Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Big Fat Greek Illusion

It occurs to me that the most profound and dangerous belief we have about life is that we have one.

To say we believe it is not quite accurate. It's more like its our belief system...or the container in which our belief system resides...or the context of everything.

Let's say that I'm a bag of salty water with a few vitamins and minerals and organic chemicals floating around in it. This is true, objectively. Why the heck do I have a story? Why on earth would this bag of salt water have a beginning, middle and end? If I did have a beginning, middle and end what kind of ridiculous egotist would expect that it make sense and have internal logic? That'd be crazy.

I hold these truths to be self evident: that some bags of salty water are incredibly self important for no good reason dispite the evidence of their wet, salty senses.

But now I'm sounding like a nihilist. Which I'm not. My point is that we believe that we are living a story that has a beginning and middle and an end and that this story should make sense. In fact we are not. For example: the end is nearly always nearer than we think and history suggests that it won't make sense to us when it happens. It doesn't happen like this "ah, I see, I'm dying. That makes sense that I should die now" right?

It follows from this point (an excellent one if I do say so myself) that no sense can really be made of this story and a story that makes no sense is not much of a story. In fact it isn't one. It's not even really a bad poem.

But we will keep making up stories and looking for meaning. We have to. Just try to read a sentence that doesn't have an.


From the level of our DNA, it seems, we need to make up stories. Our DNA probably came up with the idea to keep itself propigating through time once intelligence developed enough so that it threatened the survival of the species.

Intelligence doesn't have to be to sophisticated, by the way, to threaten the younger generations. Doesn't it seem like self deluded people are worse at taking care of themselves and their kids than monkeys are?

Or cats?

Or bees?

Or worms?

To be self deluded you have to have a self and you have to be able to delude that self with some bullshit. In other words you have to be smart enough to come up with a lie that you are dumb enough to believe.

That is some mean trick.

Monkeys can't do that I bet but we do it all the time. I've been doing it for years.

"Ah," you say, "but that's storytelling isn't it. I thought you said DNA invented storytelling to preserve the species."

"Ah," I say, "You caught me. There is no sense to be made. Except maybe DNA is as self deluding as that guy who eats too much because he thinks he deserves a break."

(A nice bit of sophistry there, don't you think? Man what a rabbit hole this turned out to be. Certainly a rich mine of intensely interesting stuff. I will try to unravel more of it later.)

Okay so here's the big Illusion that I wanted to allude to. My illusion allusion if you will.

The following things are unexamined assumptions that I think we all make about our lives. (Maybe enlightened Zen masters are exempt from this.)

We think our lives should make sense. We think the story of our lives should be a good story with good character development, plot and consistent theming. We really want a good twist at the end that ties up everything in nice neat bow.

Looking at our lives we start coming up with good plot points. As part of that we think we will do certain things (or certain things will happen to us) to make a good story. These are things like get married, have a few kids, clean up the garage...

In order to have these plot points be part of the story they have to happen before we die and therefore we believe we won't die before we get a chance to do the things that will make it all make sense.

We (secretly) know at the same time that there is a very good chance that the plot points we have in mind won't actually make our lives make sense. We suspect that we haven't come up with the best plot points.

We also suspect that the plot points we have in mind only work if they come near the end. (it doesn't work to tell your asshole boss what you really think of him just before you die in a spectacular car crash if the car crash doesn't come and you have to go to work the next day).

We also suspect that maybe there is a better way to end the story that we haven't figured out yet.

This makes us fear these actions....and put them off.

So given that all this is bullshit we should really just do it as Nike says. it won't make sense anyway and the end is going to come befo

Ya know?

I was thinking of a series of dreams
Where nothing comes up to the top
Everything stays down where it's wounded
And comes to a permanent stop
Wasn't thinking of anything specific
Like in a dream, when someone wakes up and screams
Nothing too very scientific

Just thinking of a series of dreams
Thinking of a series of dreams
Where the time and the tempo fly
And there's no exit in any direction
'Cept the one that you can't see with your eyes
Wasn't making any great connection
Wasn't falling for any intricate scheme
Nothing that would pass inspection
Just thinking of a series of dreams

Dreams where the umbrella is folded
Into the path you are hurled
And the cards are no good that you're holding
Unless they're from another world
In one, numbers were burning
In another, I witnessed a crime
In one, I was running, and in another
All I seemed to be doing was climb
Wasn't looking for any special assistance
Not going to any great extremes
I'd already gone the distance
Just thinking of a series of dreams

Bob Dylan

Copyright © 1991 Special Rider Music

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