Looked at one way, there is something supremely fatuous about machines and the way machines function. A machine’s structure determines its output, naturally enough, but – more than this – we can say that a machine is its output. A machine is its output because there’s nothing in the output that isn’t in the machine. A machine, therefore, is something of which we can say ‘its output is itself’, which is of course straightway suspicious from a ‘meaning’ point of view. On one level of things, the perfectly tautological nature of all machines doesn’t really cause any problems; actually it’s totally necessary – no one wants a toaster that doesn’t toast or a hairdryer that doesn’t dry hair, or pencil sharpener that doesn’t sharpen pencils. That would just be infuriating. But the problem comes about when our whole world, our whole environment, has been turned into a machine. When this happens we’re in big trouble. In other words, it’s OK to have machines within a world but it’s not OK to have a world within a machine! When we have a machine within a world then we can use that machine if we want to or not use it if we don’t want to, but when we exist within a machine, so that the machine is the world for us, then there simply isn’t this freedom to ‘disengage’ from the machine, or have ‘nothing to do with it’. We are compelled to ‘have something to do with it’ by the very nature of the world we live in, which is a ‘machine world’. In this case we can do anything we want or think anything we want just so long as we do it within the machine’s terms. We can buy any colour car we want just as long as it’s black! The machine will actually facilitate us in doing or thinking anything we want and – as it happens – it will even decide first what it is that we want as well. It’ll tell us everything. The machine is so all-encompassing, so endemic, that it supplies the whole shebang – it supplies all the options, all the possibilities, and it also supplies us with the intention to pursue whatever it is we opt for, and the motivation to follow through with it.
That’s all very well, we might think, but how the hell can ‘the world exist within a machine’? That sounds like a metaphor that has gotten out of control – we ourselves are responsible for making machines so how could it ever come to pass at a machine could make us? How could it ever happen that a machine could determine the whole of our existence and tell us what we are to do and why we want to do it? How could a whole wide world be fitted into the sparse confines of the machine? It turns out that we can fit a world quite into a machine quite easily, and what’s more – it turns out that we do so all the time. That’s why we can’t stop thinking when it would seem that we should be able to – because we have been subsumed within the machine which is thought. As soon as we see that thought is a machine, that our rational way of understanding things is a machine, then we can immediately see how this is possible and not just possible but very nearly inescapable. It is of course not immediately apparent to us that thought (or the thinking mind) is a machine; it’s not usual for us to look at thought this way – in the general run of things it’s not usual for us to look at thought in any way because we think without reflecting on the fact that we are. Thought is ‘a machine’ however because it runs on rules and this makes it a ‘mechanical thing’; mechanical activity is activity that proceeds on the basis of rules and ‘mechanics’ is the study of systems that run on the basis of rules. The consequence of this is that thought never takes it anywhere that hasn’t already been decided as being a legitimate place to go by the set of rules that are organising the show. Thought never takes us anywhere strange or unusual, in other words, even though we do talk about having ‘strange thoughts’. The rule can’t ever take us anywhere new and this is the most essential thing of all to understand – every place a rule takes us as been decided right from the very beginning (that’s what makes a rule as rule) and so there simply isn’t ever going to be anything ‘new’.
So to come back to what we started off by saying, only rephrasing it slightly, the point that we are making is that the ‘tautological’ or ‘goal-orientated’ actions are both fine and necessary in life, and no one is arguing otherwise; this however is only so when the tautological action takes place within a context which is itself non-tautological. A ‘tautological action’ might be, for example, where I have the goal of making a cup of tea for myself and then I follow through with this plan and actually end up with a cup of tea in my hand! The goal is actualised, in other words – it is faithfully translated into reality. The rule is ‘I shall have a cup of tea’ and where this rule takes me (surpise, surprise!) is to that situation where I do indeed have a cup of tea. This is of course exactly the way I want it; I don’t want to end up with a plate of deep fried calamari, or a slice of chocolate cake, or vase full of tulips (even though all of these can be very nice things if that’s what I happen to want or need). I want the final outcome of my goal-orientated activity to be a cup of tea and nothing else. This is serious and not playful activity, therefore. The point of goal-orientated activity is not to end up with a total surprise; the point of goal-orientated activities to be strictly ‘tautological’ and not to deviate from the original blueprint by so much as a whisker!
The point that we are labouring here isn’t particularly hard to understand of course, what is hard (or harder) to see is how things can be ‘flipped over’ so dramatically when the goal-orientated action isn’t occurring within a non-tautological context but is – instead – taking place within a logical system, within the context that has been determined by a machine. In the first place, we don’t really register that we are operating within a logical system (we don’t appreciate this at all) and in the second place we don’t appreciate what this means, what the consequences of this inverted state of affairs is going to be. We can’t perceive that we have lost all intrinsic freedom and we can’t understand what it would mean to live in a world that has zero intrinsic freedom in it, but only the extrinsic analogue of true freedom. This world with no intrinsic freedom in it (but only the ‘freedom’ we have been given by the external authority) is the machine-world. This is ‘the game that plays us’, otherwise known as ‘the game of samsara’.
The consequences of this inversion of the natural order of things (whereby we go from ‘being free’ to ‘living in a machine where the only freedom we have is extrinsic freedom’) is that our lives become fatuous, just as rationality is fatuous, just as machines are fatuous. In the rational or mechanical realm each point on the map makes sense in terms of all other points, but it doesn’t ‘make sense’ by itself. When we are moving in a straight line (towards our goal) each position is meaningful and important in terms of the goal we are heading towards but actually the goal is no different from our present location because everything in the framework is merely ‘the framework’ – all points are equivalent and only have the meaning we ascribe to them. So what we’re saying here is that our position is meaningful in terms of the goal that we’re working towards, but when we look at the system as a whole, the machine as a whole, none of it means anything. Machines are fatuous. Just because each component of the machine is meaningful in relation to the machine does not mean that the machine itself has to be meaningful, after all! It only seems to mean something when we are relating to what’s going on a ‘petty scale,’ in other words. Or as we could also say, we only seem to be getting somewhere when we look at things in a very short-sighted way – on the grander scale of things there is ‘nowhere to go’ because the machine and the output of the machine (the machine’s goal) are one and the same thing. To live within a machine is to live within a tautology; to live within the confines of the machine is to live within a tautology because the point of the machine (the reason for its existence) is the machine. We can think of this as ‘travelling in a circle’ therefore because a tautology is always travelling in circles; that is its ‘distinguishing feature’, so to speak – its circularity! There is a certain sort of motivation or incentivization that applies to when we travelling in a circle and this motivation derives from the essential polarity of the circle – the circle is made up of North and South (or Plus and Minus, or ‘More of’ and ‘Less of’) such that when we are travelling in a circular fashion we can quite legitimately feel ourselves to be heading in a ‘positive’ (or ‘improving’) direction. Within the terms of the logic of the circle itself this is perfectly true but that doesn’t mean that we are actually getting anywhere! The terms of the circle are tautological, after all. The problem is that a circle is a paradox which we can’t see as such; it’s a paradox because we think that the North Pole and the South Pole are two different things when the truth is that they aren’t. When a paradox isn’t spotted for a paradox then this is the result – pure, undiluted illusion! In our heads we’re going somewhere (we’re heading in the direction of ‘positive’ or ‘more of’), but it just so happens that there is no such thing; it just so happens that there is nothing to have ‘more’ of. There’s actually no such thing as ‘more’ or ‘less’ – that’s a total hallucination, that’s something that doesn’t exist in reality at all. There is no ‘more of’ or ‘less of’, there is only ‘the Wheel of Duality’, which is an engine of unreality.
Polarity – the magnetic pull that we are constantly feeling towards the positive pole, which is the euphoric direction of ‘improvement’ (and which also unfailingly leads us towards the negative, which is the dysphoric direction of dis-improvement) – is the only type of motivation there is in the machine. When we are subsumed within the machine the movement towards the ‘positive pole’ is the only type of movement we experience as being meaningful to us but this movement isn’t really ‘meaningful’ because we’re not seeing it for what it is. All it means really is that we are moving towards an illusion. We might feel good as a result of this illusory sense of meaning it’s true but then that is ‘an illusory good feeling’ – it’s fatuous, the same as all rationality is fatuous, the same as all machines are fatuous. If it wasn’t for the fact that reality itself is ‘non-fatuous’ this wouldn’t matter (which is like saying that if everything was an illusion then the word ‘illusion’ wouldn’t actually mean anything). The essential point here is that no machine can simulate reality – reality can most assuredly contain machines (no one is going to argue about that!) but no machine contain can contain reality. Machines get things to happen by making them happen – they don’t leave anything to chance in this regard (machines don’t work by chance) – and what this means is that the only stuff that can happen is stuff has been specified in advance by the machine, and what this means – as we have been saying – is that ‘what the machine makes happen is the machine’. The machine’s output is the machine.
We know what tautological output is but the question is – ‘What is non-tautological output?’ What would that look like? The very fact that it is non-tautological means that we can’t say anything about it however – the output ‘goes sideways on us’, so to speak. It doesn’t follow on from our starting-off point. What’s more, the fact that the output is non-tautological means that it isn’t actually ‘output’ at all, it can’t be called ‘output’ since it has in no way been specified. It has no ‘cause’, nothing produced it, it has no point of origin. No ‘thing’ can ever produce ‘the new’, after all. ‘Things’ can only self-duplicate in a viral fashion – they have no imagination, so to speak! They’re not interested in anything else other than themselves; machines aren’t interested in anything other than themselves. In conclusion, we can say that non-tautological output is where there is something ‘happening’ but we can’t say what it is. Something is happening, but nothing is making it happen, nothing is forcing it to happen, and this is therefore the very antithesis of the mechanical situation…