Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Cosmonaut Can't Be Sam Kinison

The reader replies to my last posting:
"I was a few degrees from the warlord fantasy, however I think the problem was actually getting myself to believe the simple fantasy I came up with, so a more fantastic fantasy might not have helped.  I really think I would have been fine if I could have convinced myself it was my old buddy or a kind relative in the next room watching TV. I just couldn't sell it to myself, which is what I need to work on, I believe."
I see my mistake. I've appeared to be selling this as some sort of self-help "solution". But it's not that. I've left out an essential step: first, you need to recognize, at some level, that the key to life is learning to want what you get rather than learning to get what you want. It's only useful for those who've already developed (or been born with) a bit of equanimity; who've already sanely realized that (as I wrote here): "Amid all the childish Sturm und Drang in a world where petty, arbitrary predilections are grasped for with utter tenacity - and little lasting satisfaction - it seems impossible to escape the conclusion that, really, it hardly matters, one way or the other."

You have to really feel that. Otherwise, you'll imagine this is about tricking yourself into believing that "bad" things are really "good" things. If you see those labels as absolutely ironclad, none of this is for you. In fact, the labeling is the problem! Equanimity is the capacity for loosening up on that labeling.

There are two paths to equanimity: via meditation, or via lots of abrasive time spent in a state of agitated frustration with the obvious ineffectiveness of one's toy steering wheel. Either route eventually alleviates the compulsion to viscerally need this or that result. It releases the delusion of control; it's not a shiny new means for imposing control.

The problem is that a bit of perspective and equanimity won't completely settle everything on a dime. Hormones and emotions and memories and the oceans of unconscious urges and fears remain in play. Also, we tend to forget and flip back, because old habits die hard. It's at times like this that the Cosmonaut/Warlord move helps. It's a dab of emotional salve allowing our bodies, emotions, and unconsciousness to catch up with our wisdom.

It's a way to sooth errant wafts of anxiety, just as we lull children - innate sweet-sleepers who can nonetheless get worked into tizzies from their comparatively mild little anxieties - via bedtime stories and teddy bears. Most grown-ups are too encrusted with aggregated urges and aversions to benefit much from mere lulling.

If the cosmonaut were, like, Sam Kinison, this move wouldn't have helped in the least. The cosmonaut didn't say "I'd better figure out what to do so I don't go berserk from that GODDAM BEEPING! I know....maybe I'll pretend it's friggin' angels or something so I won't be bothered by that GODDAM BEEPING anymore!" It's not a move to exert control by pretending to want what you get! It's not reprogramming. It's just a playful gambit to shift perspective. But if you can't for the life of you see that beeping is, on one level, just beeping - if you make your annoyance paramount, and decide that beeping just inescapably sucks - then you're stuck. No mere trickery can help you flip. You'll die in the space capsule with your face twisted into a tortured grimace.
"I definitely need to put more effort into it.  I think I will start meditating and see if that helps me control where my thoughts go."
Let me save you time. You can't. We don't think our thoughts. They just appear, wafting up from deep unconsciousness; from deep in the crud. The answer isn't to try to better control it all, but to flip to the extreme opposite tack - letting things be. And meditation brings a letting go - the very opposite of control. So beware (but don't worry; you won't fall, you'll float)!
"I can see how it will be a handicap if I can't tame my brain to allow me to sleep with a little TV in the background."
You can relieve your bondage to your chattering brain via meditation. But nothing short of a lobotomy can "tame" your brain. Remember, it's all crud, down to the very core. Don't polish the turd, just escape self-delusion by recognizing the futility of straining for a given result. Recognize that it's about calmly playing the hand you're dealt. Do as my GPS does whenever circumstances don't match with preference: recalculate!
"Yeah, next time I'll tell them to knock it off.  That's part of the problem, they are a constant nuisance so the moment I hear that TV (music, partying etc.) I go straight to super pissed because there is a history with them.
Going inward to avoid the friction and pain of external interaction is a very bad idea. It will just atrophy your real-world skills - your ability to calmly play the hand you're dealt. And telling yourself fantastic stories to empower inward escapism is worse still. That's a route to madness. The cosmonaut wasn't looking for an easy escape from a challenging problem. He was just beautifully accepting what he truly couldn't change.

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