Yesterday public television in Seattle celebrated their decade-long relationship with the just-deceased self-help writer Wayne Dyer, and to honor the author the station was replaying one of his final talks.
The theme of his presentation alludes me; it was something about Five Steps to Something or Other, the secrets of which were contained in his new book, which was touted tastefully throughout his talk.
I decided to give the show a try, despite the fact that I’ve a strong aversion to listening to other people talk or write about ‘how’ life should be lived or experienced.
Prior to the advent of the Internet, this phenomenon of people giving advice about living was always buzzing in the background of life, but not in the omnipresent way it does now.
The Net has mutated what used to be a semi-contained industry (the self-help, how-to world) into a bacchanalia of yapping gurus and guides — billions of bromides pinging back and forth across blogs, YouTube and social media every hour.
The world, as the Net depicts it, is divided into distinct camps: Those with electronic devices doing nothing. And those doing nothing but writing or talking about doing stuff and then selling that information on an electronic device to people that aren’t doing anything.
While watching the PBS tribute to Wayne Dyer talking about Wayne Dyer and Wayne Dyer’s new book about doing stuff to be a better person like Wayne Dyer, my fascination and agitation landed not on Dyer, but on the audience.
Their eagerness and willingness to be told how they could improve their lives felt heartbreaking. Because the camera would periodically cutaway to random scans of the crowd, I was privy to dozens of eyeholes dilated in moist receptivity as Dyer spoonfed them a list of dos and don’ts for a ‘better life.’
Dyer had conveniently crafted these pointers into a list that was transformed into an illustration of a ladder with five distinct steps. And because our culture is obsessed to the point of mania with lists, the childlike image of the ladder remained projected behind Dyer as his proverbs tumbled forth.
I squirmed. Each ‘pointer’ or step on the ladder was related to Dyer’s personal existence — as if I were interested. (I write this flatly, not from a place of mean-spiritedness but fact, I wasn’t intrigued, though I’m sure many in the audience were.)
Dyer’s peculiar mix of humility and hubris was incredibly distracting. I kept thinking, “God, this is so brilliant. You missed your calling (and million$) by not starting a church or movement.” And yet my eyeholes were bone-dry.
Too, this interweaving of the promise of a secret to be revealed (to better oneself or reach a financial goal), with Dyer’s insistent desire to give it to me was just weird.
I’ve long suggested that no one follows the how-tos of self-help books. Books of this ilk are akin to talismans that people keep on their nightstand to remind them of something or other that is supposed to make their life better while they continue to do what they’ve always done because in the end the only person anyone is interested in hearing from is oneself.
Gurdjieff‘s student, the writer O.R. Orage wrote: “Imagination as we use it, is simply an excess of desire over ability.” Self-help books allow for a kind of imaginary ability that turns out to be nothing more than a hybrid form of procrastination. This deluded state hovers about in the mind for a couple of weeks and then the book begins to gather dust on the nightstand.
Finally, perhaps, maybe, you get your shit together and act from some kind of gumption. Often this comes via desperation or is tied in with eleventh-hour providence. But whatever: “Yay, you’re off of your ass!”
Moving in life, doing things, takes courage and I’m fascinated by how and why humans have lost so much courage, the scale of which you can track by watching the bestseller status of various self-help and how-to books.
Or just listen to the predominate message within politics, which goes something like: “Vote for ___ and she’ll guarantee that you and your family will survive this weird post-industrial society you’re struggling to survive in.” But why must I wait for Bernie Sanders to make my life better? (I think Bernie’s great by the way — but why displace my courage and faith unto him?)
So, the point of this post isn’t to make fun of self-help books but to act as a reminder or a spirited nudge. A reminder to pay attention to the impulse to buy books (or listen incessantly to TED talks about things you should be doing yourself) that are stand-ins for your goals and the kind of focus and exertion of will required to fulfill your purpose.
What is the solution to escaping the tyranny of the how-to-self-help-yourself stuff?
Well, if I told you that you’d be in the same cycle I’ve outlined above. Instead, I’ll offer some insights and observations that seem closer to (and are germane with) the universal. These are suggestions for you to poke at and entertain in passing. Lightly. Read more
Who could possibly want to read another take-apart or close reading of the 2016 presidential election? Not me. And yet…
Rather than opinionate I’ve tried to cull some out-of-the-loop views to consider, punctuated with some random insights. So I’ll just toss these out there like bird seed. Peck at what you like and leave the rest. And if you skip the whole thing, well, who could blame you?
• The nature of reality is that it will not be cornered or tracked or predicted; in the same way that a dream you have at night — free from your ego’s edits and preferences — is a wild card narrative unfurling beneath your closed eyes. Reality and dream — only our waking state appears to separate them.
The Internet has taken the entire contents of the collective unconsciousness and the savage qualities of the id, and placed the amalgam at our beck and call, on phones and monitors across the globe. This is a form of dream overload.
Anytime you have a screen of any sort (be it your iPhone’s or your desktop computer’s) you’ll have a projected dream moving across it, right there in front of your face. And we have been trained for this response; first by cinema and then by television — though now we are participants, content creators, Tweeters, bloviators, in the dream narrative that shimmies and glows everywhere on our devices.
We are tethered to them in a symbiotic loop cycle, always tapping and poking the images and the data forward. Everywhere I go now it’s people shuffling about with their heads tilted down and scanning, scanning, scanning their phones for the latest tidbit or section from the collective dream field.
The dream bubble most liberals and Democrats floated within depicted a new world, with the first female president and all that was wonderful with a Clintonian dynasty redux. And the dream bubble of the GOP and its advocates was, of course, completely polarized from the other. The dynamism of life is continually oscillating and pulling the rug out from us — it just burns more when we’re the particular group experiencing the yanking. The collective dream field of the two factions never allowed for intersection or integration — the victor of this malfunction was Trump. And so here we are.
• A good way to actually integrate your experience of the past week is to view the entire event as a happening within a dream narrative. Imagine you went to bed and had this particular dream. What does it tell you about yourself? I don’t mean this to be a navel-gazing experiment, but an actual process of gaining insight to shadow parts of the psyche. Why? Because most of that regressed material is usually projected out onto what is perceived as the enemy or the tyrant or the monster or ogre — and, wow, with The Donald, we seem to be getting the entire package of horrors. Or are we?
What if our projections actually feed into the monstrous narrative that we’re terrified of? What if like Dave Chappelle offered in his opening monolouge on SNL, we gave Trump a chance, wished him luck and waited a bit to see if he can do a good job? How hubristic is it to assume we know exactly what’s to come (and many of us are acting that way)? It’s sort of embarassing, especially after what you’d think would be the humbling aftereffects of the election.
What if you settled into the notion that Trump is a human being like you are, with a heart, and longings, and wishes — a complex psychological history that feeds into his fear of being a failure and doing a bad job? Can’t we all relate to these qualities? What would happen I wonder if we each held this upcoming period in abeyance, supported by good wishes? I’ve been playing with this notion when I wake up in the morning and feel as tho someone has stomped on my head. It’s an interesting experiment in thought projection. Play around with it.
• “Life happens too fast for you ever to think about it. If you could just persuade people of this, but they insist on amassing information.” — Kurt Vonnegut
Here’s a ‘real’ world issue: The endless glut of news and opinion that’s vomited out of computer monitors worldwide has eroded our ability to think for ourselves.
To attempt to manage and metabolize the spew of data, updates, breaking stories, scandals, Wiki dumps, investigative exposes isn’t humanly possible. In fact, it’s fucking crazy-making.
Worse is the inability to know what is factual and what is fiction. This later predicament has grown exponentially throughout the year. And social media is the main culprit.
Forty-four percent of Americans get their news from Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center, filling a void left by the declining ranks of newspapers. By comparison, only 2 in 10 U.S. adults get news from print newspapers today. Facebook vets nothing and Mark Zuckerberg is groaningly disingenuous when he said: “Voters make decisions based on their lived experience.” Right, Mark. And many people are actually living their online life locked completely within Facebook’s echo chamber and gated community.
• Something I’ve suggested to a lot of friends and folks writing to me since Election Day: Round up a copy of the Masterpiece Theater miniseries I Claudius. (Or search for the production on Youtube, I think the entire series is posted up there.)
Situations like the ascendancy of Donald Trump have occurred since the dawn of time, in various permutations — though the 1976 mini-series based on Robert Graves‘s book, gives you a decidedly Western version of the wild ruptures within politics: The backroom games, shadow government, the Mafia-like forces that corrupt and poison, the descent of greatness and ascent of madness.
Much of this has to do with what Nietzsche wrote: “Insanity in individuals is something rare — but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” The point being, grasping the concept that when it comes to mobs of people very little ever changes. Individuals have opportunities to evolve, but socio-cultural evolution is glacial at best. I Claudius demonstrates that ‘interesting times’ are always happening. Yes, some phases are more devastating than others, but always this predicament haunts human beings attempting to govern themselves. We are incredibly slow learners. We need to face that. Read more
Going over my notes today for the chapter I’m finishing up on debunking the notion that the Zodiac is something that floats around out in space and somehow corresponds to the equatorial division of the earth’s surface into twelve pie pieces, I came across notes I’m incorporating from the late, great David Roell — who I borrowed heavily from for this chapter (namely his proposition regarding an earth-based Zodiac).
After detailing in pointed detail his thesis, David anticipates the blowback and his Aquarian brain darts over and assumes a defensive posture against science itself. It was exchanges like this with him that always confirmed my sense that he was a curmudgeonly genius:
“None of this will satisfy science, which will remain hostile to astrology by reason of its very existence. Science, which admits of no external limits (“we alone know what is true and what is false”) is in fact highly sensitive to overall social mores. In racist societies, science finds justification for racism, up to and including sterilization and euthanasia. In materialistic societies, science finds justification for materialism. In warlike societies, science builds bombs. In unequal societies, science justifies inequality.
Every society has the science it deserves. In every society, science, believing itself to be absolute, attacks whatever would limit its power and authority, without regard for any other factor. Hence its disdain for religion and astrology. Science is nuclear weapons, created, like the ghastly Holocaust, simply because it could be done, without regard for moral consequences.
Without external, guiding principles, science is Eve’s apple (from the Tree of Knowledge), sent to seduce Adam. Astrology can be a guiding principle. So can religious belief. Since both submit to higher authority, for better or worse. “Higher Authority” is not “God,” so much as the totality of creation that is vastly more complex than we can ever know. Hence the brilliance of astrology’s original concept, that of elements and energies, which can be applied universally.
Astrology is the study of the Earth. How the Earth relates to the Sun, Moon and planets, and what that means to the creatures that crawl on its surface. Astrology is the one fundamental science, surpassing all others.”
My rumbles on Mixcloud were down to a flatline this year. I didn’t have much time to assemble, analyze and mix songs. Although one of the ways I unplugged from all of the presidential election mishegas was to wear Bluetooth headphones (this pair is the best — and really affordable) just about everywhere and sleuth out new music and revisit the classics over on Spotify.
You can listen to the fruits of my departure on the new four-hour playlist I compiled last week.
If you’ve ever wondered how Tame Impala, Ella Fitzgerald, Kidnap Kid, Glenn Gould, Joni Mitchell, Frank Ocean and Shura might all find their way into the same dream field, well, then, this collection is for you.
Also, I’d like to thank artist-photographer Caleb Charland for allowing me to feature his eerie photograph, Candle with Gold Frame for the playlist’s cover. Please go explore his work, he has a unique eye aimed on nature, tech and the metaphysics in between.
Play in good health!
The above photograph, titled eXtreme Deep Field is considered the most zoomed-in photograph ever created by humankind.
Essentially, you are looking billions of years backwards in time because what this photograph displays is a myriad of galaxies, some as old as 13.2 billion years; galaxies that were created shortly after the universe came into existence.
Michael Zhang notes:
What scientists and physicists never broach, when discussing the notion of ‘singularity’ (the Big Bang and all it connotes) is of course what came before the Big Bang.
So what I like to do is contemplate the Big Bang and then hold alongside the theory of singularity the question of origin.
And then something peculiar happens. My mind stretches out to the endlessness of space, eliminating any sense of location, which, then, shortly thereafter does away with the concept of time.
If I do not have markers, locations, to designate any movement from A to B then, well, I don’t have any ‘time’. Because I’m not located in a particular place, neither are any of the galaxies, they might as well all be inside my head, which is the wild and poetic concept that the mystic Rudolph Steiner offered as a teaching.
Steiner suggested that human beings are a direct reflection of the cosmos and that our consciousness is imbued with the entirety of the universe.
In The Sun Mystery lectures he wrote: “Throughout a human lifetime, what happens in the head remains an image of the entire cosmos. The very fact that we have a head means that each of us carries an image of the entire cosmos around with us…”
If you want to amplify your mind being blown a wee bit more you can see the giant, hi-res version here.
So when I meditate on the amazing eXtreme Deep Field photograph that’s what I contemplate. How about you?