When we project a ‘final meaning’ we project a fantasy at the same time. ‘Final meanings’ and ‘fantasy’ are the same thing and because we project final meanings all the time this means that we are always living in fantasy. If we realised this then we wouldn’t be able to take ourselves, and our affairs, quite as seriously as we do!
We almost always do take ourselves seriously however and this is precisely because we are orientating ourselves to a ‘final reality’ that we ourselves have projected upon the world. Final meanings mean that we take ourselves seriously and final meanings are always fantasy. When we stop – however momentarily – taking ourselves seriously (and allow a little humour or irony into our world) then this is therefore because we are not – for a brief moment or two – projecting a final meaning onto what is going on around us. We are not ‘labelling reality’, which is the thing we almost always do.
We think of ‘fantasy’ as being multi-hued, extravagant, not necessarily very logical, and full – perhaps – of lots and lots of different levels of interpretation, but the fantasy to which we refer here – the fantasy which we routinely project upon the world – is the very antithesis of this. The ‘fantasy’ which is the world final meanings is very much ‘a cut-and-dried affair’; it is totally and boringly consistent as far as logic goes and the meaning that it overtly presents itself as having is the only meaning it does have. This is why we call it a ‘final meaning’, after all! The world of final meanings is the world in which everything is exactly ‘what it says on the label’. It is a world where they cannot ever be any radical surprises; there are never any radical surprises in the world of final meanings and that’s the whole point.
The cliché is that reality is drab and dull and not at all mysterious or magical, whilst the fantasies which we sometimes escape into during the day are full of all sorts of weird and wonderful possibilities. The truth, however, is perfectly contrary to this – it is the world which we actually live in that is full of mystery and magic and hitherto unglimpsed possibilities and it is the world which is made up of all final meanings which we – full of fear of the unknown –escape into. This fantasy of ours is dull indeed – it is unremittingly dull and this unremitting dullness is precisely what we want from it! Reality as it is in itself is much too rich for our blood and so we seek refuge in our banal rational projections, sterile though they might be.
This turns everything on its head therefore – we like to think well of ourselves because of the way we can be rational and commonsensical about life, because of the way (or so we imagine) we see things exactly as they are in the cold and clinical light of our rational thinking. We claim to live in a world of ‘straightforward facts’ therefore, unromantic or ‘down to earth’ as these facts might be. We’re rational and proud of it – we don’t subscribe to any airy-fairy hocus-pocus and we take this as a mark of our maturity. No self-deception, no escape into fantasy for us, we say. We’re much too hard-headed for that type of fluffy nonsense. And yet the truth of the matter is that we are inventing a dull, concrete, matter-of-fact world to live in because we too challenged by reality as it is in itself! The world is infinitely more complex than we give it credit for and rather than allowing ourselves to catch even the slightest glimpse of this bewildering complexity, we ran away into the sterile and utterly uninspiring pseudo-reality of our own national constructs. We dumb everything down to an extraordinary extent; we over-simplify the world to an extent can only be called scandalous, and then we twist what we are doing around so that we actually feel good about it. We murder reality and then we want a medal for it!
This great psychological inversion defines the nature of our lives and yet we’ll never hear any mention of it. What we’re doing is that we glorifying the small of the expense of the vast; we’re exalting the trivial and the banal at the expense of the profound. It’s not that there is no place for the small or the trivial – there is of course a place for the small or the trivial just as there is a place for everything. The small has its own value just as all things have their own value; when the small is used to block out anything bigger than it then everything gets turned on its head however– the world we live in loses the value that it had in its own right and partakes in another value instead, a much darker value, a value that is against us rather than for us. We are now in the business of ‘denying ourselves’. This is the Inversion of Thought: thought – the invaluable tool – becomes instead the tyrannical Master, the dark authority which takes every last thing away from us whilst making out that it is doing us a favour.
The thinking mind cannot see very far. It cannot see beyond its own projections, its own categorisations, its own conceptualisations, and this is why it creates for us this thing that we’re calling ‘the world of final meanings’. The thinking mind – obviously enough – can never see beyond its own projections, its own descriptions, its own labels and this is why the self that is created by the thinking mind can never see beyond the prison that thought has built for it. The self-which-is-created-by-thought can’t see any further than thought can – obviously enough! It is subject to the very same limitations – it is thought’s construction, thought’s projection, after all. The mind-created self doesn’t want to see beyond the world of final meanings anyway – if it saw beyond the world of final meanings then it would at the same time be seeing through itself.
The mind-created self doesn’t want to see beyond the world of final meanings and it can’t do either. It is functionally incapable of seeing beyond it – the self-that–thought-has-created is a final meaning and final meaning is a fantasy, as we started off this discussion by saying. ‘Why is final meaning always fantasy?’ we might ask. Simply because nothing ‘is’ anything; how can anything ‘be’ something? What exactly are we trying to imply here? Complexity means that there is always more to whatever we are looking at then we took there to be, then we understood there to be. ‘The more you look, the more there is to see’, as the line in the Beatles’ song goes. This is a simple enough thing to say, but the implications are beyond all computation. It’s impossible for us to see where this leads us. The world that has no ‘final meaning’ is a world where nothing ‘is’ anything; it is a world where the familiar gives way to endless strangeness, a world where ‘the small and the commonplace’ opens at opens up into the comprehensively vast.
The world that we are calling ‘the world a final meanings’ is therefore a world in which things genuinely are ‘just what we say they are’ (a world where things are ‘just what we take them to be’). Nothing ‘opens up’ to anything; the concept of ‘opening up’ simply doesn’t exist; everything is buttoned down firmly buttoned-down in such a way that it is guaranteed to stay buttoned down. Nothing is examined too carefully because it is only by not examining things too carefully that they get to stay buttoned down. Everything in this world is secured to the floor with steel clips; it is secured so that it won’t ever go anywhere. That’s what our technology is for, after all. Technology is always literal, although this is not necessarily how we like to think of it. Technology is always literal because it is by its very nature orientated towards ‘concrete outcomes’ – outcomes that only need one level of description to define. Technology always takes us in the direction of ‘increasing certainty’; what good after all would a machine be to us if its output was uncertain or unpredictable?
As a culture, we rejoice in our reliance upon technology, we exalt in it. This is how we define ourselves – we are ‘a technological culture’. And yet a world that is based on technology is necessarily a world of final meanings. Machines are linear, their exercises in Lynn now linearity, pure and simple. The technology does not exist that would allow us to unbutton our ‘stone cold facts’ and reveal the world of mystery that lies beyond them. The most high-tech device in existence can’t take us beyond the literal world, the world of final meanings – not that we’d be in the least bit interested in that anyway! Technology means one thing and one thing only – it means control and control means ‘obtaining defined or certain outcomes’. Control means securing everything firmly so that it can’t come loose in a storm. Control means ‘never going beyond the final meanings that we have arbitrarily set for ourselves’.
We project our ‘literal or concrete fantasy’ upon the world every single day of our lives. We do this by default, automatically, without realising what we are doing. We construct ourselves, and every last detail of our lives, in relation to these final meanings – we construct our past in terms of final meanings just as we construct our future in terms of them. We look back either nostalgically or bitterly on a world that is made of final meanings just as we look forward either hopefully or fearfully to that very same world of final meanings. We get anxious about final meanings, thinking that they may not fall into place the way we need them to. Our goals, both small and large, are ‘final meanings’. That’s what a goal is, after all – is a point that we agree not to look beyond. But just because we don’t (or can’t) look beyond this cut-off point that doesn’t make it real however. Reality isn’t something that is be created by our blindness or short-sightedness! It is because we don’t look beyond the final meaning which is ‘the goal’ that we experience either euphoria when we attain it or dysphoria when we don’t. If we saw beyond the goal then there would be no euphoria or dysphoria – euphoria or dysphoria wouldn’t come into the picture at all! On the other hand, we could equally well say that if there wasn’t any euphoria or dysphoria coming into the picture then there would be no mind-created self to spend all its time either seeking the former or avoiding the latter.