Skip to comments.From Man Alive! - "The high cost of mindlessness."
Posted on 04/16/2012 9:48:22 AM PDT by Greg Swann
by Greg Swann
When you are not thinking carefully, you are not not-thinking. If you are not asleep and not unconscious, you are always thinking – always sustaining an uninterruptible mental dialogue with yourself in Fathertongue. But if you are not thinking carefully – thinking mindfully – then you are thinking carelessly – mindlessly. Most of the academic nonsense I have mocked in this book consists of a scrupulous cataloging of the processes and consequences of human mindlessness – which is misrepresented by the professoriat as being the normal state of human consciousness.
The existence and substance of mindlessness are not what the researchers intend to document. Their work is simply a reflection of the fact that, for each one of us, the world we see outside the mind is the one we are looking for from inside the mind. If you want to be excluded entirely from any academic study, all you have to do is question the premises – the prejudices – undergirding the research. It suits the professorial temperament to insist that your purposive behavior must be the end-consequence of some type of mindlessness – genetics or physical-, psychological- or behavioral-determinism or brain chemistry or vestigial animality or social dynamics or anything except rationally-conceptual volitionality – free will. Accordingly, if you should dare to peek behind the curtain it will turn out that you are not an appropriate test-subject. If the territory does not correspond to the map, by all means dispose of the territory.
Even so, there definitely is a benefit to be realized from the careful study of mindlessness – from the fully-conscious examination of the means and ends of mental carelessness. Your world is in ruins, if it is, not because the universe is malevolent and not because somebody done you wrong. Your life is chaos – or you fear that it soon might be – because you have failed to think carefully in your own behalf. You have spent your entire life in the mental and emotional thrall of ideologues and demagogues – theologians, philosophers, academics, artists, journalists, politicians and other so-called thought leaders – who swore to you that they could be trusted to do your thinking for you.
And every one of those putative thinkers, despite their superficial differences, insisted to you that the highest possible moral virtue was selflessness – the derision, the denigration and ultimately the destruction of the self. And you followed them, didnt you? Unthinkingly – mindlessly – you surrendered your mind to them. And you have striven with all of your mental might to be good for your whole life, to denounce and renounce your self, to direct your thoughts and your actions toward any beneficiary except your self.
Be honest: How has that worked out for you?
The self is the value before all other values in the uniquely-human life. It is not only not possible for you to be a human being and not be a self, even attempting to affect to pretend to make believe that you could live selflessly is a well-worn path to Squalor.
Take a good look at your life. Would you say that you have lived a life of Splendor? Do you love your self and your life and your values with an uncontainable passion? We established that you are surrounded by an astounding store of material wealth. Are you satisfied with your possessions? Do you feel fulfilled – in your home, in your work, in your relationships? Do you look upon the world outside your mind as a realm of infinite possibilities, a place of nearly-unendurable beauty, a paradise-made-real – ripe with opportunities, full-to-bursting with unforeseen adventures, delicious in its cornucopian delights? Isnt that the way you felt when you were four or five years old, when your mind first came to be awake in Fathertongue? Isnt that the way you thought your life would always be? Why do you suppose it has not turned out that way?
The world you see is the world you are looking for. The world of existential reality – the real world that exists prior to and irrespective of your consciousness of it – is a matter of fact. You did not cause it to come into existence by thinking about it, and you cannot cause it to vanish by wishing it away. The universe is everything-that-exists, but the universe of your experience is entirely an artifact of your mind – of your thinking and of your repeated, persistent failure to think. Why are you miserable much of the time? Why wouldnt you be? You have deliberately inverted your hierarchy of values – or tried to and failed, again and again, dozens of times a day, for every wretched day of your life.
Those so-called thought leaders with whom you thoughtlessly entrusted your mind didnt know what the self was, precisely, but they knew they hated it. They knew that if you were to think in your own behalf, pursuing nothing but your own values, they would have no hold over you. They knew that if you were to learn to love your self, you would have no need for them whatever. They knew – not fully-consciously but viscerally, in their unexamined guts – that if you were to discover Splendor, you would never turn away from it, and they would never again be able to harness your strengths in the service of their vile and squalid weaknesses: Their doubts, their fears, their envy, their malice and their carefully-cultivated uncertainty. At the age of four or five, when you were learning to love and embrace the uncountable riches of the world outside your mind – when you were learning to love the mind itself, even though you did not know this is what you were doing – they were learning all about you: How to manipulate you – with the flattery of social inclusion or the threat of an ignominious exclusion – into sacrificing your values to them.
And so they told you that acting in your own behalf, in pursuit of your own values – values you chose for your self for your own reasons, with no standard of value except your self – they told you not once but a thousand times in a thousand different ways that your behavior was not just evil but was the essence of evil. They insisted that to be good, to achieve a true state of virtue, you had to surrender your self – and the to whom of that transaction mattered a lot less to your despoilers than the surrender itself.
Should you surrender your self to a god? To the poor? To the mob? To the state? Should you hate your life for being physically delightful to you, or should you hate it because you love how well your mind works? Should you hate it that you love your spouse more than anyone else on Earth, or should you hate it because you cant stop yourself from beaming with pride about the accomplishments of your children? Should you despise your life because, for some reason – you dont know why, and no matter how hard you try – you just cant bring yourself to despise your life? Should you hate your self because, no matter how many times you expose your mind to these doctrines of self-hatred, you have never been able to hate your self completely, permanently, terminally?
Please forgive me one moment of outrage: What a crock of shit!
Most of the champions of these philosophies of selflessness are themselves victims of them. They regurgitate today the poisonous swill they imbibed yesterday as a way of proving – to themselves but more importantly to you and to everyone else – that they are good people. The theologians and philosophers who cooked up these foul brews knew exactly what they were doing, and they poisoned billions of thoughtless but otherwise decent people, leaving them with no antidote for their poison except still more poison.
How? Like this: If you cannot successfully renounce your self, it must be because you are too selfish. If you persist in loving your life despite making every possible perverse effort to despise it, it must be because you are unworthy of true virtue. If the territory that is your mind, your self and your life will not correspond to their map – no matter how hard you twist and contort yourself to try to fit in – then it must be that you are irredeemably evil, unfit to be alive, a bungled and botched abomination, a vile, demonic monster in human form.
I wish I were making this up.
With only a very few stunted exceptions, every argument of moral philosophy, for all of human history, has consisted of damning human beings for not being what they cannot be, condemning us endlessly and in infinite variations for being what we are – and cannot fail to be in order to be human beings. Recall, the unavoidable existence of the self is a matter of ontology – of being – not of teleology – of choosing or shoulding. You came to be a self because of choices – those of your parents and other human beings who helped to raise you – but once you had become a self, the effect was both unavoidable and irreversible.
You cannot be alive as a human being and not be a self. To condemn a rock for not being a tree is absurd. To condemn your house-cat for being a carnivore – no matter what you might choose to feed it – is perverse. And yet virtually every so-called ethicist in all of human history has argued that you cannot be both morally good and act in correspondence – in ontological-consonance – with your one, true, unavoidable, inalterable, undeniable nature. Stripped of all the impenetrable verbal fog, they said that the only good human being is not a human being.
And you bought it!
Because you never trained your mind to think about the ontology of human nature – dont fault yourself for that; no one else did, either – you thought they were just talking about you. Youve known your whole life that you yourself have never been able to live down to the perverse ideas of virtue that evil philosophers and their mindless minions have never tired of preaching at you, but you thought the fault was yours alone. You thought that, since everyone incessantly repeats these inverted moral prescriptions, everyone other than you must be conforming to them, as well, and it must be you alone who is defective. You could not succeed in condemning – damning – your life and still living it, so you called yourself a sinner for committing the awful crime of continuing to live as a human being after insisting to yourself not just once but a thousand times that the self – the cardinal value in the uniquely-human life – is evil. How could you possibly claim to be good if you could not ever seem to do the things you insisted to yourself are good?
You didnt know that nearly every other human being swims in that same steaming sewer of longing and shame, each one of them perpetually and persistently failing to uphold virtues that are – by diabolical plan and intention – impossible to practice. You didnt know that no one can practice those perverse ideas of virtue – because no entity can both be and not-be itself. That is the essential statement of ontology, the law of identity, and we can characterize virtually all of moral philosophy, until now, as anti-ontological teleology: You should be only what you cannot be. But that proposition is inverted, too. What virtually all theologians and philosophers have insisted, for all of human history, is that you should not be the only thing you can be – a self, a being of rationally-conceptual volitionality, a free moral agent.
Why would they make such perverse arguments – not just false, but comically, ludicrously, insanely contrary to plainly obvious fact, now that we have fully disclosed the facts of human nature? Why would they do that?
In order to enslave you. And guess what? It worked.
They said the only good human is a mindless human, and – man alive! – did you deliver the goods!
That headline is my favorite advertising joke, a send-up of all those hokey old matchbook covers. I dont know if anyone still advertises on matchbook covers. I dont even know if anyone still makes matchbooks. Presumably, by now, smokers can light their cigarettes with the fire of indignation in other peoples eyes.
But I have always believed that ordinary people should be able to save the world from going to hell on a hand-truck. Our problem is not the tyrant-of-the-moment. The only real problem humanity has ever had is thoughtlessness – the mindless acquiescence to the absurd demands of demagogues.
Thats the subject of this little book: The high cost of thoughtlessness – and how to stop paying it. It weighs in at around 75 pages. Im nobodys matchbook copywriter, and I would have made it even shorter if I could have. But it covers everything I know about the nature of human life on Earth – what weve gotten wrong, until now, and how we can do better going forward.
Why did I bother? Because the world we grew up in is crashing down around our ears. Nothing has collapsed yet, and there is no blood in the streets – so far. But as the economists say, If something cant go on forever, it wont. My bet is that you have been watching the news and wondering what you will do, if things get ugly.
Doesnt that seem like a fate worth avoiding? And yet: What can one person do? My answer: Read – and propagate – these ideas. The book itself is offered at no cost – and it always will be. Even so, the price I ask is very high: You have to pay attention.
If you find that you like this book, I encourage you to share it freely, far and wide, in any form, with anyone you choose. Print it, photo-copy it, email it – shout it from the rooftops if you like. You can read it at SelfAdoration.com (back-up), or you can download an easy-to-share PDF version (back-up). If you post to public forums or you have your own web site or weblog, download the propagation kit (back-up).
Why should you bother? Because if anything is going to save civilization from tyranny, it will be ordinary people like us. And there are at least 2.5 billion of us on the internet. Think what a big difference some new ideas could make in that many human lives.
How do you save the world from home in your spare time? One mind at a time...