If the distance between us is generally large and tense, it is in great part because of our marked fear of frustration, humiliation, and pain. During childhood and early youth, failure to meet the expectations of parents, teachers, and peers is a constant source of frustration and sorrow, coupled with the occasional success through which we acquire knowledge of the pleasure and joys of approaval and acceptance. The negative-positive trace these experiences leave behind begins the sedimentation of the mind. The impression of similar experiences of pleasure and pain in adult relationship adds to the volume and calcification of this mental deposit until it becomes the persona, the particular and self-reflective set of psychological traits and habits that protects and prolongs itself by mechanically attempting to allay its fears and eliminate its sorrows through the efforts it makes, not just to satisfy its physical needs, but also the most absurd or outright harmful ambitions.
It is the most common experience to go through life bearing the burden of a brutally demanding self-image that most others do not see or care much about. A widely felt dearth of personal recognition, together with the occasional experience of success and pleasure (often not even personal, but only as seen in others) fuel, in turn, the endless personal and relational struggle deemed necessary to avoid humiliation and pain while simultaneously attempting to acquire the status and pleasure associated with fantasies of personal fulfillment.
No culture seems to spare its adherents the condition of isolation, insecurity, and fear observable in just about everyone, everywhere in the world and at any time in history. However, every cultural form prescribes a different set of energy-gobbling compensating maneuvers with which its members are supposed to achieve the pleasures of worldly success (the wealth, love, status, and respect we so desperately seek throughout our lives), and/or the ultimate pleasure of arriving to an otherworldly state of complete redemptive security. In other words, the self-projective imprint of particular forms of essentially the same, species-wide experience and desire determine everyone’s sense of a separate existence, and this general psychological make-up (well hidden under different tribal and personal guises and disguises) endlessly shapes our stressful, conflictive relations that, all together make up the world we live in and the reiterative drama of human history.
This chronic and harrowing situation splintering and torturing the species as a whole paradoxically obscures the essential question that its sustained presence quietly poses: Is this all that is possible, or might there be a manner of being (human) not determined by the divisive dregs of previous experience and the fears and self-serving desires through which this painful form of being extends itself onto the future?
Without posing this question, everything remains fundamentally the same. That is, one (and therefore humanity as the outpicturing of the thoughts and actions of every“one”) simply continues to create and experience slightly modified version of the same ancient, broken-up and adversarial reality the species has always known and suffered. However, if this question is seriously asked, it brings about a movement away from all that is limited, illusory, and false with a vitality capable of changing everything. But there is a rub to this possibility, if the conditioned personal mind attempts to conjecture about the nature and consequences of this unprecedented change, it will necessarily fall back into the dysfunctional realm of pre-recorded and self-projecting pain and pleasure that is the problem in the first place.
Additive, but impersonal knowledge and its projection in time by individual organisms in charge of specialized and complementary social functions is, and will always be essential in the solution of practical, functional problems. However, the private record of positive and negative experience that operates as the existential foundation and laborious extension of the self in mental time is an ongoing disaster that lacks the capacity of ever righting itself. There is no redeeming quality to the type of knowledge that generates and prolongs the fantasy of separate being and the very real conflict and pain inherent to competitive or outright conflictive relationship.
A complete and independent insight into the inescapable impotence of the self-centered process of thought —that is, the shocking event of the ethnocentric and egocentric individual waking up to itself as a dead end— is, in itself, the manifestation of a mode of being entirely unrelated to personal experience, past, present, and future, and therefore not one more pre-conceived idea of a better future to be strived after, and eventually enjoyed by a comparatively superior, but still separate self.
Seeing things as they actually are simply ends the habitual back and forth of the self in the time capsule of its own thought and desire. When mind is no longer a personal attribute with social roots and willful ramifications, there is nowhere else to retreat or move forward to, and most importantly, there is no “one” there interested in doing so. The human presence is then indistinguishable from the mystery of life itself.
On hearing this last statement, there may arise a powerful desire to speculate about the nature of a selfless existence which, if assumed to be attractive enough will, in turn unleash the drive to find and pursue whatever recognized method promises to get one there. This is a dangerous temptation, but it cannot survive if its appearance instantly triggers the realization that yielding to it will only result in yet another frustrating and harmful extension of the same imaginary existential separation with its inevitable dissatisfaction and its brutal effort to protect and further itself and its claims.
Our common bondage resides in the blinders and whips that predetermined, personal and consensual knowledge create in every brain/mind to block the lucid, independent, and holistic perception that would instantly see things exactly as they are in oneself and in the world. Freedom is then a manner of being and acting in the world that is coherent with that perception, and therefore sane.
We have allowed ourselves to remain blind to the conflictive and sorrowful mental encapsulation and cultural fragmentation that is the sum total of what we each know, think, fear, and desire, and the very act of independently seeing this reality in its entirety, ends a particular instance of the general illusion of separate existence. This collective trance that makes everyone myopic, conflict prone, and miserable, and that is presently threatening the very survival of the species as a whole, will only lose its hold on the mind if a critical number of individuals somehow manage to see despite the general darkness.
A selectively remembered and egotistically projective story of pain and pleasure is condemned by its very nature to react inadequately to the actuality of every instant of life, and to remain cut off from what lies beyond the scope of the collective and personal intellect. How we refer to the infinity of what lies beyond knowledge, does not really matter, and so for the purpose of this little essay we may perhaps agree to call it “life” —the indivisible, and therefore unfathomable unfolding of manifest and nonmanifest existence. All we are saying with this is that the presence of humanity within the whole of existence is not fundamentally cultural or psychological —not fundamentally what each one of us may think, believe, and want— but rather an ineffable expression of the mystery of life.
A harmonious encounter among human beings may be, not just possible, but totally natural, but it demands that we come to it as nothing in ourselves, and therefore as one with life, our common source and most intimate nature. Not to comply with this demand is simply to go on colluding with a general mental system based on the illusion of separate existence and sustained by the often violent struggle to achieve the private security and pleasurable self-importance and power that the very exclusivity of personal thought and desire negates.
Do not take my word, or anybody else’s word for any of this. Dependence and authority are two sides of the same curse of tribal and self-centered thought. Look intently, and see for yourself.