One World: Nothing to Lose but Ourselves

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[Some more personal remarks perhaps serving as a sort of background to the quotes on the Self Illusion I posted the other day. Remember too: ‘experiences’ are just verbalized and reified memories, no more, no less, not to be fetishized. Shot I took near here of two trees: life and death, Eros and Thanatos, youth and age, coming and going, manifesting and dissolving, yin and yang etc.]

When I was about six or seven, a Chinese student boarder of ours asked me: ‘Peter, how do you know you exist?’ I think this question, this koan, has stayed with me throughout my life, sometimes less, sometimes more predominantly. It, and its versions (who am I? what does it all mean? etc), have probably un- or half-consciously informed a lot of my reading and quest for knowledge on all matter of things.

When I was seven or eight, I was staring at a spot on the ceiling during a lesson in fourth class at Naremburn Primary. Suddenly I had a very strange sensation, hard to describe in words. It had something to do with a deep feeling of bliss and/or anxiety around whether ‘I’ was just made up of ‘things’ like body parts.

Around the same time, I was lying alone on the nature strip opposite our house in Palmer Street around sunset after a hard day of playing with my friends. In deep openness I looked at the sky, and was filled with bliss.

I have always had the deep feeling and empirical knowledge that ‘the one’, or that sensibility, perceiving through my eyes and ears at that early age in childhood is exactly the same as ‘the one’ now perceiving through my eyes and ears. Although my thoughts and body have of course greatly changed, that one has not. That one is thus without change, timeless, unborn, undying. That one, that awareness-continuum, is not an entity, a someone or something, as perceivable or describable from without, not an external third person ‘self’ or persona that a mirror, a camera or others may see. Rather it is the specific, incommunicable ‘quality’ of my first person experience or awareness.

Teaching a class of migrants English in Liverpool one evening, I was listening intently to a Polish man talking about his experiences as a pilot when there was suddenly no distance, no gap, no difference between ‘him’ and ‘me’. I was both ‘me’ and ‘him’ at the same time. I was not ‘empathizing with’ him, ‘I’ was ‘him’. ‘His’ words were also coming out of ‘my’ mouth. This seemed utterly obvious and normal, unattended by any emotion. This did not last long as I became one with my thoughts and judgements again.

Like many people, I have very often experienced a ‘future’ event somehow ‘influencing’ a ‘present’ event. This is often dismissed as mere coincidence. For example, seeing someone or something in the present when you have thought about them before actually seeing them. (From the present viewpoint of the thinking of them, the actual meeting is in the ‘future’). Sometimes this may be mere coincidence but it is worth remembering that in modern physics time does not ‘objectively exist’ and in quantum theory, the ‘future’ can indeed influence the present, and thus the present can also influence the ‘past’.

All this is in fact utterly normal, unremarkable. According to Duane Elgin (Awakening Earth, 1993, pp. 267-268), a survey conducted by the US National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that in a random sample of people 55% said they had experienced ‘a feeling of deep and profound peace’, 43% said they felt ‘love is at the center of everything’, 29% described an experience of ‘the unity of everything and my own part in it’, 25% had ‘the sense that all the universe is alive.’ Other US surveys have shown that roughly 40% of the public have had the experience of being unified with ‘God’ or the ‘Meta-universe’ (Elgin’s term for the Godhead, Tao, Void).

Perhaps an egalitarian mysticism is the next necessary step in human evolution towards an ecologically sustainable One World civilization. Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but yourselves.

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~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on January 13, 2016.

9 Responses to “One World: Nothing to Lose but Ourselves”

  1. Wondering if you have any thoughts on the Lacanian concept of the “mirror stage” , where the ego (I) is formed by the image of the other (the reflection). Many others before him helped develop this concept of the pre-language infant captured in her own gaze, or her reflection in her mother’s eyes. Some say this point of tension is the root of narcissism and/or self loathing, but in any case, it is the entrance to a split self.

    • Hi Dave, thanks for the comment. My attempts at reading most French Theory have been given up very soonish due to inpenetrability. However, have always been extremely interested in theories of early identity formation, the mother-child relationship and the origins of pathological narcissism. (Interrupted, back in a minute…)

    • Back again. Yeah, well anyway. Re pre-language infant, found much plausible (both in general and personally) in Winnicott, Kohut and especially John Bowlby’s bonding/attachment/loss theory. Simple, really, going right back to evolved mammalian needs for proper mothering. No need for metaphysical speculation a la francais. ‘Good enough mother’ bonding = holding, gazing, attunement, unconditional love, all of which we can also call ‘mirroring’ if we like in healthy narcissistic stage of early development that is probably critical for identity/ego formation. According to these post-Freudian psychodynamic theories, if there are disturbances or traumas/losses at that stage, healthy narcissism not properly experienced, the child, its evolutionary expectations unmet, cannot develop a strong, healthy identity. It always feels it is somehow ‘not good enough’, ‘not OK’ (Berne’s Transactional Analysis), and later unconsciously acts out/compensates for that deep lack/pain/hollowness with anger, depressions, anxiety, narcissistic symptoms of attention-seeking etc.

      I’d hazard a guess that western industrial techno-birth procedures plus increasing numbers of busy, unbonded mothers/parents in alienated, isolating consumer capitalism have contributed to this shift in general pathologies towards increasing narcissism, reinforced of course later everywhere by competitive schooling and the generalised marketing of commodities and people/selves. I think capitalist hegemony starts at that earliest level, right within the western psyche.

      As for the connection to mysticism, I guess you need to build a strong healthy ego first before you can understand it’s a myth, otherwise psychosis may result…

  2. It’s strong, often moving, poignant…mysticism that is. I have only ever been interested in Buddhism, and of the Tibetan variety when it came to practice. Zen has always seemed clean and inviting and I still like the ‘idea’ of it. But I no longer hold any hope for it as a unifying force. In fact, somewhat the opposite. Buddhism without practice is merely philosophy and flawed at that. But of course these are all just concepts, these ‘flawed things’. An observation of ‘flawed things’ made by a ‘flawed individual’. But there in lies something funny, why should I regard myself as ‘flawed’, let alone my perception of things and stuff? I make mistakes, get angry, get sad, happy and stuff, at all different levels of intensity, some of which have been and can be damaging to others, but does that mean there is a ‘flaw’ that needs or can be fixed, removed or perfected? And how much time must be devoted to such a practice, and ‘who’ and what to ‘follow’ (guru yoga?), what tradition, what idea, what theory coupled with what practice, what ‘god’?

    I have had no ‘experiences’ or ‘reified memories’ like you Peter. I can vaguely remember once asking my Grandmother whether I was born seven. A stupid question I know, but probably ‘born’ from the the lack any sense of an existential ‘before’, a quick and passing thought that I couldn’t remember being younger! But I could have been just being a dick…at seven years of age. Probably a character ‘flaw’ I still possess.

    I am suspicious of ‘universalising’ things like mysticism and psychology. Looking for stuff in the dumpster of the mind. Lacan, Guatarri, Deuleuze (spelling?), are all inpenetrable theory without practice, while Buddhism for instance, is theory with or born from practice. Yes the ‘West’ is fucked, but so is and has been the ‘East’, regardiess of all this univeralising theory and practice stuff.

    I found an old book I read years ago called The Death Of Forever, or something, that contained a westerner’s (often theese authors are confronting a terminal illness of some sort) view of all this similar stuff one can find in the ‘East’. Mystical stuff. Stuff also about premonitions and the future acting on the past. I’m not sure physics has found it’s ideas or theories about time to be fact, but they have given rise to, possibilities for sure, possibilities that stoke the imagination and are fun to read and keep one thinking and imagining, which does seem to be a valuable, desirable and life driving pursuit. But when I browsed through the book I was somewhat embarrassed that I onced placed a fair amount of trust in what was in it. It seems more guess work and grasping at hope and I have no desire to revisit that place really. I say that now, but also realise that as a ‘flawed’ individual, who knows?

    A student of mine, 12-13 yrs old, once said that some improvised music I played him of Derek Bailey and percussionist Jamie Muir, sounded like people walking around a room full of instruments with the lights off. A little later in the same lesson, I played him some more…this time he said it sounded like someone had turned the light on! I still think this reified memory I have to be the best definition of free improvised music I have ever heard as it includes the listener. But it also included, perhaps without him realising, me, the whole process of me playing him the tape and teaching and everything, well at least, that’s what I take from it.

    But what would ‘I’ ‘know’?

    • Dankeschoen, camerado. Wondering what happens to ‘you’ when you give yourself over completely to music/improvising? Is there still an ‘I’ or just something (not a thing) like ongoing-awareness? Flaw, practice, become a follower? If you meet a Buddha, kill him. (cf. ‘Enlightenment’ post). Hope you’re well, cobber. P.

  3. My childhood is a blur as well, James, a few vague experiences can be called up through smell, but I think most of the memories are actually stories told over and over. I wonder if we can establish yet another category: Those who don’t remember! Over in this line, please.

    Could be the time spent experimenting with psychotropics… anyway, I find French post-structuralists integrate perfectly (and I never use that word lightly) with Buddhism and Christian mysticism, and free jazz for that matter. it all stays just out of reach no matter how hard you try to grasp it. same with quantum physics and Finnegans Wake. The intellect/ the spirit. Philosophy, science, mysticism, and trout fishing all seem best approached as porous, as embedded in a way that resists diagrams. In this sense, so-called “dense” language is not better or worse, easier or harder, quicker or slower, at prying into the kernel for a hint of truth. What doesn’t work for us today, to reverse James, we might go back to later and find a “fit” within whatever matrix we happen to be goofing around with that week.

    So by all means, keep the quotes coming, Peter, and keep the noodling coming James. I’ll keep casting about and filling my notebooks. But we need to interrupt these circuits of capital as well, I sense violence on a massive scale somewhere just around the corner. can you smell it?

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Dave. Takes a lotta thought to see thought don’t make it, right? Eat, sleep, shit, fish, theorize. The ‘non-abiding mind is like the clear, open sky’, discuss. Next lot’s on inherent limits of language/thought. Because we love language, we move beyond it.

      Interrupt, circuits, we? Can’t say I smell anything really, ‘friendly fascism’ (Gross), ‘inverted totalitarianism’ already there, tho’ maybe Trumpian ‘Buffoon Fascism’ (Lach-Newinsky) is a new ballgame, tho’ Berlusconi showed the way. Delerious working and petty bourgeois masses find all their fears, aggressions, prejudices and fakeness flamboyantly incarnated in coiffed and botoxed real estate speculators, reality TV stars and cruise ship crooners. Marxist angle: fall of profit rate/growth plus resource/sink shrink (e.g. climate) plus siege/fear manipulations (migrant tsunamis, reactionary-fundamentalist-antimodernist backlash terrorism) = ideal conditions for final move into (un)fun-fascism. Add a little New East Empire v Old West Empire war and you’ve got a beaut scenario for global collapse even before total planet fry. Meanwhile, back in reality my eyes are tired.

      Koan: What golden fish of insight seeketh the fisherman in the dark waters of his unconscious?

  4. This conversation is going places very similar to another I have been having. So some fun…

    Eugene Chadbourne’s autobiography, Dreamory, is over 1100 pages I slot somewhere between Finnegans Wake and Ulysses (both of which I have not read. Thinking of size and difference here), as it too is a tome of considerable weight but hard to penetrate. I consume it like an improvisation as it weds, mirrors Chadbourne’s music, his approach, inseparable from his life and what he actually ‘is’. A friend, Ben Watson, aka Out To Lunch, in an email said this, (also on his radio program), riffing on Eugene’s own blurb on the book’s cover on what he does, and Samuel Beckett’s essay on Finnegans Wake,

    “where we slow down the ever-quickening trade in the clotted cream of sense to frozen immobility, so we can scan from 360 degrees at our own pace, using the surgeon’s scalpel to durchschnitt the accumulated layers and reveal the sediment end stripes of marzipan aching in the contemporary angoisse”

    My immediate response to Ben was an improvised email pertaining to my own bedazzlement and bamboozlement caused by the above quote and the Beckett essay. I decided not to get bogged down with rationality but the sentences I used seemed ordinary and meaningful. I have done this before in an email to Jason Chaplin after hearing a somewhat impenetrable talk by Timothy Morton. Maybe something comes out of something else when not focusing too strongly on ‘sense’ or ‘rationality’ but one is focusing on some sort of ‘flow’. Collapsing the wave function (quantum physics) from moment to moment. That is free improvising. Conscious of doing but not conscious of doing something for some purpose other than the doing. The Spectacle can’t touch that. So in that sense capitalism, the “contemporary angoiusse”, is interrupted. You see, I had to return later to the quote and Ben’s email to find a fit. But my fit may in fact be a miss fit due to me being a misfit (channelling Sun Ra)

    Music is not a language to me, it is merely physical, moving air around. Sculpture. You grab the neck of the guitar with your left hand and scrape across the strings with you right. But sometimes the physicality of feeling doesn’t correlate with the sonic surprise. Control is not possible because ‘control’ is non-physical. The screech of the tram at a dangerous decibel level. The hands to the ears, pressed against them as you physically wince at the noise. It’s too late, the damage has been done…the hands arrived too late.

    Things are always arriving too late. Even recognition of the non-self is an after thought to be discarded. The moment, a collapsed wave function, is gone, the note has been plucked, the word chosen, the thought expressed….The anarchically random has been laid to waste, implausible.The wrong note, the anarchically random, the out of tuneness, bad intonation, is a fashion magazine trying to be more. Droning along. Style and swagger (David Bowie) that avoids the directly and immediately physical. The smell of the error, the mistake. The stink of failure and death. Constant regret because it’s over, finished, complete, done and irretrievable. A faint memory of existence. I can feel myself bursting into nihilistic tears. A solipsistic nightmare. None of that is consumable. It rolls over you, into you, saturates you, dries, slips away. Improvising is philosophy of the physical but right at the root where everyone gets scared. Where fear really rests, waiting to unleash itself.

    It is an interesting contemplation of Harry Frankfurt’s, On Bullshit. Bullshit and Philosophy or Foolosophy perhaps. The bullshit of the East and West trying to out do each other when perhaps it is all the same thing. Easterners and Westerners trying to fuse the two when there has never ever been any separation. One can discuss for hours the difference between ‘composition’ and ‘improvising’ but when all is said and done the musicians leave the conversation to play…improvise of course!!

    I do not lose myself when I play. I am fully conscious of proceedings but do get caught up in the flow sometimes. Lost, myopically focused. The ‘I’ may disappear from view, but it reappears because it is always there, just around the bend. Is it like an illusion? Existing, but not in the way we think it? The point is, ‘I’ have to collapse the wave function at some moment or nothing happens. Not the nothing that can’t happen but the nothing that can. The nothing that is not doing. Is not doing our natural state or doing? Is Holloway’s doing as opposed to capitalism’s done, or Marx’s “species being’, contrary to the mystic’s non-doing, or non-grasping? Siddhartha had to do to get it done.

    ‘I’ returned to Ben’s quote and saw the music in it. Also the play. The play that can be language. The play that gives rise to the paradox. The shuffling of objects, air molecules or the written word to discover the liars paradox. The liars paradox is language not working. Language abused. Language that gives rise to something that would not have been noticed if not for the play. The irony of the phrase “the liars paradox”!

    To “durchschnitt the accumulated layers and reveal the sediment end stripes of marzipan aching in the contemporary angoisse” . Brilliant.

    Equally so Eugene’s blurb,

    “I invent a method of slowing down country and western music to the point where it is felt as a solid block. Every detail now has a stratified essence. It is like looking at the side of a cliff that has been sliced into.

    The idea is immensely popular; leading to a country and western paté one can spread on bread.”

    Something easy to get to yet one has to slow down to look. 360 degrees. Then one can eat it.

    The ESSENTIAL…I woke up again.

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