The double edged sword. We humans created language, and language resulted in thinking and human culture. Thinking is our great blessing and curse, a key element in every aspect of human culture, needed for everything from the glories of art to the miseries of drug abuse and human trafficking. It's a curse because we can't control it. We can't stop thinking or even discipline it except momentarily. Our inability to control thinking is the root of all human misery. The only cure for mental noise is surrendering to my own internal authority. Inner silence is a gift. It can't be earned.
The internal monolog is the most pernicious part of thinking: the unstoppable inner narration. Internal planning, reviewing, lecturing, explaining, justifying, reciting then doing it all over and over again ad nauseam. The silent soundtrack of insanity. The insanity that's already there inside each of us, just waiting for something to set it off.
Belief is delusion. I used to think that faith and belief were weasel words for ignorance but no, that doesn't do them justice. Faith and belief are far worse than honest ignorance because they're willful errors. Ignorance can be cured by learning. Faith and belief are usually terminal. To have faith or believe is to affirm something without compelling evidence that it's true. Up until my misery became so great that I forced Leela to speak to me, my so-called spiritual life was nothing but a mishmash of believing in this or that. I meditated because I believed it was good for me, but I made little or no progress. In the years since she spoke up, I've done very little that I would've recognized as meditation before, and I've made so much progress. The only way to get out of a delusion is to wake up from it. Getting good advice doesn't help. I got lots of good advice in the past and it never did me any good. I have to find out for myself by gaining wisdom from my own experience. Advice is just words and words don't help, whether they come from a book like the I Ching, or a spiritual teacher, or Madame Ruth. You know that gypsy with the gold capped tooth. I have to find out for myself when self delusion is involved. I have to wake up from my delusion. No one can wake me up. I have to wake myself up. Leela has helped me enormously by pushing me hard into my delusion. She pushes me so hard I precipitate a crisis. It's much easier to gain wisdom from a real crisis than from a lesser annoyance. My big mistakes have been my salvation. Waking up is never comfortable.
With Leela's help I've been forced to wake up from many delusions. The first and by far the most important delusion I had to wake up from was my stubborn insistence that someone or something else, some teacher or book could wake me up, or somehow help me wake up. I had to start waking up from the inside out, relying on guidance from my own body. All my previous attempts to start waking up were useless, or rather useful only in being something, anything pointing in what seemed a spiritual direction rather than just giving up and going with the flow of a broken human culture headed for oblivion like this one so clearly is. Once I had Leela's help to guide the process I could very slowly begin waking up from the other numerous delusions I was suffering under. The problem is even if I get it from my own body, good advice is just words and ideas, and I have never learned a life lesson from words and ideas. Even good advice from the right source is worthless. So Leela has taken me down the left hand path: she has orchestrated a series of unpleasant crises in my life, moments where I could see, with miserable clarity, just how badly I was living wrongly and how profoundly it was hurting me:
Due diligence. While the curse of thinking is a misery only progress with love can relieve, by the same double edged token Leela demands my due diligence for every bit of progress. If by failing to think things through I take some foolish action, or indulge in some harebrained inaction fueled by deluded magical thinking, Leela will happily egg me on to make sure I get a full value lesson out of my stupidity. Again and again I've learned how not to live by making mistakes.
Consciousness creates separation. Whether we like it or not consciousness creates a separation between us and the world, humans and the rest of nature. That separation is a core element in being human, the basis for all human culture. It enables us to step back, take a look, figure out what to do. But we took the separation too far, becoming alienated from nature. We came to see the world as our possession, forgetting we were part of it. Our nomad ancestors knew only too well they were part of nature, living or dying by its rules. We turned our backs on nature when we invented agriculture and stopped being nomads. We started exploiting the world, treating it as our property rather than a sacred living being. And that set us on the path to exploiting each other, to crime, slavery, addiction, class differences, poverty. In short, the path to human misery.
Wrongheadedness is all the ways I use thinking against myself, making my life worse instead of better by thinking wrongly or too much. Sentimentality and emotion in general are classics of wrongheadedness: thinking that gins up feelings. The feelings can be of any kind. The key element is they're imaginary, figments of my thinking processes rather than responses to what's really going on. They have nothing to do with what's actually going on in my life, in the world around me. I can spend my entire life emotionally worked up, tortured by troubles that don't even exist. Worrying is another example.
Nostalgia. I found nostalgia to be a peculiarly insidious form of sentimentality. It seems so harmless, but it's poison. If I'm feeling low, nostalgia tries to distract me, deluding me with unrealistically golden memories of how things used to be, and that keeps me from doing the work I need to do to overcome whatever it is that's getting me down. I was overcome with a big spasm of nostalgia in 2020 right after I broke up with Ruth. But I knew it wasn't right so I wrestled with it. I gave myself desensitization therapy by walking to places drenched with nostalgia, places we used to go dancing. I also reached out to people in the present the only way I could in the lockdown: social media. Social media offer thin comfort, but it was just what I needed to see me over that hump, and it gave birth to these stories, a few of which originally appeared in an undeveloped form there. Being forced to fight off nostalgia was one of many ways I got help from the pandemic.
Novelty addiction. One of the most insidious ways thinking works against me is by triggering the relentless grasping for novelty that seems to be part of us. It's an addiction that surfaces once all our basic needs have been met. I always think I need something new to distract me, some new thing to watch or eat or acquire, something fresh to read or listen to or do. But I don't need any of that new stuff, and the unthinking quest for it is a heavy curse, driving me to pointless consumption of useless things and empty, debilitating entertainment. Leela's answer to novelty addiction is refinement: making what I already have, things I already do, just a little better. Steady refinement is the key to human nobility. Refinement is what I use to cultivate the things that are best about me, aka my human potential. Making progress with love is a process of slow, steady refinement with occasional breakthroughs.
Obsessive thinking. Wrongheadedness usually relies on obsessive thinking. Any time I think the same thought twice or more in a row I'm being wrongheaded, but real obsession can easily multiply that by a thousand. Infatuation is a prime example of obsessive thinking.
The sin of loyalty. Loyalty, like pride, is a species of wrongheadedness that manages to pass itself off as a virtue. Loyalty shows its true colors in sentiments like my country right or wrong. Or yes, he beats me but he's my husband and I'll stick with him no matter what. Loyalty demands I set aside my powers of observation, critical thinking, objectivity. To be loyal I have to stick with a person or cause no matter what, even if that person or cause is criminal or abusive. Loyalty is deluded behavior, a travesty of human potential. A failure to think for myself. Stand up for myself
The role of thinking in these stories. Leela creatively rewrites what I write consciously. I am not the artist here, though my words may make it sound that way. The artist of these stories is the artist of my life: Leela. Someone might say that's how it is for all genuine artists: the artist is just a channel for divine inspiration. But I don't know about other people, so I wouldn't say that. I do know that my artistic job is to surrender to Leela. The more I surrender the harder it is for me to tell us apart. But it's clear to me I could never do this on my own. She and I work back and forth. I'll write something, and I can be more or less off target, but I'm always off target. Leela works with me to get to the truth using muscle testing. Sometimes I get to it quickly. Other times it's a long exhausting process. In both cases Leela shows me how far off base my original fluency drill was. Her improvements are often unintuitive. She is fond of contradictions and repetition. There are direct contradictions in these stories, sometimes within the same story. There are also paragraphs that say the same thing. For instance the second and third paragraphs of Entertainment. Also, her style can be very different than mine. Short hemingwayesque sentences. That's not my style. I'm often conflicted about it. I often have to read the text she just gave me several times before I get it.