Thursday, 21 May 2015

Life in the hole - and why we need the light of consciousness.

An intellectual work in progress...

What I'm working on here:
Why do we put ourselves in holes? How do we get out of them? Do holes really exist anyway?

Philosopher Jeremy Bentham famously started off by saying that people follow two principles in life: avoid pain and pursue pleasure.

It's an okay starting place for us to begin thinking, but it's a bit basic and more relevant to plants and simple life forms than humans.

As a starting place though, it will suffice to lift us up from the plant-life-reactive mode that many folk end up in regarding some aspects of their lives: they end up in a hole supposedly without much clue as to how they got there. Indeed, much conditioning - habit - takes people into holes without them thinking about it...and therein lies the proverbial rub. A lack of thought can take us into some deep dark places. And then our thoughts become conditioned to those places and we screw ourselves deeply into the recesses.


Most of the time people fall into habits that preclude them from thinking about their lives. Perhaps if they thought about their lives, the pain would be too much - too much to realise about what they were not achieving and that they themselves were responsible for doing (or not doing) in the first place.

I work with young people who have yet to think. Thinking requires an effort and discipline - an awareness of self and results, but many young people's narcissism precludes a serious overview of their achievements. Fortunately, the self awareness of youth fades - it should be replaced with a maturing, strengthening mind. Instead, it is often replaced with thoughtlessness.

I see the same thoughtless habits in older people, who've not really progressed or mentally prospered since the age of x. It may be ten, it may be twenty. Each of us is unique in that regard. But at some point in their lives, they decided to enter a mental hole - a cave if you prefer - and not come out. Life on earth seemed better if it was dark and they were surrounded by darkness.

The thoughtlessness that slowly takes over can start at any age and gradually, imperceptibly, we find ourselves not going anywhere very quickly. We have slowly but surely dug a hole for ourselves  and we don't seem to get out. We like the dark crevices and the sweetness of immediate sensations of warm, womblike comfort. But just as a butterfly cannot return to being a chrysalis, we do not help ourselves by returning to the womb - to the dark.

A lot of young people extend their education to avoid the inevitable. School extends to college, college to university, undergraduate to postgraduate...and then post-doctoral research. Or the sideways move into work may have happened after school/college/university and then falling into a job (usually the first that comes along) and a relationship ... the growth ends. C'est ca. That's it, game over on many accounts.

The hole is dug. Here's a comment from someone on the web: "I'm in a hole, and I keep digging. I'm behind on numerous things, and I just bury my head until problems become unbearable." He then asks for advice and gets a lot of sympathetic comments and good pointers. Here's another: "I feel like I'm in a hole...I feel like I'm spiraling downwards every single day. All I want to do is sleep and sleep and never wake up...I have no energy for anything or anyone and I just don't want to be here..."

What's gone on here?

Sometimes people put us in a hole. These are people we need to get away from but when we're young, it's difficult to know who's good and who's bad. We just fall into line with everyone else - because that's what happens when we go to school or when our parents insidiously undermine our spirit with platitudes and thoughtless comments that slowly numb us to our potential.

Much that we've inherited from feudal society or even before is tacitly designed to keep us down. The hangover phrases that kept children and serfs in their place echo in parents' and teachers' flippant remarks that we can hear in the markets and playgrounds. It's as if people fear letting their children be who they could be, because they did not become what they could have been.

Fear is the basis of pain for many people - the pain itself only becomes real when we avoid who we are or that which we have to do. When we dig that hole, we enter it willingly because it seems so womblike and cosy - hence people's comments on 'not wanting to get up' or 'just want to sleep all day...' But the reality is that we have left the womb - we were destined to enjoy the placental comfort for only a short time. Then we try to get back in to avoid the bright light of reality. Like the prisoners in Plato's Cave, we seek darkness and habitual living - the light (of understanding) that the freed prisoner describes is just too incomprehensible for those stuck in the hole.

Yet to the light we must turn.

Afraid of reality, we dim the lights of our consciousness; we prefer not to see, not to look at our partner carefully, or our parents actions and words, or our friends, our bank accounts, the state of our home or our children's lives...too closely. Confusion in our upbringing may put us in a hole of our parents' or school's or peer group's making but as we get older, our mind subtly but surely tells us that we're in a hole...and that we're digging deeper.

We then do the digging.

And we like finding people in the hole. We enjoy their miserable company because that's what life is about to people in the hole. It's predictability in misery makes it apparently comfortable. The troll within rails at people in the light - calls them weird, geeks, losers, barbarians, heathen, whatever terms trolls decide to use in their pit culture.

Trolls love trolls. They hate the light and love the darkness. Light is goodness and clarity - it helps to energise us and empower us to greater things, but the trolls within fear the pain that comes with light. 

Our first step is to acknowledge that we're in a hole. We need to turn the lights on. Raise our consciousness to accept where we are. And accept how we got there and the actions and choices we made to keep us in there. For many, it's the fear of the pain that holds them back from switching on the light. And for many who are blinded by the dark caverns they inhabit, helping hands from therapists are critical. A torch shone into little crevices at a time can help let the eyes adjust - but ultimately the light is our inheritance and right.

Once we begin to illuminate our life - a little at a time or in one blast of a floodlight, then we need to begin to stop digging further. We need to change and become who were are supposed to be. Indeed - allow ourselves to become who we are supposed to be. We need growth but growth can only come from consciousness - consciousness of what we want and a learning of what we need to do to get it.

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