I‘ve received a few e-mails lately that say I seem to be struggling on this blog to get past some obstacle, that I seem to be churning over a lot of the same ground, pushing myself to decide something, do something, take something in a new direction. As I’ve acknowledged, I have been under a lot of stress lately, but I don’t think the angst in recent posts can be attributed to that. Perhaps my recent habit of running 100 laps around the track in my back yard to end up substantially where I started is an allegory for my whole life. I’m a slow learner, making the same mistakes over and over until finally something makes it so obvious even I can’t fail to ‘get it’.
More than anything else I am impatient with myself, even more than I am impatient with the world. That’s futile, but that’s me. As you’ll know if you’ve hung around here much, I’m not a great believer in our capacity for self-improvement. Capacity for learning, yes, but not transcendence. I’m a cynic, but I think believing we can change ourselves is just self-delusion. We do what we must, and learning helps us discover what we must do. We can change what we do. We can even learn to expand our capacities, alter our perceptions and our conceptions. But that doesn’t change who we are. Each of us is, after all, a chemical stew, a bag of organisms self-organized for these organisms’ self-perpetuation, and which evolved their brain for that purpose as a commons, a collective communication and memory device. It is they, not ‘we’, who are in charge of who ‘we’ are.
I was going to write this post in the first person plural, about who we are and what our society (i.e. we, plural) has done to us. But I concluded that such a projection would be presumptuous. Who am I, a bag of organisms self-organized for their self-perpetuation, to presume to know who someone else ‘is’, or what our society has done to that person — to their bag of organisms? What I perceive as other people are, after all, merely figments of reality, pale, inadequate representations conjured up by my organisms’ brain to ‘make sense’ of their external world. We are all, in fact, utterly, terrifyingly alone. To presume to know anything about someone else is a preposterous arrogance.
So I am writing the rest of this instead in the first person singular, a smaller conceit. I have this intuitive suspicion that the rest of humanity is, mostly, as damaged as I am, but my evidence is purely circumstantial, subjective, unprovable.
In addition to being incessantly impatient, I am also sorry. Sorry for all the people I have hurt and disappointed. I have hurt people because I am, as I say in my blog bio, insensitive, and I have disappointed people mostly because I learn so slowly, I miss the point. I wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t catch your meaning. “I am a child. I last a while”, as Neil Young put it. No stamina. Living in a dream world.
When I was young, I felt my emotional sensitivity slipping inexorably away, and I knew I would be, to all intents, emotionally dead before I reached the age of 25. I saw that death of emotion and sensitivity everywhere. ‘Old’ people made me shudder, pathetic, empty creatures hollowed out, zombies. Even in children I saw it being crushed, as they learned to play civilization’s brutalizing survival game. I watched children learn fear, learn to lie, learn to impose suffering on others, from insects to the weaker kids in the schoolyard. I watched as they became everybody else. I watched them become damaged, broken, and then die. And, not being strong, I died with them. I killed myself before they could get to me.
I watched the adults, oblivious to all this, apparently already dead but still going through the motions, still pretending to feel, like those who have lost limbs still claim to feel something in the empty space where the limb once was. Not a takeover by emotionless aliens, just a slow decline, a gradual loss, a compensation. I never wanted to fall that far. I wanted to die physically long before I reached that sad state.
My friends at the time, of course, thought this was seriously deranged, and outrageously judgemental. One of them went so far as to say I was simply projecting my own growing emotional debility and insensitivity on others, and that it was I, not them, who needed help. He said that I had isolated myself from my feelings as a defence mechanism, and had masked and excused that isolation with the pretension of intellectual superiority.
At that time I was in love, far more deeply in love than I had ever been or probably have since. It was a desperate and consuming love. I attempted to cache all my remaining emotion in her, and, to some extent she did the same. We wound a cocoon around ourselves to try to keep all the hurt inflicted by the rest of the world away.
It was a brilliant fiction. I had invented, in her, the personification of all the ideals left in my heart. We would escape together. We would transcend this brutal and beaten world. We would save each other.
What a horrible burden to impose on another person! She did her best, as the object of my fierce and impossible affection, to live up to this expectation. I am not sure what she wanted or expected of me in return. I was too deluded by my invention of her to pay much attention to the real her, or her needs and desires.
I am sorry for what I did to her, for how I let her down. I am sorry for what I did to all the others I have hurt and let down out of reckless insensitivity and uncompromising idealism. I should be made to wear a hazard warning around my neck.
I still haven’t learned. I still expect too much of myself. Always over-promising and under-delivering. Not very becoming. What I do now, if I were honest with myself, is just filling the emptiness, passing the time. Having gone through the emotions, now I am just numbly going through the motions. I am the Dead Shaman, still reciting the words whose meaning I have long ago forgotten.
I keep having this dream where I meet a young woman, pretty, athletic, eyes wet with tears of pain and love and longing, who persuades me that the best possible life consists of making love all the time, stretching it out so it fills every waking moment, until time and space lose their meaning. In the dream we never get bored of this; indeed, it feeds on itself so we want more and more. This is, of course, my subconscious re-enactment of the cocoon. The Box. Everything else has died, but the dream, the ideal, lives on, relentless. Pure madness.
I’m convinced we were not meant to live the way we live in this pathetic, civilized society. Somehow I know this, instinctively, but I just keep playing along, dreaming of a way out, and doing what I must. Going around and around, repeating the same mistakes, playing a role in the movie that is my life, though I am now no more really alive than the images on the movie screen. Such brilliant self-delusion. I have become a figment of my own reality.
I watch myself perform, as if I were still, really, here. But if you stop making believe with me, buying the illusion, just for a moment, and look closely, you can see — look! — all that is there is an emptyshell.
Graphic is from the website of Synergy Communications, a UK company.
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Archive by Category
My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2023)
--- My Best 200 Posts, 2003-22 by category, from newest to oldest ---
Hope — On the Balance of Probabilities
The Caste War for the Dregs
Recuperation, Accommodation, Resilience
How Do We Teach the Critical Skills
Collapse Not Apocalypse
'Making Sense of the World' Reading List
Notes From the Rising Dark
What is Exponential Decay
Collapse: Slowly Then Suddenly
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Making Sense of Who We Are
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Post Collapse with Michael Dowd (video)
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Requiem for a Species
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
If We Had a Better Story...
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Hard Part is Finding People Who Care
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
A Short History of Progress
The Boiling Frog
Our Culture / Ourselves:
A CoVid-19 Recap
What It Means to be Human
A Culture Built on Wrong Models
Our Unique Capacity for Hatred
Not Meant to Govern Each Other
The Humanist Trap
Amazing What People Get Used To
My Reluctant Misanthropy
The Dawn of Everything
Why Misinformation Doesn't Work
The Lab-Leak Hypothesis
The Right to Die
CoVid-19: Go for Zero
The Process of Self-Organization
The Tragic Spread of Misinformation
A Better Way to Work
The Needs of the Moment
Ask Yourself This
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
May I Ask a Question?
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
Learning From Nature
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
Making Sense of Scents
An Age of Wonder
The Truth About Ukraine
The Supply Chain Problem
The Promise of Dialogue
Too Dumb to Take Care of Ourselves
Republicans Slide Into Fascism
All the Things I Was Wrong About
Several Short Sentences About Sharks
How Change Happens
What's the Best Possible Outcome?
The Perpetual Growth Machine
We Make Zero
How Long We've Been Around (graphic)
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
Loren Eiseley, in Verse
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self, and Free Will:
No Free Will, No Freedom
The Other Side of 'No Me'
This Body Takes Me For a Walk
The Only One Who Really Knew Me
No Free Will — Fightin' Words
The Paradox of the Self
A Radical Non-Duality FAQ
What We Think We Know
Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark
Healing From Ourselves
The Entanglement Hypothesis
Nothing Needs to Happen
Nothing to Say About This
What I Wanted to Believe
A Continuous Reassemblage of Meaning
No Choice But to Misbehave
What's Apparently Happening
A Different Kind of Animal
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
How Our Bodies Sense the World
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
Mindful Wanderings (Reflections) (Archive)
A Prayer to No One
Frogs' Hollow (Short Story)
We Do What We Do (Poem)
Negative Assertions (Poem)
Reminder (Short Story)
A Canadian Sorry (Satire)
Under No Illusions (Short Story)
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
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