How do we move beyond rebellion?
Implicit in this question – if it is to be anything but futile – is another,
How do we keep from cycling back around? Only to end up that much further down the same barren path?
What seems missing as each cycle repeats could be described as letting go of the irrelevant. We begin to leave the status quo as we accumulate critiques of its dead-ends and incoherent assumptions. What drives us on to return, to regenerate a new version of the same old thing, is our reluctance to let go of our fascination with what our insights have shown us to be irrelevant. We get stuck in being against.
Being against what we find around us has become the standard reflex of our age. We define our selves – our muddled view of selves as roles to be played – by our disappointments. There is a faction of one multiplied by our billions. Each of us is unique in our particular dislikes. The only thing we share is dissatisfaction.
This drives the cult of the new. When we reduce everything to the test of whether it prickles our impatience with what we know or indulges our vague curiosity for something unfamiliar – perhaps this will pique our interest? Not suck? In the vernacular…. – all that matters is that something not be old.
Innovation. What does it mean? It boils down to churning out something that is not old. The pursuit of novelty.
Why does this dominate our attention?
We are and allow ourselves to remain stuck at the business end of disappointment.
What does the Enormity of our predicament bring us in this regard? How is this moment of clarity presenting itself?
When the sheer accumulation of the spoils of our disappointments has reached such levels of absurdity we just might discover the limits of our attachment to our resentments. At this point we begin to see all that has proven itself to be irrelevant.
What is the significance of irrelevancy?
Let’s distinguish between two uses. There is the claim of irrelevancy,
This is a defensive posture attempting to redirect fear into anger and pushing attention away from our own feelings of inadequacy.
The other use is a quiet realization that something just does not matter.
The first draws attention away from our own situation and attempts to focus on just what it claims to deny. “Don’t look at me! Look at what I demand is irrelevant!” It is incoherent. It draws our attention from the one thing we can directly influence – our attitude – and forces it back on what it claims to deny.
The second just lets go.
What sort of things show themselves to be irrelevant today?
Perhaps the most significant answer to this question is in the scope of irrelevancy today. The mind boggles! A comprehensive list would have to be encyclopedic in length! Let’s just skip across a few salient highlights.
Existing institutions. Their failures are not the result of their corruption. No matter that they are incorrigibly corrupt. They fail because they are built on foundational assumptions that have themselves proven to be irrelevant.
We can fall into a double-bind here. Cataloging irrelevancies itself slips easily from letting go to embracing dissatisfaction with what we see as irrelevant. The point is to treat the irrelevant as obstacles. Presented with obstacles we have a choice. We can focus on what we dislike about them. What they prevent us from doing, etc.…. Or, we can train our attention to look past them.
There is a cycle in the way perception and action work. Boyd’s OODA Loop comes to mind. There is a moment when defining an obstacle is valuable. Obstacles require our attention to break into awareness. It’s so easy to lose track of the fact that there is more we do not perceive than ever penetrates perception. It’s mostly blind-spot! So, we need to be able to attend to an obstacle. To name what impedes us.But, the next step is just as essential. If our perception remains dominated by obstacles we have no attention available to recognize the spaces between.
What happens next is a matter of insight – just as naming the impediment was at its stage in the cycle. A landscape dominated by barriers fades away, It is replaced with a landscape of clear spaces, potential paths without the same sort of obstruction. For us to proceed we need to get to this point and then test these perceived spaces to see what other sorts of obstacles might block them. It is in this way that we find paths.
Right now, our greatest obstacle is stuck-ness within an ever more elaborate appreciation of how terrible our obstacles are. In our exhaustion – exhaustion is the inevitable result of sticking to any one thing too long – we lose our capacity to do anything more than react impatiently, wishing for something, anything, new to deliver us from our condition. We are stuck chasing salvation.
Salvation is irrelevant.
The death of God is irrelevant. Just as the God of patriarchy Himself.
Hating complexity is irrelevant.
Fearing the unknown….
Discounting meaning when we find it….
We can’t get on with it – life – until we let go.
The new is irrelevant. And so is the old.
Dissatisfaction, disappointment… all irrelevant.
What’s tricky is that the dominant conditioning inundates us with clamoring after maintaining our attention imprisoned in irrelevancies. Counting on our exhaustion to keep us within its mores.
“It’s important that cars stop for school buses!” So much appears self-evident. “We don’t want distracted young children hit crossing the road!”
So a law was passed. Flashing lights installed. Then an extra attendant. Then strobe lights….
This is what happens when we fixate on an obstacle. What starts out as an easy to define optimum state: fewer deaths and injuries; becomes a distraction from a deeper necessity: that we acclimate ourselves to a world where threats cannot be eliminated or excised by fiat. Drivers are numbed to the subtle and useful warnings of danger. Children are raised in bubbles and then let out into the world to binge drink and do themselves in with abandon at some arbitrary age of competency.
Left and Right are equally and jointly irrelevant!
We are surrounded by irrelevancy! What has been a burden can become a guide. Again, it’s the way we break through any futility. We disabuse ourselves of all the illusions holding us to the futile path and this frees us to let go.
The interesting stuff is what can happen after….
10 thoughts on “So much that is irrelevant…”
Thanks for your post.
I have another list of irrelevancies waiting to be part of a future book:
Perfection is irrelevant. Not only impossible, is irrelevant as a life goal. It makes us unhappy persons and blocks our lifelong learning.
To be a ideal parent or pretend an ideal son or daughter. It lead us to a paradoxical parent situation: we don’t see our real children, we don’t see what they are but what they are not. We can’t see our real children, we don’t see what they are but what they aren’t. We don’t realize who our children are. Then we, as parents, don’t have a “real” relation with them. And they are alone, they don’t have real parents either.
To be normal is irrelevant. As I see it, the idea of normality is irrelevant on the living world.
Thank you for your response.
Writing this post I felt a book could be written on the subject. Glad to hear you are working on it! Please let us know of your progress.
Perfection does work as a projection, as you say. When projecting any expectation we not only fail to see; we actively block our capacity to see. And children pay. And children grow up to continue the damage – It’s what they’ve learned to do instead of learning how to learn.
What if we look at it all differently, what if everything IS relevant . In our fervor and dire search for something that separates us from what ails us, we expend a lot of energy creating yet another division. We are so limited by our perspective, our point of view and changing aspect. Can we really break away from this scary Mobius. We find ourselves continually looking into our old toolbox and searching for the wrong tool, and denying the best answers. We continue to push the extent of that which is rational. Maybe there is a greater value in the irrational. Pulling up stakes, and burning bridges Letting momentum itself deliver us to a new path of least resistance. Just letting go, is in itself, just awkward. It changes nothing ,really. The gap slowly grows, and as we drift away the problems look like they are getting smaller from the distance, but they are still there. If we find the pain going away, it’s likely we have already become numb to it. No more doubting… no more daunting, no more doubling down. True epiphanies do happen every so often, out of the strangest of places, with elation and elevation of spirit.
You bring up a lot of questions. There’s a lot to sort through here.
Everything is relevant and it is not. Attention is not infinite. What we hold in focus; such as the crux of something we define as a problem; can and so often does overwhelm our capacities to find any other way. Seeing problems means we are looking for answers and seeking causes and effects. If these are – beyond the simplistic machine metaphors we are so accustomed to – illusions; then letting our awareness of them lapse lets us find other ways of seeing things. This leads to a combination of perceiving our world differently and also of discovering different paths that put us on another trajectory. Even this language, English, makes it hard to talk about action without falling into reductive models. Trajectory is too limiting….
Who is insisting that nothing is changed unless “I” do it?
This is a big part of what opens up for us when we let things go.
The other aspect is the way the mechanisms that maintain this toxic culture work so hard at keeping us in thrall of irrelevancies. The subtext is always that we are weak and must be protected, told what to do, and how to be kept safe. This public drama is as dangerous and irrelevant as the private dramas our individual Egos strive to keep us in. The deluge of noise. The way we are distracted from “the voices in our heads” to be held by voices broadcast at us from outside. The first is seen as a disease. The latter is simply how it is done. Which is truly crazy?
Epiphanies do happen. They do bring moments of elevation. But what happens in between? How do we maintain contact and traction with the moment and all it implies?
These questions bring up the way we need not be looking for high points just as much as we don’t need to be fighting the lows. There are other ways to act.
All this requires attention. Attention that is so easily bled off in chasing after insistent irrelevancies.
This is excellent and helps me formulate what I’m intending to write next. Thanks.
This reminds me of my long ago lifeguard training. You have your stretch of beach that is your priority area. You have to remain alert throughout the day, with the hot sun baking on you and many distractions. You are taught how to scan your area, not by maintaining a sharp focus, but with a diligent gaze. It is hard to explain, but the aberration, or drowning swimmer jumps right out at you. If you become hyper-focused you will miss the flailing arms because there is too much extraneous activity bearing down on a finite amount of attention. There are limits to how much we can process.
I grew up on a beach. The only way to see anything across water is with this diligent, searching gaze. We put our energy into attention not focus. Whatever is different does jump out.
The patient lay in his bed, fevered, pinched faced in his misery, surrounded by old crow doctors, each squinting and scrutinizing and poking and prodding, and shaking their heads. One old crow says,”I don’t like the color of his urine” and pokes the poor man in the kidney and is startled when the man yells in pain. Another old crow lifts a swollen eyelid and declares that the man is jaunticed, He pokes the poor man in the liver, the man yelps again in pain. A third doctor declares that the old man is constipated, pokes the man’s stomach and he writhes in pain, alarming everyone. Another doctor, a psychiatrist, declares that the old man is a hypochondriac and that “it’s all in his head” , humiliating the old man to tears. Finally a wise and withered old nurse steps into the room and shoos away the doctors and comes to the bedside. “Ooh Sir”, she coos to the patient, “Let’s see what we can do to make you feel better”. She leaves for a moment and brings the old man a cup of camomile tea and sits and holds his hand . Soon, he had a bit of a smile upon his face and was feeling considerably better. Later, she brought him a bedpan which he filled diligently, and soon after he felt well enough to go home. The doctors were marveled at this. How could this old nurse cure the old man so “unscientifically, what kind of medicine was this.” When asked the nurse replied ,”it is the medicine of wisdom and compassion”.
Yes. Attending with compassion.