[notes from a project abandoned but not forever.]
the self misperceives itself (as eternal, coherent, unique, centre of the world, etc.). this central misapprehension and distortion is ‘allegorized’ or mirrored in every arena of our experience:
- essentiality/essentialism (‘dogs are essentially different from cats’ is only a thumbnail for ‘dogs and cats can’t interbreed due to interactions at a level (macromolecular) we couldn’t even perceive until the 19th century’)
- narcissism of small differences (nationalism, racism, etc.)
- behavioural intertia/addiction (bad habits are a damaging abstraction of experience; we fall into patterns without even perceiving them, and relinquish the ability to monitor our own behaviour)
- myopia continuing even after we know of it (stubborn resistance even to knowledge we already possess!)
- causal scale (look for problems’ causes at the problems’ site and scale – related to essentialism, e.g. ‘racial/culural differences must be due to race, which maps to skin colour, so look for skin colour first’)
it’s vital to understand the distortion that is the coherent ‘self’ in order to perceive the true relations of things without demanding comfort (e.g. in egocentric religious myths). life without lies will NOT reduce to life without fiction – when we understand what fiction does (allow for emotional/cognitive action at a distance, consciousness-alternation in other words, via a complex symbolic compression/encoding scheme) we will be prepared to experience it lovingly in its time and place, while not wrongly demanding fiction’s distorting/abstracting comfort in places like, say, the nightly news, or a tense conversation with family, or the concept of ‘true love.’
this mode of ‘scale-free thinking’ leads to an understanding of the purposes of the Self’s fictionalization, and sheds light on one of the most crucial ideas ever conceived by humans: sustainability. this term is more potent than is generally understood.
consider (in a goofy semi-related thread maybe): is the myth of santa claus sustainable? no. (eventually all kids figure it out, or are told.) does it hurt when we let go of it? yes. is the hurt a long-term problem? we don’t know. (no one’s ever studied the psychology of the santa claus myth, that i know of.) the fiction of santa claus scaffolds a complex belief system about the magical nature of life – but is that metaphor (‘magic’) necessary to perceive the beauty and, yes, ‘magic’ of the mere natural world? of mathematical equations and scientific concepts? of fiction in general? i’m not sure, but i doubt it.
in any case the point of the santa claus example is that LOTS of cultural myths are like that: as soon as the kid cares one way or another about finding out the truth, the kid’ll find out, and great pain and anxiety will result. (your parents lied to you for years, after all, about something as basic as ‘where good feelings and presents at christmas come from.’) but it really does take years – kids WANT to believe in santa claus. the myth is comforting: among other things, santa will never run out of presents. but mommy and daddy might…
ironically, the unsustainable myth of santa claus is in part a myth about sustainability itself: about the possibility of an experience, a force, a story, existing outside of time. santa claus invests the year-end holiday season with glorious anticipation. it amplifies feelings. but what if those feelings could be arrived at another way? what if the snow and cold were enough? the lights, sledding, decorating trees? what if the rituals of year’s end could function autonomously?
without lies underpinning them, i mean.
the Self demands the lies and retreats into ritual.