Fixation of the Common Dream (Nightmare)

A Toltec might say that the Tonal of Man, is fixed and getting ever more fixated. It simply will not budge. All one might hope for is that a few individuals might see this for themselves and then start to loosen that Tonal {in a personal sense} so that they might experience a wider reality. Make no mistake that concrete Tonal is reinforced with steel bars, carbon fibre rods and graphene nanotube composites. It will take a hell of a lot to even get it to flex a little. We may collide beams of hadrons together at TeV energies, build sophisticated laser interferometers to “listen” to neutron starts colliding, and send billion-dollar telescopes into space, but there is one simple frontier which we fail to address. That frontier is inner space, it is perhaps less glamorous and won’t win you any prizes. But surely this frontier needs looked at before humanity descends further into its fatuous obsession with self-image and all the attendant miseries associated?

We have a world in which someone may go on a meditation or yoga retreat and then simply cannot wait to upload images to their social media, a world in which plastic tits and knifed up lips or noses are seen as desirable. A world in which a fucking selfie with a “star” is an epitome, a highlight. We have people eating themselves to death, whilst others starve. We have a world where stuff is more important than substance. That image obsession, how it rules. Of all the impermanent things, all the conditioned things in the universe, this is our new pantheon of deity; image, brand, made up shit. How we worship all these imaginings! There is no need for a gilded calf, there is just fantasy worshipped by megapixel count.

My guess is that humanity has to fall all the way around the u-bend of this image fixation until such time as big pharma can no longer supply enough happy pills to keep the world away from the noose or the razor blade. This illusion, this glamour, this “celebrity” is all more than a little sad. We have become paper tigers prowling in a fantasy-forest, and we fail to realise just how fragile we are.

Whilst our eyes are turned outward, to space or to image, we get sicker and more unhappy. All the shiny technology in the world cannot sate an inner hunger, an inner thirst or an inner melancholy. It might displace the misery for a while, but it comes back like a spring tide. All that being busy and rushing around, it never addresses anything.

“Look at me I am such a success! Look at me!”

“Pray tell, why then are you so tense and miserable?”

Until such time as humanity understands its corporeal observational instrument a whole lot better, there will be suffering and angst. But no, we can’t look there, it is too scary, too real, too risky. I know let’s upload some inane photos onto the internet, that’ll do it!

The inner space is the new frontier, it is here, and the monetary cost of its exploration is small. It is so obvious, so simple and so easy to miss. People generally prefer the grandiose to the simple. Which in itself, speaks volumes.

The Fixation of the Common Dream (Nightmare) gets ever stronger. Maybe one day, humanity will seek to wake up from this self-created nightmare and smell the coffee?

What People Say

When I was perusing the on-line newspapers today, I was struck by how much “news” was about what people say and what they put on social media. The news is to say something about what someone else has said. Which generates even more to talk about. There is a lot of outrage about some comments, tweets etc. It seems more than a little barmy to me. To be outraged about the comments of another is perhaps to police free speech, but it also smacks of people with nothing better to do.

Many put a lot of faith in what others say and what is written. Personally, I like to look someone in the eye, face to face, wherever possible. I tend not to rely on what is presented. Believing what people say can lead to “being sold a pup”. If you then act on the basis of what people have said to you, you can get yourself into some pretty strange places. If you have been sold a pup and then make big decisions on that basis you might blame the pup seller, but you too have had a hand in the purchase of said pup. There is a growing tendency to rely on on-line polls, reviews and references. This can take some of the adventure out of things. So why is it that we are so influenced by what others say? Why does it seem important? Can it ever be a substitute for personal experience?

What people say underpins recruitment practice. I remember having a long telephone conversation with a recruiter in a far-off land. Someone I knew was being interviewed and he had been in conflict with the CEO of the company I co-founded, way back. They were looking for an explanation as to why the CEO wasn’t a referee. Luckily, I was able to explain the circumstances and he got the job. They trusted me, though they had never met me. I could have been in cahoots. We rely a lot on what people say. Sometimes we may be over-reliant.

People make shit up, not all the time, but from time to time. I am reasonably sure that being lied to is an experience many if not all have had. Yet we are willing to forget this experience and quickly do.

Why is it so very important what people say? Surely of all things conditioned and impermanent in the universe words and opinions are in that set. Yet we treat them as real and true and reliable.

What people say is “news”…

Woof, better get on that bus to Barking…

Social Acceptability

This is a conditioned thing and thereby impermanent, nevertheless it puts constraints on what one may do in the world. It is easy to see that social acceptability is both time varying and context dependent. For example, buggery used to be illegal in the UK, now it isn’t and within Islam, as I understand it, a certain amount of polygamy is allowed according to the ability to support. Yet this social acceptability is an arbiter of how a society works, rather what it allows. It is “concrete” yet it changes, people forget this. Now I am not suggesting that being a bomb wielding punk rock anarchist is a road to freedom, nihilism is nihilism after all. Destruction just because one has the hump and feels disempowered, isn’t such a great idea. Social acceptability is a means whereby society is conditioned, it has the positive side of limiting chaos and the negative side of suppression. In a conurbation there must be at least a few rules for it to function, these need not be social “rules” however. Stray too far from what is deemed acceptable and you may become outcast. This social exclusion is a thing of dread for some and a relief for a few others.

If everyone did only that which was socially acceptable, society would never change or if it did change, it would only do so very slowly. If Siddhārtha had done what was socially acceptable, he would have stayed in the palace and become king. There would be no Buddhism and the world would be poorer as a result. Luckily, he didn’t. How then do we balance this force, this requirement, for social acceptability with the need for change and evolution? There is no easy answer. History suggests that those who are socially unacceptable always have conflict with this “force” and the “requirements” of wider society. It is impossible to move within these requirements and be true to themselves, so instead of being closeted they step outside, they may even form subcultures. The gay scene is one such subculture and it has its own vibrancy.  A part of societal change stems from the formation of subcultures and when they are sufficiently large, the mainstream, finally and dragging its feet, starts to accept them as socially acceptable. It is very often a slow and painful process. Social acceptability is beset with a tremendous inertia. Yet most have tut-tutted at least once in their lives. It is a flag, a standard, which is often more than a little judgemental, with pursed lips and pointy fingers to boot.

Provided that I stick to certain rules, I can don a mantle of social acceptability. If I put my teacher hat on and do tutorials whilst speaking only on that subject, that is OK. I am allowed to get away with that. Should I start talking about heavy duty yoga in such a context, that don’t go down so well. If I am in an entrepreneur like set up and I talk about start-ups that is dandy. If I mention shamanism, not so. I can just about get away with Aikido, that is socially acceptable. In California it is OK to be a bit more whacky, in Surrey it is taboo. Social acceptability almost inevitably leads to closeted behaviour of one kind or another, it can cause people to, lie and to live a lie. But we all forget social acceptability is a conditioned thing, especially when we require it. It is something we inflict upon each other. If something is not socially acceptable it is tarnished and lest we be tarnished to, we disassociate ourselves from the tarnished being. Please note I am not advocating heinous or harmful behaviours, I am talking about things which although different are not all that “bad” at all, in that they harm nobody.

On the way to freedom, the perceived wall of social acceptability and social compliance needs climbed, if only mentally and not outwardly. One has to stop buying in to a conditioned thing as if it were the ultimate truth or reality.

My own social acceptability is conditioned towards how I behave, what I talk about and do. It demarcates my ability to interact according to some unwritten yet commonly held parameters.

Provided that I am a good boy, and do as I am told, I am socially acceptable. If I am as I ought to be, all is fine. Because my life trajectory does not fit with how the narrative of should goes, I more of less have to live “parallel” to the world at large. My intersection with it is minimal. My trajectory is not orthogonal, yet the overlap is minimal. The coupling matrix elements are tiny. It looks likely to remain that way.

There is no reason why the world at large need concern itself with this state, unless I have something it wants or needs. Aside from A level science I have not really found anything for which there is a ready market, given my current nature. What I can also do is blather on here.

Having used myself an example, it is very easy to say that the reason I am here is entirely down to me, it is my fault, I am to blame. If I had been more amenable to being socialised, I could be in a very different place now, maybe South Kensington for example. But I am not. Looking backwards to the land of if only, does nothing. In saying that it is my fault we are neglecting the duality of tango. One of the tools used to enforce social acceptability is blame, another is shame. It is a funny old thing this social acceptability and one which many crave. Without it, it can be difficult to do “business” of any kind. We rely on the approval of others to get things done. Approval being withheld, less is possible. Giving approval is the carrot used to instil social acceptability, withholding the carrot is the stick used to enforce. Sounds like a conditioned or conditional thing, doesn’t it?

I’ll hypothesise that rarely is social acceptability a medium for evolution or change. More often than not, it is the brake. Very rarely it can be the accelerator. It is never the ignition.

Conditioned Things

As we move ever closer to the season of conditioned things, it may be useful, if a little Grinch like, to turn to this subject. At this time of year, and it is weeks and not days, we are bombarded by adverts and conditioned towards that perfect Christmas. The illusion of familial harmony is presented to us and our love is measured in presents. One has to have a good show and tell, Christmas. Though the seasonal statistics on divorce proceedings and suicide show a different side. As it is practised globally, there is not a lot to do with its original intended meaning anymore. The world gets caught up in a feeding frenzy of consumerism and of appearances.

Attached to my desk I have one quote from the Dhammapada and a table of symbols from set theory, which is a reminder of what I was up to over the summer. The Dhammapada quote says:

“All conditioned things are impermanent – when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.”

These few words, if attained and practised, are in stark contrast to the normal way of the world. Pretty much all of “normal” life is in the world of conditioned things and the world of appearances. I spoke a little yesterday about identity, which is an appearance.

One could write a whole book using the Dhammapada quote as a seed thought. It is a jewel of considerable depth. Whilst one may say intellectually “gee that is nice and makes sense”, this is not the same as living it.  If you live immersed in the “wisdom” of conditioned things, the world of a being not so enamoured is so different that you could not meaningfully assemble it. They may as well be from another planet, another galaxy.

Experimental evidence for the impermanence of mankind, his ideas and life-trends, can be found on all sides. What was in yesterday, is out today. What is on-trend and the font of knowledge today will be quaint history in the fullness of time. Yet people will argue and defend that the current way and its ethos is the only way, the best way. What is cutting-edge thinking now, will be superstition later. I am not being overly cynical or negative here, I am trying to show a clear perspective.

Until you attain the notion of impermanence it is likely that you will take much for granted and flail around as if you have all the time in the world. Your actions and thinking will be slack, because there is always tomorrow. Strangely one of the key results of the Dhammapada quote is focus and the realisation that time here on earth is finite. This realisation shows how we squander our time. It follows that it is better to be fully present in everything we do, in each interaction, to live now and not tomorrow. This is pretty difficult because most people do not live now, in the now and can’t easily handle it if you do. If one is focussed and alert, it can unsettle. It one is purposeful in each action, it can remain unseen. Without being overly harsh many like to play games and fanny about. Our fellow beings may not cooperate in our wish to be now.

If you read much of what is attributed to Siddhārtha you can see that he was a pretty focussed being who had a great deal of clarity. He was keen on people applying stuff and not fond of political games. Although Buddhism is often seen as being laid back, the Buddha himself was focussed. The accounts suggest that in his early days he was quite driven and was bold enough to renounce his familial bounty and comfort. He was on a mission to find enlightenment and not wondering what to wear to the Christmas party.

If our happiness and our relationships are based around conditioned things, then that can be taken away. To use a trite example; “be nice to me and buy me diamonds and I will give you a blow job”. This theme of conditional negotiation can be found, albeit in different forms, all over the place. If you noticed I have been on about should and ought, the core mantra of conditioned things. And these conditioned things do not bring happiness, equanimity or peace. If you don’t get what you want, you sulk, if you do get it you are often disappointed and want more. This is suffering.

Our time here is precious, I don’t think game playing is the best use of it. Our relationships are conditional and more in the way of negotiated and volatile alliances of convenience. One has to get past the conditional towards the unconditional in order to get even an inkling of love as opposed to cupboard love. A reckless orientation towards impermanence is wasteful. If one says; “all conditioned things are impermanent man, so like dude it doesn’t really matter.”, one has missed the point and meaning by several light years. There is no wisdom in such a fatuous approach.

Unless one is willing to try to let go of attachment to conditioned things and the world of appearances one cannot nor will not see, what is on the other side. These are what obscure the now. The fullness of now, is on the other side of the veil. It is pretty amazing and quite profound, this now thing.

 “All conditioned things are impermanent – when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.”