In our attempt to help ourselves, or procure a better situation for ourselves, we trap ourselves and cause ourselves ongoing misery as a result of being trapped. No one can be trapped without experiencing misery, after all!
This is the very heart of our dilemma: our basic impulse is to help ourselves and yet as soon as we give way to this impulse we lose freedom, we become trapped, and so we are not helping ourselves at all. We’re getting caught up in a painful knot. In effect, our attempt to benefit ourselves is the exact mirror-image of what it should be, or what we understand it to be. We’ve got it all backwards – everything is contrary to what we think it is, and yet we can’t ever spot this.
Nothing of what we have just said is going to make any sense of course – not to our ordinary way of understanding things, at any rate. Our ordinary ‘consensus reality’ is one in which paradox does not, in any important way, exist. Paradox is not significant here. Our everyday world is one in which everything is straightforward and just as the trusted rational mind ‘presents it as being’. In the real world however – which we ought not to lose sight of! – paradoxicality comes into play instantly the moment we start acting on the basis of the logical mind. Logic equals paradox, and if we use logic then we will get embroiled in paradox without seeing that we have been.
Coming back to the paradox that we started off with in this discussion, the reason ‘we hinder ourselves by trying to help ourselves’ is because we first have to assume that we are ‘this’ or that we are ‘that’. How else could we help ourselves if we didn’t first say (or assume) who we are’? We have to identify with a finite sense of self. This is where the loss of freedom comes in – we have to limit ourselves, or constrict ourselves, before we can set about helping ourselves, and so straightaway it can be seen that we are ‘helping who we are not’ since we aren’t this limited or restricted version of ourselves that we have assumed. The ‘finite self’ isn’t who we are – that’s just the empty game that we have been unwittingly pulled into…
We are ‘protecting who we’re not’, ‘maintaining who we’re not’, and ‘perpetuating who we’re not’ and this is an act of aggression (a sustained and unrelenting act of aggression) against ourselves. The false version of ‘who we are’ is being promoted at the expense of ‘who we really are’ and so – inevitably – this leads us down a path of ever-increasing conflict and suffering. If we were to take an impartial view of human life (which is to say, if we were to stop looking at everything from the limited POV of the self-image) then the truth of this statement would become immediately obvious! Isn’t this conflict between ‘who we are’ and ‘who we think we are’ the very thing that keeps on causing pain for us in our lives? Irresolvable conflict is born the very moment we start thinking about ourselves; to be ‘true to oneself’ and to ‘think about oneself’ are two diametrically opposed things – no deep personal truth ever emerged as a result of calculation!
We can also look at paradox in terms of ‘what happens when we utilise the thinking mind’, therefore. If we are thinking logically about anything then the first thing we have to do, before we can do anything else, is to pick something that we definitely know, and then work off this. If we can’t first ‘derive a known basis’ then there is no logic, there is no thinking. What we have here therefore is a perfect parallel with what we have just been talking about – when we try to benefit or extend ourselves we first have to assume that we are this or that ‘definite thing’, and similarly, when we try to make sense of the world, and operate logically within it, we have to assume that we know some ‘definite thing’, whenever that thing might be. Both of these assumptions rebound on us.
Picking something that ‘we definitely are’, or picking something that ‘we definitely know’, always creates irresolvable conflict. If I am definitely this then straightaway I am engaged in the back-and-forth polarity of self and other. There is ‘me’ and there is ‘not me’, and the former is to be promoted over the latter. But more than just conflict, what we are involved in is outright paradox; as we have just said, ‘who I think I am’ is promoted over ‘who I actually am’ and so my attempts to help myself are actually having quite the opposite effect to the one I intended them to. I act so as to help myself and this action ‘twists around in midair’ and becomes an act of self-sabotaging or self-denying instead. I shoot myself in the foot every time…
Assuming that I know something for sure and then using this something as a basis for logical extrapolation and analysis involves me in a paradox because straightaway I am operating within a closed system that does not acknowledge itself to be closed, a closed system that takes itself to be the whole world. This happens every time we think and that is why the world around us seems to be made up of ‘known things’ – the world around us seems to be populated by ‘known things’ because what lies beyond ‘the closed system that doesn’t acknowledge itself to be closed’ is Radical Uncertainty, and the presence of Radical Uncertainty in the equation precludes the existence of any ‘known things’. We can forget about ‘known things’, in this case.
When we used use a fixed, taken-for-granted basis in order to make logical extrapolations or interpretations of the world around us we create a closed system and the impossibility there being such a thing as ‘a closed system’ always manifests itself in terms of paradoxicality. ‘Saying what everything is’ on the basis of the logical categories which we ourselves have assumed means that we will encounter these very same categories wherever we go and rather than seeing them as ‘categories which we ourselves have chosen to be there’, we see them as being fundamental to reality itself. Even though we relate to these categories as if they are not our own constructs they are and the result of this is that we are constantly involved in tautology. We are constantly enmeshed in a tautological bubble that renders all of our rational thoughts and purposeful actions null. We have created the ‘Null World’, and we didn’t even know that there was such a thing!
Relating to our own protected categories as if they were ‘facets of an independent external reality’ is how we deny Radical Uncertainty. This is the trick we play on ourselves. Denying Radical Uncertainty (or denying openness) is an illegitimate act, as we have already intimated – we can very easily deny openness by retreating into our own private world (a world where Radical Uncertainty is never mentioned) but the price we pay for this is that all our positive statements about reality will twist around in midair and become their own opposites, just as all of our ‘definite’ – or ‘goal-orientated’ – actions will, in time, twist around in midair and come back to us in reversed form. The underlying paradox is unfailingly enacted, in other words….
To say that ‘paradox is inescapable in a closed world’ is the same thing as saying that the closed world is a strange loop, or Mobius loop. What starts off positive always comes back as negative, even though we never see the one switching into the other. We never see ‘the one switching into the other’ because both ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ are the same thing – we just don’t have the perspective to see this! We never see this. Another way of pointing at the glitch (or what seems to be a glitch to us since we can’t see that positive and minus are the same thing) is the liar paradox, the simplest example of which is of course where I say ‘Everything I say is a lie’.
When I say ‘Everything I say is a lie’ this initially sounds like a positive statement (i.e. a statement that gives us information) but that is only because we’re ‘stuck to the surface’ of the Mobius strip and cannot see that ‘positive’ and ‘minus’ are both just the same surface. The statement ‘Everything I say is a lie’ is neither true nor false – it doesn’t really keep switching over from ‘true’ to ‘false’ to ‘true’ to ‘false’ (and so on), it is simply a meaningless statement and always has been! Nothing meaningful can be said on the basis of self-reference. There is a type of ‘space’ that exists within a closed system, a type of virtual space in which it seems to us that ‘there is no paradox’, but this is the illusory type of space which is created by ‘lack of perspective’. Because we can’t see that the positive surface of the strange loop is the same as the negative surface, and that there is only the one surface there, we exist in an ‘apparent space’ in which all my positive statements and positive actions don’t have to rebound on me in reversed form. In reality, there is no space there at all however. In reality, there is no movement from positive to negative (or from negative to positive) that ever takes place…