The fantasy of control

So long as we keep expecting that what funnels through public discourse are choices that lead to results we are stuck in the nightmare fantasy of control.

Brexit. Trump versus Clinton. All of the day’s public questions are mired in manipulations. We remain complicit so long as we feel we must make the choice our habitual role leads us to see as unavoidable. We eagerly hyperventilate. We burn with hatred for the other side, “How can they be so stupid, venal – plain wrong?”

We’re asked to play the game as we’re warned, “This isn’t a game!” By those who are certain that if we abandon our place on the barricades, “Everything will go wrong!”

We’re entreated to, “Be reasonable!” When every bit of public information is twisted into Byzantine intrigues of propaganda and meta-disinformation, orders of magnitude beyond what any Byzantine courtier would recognize. When every public voice – including an unknown and unknowable number of our fellow “Twitterati” – for example – do not exist. But are bots in the service of who-knows-who.

Where is the clarity in this situation?

Two broad swathes:

This is how reason drops into its nightmare stage. When the voices of reason are indistinguishable from the corrupt there is no way of making a reasoned judgement. No place to make it from – no place to stand. No place to put our fulcrum. No way of knowing which direction to push.

Collapse has its own dynamic. At a certain point it is impossible to know when a desire to maintain some semblance of order is a reactionary position that will only make things worse. Or on the flip-side; When a reactionary and thoughtless position might lead to a softer fall by “greasing the skids.”

These two observations lead to a third. Especially in times of overshoot and unraveling disaster it is impossible to expect a given action to lead to an expected result.

This third point builds on the other two and returns us to the only clarity we can have: Our fantasies of control are coming to their unavoidable crisis-points. This is the only “silver-lining.” At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, the growing dis-junction between what we think we’re doing and what is happening will collapse.

Every other part of collapse has to hurt. This part doesn’t. Depending on how we come to the collapse of our preconceptions and what we do when this arrives is the only arena in our affairs where we actually have any sort of control. How we handle this transition will establish whether we are going to continue to be complicit in the spreading of suffering or whether we will be available to bring compassion to the unavoidable misery engulfing us.

How much of the energy we expend fighting for our role-defined answers comes from our fear of this underlying question? We are getting pretty-far along in this collapse to retain any sincere loyalty for the champions on show. When the corruption goes this deep and the show gets this sloppy in its feeble attempts to cover it up – the political equivalent to baseball’s defensive indifference – we’re all surely at the point where deeper questions do begin to break through.

I’ve long been guided by a sense that we need a form of Outward Bound for the current disaster. The original Outward Bound was developed as a way of preparing sailors and flyers for the shocks and vertiginous circumstances of the disaster of being torpedoed or shot down at sea. It was discovered that these psychic shocks killed more of them than the actual physical dangers they faced would lead you to expect. They did not die of drowning or exposure. They died of fright. Of the dislocation from anything they were accustomed to. Outward Bound, by placing them into challenging but survivable conditions in an incremental manner brought out their innate resilience and made it possible for them to cope psychologically with what their bodies were prepared physically to survive.

These investigations have always had this model in mind. What if we could find the psychological means to avoid falling into the same traps that civilized humans have been falling into for millennia? Is there room between “human nature” and unexamined assumptions? If there is. How can this lead to a different response?

One key element has been the discernment between reaction and response. Another is the power that emotional proprioception brings us to give us the breathing space to suspend our conditioned reactions and discover creative responses. Beyond this is the need to be thoroughly disabused of our expectations so that we can see as clearly as we might – while never forgetting that our sight is partial and fraught with error.

These exercises. These practices, and the plasticity of mind and the establishment of a different relationship to habit and change, bring us to the point where we can begin to look at our present situation without being trapped in the totally corrupt and dysfunctional residues of the old business-as-usual. We may be ready to suspend our reactions, “X must not win! They are all wrong! I was just defending myself! How could they?”

In part this is getting easier. The self-intoxication required to maintain a manufactured public stance on anything is reaching stupefying levels. A large part of the paralysis in the public sphere is affected by how blind-drunk and clueless our public figures have become. When it gets this hard to screw-up our gag-reflexes enough to say, “I’m for X!” It does get easier to pause.

Also when we begin to see how entangled the expected benefits of a given policy are from the much more certain unintended consequences it will undoubtedly set in motion. It brings us to pause.

When we begin to see how deep the disinformation and manipulative destruction of any possible shared view of what is actually taking place. When we never find confirmation of our own experience in the psycho-drama-du-jour. It brings us to pause.

These are hints. These murmurs of restraint are a gift.

For it will only be in the silence we carve out of the old certainties that we will be able to hear the quietest voices. When we will begin to be able to find room to listen to others. Other voices. Inside us and among us. Between us and those we’re so ready to condemn as the other.

And we’re all caught up in defining the other today. Make no mistake! All so-called sides define themselves today by contempt and hate for some other. All these positions justify further hatred based on building-up an uncross able divide between us and them.

In the winter of 1914 there was a defacto Christmas Truce on the Western Front. At the time it was unthinkable. In hindsight it is the four years of carnage either side of that silent night that we find impossible to justify.

As the world heads inexorably towards the kind of general conflagration whose return we have so long feared it is essential that we break the cycles that drive its inevitability. We can break these cycles; but only if we discover a new and different sincerity.

Can we pause? Can we listen?

It only appears to be an external battle. The wars we fear are already under way inside each of us. Unless we acknowledge this and take steps to diffuse our part in it we only hasten its general out break.

We’re so accustomed to fear that we have no power to act. We don’t in the ways we expect. But in this way no one else can either bestow or take-away our capacity to act. Let go of what we cannot control. This fantasy is killing us.

In this letting go we may find a way to move forward. Together.

 

Two voices I’ve heard today:

The Echo of the Voiceless

The UK Between Stories

 

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