Missing The Humour

There is a humour in life that the purposeful self simply doesn’t get. What has humour to do with our purposes, after all? Where’s the humour in ‘having a goal’? Either we’re pleased because we’ve obtained the goal or we’re disgruntled and in bad form because we haven’t and there’s precisely zero humour in either of these two possibilities. Humour doesn’t come from ‘having a goal’ and then ‘realizing your goal’ – it comes from having a goal and then realizing that it isn’t your goal after all. Humour doesn’t come in a ‘positive’ way – it comes from realizing that the goal we used to be so attached to doesn’t actually matter!


There’s a subtle humour in life that is never far away but all the same we never see it. We are very far from seeing it  – the humour is lost on us because we’re too busy ‘being concrete about everything’. This subtle humour is invisible to us just as long as we are identified with the purposeful self and its unrelentingly concrete endeavours. Nothing is what it seems in this world; everything glints with rich irony. For the ham-fisted purposeful self however – which is who we are most if not all of the time – this wonderfully subtle humour, this fabulous rich irony just doesn’t exist. It simply isn’t on the menu…


What is on the menu is our purposes, what we want and what we don’t want. What is on the menu is a never ending supply of literal goals, goals that stretch on forever. When a literal goal exists, and is put on front of us to hypnotize us, then this simplifies the universe to a colossal extent.  All that exists now is the goal and the two possibilities of either obtaining or not obtaining it. The world is split in two, in other words – it is split into ‘obeying the rule’ (which is good) and ‘failing to obey the rule’ (which is of course bad). The ‘rule’ that we are talking about here is the goal; the goal isn’t just ‘an outcome’, in other words, the goal is ‘an outcome that we are obliged to achieve’…


The problem is of course that once we have committed ourselves to this terminally humourless ‘purposeful world’ we just can’t see our way out of it again. We’re always looking ahead to achieving the goal because we think that when we do this will somehow solve everything. Everything will then be OK. We’re always looking ahead to the moment when we get to achieve the goal because we unconsciously imagine that when we do so then all the humour and freedom which we are missing will somehow come back into our world. It never does, of course – all that happens is that another goal comes along, another rule that we have to obey, and then another and another. This is the game of the purposeful mind!


When we’re caught in the game of the purposeful mind (when we’re trapped in this tremendously over-simplified world that only contains the two possibilities of either obtaining the goal or not obtaining it) then the stark lack of humour or freedom becomes invisible to us because we’re so focussed on the goal. We don’t know that we’re missing our sense of humour about thigns and that this lack of humour is actually causing us pain. What’s happening here is that the humour (or freedom) in life has been replaced by extrinsic motivation and EM is the motivation of ‘fear versus desire’.


The thing about EM (the motivation of fear / desire) is that it doesn’t let us stay in the present moment, which is where the humour of the situation is. Of course EM doesn’t let us stay in the present moment – we always either looking forward to the happy moment when we get to obtain the goal or we’re looking forward to the equally happy moment when we get to escape the fear! Obtaining the goal is all we’re able to focus on, whether that goal has to do with achieving something that will make us feel good when we achieve it, or whether it has to do with escaping something that is going to make us feel bad if we don’t escape it…


This brutally oversimplified situation that we’re talking about here – which is ‘the purposeful world’ or ‘the world of the purposeful self’ – is the world that is ruled over by fear and desire, therefore. Fear and desire (or fear and greed) are all that exist here; there’s nothing else, not even the slightest trace of anything else. All there is in this world is the attractive promise of ‘obtaining the good thing’ or the equally attractive promise of being able to successfully escape from the bad thing. What we don’t realize is that the good thing (which is what is promised us when we obey desire) and the bad thing (which we are told is what is going to befall us if we fail to obey fear) are one and the same thing. It’s the same promise in both cases, and it’s the promise of something that isn’t real (and never could be).


The most essential way to understand the motivation of ‘fear versus desire’ (or EM) is to say that it is displaced pain. When we are playing the game of the purposeful mind there is always going to be pain (or unhappiness) and this, as we have already intimated, is due to the absence of humour, the absence of freedom. How can we possibly lose our sense of humour about things without being made unhappy as a result? This pain / unhappiness can be ‘displaced’ in two ways – we can either displace it into the future, in which case it becomes a purpose, a goal to be achieved, or we can experience it as a feature of our present existence that we can get away from if we ‘play our cards right’. In both cases (in the case of both desire and fear) our attention is directed towards the future, as we have been saying – either to the desired goal of ‘the good thing’, or the equally desired outcome of ‘escaping the bad thing’.


The fundamental deceptiveness that is being perpetrated upon us here can easily be pointed to in both cases. In the first case – which is the case of desire – we are being told that the joy or release that comes with being free will be ours if we do X, Y and Z. This isn’t true for the reasons that we have already discussed – following the rules of the game is never going to free us from the game! In the second case – which is the case of fear – we are being led to believe that if we play our cards right we can successfully escape from the menace of the pain that is in the present situation, which is the pain of having lost our sense of humour – but this of course isn’t true either, for the very same reason. It’s the same basic lie told in two different ways. From the way that we have just described the promise of ‘the release’ and the promise of the ‘escape from the threat’ it is very clear that they are the same thing represented in two apparently different ways, but in our actual experience of desire and fear it is of course true that we see ‘the pleasure of satisfying our desires’ and ‘the pleasure of getting safely away from our fears’ as two very different things, but in reality they are the two sides of the same coin.


All the movement that occurs in the purposeful world (all of our emotions, all of our thoughts, all of our purposeful activity) is therefore due to us believing this basic lie (in whatever way it is being told) but – more than this – we ourselves are that lie. Thus in Saying 3 in the Gospel of Thomas we read –

When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.


Clearly, if we actually are the poverty then it is no good us trying to run away from it, or seek it somewhere outside of ourselves! If we ourselves are the poverty then no amount of purposeful activity is going to save us. Or as we could also say (following on from what we have already been talking about), if we ourselves are that ‘lack of freedom’ that we have been talking about then no amount of goal-orientated behaviour is ever going to alter this state of affairs. Our GOB is when it comes down to it no more than an extension of our quintessentially humourless nature! What after all could be less humorous than a goal or an agenda?


The point is that the purposeful self actually is the pain-displacement. It is the desire, it is the fear. And at the same as we say this we also have to remember that in reality (rather than in our imaginations) there is no displacement – there is no happiness /freedom in the future that we can attain through our (positive) striving behaviour, just as there is no relief from the pain that we can gain as a result of our (negative) fleeing behaviour. We are actually looking for the pleasure of gain or the relief of escape in an ‘unreal dimension’, the unreal dimension that Krishnamurti calls psychological time. Psychological time is the imaginary space between ‘where we are now’ and ‘where we want to be when our desires are fulfilled’ – the imaginary space that we are always trying to eliminate! It is the intention of eliminating this difference between ‘where we are’ and ‘where we want to be’ that is keeping us forever busy, forever ‘on the hop’, but at the same time it is a difference that doesn’t exist since my goals are always an extension of me!


When we’re identified (as we are) with the purposeful self then it is always the case that we are living our lives in that leeway which we supposedly have to obtain our goals and escape our fears, that leeway that we supposedly have to ‘win the game’. Yet what leeway do we have to run away from our negative projections, or successfully catch up with our positive ones? How is this ever going to work when both the positive and negative projections, the desired and the feared ones, are only exercises in illegitimate pain-displacement? The purposeful self is trying to outrun its own shadow and that’s all it ever does. That’s all it is capable of doing. That’s the true meaning of all of these ‘purposes’ that we are so addicted to – the purposeful self is trying to escape from the pain which is itself, but it’s bringing its humourless self along with it wherever it goes. The purposeful self is both a tragic and a comedic figure, as Wei Wu Wei says; its endeavours can never escape the realm of tragedy, and yet at the same time it is funny without meaning to be. It is funny – we might say – in the way in which it persists in never getting the joke…



Art: Toz (Santanda)






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