Perhaps I am a fool to proclaim my qualifications to set the ship of humanity back on its right course
And on many accounts.
How could anyone in our sterile age possess the wherewithal to carry on Nietzsche’s labors, much less a relative unknown like me? Even if my intentions were strong and pure, which they are, how could I feign the slightest hope of extending the work of such a genius?
Especially when the legions of philosophers out there are so well trained in the subtleties of such manners, let alone those many who specialize in his thought. They must have much to say on the matter.
I probably am a fool. And yet, who has stepped forward in the past decade, 25 years, or half-century? Thankfully, there are still a few political dissidents around to challenge our malignant exercise of power and the absurd claims to justify that.
But who among us is capable of even identifying a perspective large enough and complete enough to get at the roots or our great problems today? If such a person did exist, could she then untangle those roots and trace them back through the millennia and then millions and then billions of years to the source?
If we were to find her, what virtues would she possess?
It would not be a matter of great education if such is yet to be had, and scintillating intelligence is far more readily misused than used wisely.
Someone with vast experience in our great and overarching institutions? Trapped deep within their byzantine passageways, he would be the very last person to consult.
Great compassion and selfless love for humanity and all creatures – even if such were possible – are not criteria for knowledge of how we arrived at this perilous perch in our species’ existence.
The claim to understand those worlds beyond our world, where the real really exists and where everything is good and orderly is just that, a claim. Gurus, monks, preachers, healers, “thought leaders” and the rest of their ilk endlessly and copiously explain these worlds to us, but how can they when they are unknowable – even if they did exist?
Given how powerfully ingrained the need is to believe and that the institutions of belief are so pervasive and influential, I cannot rightfully call upon people to change their minds. Rather I would hope that they could join in effective dialogue, based on solid foundational principles of reality, which are necessarily outside of their opinions.
Otherwise, there is scant evidence in history of belief-systems having improved our course in history. Benefits here and there, certainly, but not nearly balanced by the harm caused. Is Myanmar more virtuous for being primarily Buddhist? Yes, secular versions have failed as well, but why we expect them to succeed if the larger interests of humanity are not served?
The world our species has fabricated – we refer to as civilization – is comprised of the built world (the uses we have made of nature including the physical structures), the sociocultural sphere (as I call it), and the ways our psyche interacts with those two.
A strange double image was created with the “rise” of civilization. One image is of the overwhelmingly concrete fabricated world where our bodies are closely attached and very much at home. The other image is of the world that we go to in our minds especially poignant for the religious and spiritual but applicable to everyone since we all naturally create mental constructions.
Now these two images co-exist in our psyches and reflect each other endlessly like a recursive series of images from opposing mirrors. We take this all in unconsciously and therefore cannot account for its effects and presume – in the absence of other problems – that everything is fine.
But everything is not fine because the two images and their endless reflections is one reason that the psyche becomes fragmented. That is, the way we understand ourselves and the external world is not integrated and coherent even if we consciously think it is.
This is a critically important insight of The Antibuddha as we will discover over and over again if we keep our eyes open. Long before we take the spiritual path away from planet earth and before psychological problems crop up; even before socioeconomic impediments adversely affect our course in life, we are born and grow up in a world of the double image and its reflections.
Do you see this? Do you understand it deeply within you?
In civilization, our non-genetic inheritance is to begin life with an integrated psyche for it to become fragmented in our early development. The fragmentation is furthered and worsened by other jarring effects on the psyche which occur anytime we absorb entirely contradictory accounts of the world. The most important examples are the belief that we are a united self that is in control of our destiny and that justice prevails in the world or failing to be aware of the inextricable connection between the internal psyche and the external world and that these both create each other in human affairs.
We will return to these examples many times as we take a closer look at Buddhism. But who will bring these truths to bear? Looking everywhere and reading widely to locate someone alive today, it seems that there is no one who will step forward…
…except for me.
Undoubtedly this is something only a fool would say, at least out loud.
Perhaps only a fool could possess that very rare admixture of genetic endowments (that include an astounding degree of curiosity with just enough sensitivity and strength) coupled with being born into the circumstances that provide just the right amount of mistreatment and social exclusion to allow him to see through this world and its grandiose pretensions.
In America, such a fool is labeled a loser, someone who does not know how to work the world to achieve what it has to offer, and in America, in our
national religion, the greatest sin is to be a loser. But it could not be any more obvious: those who succeed in our world could have no understanding about what it is, especially about what it could be.
But the ability to see what we have made, what we have wrought – perhaps a form of “outsight” as opposed to insight – requires much more than constant failure at getting to the top of the heap; after all most of us on this planet have experienced that. No, it takes someone with all my gifts. Enough sensitivity to feel, enough strength to endure, a sufficiently acute sense of injustice and the institutions that perpetuate it, and a sense of curiosity that can never be stated until understanding at the depths is reached.
Is that the makings of a fool?
In olden days it was not unheard of. The occupation of the fool or jester at the court who would speak truth to power even as it was masked as clowning and silliness to remain alive. This is ever more needed than today, but never more glaringly absent.
Isn’t the highest qualification for foolery in our stage of existence, however, to be able to see that this as the best of all possible worlds? With technology ever advancing, our species becoming ever more civilized, the great world wars a thing of the past and God always on our side, then, yes, only a fool would be stupid enough to claim otherwise.
I must be a fool then.