|THIS IS A VERB|
|copyright 1989-2000 jan cox|
|Reminder: The following is a rough transcript of one of Jan's extemporaneous talks, and people do not speak, ad lib, in the same way they write. Thus some sentence fragments, and other linguistic anaomolies can pop up which may have slipped past the transcriber. But the overall tone and intent of his comments still comes through for those wanting to hear something new.|
Here's a corollary to something I said a few weeks back. I mentioned
that everyone and everything is funny from some point of view; literally,
everyone looks funny. You can film the most strikingly handsome
man or woman, Einstein, the Pope, your mother, you, show an excerpt --
find one particularly funny frame -- look at it, and it looks extremely
funny. I have another interesting corollary which expands and envelops
this idea: Everybody is silly, and especially those who don't think
they are. Most people who have the reputation for being charismatic,
impressive, handsome, do not think of themselves as silly. Under
very dire circumstances, surrounded by mobs of people, they might be able
to stand a soft glancing blow of humor at their expense. Very little.
But I want to point out to you that everybody's silly. Remember
this, especially if you think I'm getting too serious. I'm not,
even though you may be thinking I am.
I'm going to tell you information never heard before in this corner of the universe; things you're surrounded by. There's a major type of folly rampant in the history of the universe which is especially pertinent to those aspired to This Activity (now known "Verbalites"). The folly is in trying to treat likes with likes. I'm not speaking about medicine -- some down-home remedy, or a Cherokee Indian putting a crystal in your pants. I'm talking about how certain parts of the nervous system are involved with thinking, others are involved with the passions or emotions, and other parts of the brain are involved with the motor activities. All of these areas are connected, but we can look at them separately in order to discuss treating oneself or others.
Now that the stage is set, consider that "treating" means handling some
aspect of yourself in a pertinent, profitable or potentially profitable
manner; either to help an aspect of your behavior or life, to study it,
enforce it, make it more complex or enriched. And, you seem to have
some passing knowledge of a way to heal up a temporary wound. Treating
likes with likes is treating routine feelings with routine feelings, routine
thought with routine thought. In the case of feelings someone says,
"Boy, am I depressed. Suicide is my prevailing thought throughout
the day." And their friend or parent tries to treat them by saying,
"You're just going to have to cheer up." People attempt to treat
feelings with feelings.
You can attempt to treat yourself the same way, telling yourself that you have to try harder, or to cheer up. You may take the suggestion seriously, repeat it to yourself and believe it, but still have very limited success. The folly of treating likes with likes is that it's self-referring and circular by nature. Here's an example of what I mean by "circular." I've pointed out that when you attempt to find a complete, thorough definition of a word in the dictionary, the last word you'll find is the word that you're trying to define. To fully understand the definition of a word, you have to go through almost every word in the dictionary, and you end up with a final definition which includes the original word in that definition. At the secondary level, it's impossible to totally define any word. The only definition of "enigmatic" is "enigmatic." The only frame of reference on this level is a self reference. You cannot define any word in the dictionary without reviewing every other word, and then you only have a general idea of what the word means: you have a circuitous reference to the meaning of the word.
The Old Testament says, "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity." This is seen as a statement of the circuitous nature of socializing, or of man's ego activity. Solomon said that he looked at all the wars he'd won, all the women he had, all the wealth he'd acquired, and realized that all is vanity. All he is saying is, "My word, on this level aren't things circuitous?" He's saying that he tried to treat like with like, and realized that something was wrong. A more complex version of this statement of Solomon's is, "Circular, circular, all is circular." Life says this now and then, and it's passed off as an epigram or proverb to remember. You might even find this wisdom someday later in a fortune cookie.
Another more disappointing example that you may hear at the City level is someone saying, "Yeah, I could have saved all my money, worked nights and gone to college. But I'm still going to die. I might graduate and then get hit by a truck. It doesn't matter how much money you have or how you look, you're going to die anyway." That's another version of "It's all circular, circular, circular." The reality and knowledge of the circular nature of Life is a part of man's nature; it's built into the nervous system.
The only frame of reference at the secondary level is self reference, and self reference is based on the dance you do with others. A television chef will not die if his apron is taken away; his job isn't a requirement to keep him alive. Losing his job won't kill him in the same way as starvation or a bolt of lightning. He may be America's leading food expert, but if he dies it will not affect your eating habits: Life's eating activities will not be affected. There's no intrinsic value to a food critic; that job is necessary at the secondary level, but can't be described as stable or objective. Being a food critic may be an interesting and important hobby, but it is a secondary activity and there's no primary, objective basis on which to make any reference or value judgment about the activity.
Here's another interesting aspect of what I'm discussing. The circuitous situation offers the promise of completion; all you have to do is get around the circle and you'll feel better. "I feel depressed." "Oh you should feel more cheerful." And it seems like that might be the key, the answer to the problem. It's like being on a race track, and the track looks pretty bad where you're standing. You think that things will get better if you run to another part of the track; that the problem can be treated. It seems to offer the possibility of pretty direct treatment, but this type of solution is actually offering eternal frustration. Even if you loop the track, the solution is based on self reference and never seems completed. Any circle which can be completed in the City (quit some habit, take up a new mode of behavior, or clean up a part of your life) feels good for a moment, and then loses its thrill. The person might feel better six months later, but not as good as he did when he first made the apparent change. "I do feel better not drinking, but I don't feel as good about it as I did when I first quit. Sometimes I really feel like a drink." The apparent completion of one of these circles simply does not produce satisfaction; it does not treat the problem. The problem is identified on the secondary level, and has no objective basis.
You feel like you have a problem. Maybe you think you're ugly. You ask all your family members if you're really ugly and they say, "Well, we really love you, but yeah you are ugly." You think that's an objective opinion about you, but it's not. Whatever it is, if your thought arises from the secondary level, any support or thinking which is in response to it is also secondary and nonobjective. Nothing seen at the secondary level has an objective basis.
People who worship the gods picture them as being out of the loop:
the gods can use an objective standard, and sooner or later man will be
measured by it. The gods will use this objective standard to judge
you when you die. For most people, the thought of a god is enough;
they don't need any more reference to that kind of possible power.
Anything which is not necessary for you to physically exist is secondary,
and everything at the secondary level is nonobjective. The concept
of a god is an attempt to grasp an objective standard, but it is a secondary
attempt at grasping, so you can't go any further with it. The proposed
manifestations of any such "god" will be based on secondary standards.
If a Jew describes a god, it will be a Jewish god. If a Christian
or Buddhist describes a god, it will be a Christian or Buddhist god.
The thing which is being described has more dimensions than can be described
at the secondary level.
There's a practical area of this which can be sticky, but can be of real benefit to you. A practical use of what I've been talking about might be this: Rather than trying to treat like with like, treat it differently. For example, if someone says to you, "Boy I feel depressed," tell him to go run a mile or two or three. He may run a mile, still feel depressed, and you tell him to run another mile. After a while, and a few miles, he won't feel depressed. He may feel tired, or exhilarated -- maybe he feels like his legs are weak from exhaustion -- but he won't feel depressed.
Another method of curing this depression might be a form of talking psychoanalysis: "Let's talk about this depression. Tell me how it started." "I don't want to talk about it." "How does it feel to be depressed?" "I don't know." "Did something seem to trigger it off? Does it have anything to do with what you're wearing?" It doesn't matter what you say about the depression, you'll find that the person doesn't want to talk about it. Just talk on and on and on, and sooner or later he'll move on to something else.
You can use this technique on yourself. Continue to question yourself: "I feel terrible." "Aw, what's wrong? Is there something I can do for you?" "Oh, I don't want to talk about it." "Has talking ever helped before?" "I don't know. I just don't want to talk about it." "Have you felt this way before?" "I don't remember. I just feel depressed." "When you get real depressed is it something specific that depresses you or just a general feeling? Did something specific make you depressed?" "Well, I don't know." "I'm just trying to be your friend and don't you find it weird that you don't want to talk about it? And still you brought it up. Maybe it's a part of depression to say something about your depression to someone and then tell them you don't want to talk about it." "I suppose. I don't know." "Does this happen often?" "What?" Pretty soon you won't feel depressed anymore.
Rather than attempting the futility of treating like with likes, treat more efficiently by treating feeling with thought or exercise, or vise versa. If you're having a problem figuring out a mathematical theory, take a break and play croquet, go swimming, or play frisbee with the dog. Life's replete with stories such as this: You don't know how to put that last piece on your invention and decide to forget about it for a while. You're so frustrated you decide to wind down with a swim, and then go to bed. You swim a few laps and getting out of the pool, "Eureka," the solution hits you. You then run back to the lab and finish your invention. This is a case of treating the intellect with action.
Now look at the functions of the body. Knowing how the ordinary intellect loves symmetry, it would love to hear that the treatment of the body is to use the intellect or emotions. But it gets more interesting than that. "I seem to be dying of cancer of the liver." "Oh, cheer up." Or, "I seem to be unable to see anymore." "Oh, just close your eyes, imagine a dictionary and try harder." There doesn't seem to be a parallel here: the emotions or intellect aren't able to treat the body in the same way. Still the Greeks, Romans, Billy James Hargus, Oral Roberts, and scientists today say that the intellect and emotions will have some positive effect on the body. Doctors today are saying, "Man may not be able to cure himself of cancer, but he can produce a more conducive environment in his mind, which may lead to a curative environment for the body." Voodoo, hypnotism, etc., also seem to show anecdotal evidence which may warrant investigation. But notice that a symmetrical method of cure doesn't exist: action will cure depression to a certain extent, but the motor activities of the body aren't directly healed by the emotions or intellect. The parallel is by no means perfect or symmetrical. The fact that the emotions and intellect affect the body is real, but a cure is not quasi-automatic.
You can run three miles and cure your mild depression, but nothing works this automatically if you're spitting up part of your lung and are going to die from cancer in two weeks. Being happy for thirty minutes won't insure an automatic treatment. There is enough validity to the value of healing by thinking or feeling to warrant beliefs in the gods or in the power of positive thinking, faith healing, crystals, icons, the splinters from the Cross, Voodoo... But direct, predictable alteration doesn't occur. You can think or feel something for thirty minutes and change the way you feel or think. But you won't insure that your lung will grow back.
The next time you're depressed, pick up an old trigonometry book and start reading Chapter One. In one hour you won't be depressed. There is no corollary in treating the body. Would you like to know why this might be? Alright. Are you ready? Look at this tripartite territorial division which I've made in man's nervous system (thinking, feeling and action). According to my definitions, thinking and feeling are secondary activities. You can't treat primary problems by secondary methods. That is why there doesn't seem to be any way to get directly into a person's body, health or physical being through thought or feeling. It's as if feelings and thoughts are all dressed up (Feeling's in Mommy's clothes, Thought's in Daddy's) and pretend they're real people. They decide to pretend they can hypnotize each other. Mommy can hypnotize the thinking by telling it to go out for a run. There's almost a hypnotizing effect achieved when the thoughts or feelings tell each other to do something else which is unrelated to themselves. The dressed up Daddy starts to talk to the dressed up Mommy and says, "Why don't you go out and run awhile. Or you can stay here and talk to me." And the Daddy says, "Why don't I." The intellect and emotions cannot hypnotize the body in the same way.
The primary level can't be hypnotized. You can't turn to the body and tell it to pretend it's well. You can tell your feelings to pretend they're upset. It won't take long for them to be saying, "You know, now that you mention it I am upset. In fact I'm damn pissed off." Or you can say to your uptightness, "I see you feel put out, but I don't want to talk about being depressed. Have you seen that movie at the theater over there?" and distract yourself. It's almost as if the emotions and intellect can hypnotize each other and engage in self-treatment. The secondary aspects can treat themselves in a manner which is altogether different than either can treat the body.
Problems based at the primary level can't be treated by any medicines or methods at the secondary level, while the reverse can be very effective. The secondary can be treated or affected by more primary activity.
There are trickier applications than these. A spiritual leader may hear the gods talking to him, and then take up running. He won't continue to hear the voices for long (and he'll shortly give up running). This isn't a negative statement, just an example of how these levels work. I'm trying to give you a wide spectrum of possible effects. Anything at the secondary level can be treated by something at the primary level, but the converse is not as vertical a possibility.
This might be of some use to you individually. I'd like to make a topical statement of how what I'm talking about has a parabolic, metaphorical significance to you -- but for the life of me I can't come up with it.
I'll say one more thing, since I gave This Activity another name. I could describe This Activity as the attempt to take a circle and turn it into a spiral. When you are able to do this, you can see the infinite growth of Life: one loop, the effort to transverse one circle, doesn't complete anything. It doesn't represent a totality of effort; the loop would be only what it appears to be. If your intelligence is above the circle you can see that you were at one part of the loop, you didn't like it, and through some effort you moved to another part. If your intelligence is above that circle, you don't see this movement as positive or negative and you aren't frustrated. You see the circle for what it is. It's an oak tree, a cloud, a badger with a merit badge. You realize that at the normal level, the promise of success or growth isn't what it's cracked up to be. The infinite pathway headed off into the Orion Galaxy is just a loop around the track.
People realize that a solution is possible, but isn't being reached at the present level of understanding. They then feel that the great truth or answer must be somewhere else with the gods or on other planets. The human nervous system knows that an immediate treatment is possible, but thinks that the relief is off on some other level. As long as your intelligence stays on this level, you will never find the treatment. To turn the circle into a spiral, you must See how the nervous system ordinarily views this form of treatment: you See that you are eternally frustrated because you're just making loops around the track. This is necessary for the movement of Life, but you need to See that you can never pick up the same thing you dropped. You can't find the same thing you lost, or quit the exact habit you had. You can't reinstitute a behavior that's exactly like you imagined. You see something, and by the time you pick it up, it's not the same. Once you See that the circles are really spirals, you no longer see a dead-end. Everyone else sees some possibility of success and instead ends up frustrated. You understand that the circles are really spirals.
Some nervous systems will take this insight into the circuitous nature of man and link it up to the idea of karma -- reoccurrence which continues with each lifetime. An idea seems especially exotic if it comes from another area of the world. A person will see that people continue to run in loops, and the next step is to think that they can jump off of that loop and change. This in itself is another loop. "God what a great concept; what a splendid idea. There's a beauty, symmetry to Life. That's a missing link to the great philosophies of all time. 'Eternal reoccurrence.'" The next step is to think that you just have to be a step better on the next go around to end eternal reoccurrence: if you change a little in this life, you won't have to be the same in the next life (instead of eternal reoccurrence, you have sort-of eternal reoccurrence). You just change now and it won't be the same later. But let me ask you, is it normally possible to make this change? "You can end the pattern of eternal reoccurrence if you change now." Ok. Can you change now? You're back in the circuitous situation, which seems to immediate, observable change by completing the circle, while actually offering eternal frustration. You whittle down your karma, build it up and say, "Ok, now I see, now I understand this eternal reoccurrence..." Then you try to change again. The idea of changing altogether is some sort of a joke in the City.
The completion of a circle, the situation of being alive at the level at which you are intelligent, is based upon self reference. That which you think of as being you -- all that is cultural, intellectual, sensual, or artistic, is a necessary secondary manifestation of that which is actually something else. Everything that you hold dear beyond your own health, your body making it a few more years, is based on the need for security. The circle does not offer any hope of change, nor is it a dead end street. It is simply the limits of ordinary intelligence, all you can see at that level.
The idea of change being the way out is just part of the masterstroke of people believing that immediate change is possible. This belief is necessary at the ordinary level of consciousness. Why else would people spend 55 years in the rain, getting pig shit on their new shoes, getting spit on, being subject to strange odors emanating from those around them, birds flying overhead, and the IRS. Why would people put up with that? What would cause us to be that simplistic? Having simplistic intelligence; believing and thinking that at that level, the completion of a circle, the possible alteration of secondary activities (changing your hobby) can drastically alter things. You never notice that you don't actually change if you don't think about it, so you can last another twenty years. Those dreams of change come with your place in line. It's part of you standing there.
In the City you don't hear the sound of wordless understanding.
Don't forget, if we were going to give some kind of intellectual nourishment
to the kind of pleas and cries about what This is, what the name of This
Activity is... for the time being the name could be, "This Is A Verb."
And, everybody is silly. Everybody. I'm not discounting me,
you, your mother... and especially those who don't think they are.