Drowning in facts
You might say we're drowning in facts. We have enough information before us to come to valuable conclusions concerning how we're trapped in a vicious dynamic that can have no happy outcome. A dozen times a day we can realize how a particular institution or corporation is acting to further destruction.
We click on Like or re-Tweet and scroll on down the screen….
This tells us something too. Though mostly we don't want to hear it. We're exhausted by an increasing sense of helplessness and dread at what's coming; what's here. We know we're being manipulated; that we're isolated; and that our isolation keeps us easily manipulated. We're reduced to vertigo watching it all – and ourselves – go down the drain.
We may even realize that our reactions only make matters worse. For some panic takes us over the edge and we begin to want to hasten the end. This takes the form of self-destructive behavior and lashing out at others. Some of us retreat into fantasy. We console ourselves that whatever we wish for hard enough will come true. Some hold it together and keep doing what has to be done to keep things going another day. Some attempt to fight for what they'd like to see protected and rebel against the destruction of everything.
All of us are mesmerized in one way or another by how intractable the ongoing course of events appears to be as things continue to unravel. We dream-walk through our days; amazed at how a situation that is so clearly bad can just keep getting worse.
How do we break these cycles? We don't need another fact concerning how bad things are now or how much worse they are going to become. We don't need any more strident calls to redouble our efforts. Whether we acknowledge it or not we begin to see that what we've been doing has been futile. Is our only response to continue with more of the same?
What else could we do? Not what more. What else?
External signs of collapse are the consequences of internal collapse. External incoherence is a sign of internal incoherence.
Our institutions are corrupt. They not only negate what it means to live but actively seek to destroy whatever is alive. Positions that gain adherents and vow to "get things done" are the most insane. In reaction we find ourselves on the defensive, muttering, or at times yelling, "NO!"
Our NO is a symptom. Beneath it we need to confront that we have no YES.
It may be that in every time of collapse the mechanism of collapse, what leads the old ways into extinction, grows out of a reaction to the increasing incoherence of the old positions.
"Great Pan is Dead!"
This cry was heard throughout the Pagan world at the end of that era. A ghostly voice echoing just out of earshot. It was the sound of cognitive dissonance. The rising realization that their world was passing. It entered into people's awareness in this way before there was any better way to make sense of it.
Nietzsche recast this cry for our time with his proclamation, "God is dead!" We've confused the message with the messenger and confused how he's been misunderstood with what he was telling us. The ancients' way to put it appears more honest. Harder to take the wrong way. It's not up to any individual or group of people to claim the death of an era. The best we can do is listen….
Of course what usually happens at this point is that some will rush in wishing to fill the void that's been left with their own exceeding self-regard. We are clearly well into this stage.
The stress of it all keeps us thrashing.
Still, there are quiet voices…. It's just that we cannot hear them so long as we continue to be overwhelmed by the noisemakers.
What's been coming increasingly clear is that we have one basic thing backwards. We regard the "leading edge" of conscious thought to be the pinnacle of evolution. We keep taking a simplistic view of an evolutionary ladder with us at its pinnacle – and holding this position because we have thoughts constantly filling our heads – We see this as the foundation of our belief in Progress™.
Here is where the so-called Copernican Revolution did nothing to unseat our vanity. We replaced a cosmos in which the Earth was the center of the universe with one where our capacity to think was at the center. This did not makes us humble. It only fed our egomania.
This view is decidedly upside-own. If we want to call what we value highest intelligence, then we need to recognize that the highest intelligences are to be found in what we call the least conscious places. We are entranced by the machinations of our conscious minds while we take the myriad networks of organisms and cells that provide our body's homeostasis as the result of mere instinct or even the workings of a clock-work mechanism. We wonder at how some emotional cripple has amassed a fortune in imaginary tokens of wealth while we take for granted the workings of our living planet.
These are the compensations of an infantile and fractured personality. What is missing is an awareness of how the consciousness we so highly value is only able to exist because it rides on such a solid foundation of what we have dismissed as simply unconscious forces. We keep trying to somehow reconcile this. Its truth is in many ways unavoidable. Don't forget Jung's dictum relating to our unexamined Shadow….
We keep trying to bring the unconscious into consciousness. We do this in a myriad of ways. All of our beliefs have roots in this desire.
What if we turned it around?
Jung is a great guide in this, as with so much. His perception of the Collective Unconscious, of Archetypes, present an entry into what's involved.
We tend to fear the unconscious, as we fear what was once called Nature. As we fear anything we cannot see clearly and that for this reason we find it easy to project our unresolved complicities upon it. It is the…, well, archetype, for all of our OTHERS.
But it's not an other. Is it? To insist on this separation is to push ourselves into fragmentation. Schizophrenia, anyone?
Jung talks of symbols as the language of the unconscious. That beneath the symbols of language are archetypal symbols. When he wrote of these concepts it was a great leap and, at the same time – as must always be the case if we are to be understood at all – he had to use language as it stood. His words carried and still carry baggage associated with our notions of "unconscious" and "symbol."
What happens when we drop these relics? The unconscious is not some un-conscious place hidden somewhere out of sight. Symbols are not signposts with meanings reducible to a dictionary entry. Say the way we see a cross or a swastika….
This ocean of intelligence we are immersed in is a living thing. It fills us as well as surrounds us. It animates us and we express its workings whenever we think we are expressing ourselves. Symbols are – and Jung saw this quite clearly as his own work with mandalas shows – that symbols are fluid, shape-shifting, always at the edge of our conscious awareness. Once a one-time symbol becomes a sign it is no longer vital. It has become fossilized.
All of what we think – in the Bohmian sense of the term, including memory and emotional reactions – of as real, as perceptions of an outside world with a tangible, felt reality – solipsism is just about unavoidable when we look into these facing mirrors and their infinite repetitions…. All of this is, to use Hoffman's phrase, a symbolic interface. Whatever reality actually is… well, it's besides the point, isn't it? We have no access to it. The only way to keep from making operational blunders, like some Australian beetle attempting to mate with a broken beer bottle, is to be clear about the nature of our situation.
Seasickness is in a fundamental sense a sickness that arises from our refusal to accept the fluidity of our situation. Accustomed to a world of "solid ground" we rebel at the seeming "chaos" of movement we encounter upon the sea. In this state we cannot navigate. We can only suffer and remain at the mercy of… not some external actuality, but conditions we have brought about as a result of our insistence, our refusal to participate in our own existence.
This is where we are. Trapped in symptoms of our refusal to accept our fundamental situation: We – within each of our own sense of an I – exist as an edge of attention with which we may participate in the ongoing, fluid, and immersive unfolding of creation. We can navigate this situation only by allowing ourselves to accept our position in it. We are not, have never actually been on firm solid ground. This fantasy has brought us into our suffering, into creating so much misery by furthering destructive reactions.
We are riding upon a sea. It is dynamic, fluid. It provides us with a capacity to be buoyant. We can traverse this sea of intelligence, navigating it through our interactions with symbols, only by accepting and allowing our buoyancy to work.
Seasickness is a refusal to accept our condition while inside some vessel that lets us use its buoyancy to keep us afloat. Drowning is what happens when we take this same stand without a vessel's support. To drown we must negate our buoyancy. We do this by willing ourselves up out of the water. This takes us above the point of our dynamic buoyancy – with our face out of the water and our ears submerged – and each attempt to rise above our supporting medium brings a reaction that takes us below a level that is viable. Each repetition takes us farther down, tires us further, until in our exhaustion we succumb.
The last act of a drowning man is to deny he is under water and take in a breath. Refusal and denial. Sound familiar?
All of this can so easily be siphoned off into another parade of knowledge, an accumulation of facts. This has happened to Jung's realizations. A whole cottage industry of academic pursuits built on their ruins….
We don't need more of these. Again, our experiences with the sea provide a guiding clue.
No one can learn to swim by reading a book. No one can sidestep seasickness because they've been told some fact.
Swimming, sailing, navigating uncertainty, are all direct engagements between our sense of a self and an immersive reality as it presents itself to us.