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The Perfection of Individuality
Owning your being. Owning your doing. Self-determination.
Like walking in the rain and the snow when there's nowhere to go
When you're feeling like a part of you is dying
And you're looking for the answer in her eyes — 10cc
The world is separated into those who believe in dualisms and those who don’t. My understanding is that the Vedics had a four position logic. True. False. True & False. Neither True nor False. I’m not even sure if they were called the Vedics, but I do know that I am one of those kinds of people who would go searching for answers provided by dead strangers who might be named ‘Vedics’ or some such.
It doesn’t quite matter if the self is defined by itself or by the negation of that which is not the self. Without an overdose of that particular psychoactive molecule, the self never becomes the universe and so lacking that ability to manufacture sufficient quantities in any of our glands we default to the first person. First person semi-omnicient. All that we can become is more than that which we can recognize that we have become, but it might not be greater than the extended self. We might identify with that which negates us. We might even seek to do so as an act of contrition. In any case we are wrapped in fog.
It helps to look at your hands. This is in my view a superior method of introspection than looking in the mirror. The reason is that we must do. We talk about the act of ‘wrapping our head around a concept’ and while this certainly takes effort, it doesn’t provide proof. You can barf back the words you are given with rote skill, but that is only savoir not connaitre. It is something much less than Biblical knowledge. I think about the notoriety I desire. When I look in the mirror at my eyes, I am paying deep attention to who I am. I wish others would pay such deep attention. It would be love, as I love and forgive myself, even for the sloppy tangles of my hair this morning; even for the outcrop of plaque between tooth 13 and 14. But it is what I do that gives proof to everything that I am, whether I like it or not. We all wish that we could merely be, and be loved. We could force others to wrap their heads around the concept of us. Ah, but that would be us doing that force. Even if we could force that concept we would still demand proof. If you loved me, you would do this. Would that I could be satisfied with an answer in your eyes as I have the answer from my own.
So I look at my hands as they do. At this very moment, they are typing out into the ether. I am speaking to my projection of you, the audience of my mind, to whom I have been brain spewing for decades. I know that you love me as you tell me in abstract trickles from time to time; we trade symbolic gestures that don’t register many calories on our Apple watches. Of course you are my audience. Of course you love me. I presume that which all creatives presume, that someone else out there wants to see the same concepts head wrapped that I do. It’s easier to be provocative. It’s easier to look at my fists or at my middle fingers. I know that I damage myself if I am pugilistic. That doesn’t change the nature of the fog I’m wrapped in. The fog of the semi-omnicient self. Michael Jackson said it best. “You’re just another part of me.” It’s rather sickening to know that about yourself, that you are part Michael Jackson. It makes you want to wear at least one glove, change your face and pull a hat down over it.
When you are a writer with a day job, as we all are, we have time to look at our hands doing what they must and doing what we desire. Whose hands are they, one might ask. You work your fingers to the bone and all you get are bony fingers. We understand the necessity and the ingratitude of our employment. We are peasants after all. If we were geniuses then the rulers would be paying us handsomely, like the plotting, murdering men of the latest Guy Ritchie movie. The prize would be mere inches away, just within our grasp. We wouldn’t have to dream about it because the Boss would have a plan. So depending upon how much we want to grasp, depending up on what we are able to do, we balance our introspection and love of self with our grappling that we are instructed to. In the end we still want to apply that love to our foggy extended self. It’s all we can really know.
We use terms like ‘family’ or ‘community’ to our tribe of one plus an unknown fraction. Sometimes we feel expansive. Sometimes we feel smaller than one finger on our off hand. Sometimes we pretend that we are the world and then we’re stuck being part Michael Jackson again. Sometimes we pretend our hands are super quick and capable of exerting precision control and then we’re a spy whose being and doing criss-cross for unknown purposes leaving everyone confused. Perhaps this is the default condition. Perhaps the Vedics got us right. Our being and doing is neither true nor false.
On days like today when the roses form perfect contrast to the clear blue sky of the morning, there is the merest pleasure one can take from the observation that you are neither the sky nor the rose. Yet you can wrap your head around the perfection of that contrast in nature, external to the self. You needn’t do. The longer you contemplate just this one concept, the less you feel any need to be more than that thing that contemplates. In that way the self disappears, as does the confusion between what we are and what we do. My view of meditation is to extend that moment of contemplation on some simple thing that is not the self.
What I have yet to resolve is whether I need to or desire to extend the self I know with you or with anyone. I think that I have the need, but I know that from time to time I lose the desire. I might decide in turns to be the spy in the Guy Ritchie movie or Michael Jackson on the stage, or something completely unknown, my actual self in its transient moments. I conclude that I am an individual, alienated from everyone, knowing that some days I look in the mirror and don’t love or forgive my teeth, my hair, my self. I’m just this human unit. Temporary. Isolated.
I reflect that Einstein once remarked that it is a wonder that a human’s life has a concrete beginning and end and so it can be considered in its entirety to be an artistic creation. It is this concept I have wrapped around my head to give me a sense that I shall die, and furthermore I shall die alone. At the end of my life, there will be no self to contemplate the fog of the self. Then it will be the rose and the sky and other humans contemplating the memory of me. So I take some comfort in the fact that I can prepare myself for that end by giving up my self entirely. I am also getting used to the possibility, that this view of death may be entirely a false conceit on my part. Nevertheless it is the excuse I use for idling my hands in meditation.
From a completely different perspective, I am convinced that this alienation of the self from others and from the self is truth. That is why I use Michael Jackson as the caricature of the collective self. His life was a talented deception. This deception is, from my perspective, a crafty way of external powers forcing people to wrap their heads around concepts that are not of their own design. It is the tribal chief telling you who you must be and what you must do. It might be a cleric. It might be a dictator. It might be the disembodied voice of an oft-repeated critical theory. That is very much different from the lyrics of a song which you can take or leave. Still, it remains difficult to become adequately loving of a foggy self so that you can accept your teeth and hair and work and hands and everything enough to appreciate it as a complete work of art you can willingly and happily abandon in death. I don’t know how many of us get there, but I do know that many of us fail and give ourselves up to crafty deceptions.
It is because I am a self that requires a large measure of self-determination and am willing to die alone in defense of the fog that is me that I fail to see my fate predetermined in the various collectives I am called to believe in. Even when my hands must do the work of others, I say they are my hands. I am on the lookout for spies. Not every day, but often enough. I know that slogans are not literature. I know that poetry is not propaganda. I understand very well what I can take or leave in 10cc doses. I know at times I feel compelled to look for answers in the eyes of others, even others who have been dead for centuries. That’s enough for me, because I say so, even if I’m alienated for saying so.