In the past few years it’s been like the barrier between my conscious and subconscious minds has been dissolved and I have seen something of what lies beneath ordinary conscious awareness.
This description is metaphorical, you understand? We don’t know how the mind works. Or the brain (no one’s yet convinced me they’re the same thing.) We don’t know what consciousness is – or even if it’s knowable – so we don’t know where our thoughts come from. Or where they go to.
What I can tell you about what’s inside Pandora’s box is that it’s like a hall of mirrors. Sometimes it’s like a house of horrors. A dreamlike psychedelic melange. An Angela Carter novel. Rootling around it isn’t for the faint-hearted – I don’t blame anyone for turning a blind eye to themself.
The way I see it, we humans living in Civilization are not unlike circus animals: wild creatures domesticated into performing tricks. The training, and maintenance, methods are brutal and the tools are fear, shame and humiliation – they’re veritable, metaphorical instruments of torture.
We’re like big cats jumping through flaming hoops while the whip cracks at our haunches. Often, the hoops are too high and we get burned. Beneath the masks of politeness and civility are the bared teeth and claws of the panicked and the furious. And not only are we the subjugated beasts, we’re the salivating ringmasters, too.
There’s an immense amount of unkindness going on, isn’t there? The greatest, most painful and most prolific of it is among people who supposedly love each other. People who claim to be good – ie, people who succeed in performing the tricks of civility to perfection – can be immensely unkind to others. Usually towards those whose performance comes from a different script.
There’s not a lot of love going on. There’s a whole lot of politeness, but very little care, compassion or empathy. The main thing people are concerned about, day-to-day, is their self-image as a civilized being. And who can blame them? We all learn early on that that’s the most important thing, that life isn’t for enjoying – it’s for doing things properly. Everyone’s busy doing what they’ve been trained to do: perform the tricks of correct behaviour. Sing for their supper. It takes up a lot of one’s attention. And when we’re required to focus attention on our performance – to avoid the dreadful consequences of disapproval and potential pariahdom in the event of a mistake occurring – there’s not much energy left for focusing on the needs or feelings of others. Besides, everyone expects everyone else to just shut up and play the game.
Shut up and pretend.
A tragedy of enormous magnitude is that so many people are conditioned into believing that following the rules is more important than being kind. Loyalty to The System is deemed more important than consideration of people’s feelings. And who can be blamed for that? We all learn early on how to fear the consequences of non-compliance. It’s not about having respect for the rules, it’s about being too scared to break them.
It’s no one’s fault. It’s just the way it is. And we’re all just trying to survive in it, as best we can. We’ve been traumatised by our upbringing. So many become hard and mean. It’s hardly surprising. We’re psychotic and neurotic, all of us. The taming process brutalises us. Our gentle souls are corrupted. Parents have no choice but to be unkind… for their children’s ‘good’. What else can they do? The wildness must be constrained. Controlled. Corked. It’s their duty. Friends, lovers, colleagues… everyone… have no choice but to be unkind with harsh judgements and reprimands for non-compliance of protocol. It’s for the sake of maintaining this holy edifice that is Civilization. That’s what makes us better than our mammal cousins who roam free (as far as the encroachment of human civilization enables) and mindlessly, though, isn’t it? We’re not savages like they are, right?
That’s just an accident of evolution, guys. There’s no need to get all superior about it. And there’s no need to get all superior over your fellows because you’ve perfected the art of pretending all’s well when it isn’t, and they haven’t. It may not be a failing on their part (as if that warranted your scorn, anyway) – it may be because they are being more honest about their inner reality than you are about yours.
But we don’t want honesty around here, do we, folks? Not in Civilization. Not in The Matrix of Pretence.
What’s it all for, then? Well, there’s no good reason as far as I can see. Which isn’t very far because I’m only human with a human’s limited perceptual faculties. It’s for its own sake. It’s utterly pointless. It’s absurd. We’re absurd. We only believe it must have a purpose because we can’t accept that all this suffering is pointless… that there’s no need for it… that our loved ones are unkind to us for no good reason whatsoever.
Mind you, somewhere along the way, a ‘good reason’ did get invented: a judgemental, wrathful god who would condemn us as punishment for non-compliance of the protocols of holy Civilization he (he?) decreed. Conform: we’re a saint and Heaven is our reward. Rebel: we’re a sinner and Hell is where we’re headed.
Bollocks. Crap. Shite.
It was just a story the ruling elite came up with to frighten the bejeebers out of the masses to keep them in line. And people fell for it hook, line and sinker.
Yet even athiests demand compliance to the same austere, inflexible code.
Parents are great at wrapping up their kids’ joie de vivre in barbed wire, too.
As far as I can see it, Civilization is not so much a good thing that contains a smattering of bad things as a terrible thing that contains an abundance of good things. You could argue that’s the same thing if you like – you’re free to think whatever you want to (though not free to say whatever you want to).
Civilization is just a nonsense our tamed wild spirits have no choice but to endure.
So, where has all this messing about in Pandora’s box got me? Well, I do feel different – less fraught, less worried about what people think, kind of freer in that sense. Less bothered about stuff. Less bothered with the nonsense. But I do also feel much less ‘safe’, more exposed. I feel cut open and scooped out… like a ripe avocado excavated for guacamole.
And nowadays, it seems as if the defensive defence is too ridiculous to bother with. On the one hand it’s a relief to not have to fuss about with it – let’s face it, it’s pretty exhausting keeping it up while simultaneously worrying about being found out as a fraud. On the other hand, I do feel quite without protection, like a jellyfish who could cry at any moment… with the ocean on the inside, barely contained… a jellyfish among crabs… like it was in the beginning before the rot set in and the shell hardened, sealing the rot inside.
I don’t think I’m better off or any stronger than before, or compared with anyone else – I just can’t be bothered to put the effort in to play the silly game anymore, that’s all. I can’t be bothered with the charade of being… oh, I don’t know… a ‘mature adult’ let’s say (whatever that is)… it requires such a lot of effort… for so little reward.