I Am My World

It may be that I, now after having started back up the slopes toward the philosopher’s hut, find myself in the company of those with hypochondria.  More than a few will go as far to self-inflect in some sado-masochistic bout of irony to read medical volumes in order to find every illness possibly inflicting them.  In like vein, I might be accused of subscribing to major schools of philosophy that seem remotely related to my own mental states.  I recall a roommate in college who took courses in psychology in order to have access to academic journals in order that he could attribute bizarro mental states to his own being with the panache of an accredited psychologist.  It is easy for a lay-person to overly attribute some deeply academic theory or set of thinking to a condition when, at best, the label we attach includes far more than we might ever understand it to convey.  On this point, when I write that I am Solipsist or even a Nihilist then recognize that I am ascribing to myself attributes in these schools of thought that I do so as a lay-person with all the generalities and (over-) simplifications this entails.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

When Descartes wrote “(dubito ergo) cogito ergo sum”, or “(I doubt therefore) I think therefore I am” we may see this in the light in which we are cast or in the light which the statement was cast.  It is not that I am not interested in this histories surrounding René per se; but, no matter how much I might delve into such matters I acknowledge I cannot fully extricate myself from my own understanding of these said matters.  This last sentence, if you are paying attention, is with no undue amount a nodding of head to the Solipsist in me.  Therefore, because I recognize the butchery that will result if I attempt to understand the latter, I will chop it off  from further topic to leave us but one leg in the former light, as it were.  Whether we will remain standing by the end remains to be seen.  Back to Descartes.  His words stand as both bulwark to and clarion call of the intellectual human for whom (rational) thought triumphs supreme over their world.  But we must also come to recognize that his is the Solipsist clarion call, its ringing of our prison cell slamming closed on us.  Our thoughts are our everything: our world, our universe, our god, our us.  There is nothing else; we only exist, our world we perceive only exists, because we think we do.

Why bring up any of this?  I am certainly not a philosopher and thus have nothing substantive to add to those more qualified than I to comment on that many natures of Solipsism.  But in my past year’s reading of various philosophical texts (e.g. Nietzsche’s The Anti-Christ(ian); Plato’s Apology, Republic and Sophist), scientific texts (e.g. Richard Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion; David Reznick’s The Origin Then and Now: An Interpretive Guide to the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin; Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Impossible and Hyperspace) and literary fiction that ascribes to bring story and structure to philosophical ideas (e.g. David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest; Herman Hesses’s Steppenwolf) there was more than enough source material for me to come to articulate a new position I found myself in; namely, that the singular state of self is our only alpha (beginning) and omega (end), and more so we only need ourselves to discover true happiness.  As Solipsist I do not take the strong form of believing nothing exists beyond my perceptions.  However, I only trust what I perceive as true.  This nuance might be expressed as: I cannot know what you know, only know what I perceive you to know.  As Nihilist I do not believe life has any intrinsic purpose other than to be born, live (, procreate), and die; our lives boil down to natural selection.  Even free will does not exist external to the self to be handed down by some supernatural being; regardless, I do unflinchingly and with no irony argue that we must take free will on faith as axiom to be true.  Finally, because of these two I then come as Atheist.  I do not ascribe to any belief in any supernatural beings, gods or GOD or God.  In sum, for me there is nothing more to this life than myself, for I am “god” to my world of one.

I am not here to per se defend my position since, as you will see, I do not believe I need to defend it, nevertheless I will try to explain it.  But before I proceed let me quickly summarize much of my “philosophy” of life up to the age of 36.  First principle: I believed in unconditional love.  Second principle: I believed that judging others in any shape or form was to be avoided.  Thirdly, I believed I was a fundamentally broken human being; I literally believed I was emotionally, spiritually, physically sub-human: to wit, not of the species homo sapiens.  Fourth, counter to third I believed I could do anything or at least intellectually comprehend anything (The Little Engine That Could was read by me obsessively and compulsively as a child).  Fifth, I was raised in a fundamentalist Protestant environment that taught by application of fear and Fear of my eternal suffering for any rejection or rebuff of God or Jesus Christ.  Sixth, contrary to my introverted nature I was guilted into believing that every waking moment should be spent spending time with human beings.  Seventh, the parenting I received included negative reinforcement on a regular basis and comically absurd indifference or irrational attachment.  Add this all up in a cocktail, hand to a borderline autistic child with extreme bouts of introversion to quaff down for three decades on a daily basis and you get one very disturbed and self-conflicting person.  In short, because I believed I could not judge others and because I needed to love unconditionally I saw any and all external incompatibles with my own nature as fundamentally due to my own nature.  I could never see that I and another were not compatible with each other; I saw the incompatibility is solely resting in me.  This inability to see reality only reinforced my belief that I was fundamentally broken, overtime cementing with bedrock certainty my un-humanity [sic].  Additionally, due to my religious upbringing and in spite of my renouncing it over two decades ago I still framed this kind of life as my own “living purgatory”; I had to prove to “God” my worth as a loving being.  Sadly, whenever I failed to love another or whenever they rejected me it only fueled me to try again, but this time a bit more cracked and crazed about finding my redemption in others.  In trying to love others I forgot how to love myself.  To say I lived a life of near perpetual spiritual, emotional and physical pain is not nearly the overstatement I wish it were.

As I have written before, my world collapsed in my 35th year and by the time I turned 36 my fall was complete.  From this fall my ascent back into sanity was, ironically enough, predicated on me becoming “more me”.  I have since learned to sit squarely and comfortably on my haunches and resoundingly within the marrow of my bones.  What initiated this discovery that I needed to be more me began when I recognized all my failures revolved around centers of power.  In every instance, the solution was to bring the locus of power back inside of myself.  This, of course, also meant I needed to take more and more responsibility for my actions and my perception of my world.  While we can talk about empowerment, I learned the key is to learn to effectively apply my very limited resources (time and energy) to realize the greatest benefit.  For the frank reality I am neither omniscient nor omnipotent.  Amongst all this, it may be with irony that I refer you to the prayer of serenity as a source of profound wisdom.  One of the strongest and most virulent walls that blocked me from empowering myself was my ascribing to my situation one of being a victim.  I am not a victim.  No one can hurt me.  No one can belittle me.  No one can judge me.  And conversely, no one can make me happy.  I do these things to myself.  I do these things for myself.

Life is, in large part, a matter of perspective.  By way of analogy, I am but a mere, small pollen sitting atop an infinitely running river; my gross movements are utterly beyond our ability to influence it, I can only operate locally to shift my position.  From the scale of the river any change by the pollen is undetectable; but, from the scale of the pollen it is life-size.  Again, turning back to my childhood I was reared in a household where people exercised control over their environments through external manipulation and control.  It was a world filled with the word “should”; a word I believe a truer murderer than the appeal of Hamlet’s ghost: “murder most foul”, indeed.  My allergy to the word “should” stems from its implications of criticality, judgement and pending recrimination.  The application of judgement outside the very limited confines of jurisprudence is at best meaningless and worst harmful in the most foul manner.  I believe we judge others as a means of trying to control our external world, forcing it to adopt to our short-comings rather than we to it.  The act of judgement is the act of the pollen trying to bend the course of the river.  Stepping back a little to provide framework, it may be humbling, even humiliating to someone to accept they have absolutely no meaningful control over most of their life.  Just by raw numbers we are all a force of one at the mercy of six billion homo sapiens.  And of course, by weight and in comparison to total biological mass that exists on this planet the entire human race in total is only a small fraction of the whole.  Compound to this a lifespan of seventy-five years to the current span of all time — some thirteen billion years — and we are all at best a mere speck of pollen indeed.

One of the unfortunate take-aways, as it were, of my last marriage is that it left me with a life-long infection that is transmittable to my sexual partners.  While the infection will not kill me nor anyone else, it has irrevocably changed my social landscape and thus my oft said quip that I am a “celibate monk.”  I simply can no longer afford the casual flippancy that myself and most of my generation has applied to sexual relationships.  And while it has made it at times challenging, it nevertheless has been one of the deepest blessings of my life.  I can no longer afford not only casual sexual relationships but also casual relationships (given the sexual promiscuity that is mainstream in my generation).  Why is this good?  I married two of those casual relationships and subsequently got divorced; and therefore my point is that this condition has demanded I think deeply about who I am and who I want to spend my time with.  I am not immune to loneliness and certainly I, like many others, have used relationships as a salve to cover the loneliness we feel.  I can say with utter frankness that both my previous wives and myself each vocalized the belief that one benefit of our marriage would that it would rid us of our feelings of loneliness.  It never did; it actually compounded our loneliness.  We went from lonely and single to married believing we should not be lonely.  To discover loneliness under these false expectations is to amplify the pain.  Regardless, this infection that demands my celibacy and which I begrudgingly accept has nonetheless allowed me to find a peace and happiness I do not believe I could have otherwise.  Belatedly as it might, I finally came to realize everything I feel, everything I perceive, everything I am is conditional on one thing and one thing only:  me.   Once I discovered that I was the core to my everything I began the arduous task of removing, whenever and wherever possible, any and all attachments to external dependencies.  In short, I no longer look without myself to be happy.  At first I feared that I was retreating into myself, shutting out the world though a course of disconnection.  Whereas I suspected my ego would overwhelm me, I instead discovered I had to eradicate my ego; there is simply not enough room for it.  In particular, I found my ego consistently getting in the way of me being an empathetic person.  My ego led me to lash out at people, my ego led me to defend myself in spite of my failings and prevented me from growing and maturing.  I now find myself detached to a degree and in a manner that I am, ironically enough, more connected and more able to care than ever before.  I find I love more deeply and more truly because I am unfettered by feelings of guilt, obligation, duty, recrimination, subservience, domination, self-loathing and all the rest of the baggage I often heaped upon myself.  The whole of who I am, as much as I can allow myself, is under my management.  When I extend myself to another human being I am doing so with most of energies directed toward that singular act; I am no longer being sapped by all the other secondary connections I would have in the past been trying to maintain and satisfy.

I suspect people might find my view of the world lonely, depressing, or even horrifying.  I know that many people feel the same after coming to terms with natural selection.  Darwinism tells us that there is no motive other than what comes from the “the selfish gene”, that even our conscious self is a mere consequence of genetic survival.  Add to this that there is no personal god interested in the affairs of this universe or our lives and a person might feel that is not much left in the way of life.  (Though I can and do make exception for Spinoza’s or Einstein’s god; a philosophically constructed entity useful, even beneficial, to the human psyche but no more supernatural than god’s creator, man.)  As a teenager I vocally rejected all of my religious upbringing and declared that Science was my belief, my Religion — a misuse of the word “religion” meant to emphasis a symmetric break and not to meant convey that I thought Science is Religion.  When I returned from Japan I had discovered Buddhism and declared that the meaning of Life was Life itself.  However, the boy returning as man from his Japanese bildungsroman some twenty years ago had not been sufficiently tempered by life to appreciate how fleeting everything is, even his then precarious understanding of some of these deep truths.  Now, twenty years later his future self, my now I, writes knowing with utter confidence that our shared future self of some sixty years will again look back to reaffirm his discovery of self.  I am sure I will struggle to remember in my bones what I am sharing with you now.  It is the nature of things for us to circle back continuously on the wisdoms in our life that we learn and then forget and then learn again anew.  But in the meantime I am happy to be alone with no god but myself so that I might live a life and to love the people who want me in their lives.

Author: Ward

I’m the creator and operator of this little corner of the internets, writing on all things related to art and more specifically my experiences trying to figure this whole thing out. I guess I’m trying to figure out life, too, but mostly I just post about art here.

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