Monday, July 16, 2012

An anniversary of sorts

Five years ago today I experienced what was perhaps the most traumatic event in my life. This event marked a big turning-point for me, and it initiated a whole chain-reaction of different other changes as well. I do not want to go into what happened then, I am not interested in that now. I am interested in reflecting on where all these changes have lead me since.

More than anything I notice that a certain kind of head-strong diving-into-things quality that I once possessed is gone. I now generally feel far more reflective, hesitant, thoughtful, uncertain even, before I decide to engage in a certain course of action.

Underlying that is the loss of the sense that I once had that I am inexorably moving towards some big beautiful vision of some kind. I no longer believe in the amazingly wonderful world of tomorrow (after the coming global revolution/collapse/transformation/etc., of course) nor do I any longer believe in some kind of happily-ever-after life for myself and/or those I care about either. Those days are gone.

Perhaps you could say that this means that I have lost a personal sense of "hope" in things. It has been argued that doing away with "hope" is perhaps a good thing after all. I can see the value in that perspective. At the same time, however, losing hope also means that the particular kind of consolation offered by it is gone as well. Without "hope", one is far more likely to be confronted with un-adulterated cold hard reality. This takes some getting used to. (ironically enough, during the course of these past five years, the "hope" for "change" movement associated with Obama has arisen, peaked, and then gone away)

This urge that I have felt, or at least this tendency that I have fallen into, for looking at suffering directly is one thing that has lead me towards a deep appreciation for Buddhism, Zen and Vipassana Meditation. Stephen Batchelor explains it nicely right here when he says that the whole point of Buddhism is to go beyond "consolatory beliefs", and to face more directly the dukkha (suffering) of the world.

The thing is, then, that when I investigate further into the various forms, systems and philosophies associated with "Buddhism", I find that none of them, anywhere, is 100% completely - me. They all ask me to buy into, subscribe to, adhere to something that I genuinely do not want to. So wearing that label, like any other really, simply does not fit. I am left out in the cold, again - at least as far as philosophy-as-social-club goes.

Immediately before the events that occurred exactly five years ago I read a book, "Siddhartha", by Hermann Hesse. In it, the main character of the book remarks that he has three abilities - he can wait, he can fast, and he can think. This is what I am left with as well, I believe. Coming across anarchist philosophies has assisted me in "thinking", experiencing deprivation has helped me learn to "fast", and now that I have learned Vipassana Mediation, I have learned to "wait" as well.

More recently than that, I have read the book "Desolation Angels" by Jack Kerouac. In this novel he describes a person who "really has achieved that cold void truth we're all yakking about, and in practice she displays warmth." This is what I now aspire to.

This leads me to now, five years on, and what of it? In many ways I am more lost than ever before. And in other ways it is the exact opposite. But it does not matter, really. I am here, for now, offering what I can to the world. Take it or leave it, life goes on.


memeticist said...

Ian - i see too many hopeless people just focusing on their own personal satisfaction. What is most valuable to me as an organizer, is people who are motivated by something larger than themselves. Hope is often at the heart of that in my experience. Hope that we can start a new community. How that we can mutiny of a bad boss. Hope that we can fall in love. Hope that we can change the government or laws.

Thanks for writing

Ian Mayes said...

Heya Paxus,

I wasn't trying to say that I just want to focus on only my own personal satisfaction nowadays. I believe that folks can still do good things without the chimera of hopeful visions hanging over them.

With this piece of writing I was instead trying to say that I am not expecting, nor do I see it as being likely, that there will be a new utopian world coming about. I do still see it as being worthwhile to work to create such a thing as much as possible. The process in and of itself is worthwhile, even if it does not end up with the result of there being some big grand new world.

My thoughts on this matter actually parallel my thoughts on the Buddhist endeavor of achieving "Enlightenment". It may not ever happen in my life-time, but the pursuit of it is worth it nonetheless. When done right, there are immediate benefits inherent in the process itself. No need to wait for future salvation.