Now what exactly am I trying to get out today? Our universe is an odd situation to wake up in, and I mean that both in the sense of every morning and in the traditional Zen sense of a snap moment of lucid and encompassing understanding of ones self-nature. What are we dealing with here? It’s hard to know where to start other than at the start.
We have a few basic ideas vaguely glanced upon by the modern mind, some more evidentially supported than others, around what happened exactly at the “beginning” of all of this. Some interested folk throughout our history have been trundling about through grassy plains, forests, city streets and lately, pseudo-original cafés and have stopped for a brief moment to cast their awareness as far back as it will go. Some became inwardly quiet, others became externally fervent and sought the answers to their questions in the half lives of decaying radioactive isotopes, and in the radiation back-dropping our daily happenings.
In the beginning, there was a hot dense state. Where this came from is unknown, although it seems that prior to the cosmos blushing in anticipation, she was all rolled up into one, and her dimensions were indistinct from one another in the way they are now. As with any set of cheeks, the heat gradually dissipates as the excitement fades, and so we have cooler parts interacting with hotter parts, difference is introduced and then the big dance of heat transference can begin. Eventually we wind up with heavy elements smashing into one another and creating all sorts of funny little side quests for matter and energy, such as carbon. Carbon works itself into a bit of a tiff and then after some eons, finds somewhere where it can pull itself together long enough to make a complaint, and so we come to human beings, language, and eventually me writing this sentence.
From another view, there is naught but the Self, and he decides to peek out from behind his lids and sees himself reflected. He/she/it/that is rather amused by this state of affairs, and says, “Ah, told me so, there I am!” Now as any deft thinker will have spotted, being all alone with your radiant and glorious self is a little trite, and so sHIt (A combination of the words, “she”, “he”, and “it”, as in, “that sHIt is mysterious”) gets lost, because after all, you’ve gotta lose sHIt in order to find sHIt. So the world comes forth as drama, as a play, and the self dances the rasa lila, the dance of dances. In the first case, a period of incalculable years passes in utter bliss as the self plays with far out dreams of pleasure and ecstasy, orgiastic fun and gourmet gustatory games. After this passes, another very, very, very long period but yet shorter than the last is at hand, and the tone, inflection and melody of pleasure becomes interspersed with the occasional tritone or minor second. Dissonance finds its place in the world as counterpart to harmony. Another period, more dissonance, and yet another, not unlike our own, where men are avaricious, ego-driven creatures spurring one another on into spasm after spasm of pointless violence. Then, the nightmare. Total and utter pain, chaos, uncertainty, death. But this period lasts not nearly as long as the others, and seems to be there because the self loves to bang itself over the head with a hammer to know how good it feels when sHIt stops. The self wakes up, knows itself once more, and rests in this knowing. And then, in a true show of the most beautiful love, it abandons itself fully again, and gets lost back into the lila rasa (also known as Raas Leela-or Rasa dance is part of the traditional story of Krishna described in Hindu scriptures) for another spin of the wheel.
From yet another view still, there is the void, and then the word. Again, the deft thinker will have spotted the similarities here. My Father, the greatest Father who has, had and will exist, says to the formless, “I am, let there be light!”, and He sets about tinkering and creating, popping rod A into slot B, a screw here, a nail there, a bit of gaffer tape, and then after about a week he sits back, wipes the sweat from his brow and says, “Well, the manual was in Swedish but it seems to be hanging together alright, I suppose I should kick back and have a rest.” Some unspecified time after this, man is having a rollicking good time messing about in a perfect garden of his own innocence. Seeing that he is without companionship of his own kind, Big Daddy disfigures him slightly and makes woman, who from the get go seems a little suspicious having been made from a rib, which is a rather unusual way of taking birth. So Adam and Eve frolic together, and eventually stumble across a psychoactive plant which is rumored to give one deep insights into the nature of his or her own being. As they are about to roll some of this plant into a spliff, a siren is sounded and the celestial squad car pulls up, and Big Daddy tells his offspring that they are not to touch that devil’s weed, and that the law is there for their own protection. Naturally, some sly and slithering hippie is waiting in the wings for a chance to spread the love, and offers Eve a toke, which she accepts. Her and Adam partake of the plant, and come to know the nature of good and evil, of self-consciousness, of duality. An anonymous tip-off is made to the cosmic cops, and Big Daddy boots them out to wander the jail of being unsatisfied.
The first myth is often confused for a description of a stupid universe, where a kind of sneering randomness is always threatening to drag intelligence back into the retard soup of mere matter, but it strikes me as more reminiscent of the Taoist notion of nature arising of itself, so. Find a pusher in the world of modern physics and you’ll have yourself a Nobel Prize.
The second myth is often confused for a fatalistic and horrifying vision of a never-ending wheel of experience from which there is no final and ultimate escape, but it seems to me that if the universe is a drama, then it is not ultimately serious. To view it as a trap is to miss the point of it’s being play.
The third myth is often confused for the first myth in terms of evidential validity, and so we have people like Ken Ham committing tax fraud to build an Ark in the hopes of… well what exactly I’m not even sure if he knows. It also makes us feel like we are basically separate, that Big Daddy plonked us here and because “I, the lord God made you, and I can unmake you!”, which he promises to do should you fail to prostrate yourself to demonstrate that you have no plans for revolution.
Over human history there have been thousands upon thousands of such myths, and they point to not only the macro-cosmic experience of birth, life and death, but also of the microcosmic experience of the same. We tell ourselves these stories in terms of metaphor and poetics because it is simply impossible to really get at what’s going on here in any satisfying way by approaching it one bit at a time. By the time one bit has been described, the whole scene has shifted, and there are thousands of new bits to account for. So we point instead. There have been ancient theories of the multiverse, for example in the Mayan cosmology whereby there are levels of reality pertaining to different states of being, and likewise most cultures have a concept of the disembodied, the purely informational, energy based consciousness, which is characterized by ghosts, spirits and spectres. The djinns of the ancient Arabs, the shades of Dante’s Inferno, the soul of Christian theology.
Oftentimes when one finds this psychological split between the supernatural and the natural, we find a hatred of the real. The gross word of sensory experience is seen as filth, dirt, and in some fundamental sense a mistake. Man is born into sin and must achieve eternal life in the post-death bliss world. Woman is a creature of danger and evil; she is of nature, births it, and therefore to the kind of mind that sees god as outside of time and space, she becomes a tacit enemy. This manichean attitude seems to be a peculiar quirk of the Syro-Arabian desert mythologies, who see God as transcendent, matter as sinful, and the goal of life as beyond it. It is not reflected, for example, in the attitudes of the Taoists, Buddhists and Hindus, who see all form as a manifestation of the immanent divinity behind the world, and as such escape the odd psychological issues of primal hatred of women, life and pleasure.
The reason behind all this talk is to point at our culture in the modern day. Our influences come primarily from Christianity, and one can see the implicit and unacknowledged assumptions of this worldview playing out in such phenomena as rape, pay gaps, deforestation, the hatred of the unknown and the madness around what to do with pleasure. The other half of the story is our reaction to these behavioural and psychological tangents, which resulted in the long overdue blossoming of counterculture, free love and hedonism during the 1960’s. But naturally, as we had been stuck with a set of images for so long, mankind could not assimilate these experiences constructively into his sociocultural patterning, and we saw a reprise of the manichean in Reaganomics, the expiation of our violence in the theater of the Middle East, and the crackdown on consciousness altering chemistry.
What we needed were new myths, and in many cases we got them. Alan Watts, whose writings have so heavily influenced my work that I have often been accused of plagiarism, and not unsightly so, proposed a new mythology of life based on the assumption that it is musical and in no way ultimately serious. Allen Ginsberg held up a mirror to America in the post-war fifties, and with that literary slap woke up a generation from the fitful and wandering dreams of their directionless youth. Timothy Leary coined the infamous, “Turn on, tune in, drop out!”, which raised the hairs on the backs of good Christian parents’ necks the country wide. But the myths were, necessarily, being a product of the patchwork quilt of self-expansion, multifarious and often on the surface contradictory. What was needed was a big image everyone could get behind, and unfortunately the state produced one out of fear that undercut the momentum of the sixties, and the wave finally broke and rolled back into the ocean.
But all pendulums must swing.
What I am suggesting through all of this is that we become adept myth makers in our own lives. We must learn to write our own stories, our lives, with all the finesse and deftness of Joyce, the bejeweled majesty of Stapledon, the heady humor of Douglas Adams, and it seems to me that not a page will be written until we learn to stop taking ourselves so seriously. There is room for parody and self-referential humor in all good tales. We might begin by revisiting the myths of our childhood, the great stories of our people stretching back into antiquity. A walk through the symbolic, allegorical memory of mankind, with an eye on overlapping motifs. Through this ur-language we may come to know more deeply our own innermost being, what we left out of our conscious attention, what was too far left of the dominant cultural norm to allow.
To do this, we ought to be ready to give ourselves fully and freely, to die into life with “I trust you to kill me” falling softly from our smiling lips.
So when we wake up tomorrow and ask, “what are we dealing with here?”, let us find our own answers in the deep time of human meaning, let us drink from the font of universal language and gild our tongues with its masterful talent for articulation. Let us touch the common, the universal, that which is in all of us regardless of skin color, background, age, sex, beliefs, behaviors, and drag it past the guardians of Christendom and good manners into the light of day.
We are the myth-makers, who have set down our implements of creation for a moment of reflection. What better time than now to put pen to paper?