What Choice Do We Have?

Further thoughts on the limits of imagination,

As we experience the destruction occurring “in our name” we seem to have two choices available to us. Either we chose to turn a blind eye and “make our own way,” which is taken to mean that we try to maintain our compartmentalization and keep our innate sense of our own “goodness” separate from what we tolerate, even conspire to continue; or we drop-out of this race to the bottom. What happens then? I think for the most part, at least as far as we ever think about it, this equates with leaving the “winning” side of the destroyers and becoming part of the great mass of fodder at the hollow mercy of their wills.

The strongest sensation I feel as I am shocked and horrified by our complicity and by the pervasiveness of the forces of destruction is that stepping off that track – even for someone who’s been as bad at following it as I’ve been – is to join the powerless and be run-over with all the rest. Leaving the pathology of BAU opens us to the pain and the horror of what Business-As-Usual stands for and accomplishes. We lose the sense of cover gained by putting ourselves through the hoops of pathologizing ourselves and we begin to feel the pain of our victims and the consequences of our actions spiraling off into the future. At the same time we break our bonds of “fellowship” with those of us who maintain there is nothing wrong. This break we know goes both ways. Not only does it lead to a sense of distancing of us from our “fellows” but we also recognize at some level that when we are no longer seen as “team players” we will soon be seen as “part of the problem.”

When we open ourselves to a “solidarity” with oppressed people, or with road-kill of all sorts, we begin to feel that we are not far from joining them in a powerless vulnerability that puts a “cross-hair” sight on our heads and that those willing to “pull the trigger” will have no compulsion “gettin’-her-done” when we’re the target, no more than when it’s been any of their previous victims.

This is the crisis of the “good German.” It’s always been this way. It never has been an easy position. It’s never at all clear from inside this predicament what is the best way through it.

A few points come up as I describe the situation. It is so difficult not to fall for the promises of power and invulnerability that underlie so much of the motivation and justification for staying within the juggernaut and riding it instead of falling off to be trampled under its bulk. Yet, as we’ve explored many times before, these are chimeras. There is no useful power in following the destructive path. It does nothing to keep its adherents from crashing and burning with all the rest when this all comes collapsing down. Berlin 1945 is one example. The tables turn and the high do fall. Vulnerability is our nature, not a state to be cancelled out by making certain bargains.

It is so hard to realize this. Especially I suspect from this transition point when we are between “allegiances.” When the entire spectacle runs on the power of illusion, and we are bombarded with the “dangers” of disillusion, it is so hard to maintain a clarity of mind that not only sees through this deception but gives us the strength to feel it in our bones. From this transitional stage we also cannot quite see or feel the way those we may pity or fear for, the “victims” of all this destruction, may actually “have” all that we fear to be “losing.”

The look in a wild animals eye. The solidity of existence in a plant, a rock, the ocean. The sense of an even greater “solidity” made up of the interpenetration and indissolubility of all Being these “elements’ transpire within. These are “values” that not only fall by the wayside in our “everyday” lives, they are invisible within this “life” we have found ourselves in.

The whole question of striving is so hard to talk about. Not only are we reluctant to “give-up” the “power” it seems to give us, but it is so hard to keep in mind and communicate just what the term means. We fall into a numb paralysis confronting the very notion and we conflate that with what anyone asking us to question it might mean by it. We rebel at the thought that we should somehow “voluntarily” succumb to an eternity of numb paralysis that we identify as the antithesis of striving.

In reality, it may be the way out of that sentence, a way to break away from the illusions that hold us tied to a way of reacting to life that is only destructive and at best will maintain us in a semi-conscious, numb, and paralytic state.

*

Surfaces fascinate me. Water is the archetypal surface to my mind. I wrote about it in the introduction to Something for Nothing. In fact the whole book is a meditation on the meaning and importance of surfaces and their interpenetration. Painting is perhaps THE medium of surfaces. They all are, a medium is always a surface onto which or through which– it’s best when it’s both! – we project our concerns and then dream on them.

There is a surface between the world-view of destruction-as-salvation and life without striving. We can see imperfectly with distortions and reflections and plenty of possibilities for misinterpretation from this side to the other. The most certain thing we can “know” about it is that on passing through this surface our world-view will change and we will have changed along with it. Looking back from that side we will wonder at the beings who we’ve left behind, those most “like us” now, and find it hard to imagine how they could be the way they are.

I’ve used the Titanic disaster as a symbol for our predicament for a long time. Leavergirl has recently pointed out what’s wrong with that analogy. There were lifeboats. They weren’t utilized well, but they were there, and some people were able to avail themselves. Our predicament has no lifeboats. We are sinking into a medium the other side of a surface and nothing will keep any of us from passing through that transition. We are all of us, no matter how “powerful” we may now feel, in transition from “drivers” of the juggernaut to its victims. This is yet another disillusionment we need to face, that somehow we are personally immune if only we stay “loyal.”

Our solidarity then is already a fact. We are all road-kill in waiting. The enormous inertia behind the juggernaut is an illusion too, a “Thousand Year Reich” as ephemeral as that other one which dissolved into that Berlin Spring in 1945. What’s missing is….

*

Choice is never as simple and as fanciful as it’s made out to be in this consumer’s paradise. Choice isn’t really picking off a menu, it’s figuring out what can be and aligning ourselves with its constraints. The other side of choice isn’t disappointment it’s extinction.

These are some points to consider while we struggle with the limits to our imagination. The “haven” offered by further allegiance isn’t a choice. Neither is the “victim-hood” of everything we destroy to maintain this illusion.

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