c.a. davis

// filmmaker | editor | storyteller \\

Filtering by Category: philosophy

Random Thoughts on Man's Domination of the World

[Please excuse the belated release of this random blog. It was originally written and submitted for another blog site, but having not heard back I figured I'd post this as it was originally sent and without any edits.]

Tao Lin - a writer whose satirical, depressed, and hilarious fictional stories I enjoy reading - has as of late been writing a column for VICE Magazine's online platform, specifically focusing on Terence McKenna and his life's work.

Until today, I hadn't had time - or, rather, hadn't set aside time - to read any of the pieces, but after reading the headline flung onto Twitter, "Why are Psychedelics Illegal?", I am glad to have ignored everything else going on at that precise moment. Not because I'm really into psychedelics (I'm not. Really.) but rather because the article dove into a completely unexpected pool of thought, pointing to the answer of that question in a brief yet thick course of anthropology and philosophy. (You can find the article here.)

What Lin essentially makes apparent through his surprising scholarship - and whether it is intended to be a joke or not makes little difference to me - is the reason that drugs which alter conscious awareness of "reality" are illegal is for the obvious fact that they alter your conscious awareness of "reality." Why? Because we now live what he and Riane Eisler call a "dominator society" in which the worship of that which can take away life has usurped the worship of that which gives life. And, in a society whose very foundations rely upon the equalization of humanity via enforcing that everybody literally thinks and acts the same way, substances that which can absolutely demolish one's concept of reality are deemed rather heretical and dangerous to the otherwise insidious fabric of their dominated society.

While I read this article, a rather obvious question popped into my mind: Why did we let this happen? Why did we allow ourselves to be enslaved by the technologies of death and destruction after millennia of peace and prosperity? Immediately, I made the connection to the Upanishads and their myth of genesis and eventual destruction of the universe in the form of Kalpas, the aeons of existence that deteriorate the quality of life over four periods of time. But that was too obvious and too literal of a transcription from a religious entity. The second connection I made, however, was more interesting, albeit along the same lines.

What is a cancer? Clinically speaking, cancer is the unstoppable, uncontrollable overgrowth of malignant cells in the body. What causes a cancer, biologically, is multidimensional and seemingly infinite in possible origins. However there is another idea of cancer that which we ignore and is sub-dimensional to our everyday lives. A cancer can also be the unstoppable overgrowth of an idea in the form of subconscious accumulation. In other words, what we inactively observe and take in eventually becomes a part of our active consciousness and actions. It grows outward, you see, from the inward lump sum of mental absorption throughout your life.

We can see this best in depression, anxiety, anger, and fear. Each mental apprehension to a more relaxed and peaceful cognitive experience can be rooted to the way in which one chooses to see the world. The cliche, "Is the glass half full or half empty?" brings light to the individual in how he or she perceives life, which is rooted in how they have grown to perceive life, which is rooted in how their parents grew to perceive life and so on. But, this does not mean that it is the parent's fault for inadvertently teaching them the world is nothing but empty selfish genes vying to kill all the other genes. What it does mean, however, is that the choice is yours to make, that there is no way in which the world is other than rain hitting the surface of a still lake.

 

Do you see? That image can be either peaceful, beautiful, or quite sad depending on the individual's perception of the scenery.

 

So, in a way, it both is and isn't our collective species' fault for succumbing to such a brutal and hard way of living. War is only necessary in a world in which war is necessary. The problem isn't convincing anybody that war is terrible. The problem is convincing one's self not to go to war. Ever.

There is a reason why non-violent protests are more effective than violent uprisings. Even the oppressor knows, subconsciously, that they needs people to oppress, otherwise there'd be nothing to do. Think of it, really, if everybody who was oppressed in the world were wiped out by their oppressors. Every last one. Well that's great for law and order, but who is there left to govern? Well then, naturally, the oppressors would pick fights amongst themselves until there were three groups left, then two, then one, and then they'd destroy themselves until the world's last human - violent, bloodthirsty, and undefeated - were left alone on a dead rock floating in space. Congratulations, you've fulfilled the prophecies!

But… Well there you are. The last human alive. What then? You see, there is only one outcome of such a way of living, and that is suicide. An existence in which we cannot question the obvious facts of life is one in which we are inactively, subconsciously, and slowly committing mass suicide. Well, rather, a suicide by proxy. You see, without questioning the very things we take for granted, we become subjugated to a kind of programming, an acceptance of what we collectively agree is the Reality regardless of what the consequences are. In a way, we become prone or even adverse to change, and our ways of life and philosophy solidify into unmoving, stubborn patterns of nonexistence in that we are asleep and ignorant of the way the world is. And the way the world is is constantly changing. But if we resist change, then we become stagnant like stone. We become dead in our lack of growth and our vicious fighting of opposing ideas or cultures.

The affects of such a constrictive way of life are for the most part unfelt, and the effects take a long time to catch up. After all, in such a world bent on the competition and domination of theories one has to fight to show that their theory the right theory, either through brute force or through guile. One day, though, that lonely human will finally realize that we had it all wrong. The Minoans of Crete had it better worshiping the non-specific Goddess in their clay homes shared by the commonwealth of a peaceful, so-called undeveloped civilization. Sure, there were no big screens, no self-driving vehicles, nor any highly engaging film or electronic music. But there could have been. And it could have been done through giving rather than taking.

Well, the point I reached after reading Lin's article wasn't doom and gloom. Just like a cancer, things have a way of equaling out over time. Whether or not that means death for humanity does not matter. I can say that not because I am pessimistic but rather because I am optimistic - life has a knack for turning into death at some point, but then death has the sense of growing alive again. After all, what's the point of either without having their respective beginning and ends? It is in this vein that we can find our heart of gold, so to speak.

Yes it may be true that, just like disease, our way of living is harmful and destructive, but it is out of disease that which stronger more vibrant life may come forth. So if, one day, we can't take it anymore and we blow ourselves up or we all get too stressed and develop a mass scale of biological cancer or whatever and we die in a matter of two generations, something else will take our place and have the same thoughts we have (or, I guess, had) about the universe - that we are here simply to observe our larger form of self by looking at the stars and engaging in this game of life and death.

But what is ironic about the whole thing is that by simply acknowledging the above as true, and by allowing opinions and arguments to dissolve into the relativity of existence, we can once again exist harmoniously with the universe as we clearly have done in the past.

 

The Human Cog


 [This article is a response to an article found here, written by Vlad Rapoport]

We are experiencing a rapid shift in human evolution. We (for the most part) have moved on from the age of manipulation and into the age of biological digitization. For centuries, man has harnessed their minds to wield the mighty swords of math and science in order to bend nature to our very will, and now we know what one person thinks about tofu all the way across the globe at any given moment.

What I’m talking about is the active processing of the collective human consciousness. With social media, we can use other people’s knowledge to choose where to eat tonight, to learn of an oncoming weather catastrophe, or to celebrate the birth of a child. Because of this knowledge of other people’s beliefs and the collection, distribution, and storage thereof, we have effectively digitized our collective consciousness as a species.

Amazing, is it not? Yet however incredible it may be, it also poses a great struggle for humanity. Are we going to allow ourselves to become robots, biological computers that live inside this digitized world, valued only as pieces of the collective machine, or are we going to realize that there are some parts of life that cannot – or perhaps should not – be calculated into certain desirable or undesirable traits?

Everyday I become more aware of an incredibly mechanized world. Human beings are not valued for the people they are. They are not valued for the love they can give and receive. They are not valued for their smiles, their frowns, or their tears. Humans are valued as cogs – a direct result of the separation from human kind and animal kind. I’m more sensitive to this subject since having graduated only five months ago; there are 50% of us newly grads that remain unemployed. But that’s not the even the bad part – we equate unemployment to failure. We equate not working to being a worthless human being. There is something horribly wrong going on here.

Just how did humanity develop such a contrived, cold, and utilitarian view on the importance of the human being? The culprit, as I’ve written many times, is the idea that we are separate beings.

Let’s start with the fundamental level of separation: language. When man learned to speak, he immediately had to learn to differentiate thereafter. And when I say, “speak,” I don’t mean with words or symbols you and I recognize today – I mean the most banal, guttural sounds an animal can make. I won’t stop there, either. All animals have some concept of self versus not self – a lion kills to remain alive, a dog barks to protect its territory, and a rabbit runs to save its life. However, animals did not develop a sophisticated means of articulation of ideas, thoughts, or feelings. We did. And so, language was born from a sea of ideas in which viewed the world as outside our own self.

Nature is not the culprit here – the mind is. When we learned how to form our sounds into distinct patterns and syllables, we only further supported our concepts of "this versus that." In other words, language is a direct reflection of our preconceived notion that everything is separate. This is a fallacy. Nothing is actually separate from one another. A rock is composed of the same elements you and I were born from. The real problem, then, is not nature but our belief that our concepts are in fact reality.

Don’t believe me? Mentally break down any item you see before you (let’s say, a CD). Crash it into pieces. Where did the CD go? Two answers are plausible here: A, the CD is now in pieces; B, the CD has become bits of plastic. Each is true. How is that possible? Continue breaking the pieces until they have become a fine powder before you. Where did the CD go? Again, different answers are plausible: A, the CD is now millions of tiny pieces; B, the CD has become powder. Continue breaking the millions of pieces into smaller pieces until you have nothing but separated atoms before you. Now, where did the CD go?

This isn’t a trick question; anything you say in response is true. The trick, however, is in the multiplicities of the response. How can there be so many true answers to the one question? The answer is simple: our concepts create bubbles of reality in which we can define things categorically and definitely. The reality, however, is that it is undeniably infinite stuff before us. The CD isn’t a CD until you call it a CD. The CD is simply the same stuff we and the Earth and the stars are made out of. It was our concepts, calculations, and manipulations of nature that allowed us to create a “piece of reality” – a CD – which does a distinct thing that we have allowed it to do – play music. The reality is much simpler than our means of defining things – there is no CD at all, only the one we differentiate inside our minds.

Fast forward to today. Language was the foundation of the development of religion, ethics, morality, philosophy, government, and Greco-Roman economics. The separation of you and I created the belief that you were out to get what I have – competition. This sense of needing to beat a fellow human in skill and work ethic furthered the distinction of a successful man versus an unsuccessful man, where the latter may as well give life completely. I recognize I am simplifying an otherwise greatly complicated system, where there is an odd split between debt-based economies and gift-based ones – the idea of debt and property isn’t intrinsic within humanity; there were and still are many tribes of people who view the world in a collective consciousness where their economics are based off of how much you can give to one another rather than how much you can accumulate. Nonetheless, the subject can be simplified for practicality – the fundamental structure of humanity’s way of thinking is the idea of self versus not self, therefore we can see all problems we face now as a symptom of the ultimate forgotten truth that there is in fact no separation at all.

This all leads back to the original prompt: we have turned ourselves into cogs. If the cog does not function properly or doesn’t please us enough, we toss it into the trash pile and ignore it. Ever passed a homeless person and not notice he or she is there? We are trained to not feel remorse for those less fortunate than us. Now, I’m not saying wealthy people placed poor people on the streets directly and intently. I am saying, however, that it is symptom of the underlying problem, that we think they are where they are because they aren’t a properly function cog of society. Drug addict, drunk, laid-off lazy worker – these are just excuses for us not wanting to face the truth.

We have placed the importance of the human being directly on what he can do. If he can’t do anything, he may as well not exist at all. It doesn’t matter if he suffers either; if he can’t preform the task given to him that will pay for food, then he is forgotten with two words, “You’re fired.” From a business perspective, this makes perfect sense, but that’s the very problem. Why are we thinking like a utilitarian machine? What happened to the warmth of being a human being? And maybe this problem isn’t a new one, just that I’m becoming more and more aware of it. In either case, shouldn’t humanity – being as smart and evolved as we are – do something about the indignity we put other humans through? When will we understand that wealth means nothing at all?

Money is nothing more than the agreement of a means of trade, but now it’s evolved to the end of trade as well. We work to accumulate money and wealth, putting ourselves through great stress to get this phantom called security. “If I had a million dollars, then I could do what I want.” We’re effectively outsourcing happiness to future wealth, as if we can buy it with the giant sum of digitized cash sitting in a bank account. This is the danger of separation. We start to believe that we are not worth anything if we have no wealth or prosperity to show for it. Why can’t a human being just be? What’s wrong with that?

I’ll conclude this short article with a bit I heard at a comedy joint not long ago, one that was half serious and half a joke. This comedian asked a very simple question: what would happen if nobody, absolutely nobody, went to work at 9:00AM? Nothing would happen. Work would start when people got there. And that’s the reality of our situation; if nobody went to work tomorrow, would we all suddenly die? Okay, in the case of safety hazards for people – power plants exploding, for example – it may be detrimental for some, but suppose we’re not talking about those types of jobs. What if nobody went to work at Starbucks? Or Target? Or the White House? Would we all just fall down and die? No. If nobody did any work, nothing would happen. Nothing at all.

We're human beings, not human cogs. Once we start acting like living, breathing, infinitely unique and constantly changing beings, then our problems will start to take care of themselves. True progress is not made through tinkering with our current systems of thought, government, or economics. True progress is a natural phenomena, one that we don't realize is taking place. Amidst all the frustrating politics and frightening insecurities of our economic infrastructure is a tidal wave of human evolution. All of these problems aren't problems that can be fixed; they are tell-tale signs of fundamental shifts in our way of thinking and living. The real challenge is enduring the growing pains well enough to learn that we aren't human cogs. We're human beings.


The Grass is Always Greener

Isn’t it amazing how, overtime, we’re programmed to want? Many, including myself, think that it’s troubling we crave that which we don’t have, but what’s even more alerting is that we think craving or reaching is the right thing to do. We always want the next step up from what we’ve got right now, whatever that is—the next job promotion, next house, next car, next kid, next dog, next football season, next diet. For me, it’s been the next computer, next career goal, next game, next movie, and next pretty much everything (adolescence is ADHD, trust me). It’s tiring, really. In fact, this damn well drives me crazy! It drives us all crazy, but for whatever reason people shrug off the insanity as “human nature” or something like that. We get violent when we try and get the next iPhone when it’s freshly released or when we try and get the next best toy during the Christmas season (which could also be called “the Season of Commercialism”). It’s maddening! Where does it end? Are we ever going to be satisfied?

In this mindset, there’s no way to ever reach satisfaction; you’re always wanting more, new, better, shinier, whatever. You’re always wanting. In Buddhism, this is called thirst. Thirst drives our suffering and perpetuates our painful cycle of samsara. But, if you don’t like religion and all the implications therein, let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? Our dissatisfaction is an internal problem, not external one, and it drives our unhappiness into perpetuity. If you don’t believe me, look around to any Christian, Atheist, Muslim, or Scientologist and you’ll see at least one commonality when it comes to each person’s psychology—they aren’t satisfied with their current lives. They’re all chasing something in the hopes that some thing will beget everlasting peace, prosperity, and happiness. Well allow me to bluntly tell you what I believe is the truth: that myth that you’re chasing doesn’t exist in reality, but only in your mind—there is no award to win, no treasure to find, no ultimate end that can be reached.

Take myself as a prime example. Currently, I’m exhibiting what some doctors might call ‘an accelerated case of ADD or ADHD’ (I don’t care enough to actually make sure that’s a factual statement; it’s for illustrative purposes, really)—I’m writing four different short stories, one of which is as long as ten thousand words; I’m starting to write a new screenplay; I’m writing for this blog every week; I’m guest writing for two other blogs every-other week; I’m working as a telemarket-researcher; I’m a video production intern for the Local Growers Guild here in Bloomington; AND I’m volunteer editing for the local PBS radio station, WFHB. Holy shit. I can’t keep my mind still. I go from one project to the next hoping that one project will score a new, better job in the future so that I may accrue enough money to one day buy a Tesla Model S (sweet car, thank you very much), live in a swanky apartment on the edge of the downtown sector of a groovin’ city, with a dog, with my darling sweetheart under my arm, and a garden in which I would grow fresh vegetables. One may see this and say, “Oh, what a motivated young man!” I say, “I am living far too much in the future.”

Sounds pessimistic, I know, but think about it this way: once you reach that point in life where you (hopefully) will say, “Ah, this is the life,” what happens then? Where do you go from there? Is it really all that different from right Now? I don’t think so. I think that’s why so many people have ‘mid-life crises.’ These are not normal things to go through; it’s not built in our DNA to undergo immense stress, anxiety, and depression once we reach the precise and tender age of 43.284749 (again, I don’t care enough to look up the average middle age number; I’m going for sarcasm here, if you didn’t read it that way already). That’s not how it works. The truth is that we think that point we are trying to reach is real in the first place when it doesn’t even exist at all. The reality is far simpler: we only exist right now. So, do what you want with the time you already have. I’ve written about this before on Simpler Life Today already, so I’ll spare you the same old stuff as before and expand on the simple aspect of overcoming the jealousy of the greener grass beside your mental lawn.

I know you’re tempted to look at that other lawn, so I won’t stop you from looking. Instead, I’d ask that you look and be aware of what you’re thinking and for what you’re hoping. Do you want success? Find it now. Do you want patience? Find it now. Do you want a better partner? As hard as it may be to hear it, find that better partner now. Don’t settle—for anything. There’s no point in doing so. To settle is to either give up on what you truly want right now, or to think that what you have now is a starting point from which you can jump forward into the future. Both are wrong because they ignite the flame of ignorance inside the mind, tricking us into thinking the future and that other lawn of which you’re so jealous is real. The truth is they aren’t, and they never will be. Your plans will never go exactly as you want or imagine because you change—your thoughts and emotions change everyday. In fact, you are the embodiment of change—cells die off and are replaced by new cells just as thoughts do every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, and year. Nothing stays the same.

Once you accept that, you won’t even be looking at that other lawn anymore. You’ll find success right now. You’ll find patience right now. You’ll find that better partner right now. You may even find that the things you saw in the first place as unsuccessful, impatient, or undesirable of a partner are actually just your misperception of these things because of you’re constant craving for something else or ‘better’. Maybe your work is ‘unsuccessful’ simply because of your definition of success—maybe you’re just being too hard on yourself. Or maybe your impatience is just fueled by your thinking of your impatience in the first place. And that partner of yours that you may be having problems with may not actually be the cause of those problems—perhaps it is your thoughts and projections of buried and unhealed emotions that may be the true culprits.

Just as is the lotus, the World is your heart.

If you heal your perception of the world, the world will reciprocate by healing you. There’s nothing to chase but the chase itself, just like there’s nothing to fear but fear itself. That’s where true happiness resides—not tomorrow, nor the next day, but within this moment that is so sacred, so easily missed. My parents are a great example from which we can all learn. They have struggled to put my two brothers and I through college (and then some) all the while my dad has been trying to get a manufacturing company started for the past five years. I have no doubt they are concerned with the future, but they do not live in the future (at least not entirely). They have remained calm for all these years—despite the debts, despite the slow business, despite the usual family drama—because they have, somehow, remained grounded in their lives as they live them, day by day. “Baby steps,” as my mom would say. And it’s true. Why worry about the possible debts one may face in the next year when they don’t exist right now? I’m not saying let’s all lay around and take occasional whiffs of carbon monoxide, existing in a constant dream-like and vegetative state; I’m simply offering a way out of your own mind’s habit to form postulations and expectations of the ‘future’ that has yet to come into the Now. Sure we can predict, with a great amount of accuracy, what may happen down the road, but if all you do is plan, when do you actually do anything with your life? Maybe debt is just a mindset, failure a choice, to just absolve from the Now and all the opportunities to be productive therein and instead become obsessed and paranoid about what may or may not happen a year from now. I could be wrong… But, I don’t think I am.

I’ll leave you with this allegory that actually happened to me the other day. As I was half asleep and mindlessly cold-calling poor, annoyed restaurant managers, I reached a lady who was incredibly nice and willing to participate in my asinine research survey, despite the time it would take out of her work day. What I was in such a sour mood about was how after a great Memorial Day—spent with an even greater sweetheart of mine—I had to sit at this stupid desk to preform stupid interviews with stupid people in order to make a buck, rather than write (or do anything at least remotely relatable to my skills) and make a buck. So, I was pissed, and searched for video editing jobs on both of my fifteen-minute breaks. But, after talking to that overly nice and responsive human being and completing an interview, I smiled to myself and laughed, just a little. I thought about how much of a jerk I must have been up until that point, how I must have made others feel slightly offended without even realizing it all because I was staring—quite intently—at the other lawn next to my burnt-out grass weeds (the ‘other lawn’ being a wonderfully paid writing or editing gig). Rather than simply living in the moment, appreciating at least a few of the nice people with whom I spoke and laughing at all the other brass responses I received throughout my shift, I grew angrier at not having that other life and that other job—it ruined my entire day.

What I’m saying is this: no matter where you’re at—whether it’s sitting on a slate rock beach next to a lake with a beautiful woman lounging beside you, or sitting in a tiny cubicle working on a sadly-outdated PC inside of a Microsoft DOS program (L-O-L)— you’re happiness is all just a matter of your perception. Nothing else. If you truly do what you truly want

right now—

that is, live in the moment rather than continually pursue the future—you will find happiness. It’s not easy and takes a lot of practice, but it’s worth breaking your habits you’ve been forming your entire life. Trust me. All it takes it one smile to ease the cramps of a daylong frown.

Paradise is in your mind....