We Think of the Spectacle as External…

The title to this post came to me as my head hit the pillow last night. I got up and wrote it down. That beats spending the next half hour trying to instal it in memory, and calling forth the rest of the insight just to have it evaporate before morning. Trusting the organism means respecting its ways. Write down what comes and hold off until the rest is ready to come out onto the page.

I suppose this thought came in connection with the focus on how our emotions are internal. As much as Ego would like us to believe, “They made me feel bad!” There’s only one being who can do that for us and that is us.

“But the Spectacle! is external right? That’s what it is, the parade of external stimuli that keeps us from attending to anything else?”

Yes, it is, but it’s not as straightforward as we tend to believe, at least as I’ve looked at it.

Granted, there are spectacular events and aggressive stimuli all around us. These are THE products of this post-industrial age. The bane of this Information Age is that we turn everything into Spectacle. My own personal “unintended consequence” is that even this site feeds the Spectacle. – must make a note: Gotta do something about that!

But we do have control over attention, it’s the only thing we have, in the end. As much as we’d like to think the Spectacle draws us to it, it’s really we who draw ourselves to its distractions and stimulation.

This may seem like a fine distinction, but it helps put things into perspective. There’s a loop we’re habituated to. We are addicted to stimulation as a toxic simulacra of satisfaction. We crave it and look for it. We can feed it with ready packaged “entertainment,” or with what’s called “news.” Lacking these, we can feed it with direct experience, the stuff of our lives. The difference between doing that and living is in the motivation. When we take whatever we come across and feed it into the maw that is Spectacle – used here as short-hand for our hunger, not its raw material – we denature life’s experiences, taking them from the fabric of our days as we interact within the moment, and turn them into stimuli to feed an addiction.

This seems to be another way into the suspicions I’ve long had concerning optimism and pessimism. We can’t seem to stay clear of one or the other of these states. We’re always looking for something or someone to feed these to us, either so we can be happy or so we can have someone else to blame for our feeling bad. When we are on this roller-coaster we are treating all that life brings as if it were Spectacle. The focus is in how something makes us feel. When we are living without these addictions to stimulation, to intoxication as a replacement for satisfaction, we remain aware that how we feel is a habituated response, a particular kind of conditioning that is more or less useful and is under our control.

In a world in which very little is under our control, it’s astounding how we are so willing to abdicate this control in favor of illusions of control that surround our fascination with power. Ego and its habits are responsible for this. The illusory forms of control feed its appetites. Control over how we feel – unless we attempt to use internalized domination by repressing or indulging our emotional responses – requires us to put Ego in its place. As the trajectory of every addiction shows us, Ego will gladly trade Hell-on-Earth for the chance to maintain its illusions.

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