When we are in ‘goal-orientated mode’ then we go around feeling pretty good about ourselves because we know that things are going to get better just as soon as we get to our destination. That’s one possibility, anyway. The other (complementary) possibility is that we will go around feeling bad instead because we can’t help feeling that we never will reach the desired goal! Our goals have an equal capacity to produce either euphoric or dysphoric states of mind therefore.
When we reach the goal then the euphoria reaches its peak and we experience the full flush of success; if we miss the goal, if we fall sadly short of the target, then despair slaps us right in the face instead. One way there is the experience of being at the crest of the wave of euphoria, the other way there is the equally intense experience of being at the trough of that wave. The curious thing about this then is that it’s the very same wave in both cases. The wave is made up both euphoria and dysphoria.
Waves are of course an example of ‘circular movement’ – they are examples of circular movement because when you are the top of the wave then there’s nowhere else to go but down to the bottom, and vice versa! If we could watch the movements of the molecules of water making up the wave we’d see that it is made up of molecules moving up and then down again. It’s an ‘up-and-down movement’ – a circle is being mapped out in other words. There is no longitudinal movement. So what this means is that we can only experience euphoria if we also experience dysphoria, and vice versa.
Although there is nothing really to this circular movement (which is to say, we can ‘get’ all there is to get about it in a flash and we won’t ever have to learn anything else about it) it can – at the same time – act as the whole world for us. The circle can ‘act as a whole world for us’, and it can – at the same time – act as a basis for the understanding of our total psychology when we are in this goal-orientated modality of being (which is a lot of the time). Needless to say therefore, the fact that our everyday psychology (when we’re in GO mode) can be exhaustively explained by a circle is rather grim news!
One thing that this tells us is that we are entirely predictable creatures (which is not nice to hear) and the other thing that it is telling us is that we are never going to get anywhere with all of our rational thinking and purposeful doing because we are always going around in loops (and this is even less pleasant to hear). We’re looping and we think that we are living; we’re looping and we’re spending all of our time trying to find joy and meaning in a circle! The whole thing about a circle is however that there is no meaning in it and because there’s no meaning in it they can be no joy. There is no meaning in a circle – very simply – because any meaning that they might seem to be in the first half is cancelled out in the second! Everything cancels out in a circle.
The very crudest form of meaning – we might say – is where we select a goal for ourselves and then work away at attaining it. It isn’t ‘meaning’ in the higher, metaphysical sense admittedly, but it is nevertheless a type of functional meaning – it’s an orientation, a ‘direction to go in’. This may not be very ‘transcendental’ as far as meaning goes, but it will keep us busy just the same! Having our attention focused on the goal and being very strongly motivated to attain it will keep us busy just fine…
However effective it might seem however there is nevertheless a very big flaw with this type of meaning, this type of ‘motivation’. The flaw comes from the fact that we have to choose the goal in the first place; we have to agree with ourselves that the goal is a goal and this act of self-agreement creates a serious ‘snag’. The snag comes about as a result of the self-referentiality involved – if a thing is true purely because I have agreed with myself that it is true then this means that it is paradoxically true. Agreeing with oneself is a meaningless act.
Paradoxical truth is ‘truth that is true to the extent that it is false and false to the extent that it is true’ and this is clearly not what we generally mean when we use the word ‘true’! All Cretans are liars (so it has been said) and so when a Cretan steps up to you and informs you, in all solemnity, that he always lies, this provides us with an excellent example of paradoxical truth – if a liar says that he is lying then he must of course be lying, but if he is lying when he says that he lies then he must be telling the truth, and if he is telling the truth then he is a liar after all! We can also think of paradoxical truth in topological terms as a ‘Mobius surface’ – if we can envisage a Mobius surface then we are – at the same time – grasping everything we need to know about paradoxical truth.
A Mobius surface is a mathematical oddity – it’s a surface that only has one side to it but which looks as if it has two. This might seem like a fairly tortuous thing to understand – and for the everyday mind it undoubtedly is tortuous – but if we can picture a strip of paper of finite length that has been twisted around once and then ‘joined up with itself’ to form a closed loop, then we can visually understand a Mobius surface without any effort. The ‘twist’ reverses the face of the paper strip so that the inside gradually becomes the outside, but when we follow the inside of the loop along, point by point, we never actually notice the transition. We never notice it, but it’s there all the same.
When we choose for our goal to be a goal then we create our own Mobius loop, therefore – we create a ‘Mobius loop of meaning’. The meaning that we have created for ourselves ‘flips around on us’ without us ever noticing this reversal occurring and as a result our apparent positive journey turns negative on us and thus our so-called ‘journey’ is in reality journey at all. The type of ‘meaning’ that we are talking about here is directionality, as we have already said, and the directionality here reverses itself to come back to where it started. If we link this to what we have been saying about euphoria and dysphoria, we can say that the pleasurable part of the journey (which is where we perceive ourselves to be approaching the goal) turns into the dysphoric part without our ever seeing that the positive assertion which produces euphoria is the very same thing as the dysphoria-producing reverse of that statement. We don’t see that ‘it’s all the one face’, in other words.
My ‘goal’ is my own mental projection obviously, and so as I (apparently) travel towards it I feel good. I am transforming my situation – I am moving from ‘where I don’t want to be’ to ‘where I do want to be’ and this feels great. The ‘snag’ that we were talking about earlier is that there comes about because of the fact that there is no actual distance between myself and my projection; there is no distance and so there can be no such thing as the journey away from ‘where I am’ to ‘where I want to be’. When I move towards my projection I am moving towards myself, not away from myself! My euphoria comes about as a result of me thinking that I am ‘moving away from where I am’ so it is obtained on a false basis and because it has been obtained on a false basis some sort of recompense has to be made.
No matter what my delusions therefore, I’m inevitably going to end up back at ‘Square One’ again and so this is the unpleasant part of the journey. What we have here is a hallucination that comes in two parts: there is the ‘euphoria-producing part of the hallucination’ and there is the ‘dysphoria-producing part’. It’s all the same hallucination however – it’s a hallucination with two parts where each part is as hallucinatory as the other! There appears to be two possibilities here (i.e. winning and losing) but really there’s only the possibility (which is actually only a ‘null-possibility’). There is only just ‘the one self-cancelling surface that doesn’t get it anywhere’ and this is what we are calling the Realm of Paradoxical Truth. This is the realm in which things are only true to the extent that they are false and false only to the extent that they are true. This is a deceptive kind of ‘trickster-realm’ in which there actually is no ‘truth’. There is only ‘true-false’ or ‘false-true’, and what good is that to me?
So when I create this false type of meaning for myself I then have to contend with the snag that has been generated by the flagrant self-referentiality of my action. I have to contend with the snag without actually knowing that it is there. We could say therefore that ‘the snag’ isn’t so much the snag itself but rather that the snag is that I can’t see the snag. The realm of paradoxical truth isn’t the snag, the snag is that I can’t see that the so-called ‘truth’ which I’m relying on is paradoxical truth. I don’t have the slightest suspicion that there actually could be such a thing as ‘paradoxical truth’ – that’s how tremendously naïve I am!
It’s not just when we select a goal for ourselves and thereby agree with ourselves that the goal really is a goal that we create the realm of paradoxical truth – every time we make any sort of positive assertion, any sort of definite statement about the world, we create the realm of paradoxical truth. How can we make a positive statement about the world without self-referentiality, after all? We are up against exactly the same principle here – my assertion of truth is only true because I’m agreeing with myself that it is true. The thinking mind says that such-and-such a thing is true, but it only manages to do this by comparing the datum that is being judged to its own biases, its own rules for ‘determining what is true’. It proves to itself that it is right via the circular action of agreeing with itself that it is right which is like a fundamentalist Christian arguing that everything in the Bible must be true because the Bible itself says so, and the Bible is of course ‘the ultimate source of all authority’…
The Realm of Paradoxical Truth is created by any sort of philosophically positive action, therefore. When we pick a goal to aim at we create the realm of paradoxical truth and when we state that something is definitely true we create the realm of paradoxical truth. When we positively assert any ‘value’ we create the realm of paradoxical truth and this means that everything we think and everything we purposefully do only serves to embroil us all the more in this realm! Every positive action we take as ‘the purposeful self’ only serves to create more and more paradoxical freedom for us to get lost in and there is nothing the purposeful self or ego can do apart from enact positive actions. There is nothing the purposeful self or ego can do apart from ‘assert itself’ – it asserts (or projects) itself in everything it thinks and does so how are we ever to escape?
Art: Hayden Dewar, from haydendewar.com