We feel the weight of this admonition upon us everywhere we turn. It stands like a wall between us and it echoes in our minds. We take it as a warning. In fact it is our prison.
To “be realistic” we assume is to believe in cause & effect. That usually means a cause for an effect. A cause that we should be able to wrinkle out of the confusion and an effect that stands alone ready to be made better. If only we remain realistic.
This circle of belief is untenable. It is also deeply rooted. Among the conditions we suffer under this might be one of the worst. It is certainly hard to break free.
A realization of the profundity of this error has made it nearly impossible to write the sort of essays this blog was built on. It is quite hard to essay without falling into explanation. And when we’re convinced that explanation is futile it becomes equally futile to attempt to essay on a point in the hope, or wild expectation, that it will, “change minds.”
There are no distinct minds to be changed.
Phantasms we project as deranged actors we see surrounding us have proven themselves – whatever that means! – to be unmovable. Even if we believed in their existence they show they cannot be changed by any act of explanation or example.
There is a vast silence answering back in the midst of this babble and clamor of angry voices.
This silence is an answer. If only we allow its import to register.
There is no point in continuing along some path that either proclaims or even hides behind an ambition to save… anything.
Following such a path buries us in silence, if we’re lucky enough to avoid the concentrated ire sent our way if the Spectacle does turn its eye in our direction.
What comes to mind is to begin to babble back, “It’s something occult.” We find a new awareness and growing enthusiasm for the Alchemical Arts, “Something about the unconscious….”
Nothing wrong with this! It does point in a more profitable direction. The problem is that it only takes the misunderstanding to a different… plane?
So long as there is some sense that these explorations will lead to bending some cause, ameliorating some effect; nothing changes. The underlying assumption has proven itself false: No direct action will bring about the change asked for, demanded, whispered and wished after by Will.
We’re thrown back on the old admonition, “Be realistic!”
And it begins again.
To essay – we’ve gone over this before – has at least two general meanings. The most common is that a writer sets out to…, well, explain something. There is also a more fundamental meaning, to set-out on an exploration. To put one word after another in the hope that at some point something unrealized will make itself visible.
This has been the driver behind this site from the start. Even if there have been more than a few essays into various explanations. Attempts made to change minds. No matter how well veiled, at least to me.
This site has also, with a very few dear exceptions, been answered by a profound silence. A deepening silence. An engulfing silence that one can take as having a practical cause: the sheer enormity and size of the on-line Babel….
However we might want to place it. How we might want to talk about it. Choose one model or another: the unconscious, the occult, the spiritual, the unknowable unknown, mystery; confronting these concerns still brings us to a point of silence. A different kind of silence, perhaps.
It is this silence that beckons. It holds… what is sacred?
If hubris, an overweening pride before a grand fall, is the vice of our Age then… could a sacred silence be a response?
What could it mean?
Take this as a report. An essay, however fragmentary and unsatisfying….
To me, however odd this may seem, this description, this report of where I find myself, does seem promising.
A sacred silence…
Against Hubris all we have is humility.
When the disease of the age is a restless pursuit of… anything; the only way to back out of a perpetual, flogging insistence is to contemplate our limitations and see what appears at the other end. So long as we flail – and the lash falls on us as well as on those we seek to prevail against – we only punish, destroy, close out any possibility….
Possibility for what?
We assume possibility to be a back-door to get what we want. So long as we do, we continue to dodge and hide the shadow we fear. Possibility is not, no matter how hard we have wished for it, the result of leveraged actions or even catalytic situations pressed on with a mix of restraint and the blessing of Grace. Possibility is what can happen. It inhabits a range from the most destructive death-dealing, constricting possibility to the only Singularity humanity can bring about: extinction. Extinction of an abundance of possibilities – not choices. The Universe does not provide us with choices. It presents us with facts that we scramble after in an attempt to make sense of them. It does not supply a menu from which we may choose our heart’s desire.
A reactive posture can only reduce possibility to a narrowing range of ever more destructive outcomes. If there is any deep heuristic to be found it is this: evading the truth is destructive. The failure to rise to what we are capable of doing is punished by closing off possibility. Not only for those committing such acts, but for Everything, since nothing is separate.
As enticing as the Fight-for-Right becomes it is a trap. Always a trap. Segregating what we consider Evil does not achieve the desired result whether we are chasing scapegoats or punishing those who seek to destroy their scapegoats. Don’t stop your history lesson in 1933, or 1939, or 1945. The fight against Tyranny has been a honing of Tyranny into ever more pernicious and allegedly palatable forms. The Victors reaching new heights of atrocity and creating more palatable deceptions to cover their tracks.
So long as we join this fight, on either side, we feed our fears and distill our anger to ever greater potency but we do nothing to stop this progression, this Progress™ which just might be the only progress we can ever consciously create.
Everything works in riddles. Tyranny is created consciously by those who enter the Fight, any fight to put their fears to rest. No one is conscious of how it operates, but it is a dance entered into with an intricacy and coordination that we can only read as conscious, somehow.
Throughout history this Intoxication-unto-War has always proceeded in this way. What appeared unimaginable becomes the only possible outcome. Destroy and repeat.
We lose any patience with reality and insist that everyone, “be reasonable!” escalation is the only result.
We insist, “But they’re monsters!” And escalation is the only possible result.
We insist, “It’s a matter of life and death!” And escalation is the only possible result.
This litany acts as an incantation, summoning the demons we fear as we attempt to cast them out.
Perhaps the hardest thing to realize in our rush to be realistic is that asking for a contemplation of how this dynamic has always proceeded is not what our fevered minds insist on seeing it as, a call to favor the other side whether by understanding their pain or condoning their excesses. It is simply a call to pause and feel how the draw of the demon is – is always – something happening within each of us. Not outside.
We are all complicit.
And, no, this does not spread some form of perverse blanket immunity. Nor does it lessen anyone’s grievance.
It’s not, “telling you what to do.” That’s what all the voices demanding that we be realistic are doing. Isn’t it?
Instead, as difficult as it may appear to contemplate it, this is the only way to actually discover what it is that animates us. Discover whether we are animated by a demon or whether we have gained access to some other kind of voice. We may even discover what we could do outside of this chain of mutual enslavement.
The lessons of futility are hard. The more we resist them the harder they become. Both to ignore and also, perversely, to learn from. As the pitch of reaction intensifies we have fewer and fewer resources to bring to bear.
Even now, there is an insistent voice declaring that allowing evil to show its hideous face is the same as supporting evil.
This one can be answered if we peel back the layers of historical precedent and propaganda. None of these fights against evil have done anything but propagate evil. Something to contemplate on this anniversary season to the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
These are difficult times, but one advantage they bring is the way the veils begin to drop. The apologias for further fighting getting more transparent, “It’s as if they’re not even trying!” We might say confronted by another round of the usual excuses trotted out pro-forma. As though all it takes is to invoke the incantation to achieve the desired result.
Make no mistake. There are abusers and there are the abused. This is the reality we have been born into. The only sincere question to occupy our attention is whether we want this to stop. Or, are we merely willing to play our role and keep the cycles turning. The answer to the demand that we simply punish the abuser is that each of us that has been abused has it in us to replace the old abuser with a new one. We either take on this role ourselves intoxicated by self-righteousness or we pave the way for another to abuse us all wholesale.
None of the accusations leveled against opponents of anyone’s righteous cause are false. They are all true, but simply, they do not belong to those they are being thrown at. They belong to the accuser.
This is how the Shadow functions.
And here we risk falling into another trap of explanation and attempts at persuasion. A reader will nod and say, “Ah yes, Jung… the Shadow….” And they will stop looking at what has been said and begin to gaze on some edifice of fantasy that to them is the habitation of, “Our Good Herr Jung.” or, “That devil!” In either case any movement away from our predicament is thwarted. Paralyzed by our illusions we fall back into our trap.
What if we take the statement, “This is how the Shadow functions.” another way?
Not as the opening credit to some movie that’s played in our minds eye a thousand times before. What if we just take it as simply a statement?
“It’s kind of warm today….”
On hearing this we most likely don’t jump into a fight-or-flight mode of attack and counter-attack? We understand it’s function is to provide us with someone else’s view on our shared condition and at the same time to ask us to look at these conditions ourselves and discover what our own perspective might be, “Oh! Yea, I guess you’re right!” or, “Oh… It’s not so bad….” And so we begin something that could end in a murder or a wedding or anything. The possibilities are quite broad. Certainly this approach does not constrain the outcome the way the reactive mode would, forcing us into a single, the only conceivable result: War and Destruction.
“Well, Pacifism…” and this mental tick can go in one of a startlingly few stereotypical directions: “Is the only way!” or “Its’ a sham!” And there we are again.
What if this thought-stopper were set aside as well?
There is nothing inherent in any of what’s been written here that either supports or denies Pacifism or some other approach to dangerous physical circumstances. What if we consider that whatever pontifications we subscribe to we allow a shadow of a doubt to enter into our speculations about what we might actually do in a truly dangerous situation?
I don’t know what I would do. It might depend…. On what? I’m not quite certain.
This is how I’ve found my most truthful inquiries into this question have proceeded. I can’t say anything more on it…. I certainly don’t see anyone else’s puffed-up bravado or confessed humility getting any closer to an answer….
Can we at some point stop with the prevarications and just sit with this question?
And not maintaining a fevered frame of mind by insisting, yet another time in another way, that we “Stick with it and never waiver! The Fate-of-The-World….”
Urgency is just another strand on the whip…. We’ve managed to procrastinate this long, what’s wrong with actually giving the question some time?
This might be what that phrase, “A Sacred Silence” refers to.
You might retort, “Well you should know! You said it! Or wrote it, kind of the same thing….”
My response is that the difference between these two attitudes is reflected in these two statements. “Just because I said it, doesn’t mean I understand it.” and, “Of course! I know what I mean! Don’t you?”
The proffered antidote to, “Be Realistic!” on offer is slim indeed. It can be found in this bit of space between a possibility of an opening and the certainty of a closing-off resulting from chasing after certainties.
I don’t know what to do. I also feel more prepared to do what will come to be done by following this other path.
The alternative, is no alternative at all. Just more of the same.