The joke is this – that the ‘starting-off point’ which we have been given (which is ‘the self who we imagine ourselves to be’) isn’t who we are, and what’s more (as if there needed to be more!) this starting-off point suffers from the grievous disadvantage of being fundamentally self-limiting, fundamentally self-contradicting, fundamentally self-denying. It flagrantly ‘calls itself a liar’ in absolutely everything it does and yet we can’t for the life of us see this!
What more of a joke could there be than this? Having a starting point like this from which to embark upon the journey of life isn’t just ‘a handicap’ – it’s an absolute jinx. It’s the jinx of all jinxes; it’s the granddaddy of them all. We aren’t ever going to get anywhere, no matter how energetically we take off, no matter how much stamina and dedication to the job we show. We aren’t ever going to leave first base. And if that weren’t bad enough in itself, ‘first base’ isn’t actually any sort of ‘first base’ at all – it’s nothing more than an outright hallucination. We are starting off our journey from a place that simply doesn’t exist, a place that could never exist.
There are two equivalent ways in which we can talk about this ‘unreal or hallucinatory first base’ – we could say that it is ‘the generic (or all-purpose) self’ or we could say that it is ‘the defined self’. But come down to the same thing in the end – both come down to a question of misidentification. The generic is the defined and the defined is the generic. After all, if a thing can be defined then it must be commonly defined for all and contrariwise, for something to be generic everything about it must be specified. Using the two different words is helpful however that it draws attention to the two mechanisms by which this ‘multi-user self’ is created and maintained. One mechanism (we may say) is the societal one and this is the way in which pre-existent ideas or models of what it means to be a person get used as templates to facilitate the construction of the societal or generic self. The other mechanism may be said to be ‘the operation of thought’ since even in the absence of socially-approved templates to work off we will always identify with any relatively stable pattern of thoughts (or ‘mental reflexes’) and say ‘this is me’. We can experience this identification with any stable set of mental biases – we can adopt any biased point of view and have the very strong (compellingly strong) feeling that ‘this is me’ (or ‘this is my viewpoint’), in other words.
The important point here is that we are identifying with some kind of fixed pattern, some kind of static image and all fixed patterns or definite statements come down to the same thing in the end – they all come down to flat ‘self-contradictions’, they come down to paradox. That’s all we need to see if we are to be free from the false identification with the fixed pattern or definite statement about reality. A fixed or repetitive pattern is characterized by the fact that it ‘keeps on saying the same thing’, in other words. The ‘definite statement’ doesn’t ever go anywhere else, it doesn’t ever doesn’t say anything else – it always just ‘stays rooted in the same spot’. To our usual way of thinking there doesn’t seem to be anything problematic or contradictory about this business of ‘staying in the same spot’; it’s the simplest thing in the world to understand and we don’t have any problems with it. The statement which isn’t logically definite (i.e. a statement which doesn’t exclude every other possible statement that we might make on the subject) doesn’t make sense. ‘Inclusive’ statements don’t make sense to us. A statement that doesn’t stay still, a statement that twists and turns and continuously reveals it to itself be other than what it originally appeared to be (a statement that we can’t hold tightly in our grasp) – is something that doesn’t make any sense to us!
What our everyday mind says ‘does or does not make sense’ is entirely irrelevant as far as reality itself is concerned however; whatever we may say or think on the subject has no bearing – reality isn’t the way that we think it is. We are always far too quick to jump to the conclusion that reality and our models of it are the same thing, and that any discrepancies can safely be ignored. There is certainly no ‘evidence’ for this being the case, to use the rational mind’s own favourite word: the harder we look into the nature of reality the more paradoxical and counterintuitive it always reveals itself to be. The same is true in the field of philosophy and metaphysics – when we take the trouble to look into ‘what is going on’ we always find out that it isn’t what we naïvely assumed it to be before we started our investigation. The only time reality gets to be ‘non-paradoxical’ (or literally ‘just what it is said to be’) is when we don’t bother to look into it too much, which is of course almost all of the time.
The way everyone always understands reality is of course in the regular old straightforward ‘what you see is what you get’ way – who after all sees much – if any – paradoxicality in the arena of everyday life? Everyday life isn’t made up of paradoxes – or at least it doesn’t seem to be to the naïve observer. Everyday life, we might say, is made up of disguised paradoxicalities, which is to say ‘paradoxicalities that do not in any way seem to be paradoxical’. What exactly – we might then ask – is a ‘disguised paradoxicality’? What exactly is a paradoxical reality that does not seem to be so contradictory? The plainest answer to this would simply be to say that it isn’t any kind of reality at all. So if we are dealing with a ‘non-paradoxical’ (i.e. ‘logically-consistent’) reality on a day-to-day basis then what this means – quite simply – is that we are dealing with the reality that isn’t actually real.
It is – moreover – quite clearly the case that we are dealing with a literal or concrete reality every day of our lives! We don’t know of any other types of reality. When we meet someone in town for a coffee the conversation we have is (apparently) non-paradoxical in nature, when we listen to the news the ‘news’ we hear is non-paradoxical news. We live in a world where everything makes sense, and yet what makes sense is never real; if something ‘makes sense’ then that’s a guarantee that it isn’t real. This ought to be obvious to us, but it never is. Do we actually think that the universe contains the ‘sense’ that we see in it? Could we really be naïve enough to believe this? How can we imagine that the universe just happens to be chock-a-block with the type of sense that just happens to suit our particular arbitrarily biased viewpoint?
To assume this is to imagine this is to assume that the world is nothing more than an extension of our thinking process – which is actually what we do assume (even though we don’t know that we are) if we did actually have the awareness of the world being nothing more than an extension of our thinking process this would not at all be a pleasant experience! It would actually be a thoroughly hellish experience. If we say that the world which we perceive and believe in on a daily basis is made up of ‘definite statements’ – which it has to be if we are to understand it literally, as we absolutely do understand it – then seeing these ‘definite statements’ (as robust as they might seem) are actually nothing more than extensions or projections of the fixed or abstract point which is who we falsely imagine ourselves to be, then this would be equivalent to what Jean-Paul Sartre refers to as nausea in his novel that same name –
This is time, time laid bare, coming slowly into existence, keeping us waiting, and when it does come making us sick because we realise it’s been there for a long time. The old woman reaches the corner of the street, no more than a bundle of black clothes. All right then, it’s new, she wasn’t there a little while ago. But it’s a tarnished deflowered newness, which can never surprise. She is going to turn the corner, she turns – during an eternity.
Nausea is, then, where the element of surprise inherent in time is revealed as a hoax – life thus becomes something very flat, repellently flat, in fact. An alternative statement of this – we might say – would be to say that nausea is where we realise that the meaning we see in the world is only the meaning that we ourselves have put into it. We having then invested a lot in this ‘meaning that we have ourselves given to the world’ – we look for everything in the projected world, we want the whole of our life to take place there, and nowhere else. Another way of talking about this ‘total investment’ is to say that we ourselves are part and parcel of the meaning that we have projected onto the world. We are our own rational output, in other words. Inasmuch as ‘the projected world’ doesn’t exist (since it is only us ourselves are causing it to be there), neither does the projector of the projected reality – ‘the projector’ in ‘the projected’ are one and the same thing, after all. The projector projects itself, that’s all it’s got to protect.
So to go back to our to the beginning of our discussion – the joke that we can’t see is that the self we imagine ourselves to be is not at all who we are, and that – not only is it not at all who we are – it is actually a perfect contradiction in terms, just as all fixed or abstract points are self-contradictions, just as all definite points of reference are self-contradictions. This is not a very good place to start off for any sort of journey from therefore since the flaw or error that was there right at the beginning (and which we didn’t see) is going to manifest itself – one way or another – every step of the way… A definite point of reference – which is needless to say any type of ‘reference point’ that there could be for us or else no ‘referring’ could actually take place! – comes into existence, we might say, as a result of all other points being ‘thrust into the background’, or ‘excluded’. They’re still there – we can’t do anything about that – but we are acting as if they aren’t. We are shutting them out; we’re denying them and acting as if the only possible point of reference is the one which we happen to be using, the one which we happen to have identified with.
This is a very easy thing to do – we do it every time we look at the world in the rational conceptual way that we do look at it – to see the world turns of opaque concepts (or definite statements) is to see the world from one specific arbitrarily chosen reference point. That’s the only way it can work – we couldn’t generate definite statements (or ‘measurements’) any other way, we couldn’t get ‘the world of fact and figures’ to come into existence any other way. Due to our intense unremitting familiarity with the output of the process, it never seems to occur to us that this is how the mechanism of rational thought works; we take it totally taken for granted that ‘the world of fact and figures’ is the same thing as the world’ and that there wasn’t some sort of process that lead to this convenient representation of things. In another way we might say that this ought to be obvious – how else could we get ‘the world of fact and figures’, ‘definite statements’, without utilising a fixed point of reference that we aren’t ever going to question? And how we ever going to get such a thing as ‘a fixed or abstract point of reference unless we ignore all the other potential points?
The non-abstract world (which is to say, the Whole or Undivided world) is a course the same thing as ‘all possible points’. No points are left out of the Whole, obviously! Only the Whole isn’t really made up ‘of all possible points’ because ‘points’ don’t have any existence by themselves; they are only abstractions – reality isn’t made up of ‘lots and lots of little points all joined together’, that would be ridiculous! Reality is ‘all of one piece’ – it isn’t made up of a multitude of separate units all welded together like so many steel panels any more than the Universal Set is made up of lots and lots of little sets all laid end to end. That’s not how it works – it’s just the way we think it works. We can’t help looking at the world in this fragmentary way because that’s how thinking itself works – thinking works by chopping everything up into little bits. The definite world (or ‘quantitative reality’) coming comes into being as a result of throwing away an awful lot of information’ therefore; before we can have the world of facts and figures we have to incur a massive ‘entropy debt’. Entropy can be defined by saying that is ‘inaccessible information’, it is ‘information that we don’t have any means of relating to’, and not only do not have any means of relating to this missing information, we also don’t have any way of relating to the fact that we have no way of relating to it.
This information dumping creates what we might call ‘an impossible situation’ – it’s impossible in the sense that the ONLY type of reality that is now available to us is the type of reality that is made up of definite statements. This is never going to work however, not when it comes right down to it. As we have already said, there’s a ‘joke’ contained in all definite statements – a ‘flaw’ or ‘jinx’ that we just can’t see. The flaw is that all definite statements delete or negate themselves later on but because of the complete lack of any perspective in the literally-represented world this is information that is just not available to us. We are (in effect) as gullible as the day is long – we would keep on believing all these literal stories that we’re being told forever. Because they are literal we have to believe in them, but ‘literal’ doesn’t really exist. There’s nothing more ridiculously nonsensical than ‘a literal statement’ and there’s nothing more ‘clownish’ than that gullible state of mind in which we automatically believe them. A literal statement – after all – is trying to say something about the world purely by reference to itself (i.e. purely by reference to its own unfounded assumptions) and it itself – as we keep saying – is only an abstraction that has been created because of the entropy debt which we have (unknowingly) incurred. [And entropy debts are of course always unknowingly incurred – that the whole point of them.]
The apparent ‘solidity’ of the known world is in other words a tremendous hoax, as both scientists and mystics would agree. There seems to us to be nothing more solid, nothing more robust than a definite or literal statement but these definite statements (which we trust and rely on so very much) are nothing more than projections of our assumed point of reference. Inasmuch as our point of reference is ‘true’ then all the statements we make on this basis can be true as well, but how on earth can we seriously argue that there is any such thing as a ‘true’ (i.e. uncontrived) point of reference? Points of reference are only there because we select them; they are only there (as we have said) because we ignore all the other possible reference points and then pretend that we haven’t pretended anything. This ‘act of pretence’ is therefore the source or origin of our ‘definite’ or ‘literally-understood world’, not anything else. The solidity upon which we base everything in our lives isn’t ‘solidity’ in the sense that we understand it to be, therefore – it isn’t ‘the solidity of truth’, it’s the ‘solidity’ of ignorance that we are fundamentally unwilling to ever look into…
Image – taken from pantheism.com – the Hallucination Machine