyperreality does – it replaces genuine reality. This trick is how it gets to be hyperreality, after all!
Another reason we don’t notice the true nature of our predicament is because of the way in which we feel the purposes and goals we are enacting to be our own purposes, our own goals. Straightaway therefore we feel good about what we’re doing, about what is going on. We have identified with the rules that makes up our world, we have identified with the bubble of purposefulness. It’s us doing it, therefore. It’s all about ‘who we perceive ourselves to be’. But as we have already said, this bubble of positive or purposeful reality that we’re promoting the whole time isn’t really ‘ours’ at all – it’s just something that we’ve picked up along the way. It’s just some pattern of thinking and being in the world that we have ‘randomly acquired’. As James Moore refers to this pattern using the Gurdjeffian term ‘personality’ and says personality is ‘other people’s stuff made flesh in us’. It’s is not ‘us’ at all but some kind of a thing (like a virus) that we have picked up. In a way we could say that it is a virus – it’s a virus that produces an artificial ‘pseudo-reality’ that we get stuck in. It’s a virus that spreads like wildfire and that we’re all infected with. And rather than paying attention to the fact that this has happened, and putting our resources into freeing ourselves from it, we put all of our energy into the all-consuming task of ‘promoting the viral reality’. We put all available resources into promoting the ‘bubble of purposefulness’, even though the ‘purposes’ in question are not actually ours at all…