Pretext Comment: This passage is the most succinct yet comprehensive statement I believe that I have ever come across which explains the overwhelming majority of ongoing mental illness in any of its various forms.
One of the most bizarre and most difficult experiences I find myself continuing to endure in life is when a person seeks my help, knowledge, expertise, commentary, support, and/or advice in exuberant word, but only pseudo-action. I was in my mid-forties before I was finally able to accept that most people don’t even mean or know exactly what they actually say. Most mouths operate on an advertised level of nobility or expectation or polished distraction, while the actions of their host proceed unhindered and untethered in a whatever direction which is often completely antagonistic to their proclaimed desire. Is the pleading and bloviating of falsity a sincere attempt at the ideal, to strive to be better than the demon which pulls our visceral strings? Or is it just a barking mantra of parroted and regurgitated irrelevance, known all along by the speaker to be the penultimate tarbaby of destabilization which might be placed in the arms of the empath? Do these mouths cry out through the bars, as a prisoner might, from the hellish dominion of their maximum security psyches or do they just bullshit on a stage, seeking only power, glory, fixes, and dominance throughout the show of their singing and dancing? Obviously, whichever option rules, a neurotic glitch of the psyche is occurring during these discrepancies and it does appear that most are unconscious of their volatile inconsistencies between word and mouth. To push irrefutable awareness and acknowledgement with eyes stapled wide open on to them or not, that is the question. Who sincerely seeks shelter, aid, and healing, but can only handle so much in their fragility and who is just playing in the dark arts of emptiness and boredom? A terrified, bruised and broken Angel or a conniving Demon, spreading hell on Earth in every way imaginable? I suppose that at the end of all of these questions, none of the answers really matter. What matters most is my response and if I do the right thing, if I proceed as a creature of light, love, and stability. If I can do that, the rest will sort itself out as it should or as best it might, and the darkness that does prowl in its insatiable hunger will never be able to prey upon me.
One night some of Nasruddin’s friends came upon him crawling around on his hands and knees searching for something beneath a lamppost. When they asked him what he was looking for, he told them that he had lost the key to his house. They all got down to help him look, but without any success. Finally, one of them asked Nasruddin where exactly he had lost the key. Nasruddin replied, “In the house.”
“Then why,” his friends asked, “are you looking under the lamppost?”
Nasruddin replied, “Because there’s more light here.”
Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation
Our moral values, our emotions, our loves are no less real for being part of nature, for being shared with the animal world, or for being determined by the evolution that our species has undergone over millions of years. Rather, they are more valuable as a result of this: they are real. They are the complex reality of which we are made. Our reality is tears and laughter, gratitude and altruism, loyalty and betrayal, the past that haunts us and serenity. Our reality is made up of our societies, of the emotion inspired by music, of the rich intertwined networks of the common knowledge that we have constructed together. All of this is part of the self-same “nature” that we are describing. We are an integral part of nature; we are nature, in one of its innumerable and infinitely variable expressions.
Paraphrased pretext note: According to Buddhist psychology, narcissism is an inherent consequence or side effect of maturation in human existence. It does not necessarily have to become a demon of future suffering, instability, and mental anguish, but most often it does. The adults suffering from such eventually become parents and pass this insufferable torch onto their children via their over invasiveness/intrusiveness or neglectful behavior in relation to their child’s true self. The child’s narcissistic anchor is unable to lock and hold on a stable parental entity in this dynamic and is thus unable to naturally autocorrect by withering away into oblivion from whence it came. Instead, the narcissistic anchor becomes a narcissistic “demon” possessing the child and that demon then assumes one of two possible versions, creating the shell of a false self around the child. Often, the child grows into an adult who continues to carry the demon for the rest of their life.
Just as the philosophers of the Buddha’s day could be described as either eternalists (who believed in an immortal heaven, God, or real self) or annihilationists (who believed only in the meaninglessness or futility of life, so the human psyche finds comfort in alternatively embracing one or the other of these views. they are in fact, the two poles of the false self: namely, the grandiose self developed in compliance with the parent’s demands and in constant need of admiration, and the empty self, alone and impoverished, alienated and insecure, aware only of the love that was never given. The grandiose self, while fragile and dependent on the admiration of others, believes itself to be omnipotent or self-sufficient and so retreats to aloofness or remoteness, or, when threatened, clings to an idealized other from whom it hopes to retrieve its power. The empty self clings in desperation to that which it feels can assuage its hollowness or retreats to a barren void in which it is unapproachable and which reinforces the belief in its own unworthiness. Neither feels entirely satisfactorily, but to the extent that we are governed by the demands of the false self, we can envision no alternative.
It was a life of order and strict service, an unending sacrifice, a constantly renewed striving for clarity and justice. It was much purer, much better than the life of an artist, vagrant, and seducer of women. But seen from above, with God’s eyes — was this exemplary life of order and discipline, of renunciation of the world and of the joys of the senses, of remoteness from dirt and blood, of withdrawal into philosophy and meditation any better than Goldmund’s life? Had man really been created to live a regulated life, with hours and duties indicated by prayer bells? Had man really been created to study Aristotle and Saint Thomas, to know Greek, to extinguish his senses, to flee the world? Had God not created him with senses and instincts, with blood-colored darknesses, with the capacity for sin, lust, and despair? These were the questions around which the Abbot’s thoughts circled when they dwelt upon his friend.
Yes, and was it not perhaps more childlike and human to lead a Goldmund-life, more courageous, more noble perhaps in the end to abandon oneself to the cruel stream of reality, to chaos, to commit sins and accept their bitter consequences rather than live a clean life with washed hands outside the world, laying out a lonely harmonious thought-garden, strolling sinlessly among one’s sheltered flower beds. Perhaps it was harder, braver and nobler to wander through the forests and along the highways with torn shoes, to suffer sun and rain, hunger and need, to play with the joys of the senses and pay for them with suffering.
This gave me a little jolt of excitement over the Labor Day holiday weekend. I apologize for the redundancy of my words (I was still jittery when trying to film the video) and the ineptitude of my editing skills. I haven’t figured out how to zoom in the video except on my phone. This is the fourth Timber Rattlesnake I have encountered in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park out of a total of six that I have come across in the wild. The other two were encountered while hiking on Springer Mountain, in North Georgia. In two of the cases I stepped well within strike distance of the snakes. Thankfully, every rattlesnake remained very stable during the encounter and at most, simply produced a peaceful warning that was easy to hear and identify. If you turn up the volume, the rattling can be heard for the first 10-15 secs of the video. The rattle movement is also easy to see during this time frame.
I do not support the needless killing of snakes and I would ask anyone predisposed to such a reflex to thoughtfully reconsider their approach. I understand that sometimes such action may be necessary, but most often it is just an irrational fear response.