We believe we are rational. We use logic to confirm it.
We ignore the circularity of our arguments.
How do we drop defensiveness? We live in a tumult of fear and anxiety. There is a gap between our beliefs and what we know we are hiding from behind those defenses. We are at least in some part aware that we are hurting our selves by not “changing.”
We maintain a MAD balance, striving to change, willing our selves to be other than how we are. Other than who we are.
Still, we remain unsatisfied. No matter whether caught up in the industry-of-dissatisfaction or in opposition. We are disappointed. In our selves. In others. In the state of the world.
Fear, anxiety, dissatisfaction, and depression all have legitimate places in life. But, in our lives they have become fixed states and not passing affects.
To be without fear; simple, direct, instinctive signals for the avoidance of danger; is to be delusional, and soon dead. To live trapped in fears, manufactured and held out of context, is to be un-dead. Un-living would be the more accurate term.
The same is true for the other three walls of our prison. Even depression. I have come to believe it is a fixation within what in a natural life is a fleeting sensation preparing us to accept death when it arrives out-of-the-blue. A realization that we are not fit. That circumstances are closing in and beyond recourse. That further resistance is futile. This is a merciful acceptance of the inevitable when it comes to us in the jaws of a predator, or amidst the fevered dreams of a terrible infection. It is only a nightmare prison when it arises out of a persistent syndrome of nagging suspicions and unrecognized weaknesses. Trapped in fear and anxiety, wrapped in dissatisfaction without end, we cannot help but feel depression. Only when we reach it in this way it is not a step in our release from the inevitable. It becomes the final lock enforcing our inability to do anything about our broader dis-ease. In its throes we cannot distinguish inevitable limits from within a vague sense of futility.
In reaction we look for optimism. We hide from what would be pessimistic. We defend the very attitudes and habits that keep us locked in a living hell.
The only beneficiary is an inflated sense of Ego, an isolated element of an integrated personality inflated to a grotesque form in an attempt to “manage” our intractable position.
This brings us back to Rationalism.
There are fads in everything. This fad for rejecting great swaths of experience in the favor of reducing everything to simplistic binary polarities, casting any and all other possibilities as treason, falling on the side of the other-side, the enemy; has been in favor for a long time. It has gone under the flattering term Enlightenment. Used in a particular manner to refer to this latest Age of Reason.
This is an indefensible position. It puts us at odds with reality. We find our selves increasingly removed from any direct awareness of how our interactions with the rest of everything are going while hiding the increasing disconnect behind increasingly elaborate rationalizations. At the same time increasing our appetite for abstractions and our tolerance for any foolishness that can be dressed up as “reasonable.”
This trap is a kind of predator’s jaws. No wonder depression is so prevalent.
The tragedy lies in how this is self-perpetuated. Once we fall into this syndrome of delusions it generates a dynamic that keeps itself going.
It is also “all in our heads.”
That is not to say that the consequences of this fixation on a narrow view are not “real.” We will pay the price in actual suffering for the results of our actions and those of those who came before us or who, even today, insist they are acting on our behalf.
The choice we have, how we may effect our predicament, is to find our way out of this internal trap. This aspect of existence is most definitely within our power. Even as the rest is out of our hands.
Strength is not the same as power. Power is a perception of forces beyond our control that we then imagine we can bend to our will. Strength is a capacity discovered and developed within and among us.
This distinction is at the heart of the choice available to us. The religious impulse to reject death and seek salvation has resulted in just the opposite. This broad avenue of belief that holds all of the currently powerful brands of religious expression, including that particular branch of Christianity that labeled itself Enlightenment and then Atheist, has brought rejection and an appetite for denial, to the brink of destroying an entire epoch of life on Earth.
A paradox of Christianity is that its reason for being, the teachings of its namesake, would have been better served almost any other way than in the power seeking forms it has repeatedly taken on, culminating in its use as an umbrella for the civic religion of our current Empire.
Complication is the name we give to life when we fail to value its complexity.
Here is a clue to a way out of our trap.
Does our attitude promote an acceptance of life? Does it help us strengthen our attention? Our ability to focus and to bring our capacities to bear? Or, does it simply bolster our defensiveness? Provide the semblance of security by raising the walls to our prison?
Approaching any question with curiosity and without preconception. Why should this be anything but our natural default?
But, it is not. Our current default position is to expect everything to bend to our wishes.
How can we expect this ever to lead anywhere but a bad ending?
The clarity of this question puts a lie to all our striving.
We all know from our own experiences what it is to change. We do not change at the end of a struggle, striving, trying. We change, “Just like that.” When an awareness of the falsity of our position strikes us irrefutably we just change. The rest is merely drama. A pass-time while we dawdle, daring the world to call our bluff.
While change is in this way effortless. There is great effort required in taking the first steps towards a reconnection of attention with what we hide away from by pushing it behind all of our distractions. If this were not true we would not have the perverse stability of our present destructive state. A time when it is easier to die for a lie than to live for a truth.
Strength grows when challenged in increments that are shy of traumatic. When we flail away in our striving, in our impatience and insistence on intention as a source of outcome, we do not become stronger. We traumatize our selves, internalizing the violence against our organism. We dress this abuse up as heroism. Internalizing a manipulative tactic used by others to remove our agency, turning it against our selves.
Wishing after power is a captivating fantasy. Insisting we are strong when we are not, on the other hand, is quite impossible to maintain. Push harder and we will find a way to explain our weakness away by focusing on some outside power. Let go of this delusion and we discover a lodestone pointing us to ways to become stronger.
Power is clouded in projection and delusion.
Strength is self-evident and its limits are clear.
Strength is always provisional. It can always be broadened or deepened. It never takes itself as license to ignore our vulnerability. Watch a lioness slink away from a confrontation to put a lie to the propaganda of the power-hungry that valor knows no limits. Her strength is indivisible from her awareness of her limitations.
Rationality does have a useful foundation. Even if the edifice we’ve built upon those foundations is fraudulent and fatally flawed. An attitude of strength will take what is useful wherever it can be found. But it will not entice us with a panacea.
The Nightmares of Reason grow out of the way anything taken as an arbitrary absolute will culminate in horror. To insist on the merely rational is irrational.
Only when this is clear can we use logic instead of enslaving our selves to carry out its ultimate horrors.