Philip K. Dick sees through the scenery.

In this interview, Philip K. Dick describes a breakthrough he had when “probing the phenomenal” world.

I have one search and one search only. Let me preface it by saying that I use to search for personal happiness, fulfillment and joy. Since all those things have been denied me, and it’s obvious that they will never happen, I also hope to make a lot of money, but that’s also been denied me. And yet by default one search which I will never give up on and which I feel is within my power to succeed at and is to determine once and for all, to my own satisfaction – not necessarily to the satisfaction of anyone else, but to my own satisfaction – what is the actual nature of reality around us as compared, as contrasted to the apparent, evident, phenomenological reality that we perceive. I have, as you know, written about this for 27 years, in the form of questions. I’ve probed the phenomenal world looking for something behind it, which is why I took LSD. I only took LSD three times and didn’t find any answers through it, so I gave up on that.

But within the last three and a half years, for reasons which I do not know, I made a fantastic breakthrough to a perception of what appears to me to be, I mean what I construe to be, the actual world, in a sense that Plato distinguished the real world from the merely evident world, or empirical world. But I made a fantastic breakthrough. I don’t know how I did it. I don’t know what caused it. But since then I have done nothing but attempt to develop a coherent explanation of what I saw. That is, it is nothing that I thought, it is not an idea. It is actually a perception. The model would be as follows. Let’s say that we are all sitting in a theater watching a live play. And for some reason, it doesn’t matter what reason, we are all so naïve that we think that the play is factually true, that it’s real, it’s not a play. And we’re sitting there, and we’ve watched maybe two acts, and we believe that the actors are the characters that they’re performing. We believe the characters are real. Let’s say it’s a play about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and there’s an actor with a beard, and he’s playing Lincoln. And we really believe he’s Lincoln, you know, and this other guy is John Wilkes Boothe. And we’re sitting there and we’re watching this, and we believe that it’s all real. And all of a sudden, the whole back scenery falls over flat. And now that we see stagehands, with robes and dice and people half in costume and somebody studying their script. Well, this is a –

Blueprint?

Right, right. Exactly. Lights and sandbags to counterweight the curtain. Then immediately about sixteen hundred people rush up and push all the scenery back up on the stage and hope that the audience happened to all be asleep at that moment.

Well, this is what happened to me in regards to the phenomenal world, that for a period of about three and a half days it was as if the scenery had, for some reason, fallen over flat, revealing to me the nature of the reality behind it. But the reality behind it was so different from the phenomenal world, that I couldn’t use language to describe it. That is, I could not find words. I can’t say I saw X, Y, Z – here inserting some semantic associative. And I’ve taken about 300,000 words of notes on it, and done tremendous research. Because I feel if it happened to me it must have happened to somebody else. I can’t be the only person in the entire history of human consciousness to have ever seen the world as it really is. I’ve discovered, for instance, that Plotinus, the neo-Platonist, had this experience. That some of the Sufi have had this experience. And some of the Christian Mystics, like Origen, have had this experience. And Driesch, the German vitalist philosopher, and Bergson. I find indications in India, especially in the Hindu religion, in Brahmanism. Emerson appears to have had this experience. Wordsworth appears to have had this experience. And it doesn’t resemble anything, very closely, that I’ve ever read by even such people as the father of Alexandria. You know, it’s a little like Plato. That is why I gave the image of watching a play. You can say it’s similar to Plato’s image of the pictures shown on the walls of the cave.

In three and a half years of reflecting on my experience and doing research, all I have learned is that it has something to do with time, that apparently time is not what we think it is. It’s something else. There’s a new Soviet theory about time, by Kozyrev, Dr. Nikolai Kozyrev, the great Soviet astrophysicist. His theory is that time has an energy, that it’s the primary energy of the universe. He says time is an energy poured into a material system and the material system is the universe. Well, apparently what happened is I got rephased in terms of linear time in such a way that, instead of linear time flashing by me like the frames in a movie projector flash by, I got past the progressiveness of linear time and saw things outside of their temporal progressions.

insignificance is liberating.

I understand that people, melodramatically, may consider life something one has to survive. But you’re alive, that’s what life is, you are surviving. It plays into this idea that people’s lives are narratives – that it’s a film or book and you have to survive all this craziness. I think it’s a disservice, ultimately, because it makes others feel like their lives aren’t crazy enough. In my mind, life is not a war – although human beings create conditions that make it feel that way – and I think that navigation is a fairer term. I see life essentially as an empty field.

This recent Ian Mackaye interview speaks so much to me I don’t know where to begin quoting. It’s wall to wall wisdom. It has the feeling of a Dharma talk – much of what Ian says vibes with my own thoughts as influenced by Buddhism.

We only wake up for a limited number of days. Although, ironically, I would say life is eternal, because I don’t think there’s any comprehension before or after it. So, if all we know is this, then it’s eternal.

He touches on success, life and technology…. Very much worth your time reading.

Your mind is fertile soil

“It’s simply time to use our potential and overpower all this negative shit. Love can be the source of all things for you. Enough with the greed, enough racism. Stop being a little bitch that needs a force field of machismo, starting fights at dingy-ass clubs. Be kind to people. Respect the earth and the universe and all of its principles. Realize that we are all kin. The same energy that birthed the plants, animals and elements, gave you YOUR existence.

Check it, your mind is fertile soil, your thoughts are seeds and your actions are the sunlight and water that can bring all things into fruition. Plant that positive seed; think the most glorious thoughts that you can possibly imagine. Your next instinct will be to see if you can make those thoughts reality.

For example, if dudes keep saying that the world is going to end, then people start to believe it and then it slowly becomes reality. But if we all start saying that the human race will thrive and harmonize, then that’ll soon become the consensus and the next step will be to act on it and make it happen. I’m just saying, your thoughts are powerful seeds, so try to plant some good ones in there before you go and do some bullshit.”

Edan drops knowledge

Why Not Today?

I was walking to work today listening to Rage Against The Machine on my headphones and at the exact moment in “Guerrilla Radio” where Zack says “What better place than here? What better time than now?” I walked past a woman wearing a t-shirt that read “Why Not Today?”. :)

It is now two weeks since I made a formal decision to not eat meat. Since I made that choice a big weight seems to have lifted off my shoulders. I’m not interested in making a case for not eating meat here, but I want to talk about making decisions.

Going “vegetarian” was something I was considering for a long time, and it had increasingly become a source of stress for me. When it came time to eat I would think a lot about it, feeling guilty about possibly eating meat, then stressing out about it. Then a few weeks ago, a single image struck me, and I made a ‘now-or-never’ choice. Since I’ve made that choice, there is no stress. There might be decisions about what I can eat etc., but what I should eat no longer bothers me. If I get annoyed by lack of food options somewhere, at least I am not being made anxious by my own indecision.

It has occurred to me that this is something I should investigate more. Doug was writing recently about conduct and Buddhist practice and touched on this. One of his bits of advice was:

If unsure, just don’t do it.

I think this mirrors how I made my decision about eating meat. If I was doubting the ethical ramifications of my actions, it’s simply best to not engage in that action. I also agree with Doug when he encourages disciple, which reminded me of the Leo Tolstoy essay which also inspired my decision:

In order to be moral people must cease to eat meat? Not at all.

I only wish to say that for a good life a certain order of good actions is indispensable; that if a man’s aspirations toward right living be serious they will inevitably follow one definite sequence; and that in this sequence the first virtue a man will strive after will be self-control, self-restraint.

I fell that beyond just living in a way I feel to be right, the effort of practising some kind of self-restraint and disciple is helpful.

I’m of course not suggesting that it is easy to just stop engaging in any activity that is causing you anxiety. We all struggle with these things. But what I do think that if it is something that is relatively not difficult, but that it is still causing you grief and you want to give it up….why not today? It was save you anxiety and guilt over it. You might fail, but then you can start again. But you have to start.

Interdependence for Non-Hippies

Disaster Communism

Environmentalism: the question is posed incorrectly from the beginning. There is no external object called “the environment” to which another object called “society” must relate. The question of the environmental crisis cannot be posed separately from that of society, as if it were some alien entity attacking us from the outside. At every point in history, human society is that which we have forged from the transformation of nature, and nature is that on which we depend for our continued existence; nature is part of human society and human society is part of nature.

We exist in a state of profound interdependence with all forms of life – a condition we are unable to transcend, but merely develop in one direction or another. Our relations to one-another are predicated on particular relations to nature. The waged labour relation that is fundamental to capitalism required our estrangement from nature: the violent dispossession and expulsion of peasants from the land, and the enclosure of nature, its constitution as an object to be dominated and exploited was the founding event of capitalist society, a process intimately linked with the suppression and enclosure of women.x

Traditionally, environmentalists have tended to pose the question of how to prevent catastrophe as separate from questions of how humans are to relate to each other. This has tended to mean that environmentalism has confronted us as a rather bleak, desperate and negative discourse:

“’We must act today to save tomorrow’ is the cry of the global greens. Great sacrifices must be made immediately for a reward launched far into the distant future. But such a reward it is! Yes, it may be far away now, but one day, dear friend, you may not be flooded! You may not starve! You might not even suffer more than you do already! Such is the dismal promise of environmentalism.”xi

Indeed, this framing, due to its artificial restriction of the problem to be considered, has often tended to produce a push towards economism and away from the consideration of the intersecting forms of exploitation and domination that produce our social reality, towards compromise with authoritarian forms of organisation, and towards a joyless and debilitating seriousness in the name of urgency. Viewed this way, it seems obvious that all sorts of compromises must be made with systems of domination in order that decisive action be taken to “save the planet”.

The problem is, the question is posed entirely backwards. We cannot think of taking decisive action against the destruction of nature separately from the transformation of the social relations that both arise from and reproduce the domination of nature by humans. The question rather is: what form of society is consistent with the desire to live not merely from nature, but in and with nature? What kinds of subjectivities and forms of social organisation allow us to live not as exploiters of the natural world, nor under the exploitation of others?

What desires and potentials exist in our current world that could form the beginnings of such a world? Clearly, we must have done with the negative environmentalisms that operate on guilt and fear, and that offer nothing but the postponement of death. We must have done also with all the false consolations of magical thinking that keep us invested in a political system that can only fail us.

Clearly, what we need is an anti-capitalism, but it cannot be one that simply takes over production and runs it more democratically. (In any case what system could outmatch modern capitalism in the production of endless junk?)

It’s great to see the interdependence of man and nature (and indeed, the realisation that there is no difference between them) expressed so well in the sphere of radical politics/economics, and not just as Buddhist-influenced, Watts-like ‘hippy’ (ugh) talk. It’s also nothing new, Gary Snyder’s “Buddhist Anarchism” has been with us for some time, but a welcome continuation of the debate.

I’ve written before about how I imagine the practical implementation of a realisation of non-duality/interdependence and I surmised it would be a ‘communist’ system and I think this piece reinforces that thought.

The Meaning of Life

There is no meaning in life. The meaning is in sentences, meaning is in symbols that symbolize life. Life itself does not have a meaning because that’s what meaning refers too, meaning refers to life. To look for meaning in life is like looking for trees on a map. You can find squiggles that represent trees but you won’t find the trees there. The squiggles only represent the trees or the rivers. You can’t wash in a river on a map, you gotta find a real river

Robert Anton Wilson

Arriving Somewhere

When I talk to my friends or clients about this, there’s always this feeling of wishing or hoping that you’ll eventually arrive somewhere. But, I don’t know anybody who’s ever arrived anywhere. Everybody I know with half a brain is always a little bit nervous about how long they’re going to be okay doing what they’re doing.

How many people out there say, “Gosh, I wish I could own a house”? Everybody I know who owns houses are losing their minds trying to make their mortgage payment or they’re scared to death about having to replace the roof. Anybody who wants more money, a better job, or a bigger house is ultimately just wishing for a new set of anxieties.

Merlin Mann saying something similar to what Alan Watts did in ‘Music and Life’

Ian Mackaye on Happiness

Although I know little of his music, I’m a big fan of Ian Mackaye as a person/activist and could watch him speak all day. I came across this clip today.

And what leapt out at me was this piece on ‘what is happiness’

The word happy like many words has been perverted. Perverted by society to some degree, but by a marketplace entirely. I think for me, to be happy, […] is to not be thinking about it. Fun and happiness are both overrated. I think that people think of those as ideals, I think life is the ideal. The way i’ve always tried to live is to be in the moment. Just do my work. Y’know, just try to deal with things as they come along. I’m not thinking about anything else, I’m just doing this right now. That’s happiness.

I think there’s a lot of truth in this. Ironically, one of the ways we make ourself unhappy is by thinking about happiness. We strive for an ideal situation, and when we inevitably fall short, we are disappointed. We fantasize about a great night, a great weekend, a great job etc. and reality can never live up to the ideal. This is not to say that we cannot strive for things to be better, but to fixate on having ‘fun’ and being ‘happy’, I think, leads only to disappointment. But if we were to focus on doing what we are doing, moment to moment, then we would enjoy those moments as they are. Indeed, something which could make us happy, we can distort into being an unsatisfactory experience, because it is being compared to the ideal.

Mackaye also appears in Dylan Haskin’s 2008 documentary “Roll Up Your Sleeves” about DIY culture and towards the end he points at the camera and says “this movie may never get made, it’s OK, it seems like you had a pretty incredible experience making it, and I had a pretty good time talking to you.”. Or as Trungpa Rinpoche said, “The path is the goal.”

I wanna have something to do. That’s what I want to do with my life. I wanna wake up and feel like I see what I do, and I wanna do it. That’s how I would like to live, and it’s how I try to live. If I’m working, I’m not thinking about it, and that strikes me as a very happy existence.

A Month Without Meat

So, last month I decided to go 7 days without meat, as part of my experimentation in and consideration of vegetarianism. As I wrote before, I am pretty much in agreement with vegetarianism as an ethical stance, but struggle to put it into practise. So, I gave it a go and 7 days went by, which then became 10, which then became 2 weeks, and then I decided to go for a full month.

As it went on I found it easier and easier. Preparing my own lunches helped ( but do take a bit of planning as I don’t like cheese or eggs so need to go find the shops that do suitable meat-replacement hams etc.) Then I started getting salad wraps/sandwiches whilst out and found them not only satisfactory, but very nice.

The real temptation came when I was eating out in restaurants. One night, for a friend’s birthday, I went for a vegetarian stir fry, as my friend across from me tucked into a massive, juicy steak. I admit, my mouth watered, and my stomach rumbled a bit, but I soldiered on. As time went by however I felt myself increasingly comfortable with my decision and having little to no cravings for meat, day to day. These temptations only appeared when out and other people ordered meat. A working lunch in a local kebab restaurant was another incident – I ordered a veggie kebab (in which the meat was replaced with onion bajis) which was fine, but our boss treated us to a massive platter of meat for a starter. As everyone tucked in, I had to stare at my plate. Interestingly, this meal was after my self-prescribed 4-week period so by my own rules I would have been free to tuck in, but I just didn’t want to.

I had no intentions to go ‘cold turkey’ (excuse the pun) on meat, but to gradually wean myself off, but the ‘month of no meat’ just happened by itself. By the time the kebab lunch rolled around something had changed – I was very used and comfortable with ordering meals without meat and I kept going. It was a mix of habit and an increasing guilt at the idea of eating meat which had crept in (I am Irish ex-Catholic, after all).

The very next day, however, my meat-sabbatical ended – by accident. I was out at another cafe and a communication breakdown ended up with my ‘salad wrap’ containing chicken. I bit in and realised and decided rather than go back with it, I would just eat it. It was there, it was prepared, my 4 weeks was up and I’m not a quote-unquote vegetarian. I didn’t have a sudden moment of meat-induced clarity where I saw the true light, nor was I repulsed and unable to eat it. It was just chicken.

Since then, however, I’ve been back to my salad wraps.

I thought that my breaking the sabbatical would result in a total ‘falling off the wagon’. I’ve become very used to forming habits that have to be sustained – if I break, I tend to break forcefully. I maintain a daily sitting meditation practice, and have noticed that if I miss a day, traditionally I then end up missing a few days. Same with healthy eating habits etc. But recently with these I’ve become much better at getting back on the horse the very next day. And so it appears to be going with avoiding meat.

I’m still not committing to being a vegetarian – it might be sometime before I ever actually do so, but I have significantly reduced my meat intake. I think after the 4 week experiment I will go back to being less strict and see how it goes, but it has shown me that I can do it.

Some people I know had assumed I was now a ‘full veggie’ but I don’t want to give this impression as I will most definitely eat meat again at some stage. I’ve been advised to both gradually wean myself off meat or alternatively to make a complete, clean break. I almost did the clean break – but I think a more gradual move is best, for now.

We’ll see how I get on.