I accept reality, and dare not question it;
Materialism first and last imbuing.
The simplest way to conceive of existence or what existence is comprised is to see that it is based on physical material and processes.
This is easily understood, consistent with most philosophy today, and, accurate. It is simply the basis of existence.
Now, a combination of three things has gotten in the way of seeing that simple truth. 1) Given the human predilection for belief, 2) there is an unending supply of people stepping forward to tell people what and how to believe, and 3) given the limitless levels of abstractions that we moderns can conjure up, things are all too easily made complex and confusing.
Again, complex does not mean “superior”, “sophisticated” or “unavoidable” because complexity in civilization – especially in the postmodern era – is to add a lot of ideas that are beside the point and just make reality difficult to understand.
An important cause of the superfluous information, it must be admitted, is the unbridled ego which manifests in two major ways. First, the author wants to show everyone how clever the owner he is to bring up such a subtle point for consideration. Second, and much more insidiously, is to control other people.
I’m not talking about a salesperson who actively seeks to control how their customers think to make a purchase. That is relatively benign. No, I am more interested in those who – sometimes consciously but more often unconsciously – want to control others in a more thorough and enduring fashion.
Politicians and sociopaths quickly come to mind, but what about intellectuals and religious leaders?
Making something confusing out of what is innately simple is a great way to gain influence and control other people.
This is very disturbingly illustrated by the predators who groom their victims and sometimes the friends and families of their victims. They provide false information in intimate and flattering ways to confuse their prey when the simple truth would simply disarm them. Famous predator-pedophiles, such as Jimmy Saville and Michael Jackson, add wealth, power and a much higher level of fantasy to the illusion.
We could prevent a not insignificant degree of predation by teaching young children how to question fictional worlds and those who present them. While it may not seem easy, children are practical little creatures and are empowered by the simple truth.
Of course, belief in fictional worlds is so much a part of the adult world that we would have to begin teaching parents and teachers this first, but that would certainly not be easy to implement. So, what should we do?
We begin by reassuring all illusion holders that nobody wants to change them. So, where harm to others is not a concern, they are free to practice their beliefs. It is more practical and compassionate to accept them as they are and appeal to their higher quality beliefs to help make meaningful change.
But a central message of the The Antibuddha is the critically important distinction between accepting people’s private beliefs and accepting their right to bring them into the public arena.
This arena, what the ancient Greeks once called the agora – is barely standing anymore. Where once meaning could be debated and ultimately adjudicated – albeit not without considerable flaws – in the current era we don’t know what it looks like anymore.
This is the reason that postmodernism in all its guises must be scraped off of what is left of our lives. It can be done. Deconstruction can be deconstructed, the superficial wiped clean, sophistry banished, the prattling of cheap hustlers muted. We begin to reverse the attack on meaning at all sociocultural levels of postmodernism when we start building a modern agora where it can be articulated, understood, defended and honored.
Let me forward the hypothesis for a moment that we can create such an arena, where meaning is once again meaningful, false claims are rejected, absurdity called what it: contentless drivel. That alone would put a merciful end to the new age religion and self-help industries. In the reconstructed arena where it becomes our sacred duty and greatest privilege to advance the cause of meaning, we would no longer value something just because it was different or the misplaced kindness that everyone gets to spout their bizarre and misinformed opinions.
Building this arena will not be easy in the world we currently live in, so it will have to occur over time (not too much time), a transitioning to the next “era” that involves courage, endurance and wisdom. While a variety of approaches and strategies will be necessary to accomplish it, at the core, the simple model of reality, based what is known or can be known, will serve as the foundation for dialogue and effective solutions
Seeing reality as comprised of material (aptly named the “materialist” position), which is supported by all the sciences is the simplest model possible.
And please don’t get bogged down in the physics. Only a few people can understand that subject, and largely only through mathematical equations and they do not agree about very much anyway.
It isn’t important whether you base physical stuff on quantum physics, time or matter & energy (whether it is “dark” or not) or inside the atom or atoms and molecules. Whatever level you explore and however they are related to each other – if we ever find out, that is – we can just call it “material” and agree that we are talking about the whole kit and caboodle.
Again, we don’t have to understand all this – which is fortunate because no one can – to agree that existence is comprised of material.
Again, it bears repeating, we cannot advertise our egos and the great subtleties of our reasoning in ever so monotonous soliloquies about whether it is possible to subjectively know this in the first place. That type of thinking is thinking only and has nothing to do with the body and the unconscious psyche which always and automatically and throughout evolution has accepted the material basis of reality.
My advice to those who doubt existence and our capacity to know it is to stop eating for a month and come back to the question with a fresh perspective. At that point it is not so much whether they can still maintain their position or not, but whether they care about it any longer. In the meantime, they will learn how central the body is to our being.
Intellectuals, philosophers, “thought leaders”, preachers, gurus, monks, saints, not to mention politicians or the lowly con men (the most honest of the lot) think nothing – in both senses of the phrase – of bewildering the rest of us with meandering explanations that lead nowhere.
Such “reasoning” and glorification of never-ending abstractions has done so much mischief in the world!
Those people who agree with an eminent thinker such as Thomas Nagel who artfully attacks the materialist position to bolster his claim that “mind” was always there and is independent of physical reality, are welcome to maintain that “belief” – for that is all it is. But practice it only at home.
Those who want to take Nagel’s “mind” idea and attach “God” to it are welcome to their beliefs as well.
Similarly, with other fictions – as I contend anyway – hold them dear to your heart, but do not bring that to the arena, to the agora of old, and expect it to be included in the simple model of reality.
It strikes me as similar to the idea of separating church and state: may all the people of the bewildering variety of Protestant beliefs keep that to themselves when we in and of the state (theoretically speaking) tend to the matters of state. If we can agree to that we might be able to tend to the matters of state and keep believers from killing each other at the same time.
Only getting meaning straight is far more important.
4 Walt Whitman, Song of Myself