Narcissism: What It Means to Me, Chapter Two, Consciousness

Welcome Back, Fuckers

And now we continue with more of the same…no matter where you go, there you are. But now that we have suspended disbelief long enough to allow actual new information to seep into our brains, we can dig a little deeper into what it has meant, and what it might mean, to be a human being.

Don’t worry about believing in puréed bullshit. Just suspend your disbelief a little bit longer and you will be glad that you did. We can deal with the usual counterpoints and counterarguments a bit later. The stuff we have to deal with here is much too important to right off as “irrevelant,” “static,” “white noise,” “out of paradigm,” or, god help us, “suborning peace without honor.”

Depending on how fast your brain churns out equations of logic, you may either be on your way, or already uncovered, the fact that we have two basic, two very fundamental, choices about how we are going to view our lives as humans. We either see a hostile environment surrounded by morons and thieves, or we see a world filled with people who may be confused, but are still excited to be present. What you see is your choice, but that choice is not taken in vain because it will repeat itself over time until you either become old and bitter, or old and smiling widely at the chance to pass this way. The choice is yours. It doesn’t matter what you end up believing at the end of each day, you get a new choice just as soon as you decide not to decide anything, for sure, in this moment. Yes, there is plenty of evidence in support of either proposition — even the dreaded in-between — but our choices have always seemed to be heavily weighted in the direction of fear of the unknown, have they not? Especially by people who think alot; we’d rather they do all of our thinking for us because, well, they seem to be pretty good at it, and thinking too much can be pretty painful for most of us.

Because it is painful to think too much. For everybody. That is why so many of us choose to “judge,” or engage in, “prejudice.” I’ll bet you thought, as I once did, that prejudice was always something someone else was guilty of. Nope, it is something we all do and it was to our evolutionary benefit to do so.

Thinking is painful because those who believe we do not know are forced to think, to measure the pro and the con, the light and dark, the heavy and the light, the sensible and the absurd, etcetera, in binary opposite scales ad nauseum. However, if you simply believe in something because you know that it must be true, your thinking is no longer required of you. Your regularly scheduled program of believing in a non-hostile universe of discovery, adventure and bliss can return. Or not. And it will return to rainbows and unicorns for just about everyone who had a reasonably satisfying and joyful childhood filled with trustworthy authority figures and only the occasional skinned knee. But this world view seems not true for those of us who experienced childhood trauma that followed us into our adult lives. We pick these wretched feelings of loss and despair up, allow them to warp our cognition and proceed to beat ourselves literally to death with them. But this is not a book about dealing with childhood trauma except to say that these traumatized folks have been proven resilient enough to survive, often intelligent enough to out-think or out-maneuver most people and these fine folks became, and often have become, the warriors by whom our histories have largely been told. A wretched and fearful history it often has been, indeed. Tales of derring-do, courage, bravery and perseverance in the face of utter disaster create the fodder of a hero’s journey from mediocrity and ordinariness delivered into the limelight of reconciliation, atonement and cheap cigars.

Ahem. So much for a universe where much has been given, if we could only learn how to receive it. No, fall in behind me, my protégés, and I will tell you how the universe really works, say the warrior classes of history.

To anyone who simply knows the truth of any matter, thinking is never required. In fact, thinking becomes painful past a certain point for everyone, including our best thinkers. They claimed they didn’t know, believed in that as a matter of fact and then proceeded to spend, often, decades attempting to either prove or disprove what they claimed at the outset of their thought process. And it is this mechanism of thought most of western culture has ignored to its peril. That is, thinking doesn’t serve us past a certain point in any given process of reconciliation of personal knowledge with facts known/believed by the community one is attempting to communicate with. One good twist of the gut should be enough to know that the analysis-paralysis should cease and actual actions need to begin. It’s a fond hope of many philosophers, and philosophizers, that we can think our way into right action, but hope, alone, is not a strategy. Hope is a tactic. Strategy means, at some point, I must get off my fanny and out into the heat of the real world to foment my plans for transition and change.

We think because we believe we do not know, when, in many cases, we do know, but we have no idea how we might explain what we know to any of our fellows. Often, our language fails us, especially if we are Russian (a subtle slam, but a timely one). We believe that because we can exhaust others with our endless loops of thought that this means we should be the directors of action, not the actors ourselves. Nay, nay, au contraire.

We like to anthropomorphize a deity that, “knows all,” but such a being would have to be perfectly adapted to his own creation, live forever, never have to change his underwear and never have to think a single thought because everything ­­­­­ — absolutely everything — was already known from the beginning of time. None of us can make any of these claims of the godhead of our imaginations and so when we are unsure how to express what we know, we opt, instead, to claim ignorance, irrelevance and/or invisibility. This just makes sense from a political perspective since most of us know, in real life, what happens when we show up with five loaves of bread and two fish to feed five thousand: that is correct, we get crucified, politically and sometimes physically. We learn in life to never raise the expectations of others beyond what we believe to be possible because, in truth, we are social creatures who still want to love and be loved. No one likes a smartass, so we change our underpants with a regularity that passes understanding. It is the least we can do.

And doing our least is something human beings have become very good at.

So what can I know, regardless of any need I have to communicate knowledge to my apparent fellows on this journey?

For one, I am not my brain. My mind has escaped my brain and found its home in a vastness of abstract space and time that both beckons and repels me. It beckons me because it is at the root of my very beingness, it repels me because it is the seat of perceivable truth, including the truths I have come to deny for the sake of my own peculiar, if temporary, grip on reality. I prefer to think of a separate you, a separate me, a separate Us and a separate them. Having thus divided the wholeness of creation into its perceptible component parts, I can create lists and categories of things, and then come up with functions and relationships where one thing leads to another. But, behold, from 10,000 feet above the surface of our planet, we are all the same. We are a part of a whole biosphere that has a synergy among elements that cannot be replicated from dissection anymore than we can observe a cake and still eat it, too. Once we observe the cake of our existence, we are simultaneously drawn to experience it and thus our existence changes state from the thing observed to some process or artifact of the process of observation. Observing human reality is not the same as experiencing it, but, nevertheless, observation is processed, or transformed, into experience. While this experience is uniquely mine, it does not go unshared. If I am not my brain, it cannot. And so we learn to communicate our experience in a common language that we might share all of our common experiences together. Or, at least explain to others that while it may look like we are sitting on our ass, it is for the good of all that we do so at the moment.

Secondly, the act of dividing or fracturing our observed reality into its component parts is not an act of increasing what we are experiencing, but of making it smaller than it may otherwise be that from our assumed littleness we might communicate our observations to others and make our perceptions larger through sharing them with others. This is a rather odd, ironic, act inherent in communication via the senses: we make little the things of our experience, and then attempt to reconstitute them by sharing the pieces with our fellows. The process of observation here is, “make little,” and then, “make larger through sharing the littleness.” And thus this is how humans reconstruct reality through language; never an identification of or with wholeness, only the sum of its parts that, in isolation, never seems to reproduce the heart of the matter: the whole is always greater than the some of its parts. It is the difference between a cadaver and a fully quickened and vital human being.

Perceiving the whole and the sum of its parts seems to involve something like a tripartite representation of something whole or holistic in its nature. Meaning it is beyond our any one perception, but an amalgamation of the whole, itself. Those three parts are, of course,

1. The Observer

2. The Observed

3. The Process of observation.

Or, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Or the Devil, the Dragon and the Antichrist. Pick your poison. All three of these breakdowns have been utilized throughout theosophical history to explain the metaphysics of human experience. I am planning on sticking with the secular explanation; I think it will get us farther down the road less travelled.

What else can we know about ourselves as individual human beings beyond our own conscious thoughts?

Well, thirdly, we can know, indirectly, something about the contents of a part of ourselves that lies hidden behind our conscious thoughts. And we learn this by observing and inventorying our behavior patterns under specific circumstances we come across in life where the end result seems to become, monotonously, the same (emotionally or in terms of content: player-types, scenario-types), in spite of our best efforts to control or contain our contribution to the causes that we have identified as being relevant to the resulting effects (ah, relevance…another bug-a-boo).

For example, I once had a pattern of dating women who had all attempted suicide in the preceding year. After the first relationship went, inevitably and painfully, “kersplat,” I tried not dating women from that particular zip code or socioeconomic level. Made sense to me. Open-mindedness is one thing, but if you keep walking down the same street only to get the tar beat out of you, you need to walk in a different neighborhood. Derp, right? Kersplat number two was just a gift-wrapped version of yet another broken human being who couldn’t possibly meet her own needs, let alone someone else’s. So, not to be deterred, I tried dating people from a group of individuals whose goal was to become and maintain a high level of self awareness (!). That relationship never got past date number three once it was revealed that, indeed, she had attempted suicide in the prior year. I simply explained my problem and I walked away. Nothing personal, I just had a problem picking project relationships that had little hope of getting off the proverbial ground once we hit around the three month mark of dating.

This process of around one year was exhausting and achieved nothing of what I was hoping to achieve in terms of cause and effect. But what I did determine was that I had a behavior pattern the description of which held a key to a door that should set me free, if it didn’t first discourage me to the point of drowning my sorrows with liquor or some other high-risk adverse behavior. What I have learned is that if I can feel it, I can heal it, and becoming aware of what drives my behavior is pivotal in feeling the meaning behind the monotony of my own behavior and how these patterns drive me to distraction. Once felt, I have found that the causal wound will heal all on its own like so many of the traumas I have uncovered, discovered and discarded up to some point in my psychological development.

My experience describes the experiences of over 31 years worth of active, communal pursuit of sanity at the edges of human consciousness. We are, consciously speaking, absolutely powerless over the dictates of some “mysterious,” if subconscious, power that seems to rule, sometimes cruelly, over our daily lives. This power “lenses” the perception of our conscious experiences and seems to direct our thinking in ways that are beyond our conscious control. As a result, we sometimes discover, to our dismay, that our behavior falls into patterns that can be disruptive, if not clearly destructive, of our ability to live our lives as free and constructively-driven human beings.

No matter where you physically might consciously travel in life, these beyond-conscious “programs” can seem to defy reason and logic in their ability to persist and drive the events of our lives. You might believe that there is no such thing as a power greater than yourself, but honesty must eventually drag your fanny back away from your conscious abhorrence of the presence of higher powers and, instead, into at least a budding acceptance of these hidden drivers present throughout your life and the lives of our fellows.

Bummer.

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Richard Volaar

Richard Volaar

I've won a couple of minor awards, my second being a speech I wrote for the VFW about why I care about America. It won and I made 25 bucks. Now I'm in IT.