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The Choice That Is No Choice

There are two possibilities in life, and one of them isn’t a possibility at all...

The problem is however that we just can’t see which is which – the possibility that really is a possibility we dismiss instantly without any further thought, without any further ado, whilst the deceptive possibility looks like the sure-fire ‘right thing to do’. No doubt crosses our mind – as far as we’re concerned the deceptive possibility is so obviously the right choice that we don’t give it any further thought.

The deceptive possibility has this incredible quality of seeming to be leading somewhere wonderful – it’s like being on an escalator or a moving walkway. We are whisked from one exciting thing to another – doors seem to be opening in front of us and we can’t wait to go through it and see what lies on the other side. If any obstacles pop up to impede our progress we get very impatient indeed with them – we really don’t have any interest in anything other than charging full-steam ahead and finding out as quickly as possible what marvels lie in store for us. We’ve seen the prize and we’re locked onto it…

‘Phase 1’ of this process is the phase in which we seem to be getting somewhere and this is the euphoric phase. It corresponds to ‘getting married in a hurry’ – we’re tripping over ourselves in our hurry to avail of what’s on offer. The second phase is a more leisurely affair and it is when we start to realise – however slowly – that were not actually getting anywhere at all. The exciting illusion of ‘progress’ (or at least of potential ‘progress’) has evaporated, leaving us with the dawning awareness that life hasn’t turned out to be as great as we thought it was going to be! This – the dysphoric phase of the process – corresponds to ‘having made one’s bed and having to lie it’.

What we have just described isn’t particularly complicated or hard to understand, of course. What we’re talking about is ‘the mousetrap and the cheese’! The euphoric phase is where we are moving in on the lovely cheese and we are full of fantasies about how great it will be when we get to eat it, whilst the dysphoric phase is when the metal bar comes down with full force on our back and all thoughts of cheese vanish instantaneously from our heads. This is, needless to say, a rather unpleasant image to use. but that isn’t to say that it isn’t an accurate one! If we were to be honest most of us would have to admit that life hasn’t really delivered what we thought it was going to when we were young and naïve and easily swept along by the treacherous currents that exist in life.

This isn’t true for everyone but it’s true for most of us – when we look around and consider all the people we know or have known, as well as ourselves, the dominant theme is without question the theme of ‘childhood’s promise betrayed’. And for some of us of course it is the case that we may not even have had the promise in the first place. It’s not that the promise itself is a lie however; life’s promise is real but the thing about it is that we are tempted and led astray by a distorted copy or reflection of that promise, that potentiality. What else is advertising (and social conditioning in general) if not the cynical hijacking of life’s promise?

Life’s promise is real (just as life itself is) but where the confusion lies is in what we think we have to do in order that it might be fulfilled. What both the thinking mind and society does is that they link the realisation of life’s promise with the fulfilment of our (or society’s) goals. This is where we get led astray. Our goals, or the advertising images of society, reflect this promise in a very compelling way but when we pursue them we fall under the power of the thinking mind and the thinking mind will never deliver life to us! That’s the one thing it can’t ever do. That’s not its department and it never was.

To fall under the power of the thinking mind is to walk headfirst into the most dangerous trap of all! No mousetrap that has ever been invented is as effective as the trap of the thinking mind, ‘the trap of purposefulness‘! This is the ultimate trap, the archetypal trap, and it is also the trap that we are all caught in like so many bemused flies in a sealed jam jar. Thought simulates life in faded terms; it simulates everything in faded terms and the more we get sucked into the simulation the more dull and faded it all becomes. Thought does not in any way generally reflect life, what it does do is to provide us with an elaborate bureaucracy that we have to satisfy before we can (supposedly) live our lives, only that – of course – is never going to happen. That’s the ‘big lie’ that we never spot….

As soon as we start trying to ‘live life on purpose’ (or ‘live life via our thoughts’) then we get neatly separated from reality and exist instead in the realm of our mental projections, which automatically places us under the law of entropy. We are like small flying creatures that have had the misfortune to get trapped in the sap of the tree we were resting on – in ten million years we will still be there, encased in amber, poised to take off but never doing to, frozen at this precise point of being about to launch ourselves into flight. We’re ‘trapped in the moment’ – even though we don’t know it, we’re trapped in a ‘frozen moment’ we’re trapped in a ‘freeze-frame’.

Thought is the quintessential closed system – the only way it can work is by taking a bunch of evaluative criteria for granted and then processing all incoming data on this basis. The one thing thought can never do is use the incoming data to challenge its criteria, therefore. Of its own accord the thinking mind can never challenge its own basis – no mechanism exists by which this could ever happen. No such mechanism could ever be devised! So when we fall under the power of the thinking mind then (as we have just said) this means that we have made ourselves subject to the law of entropy. We’re going down a one-way street and this one-way street leads us inescapably into the incredibly grim situation where we get embroiled in smaller and smaller decisions about ever more meaningless things!

That then is the ‘deceptive possibility’; that is ‘the choice that is no choice’. The other possibility (i.e. the ‘non-deceptive’ possibility) we reject out of hand; we reject it out of hand precisely because it doesn’t seem to be leading anywhere, precisely because it isn’t a ‘goal’. If it were one of our goals we would go for it in a flash but life ISN’T one of our goals and never could be! We reject this possibility so quickly that we don’t even see that we have rejected anything. The ‘non-deceptive possibility’ is a possibility of seeing what’s going on for us without using the thinking mind, without using our concepts or categories to navigate by. A straightforward way of explaining this is simply to say that the possibility that isn’t deceptive is the possibility of questioning ourselves. Questioning ourselves is ‘going back to the drawing board’ and ‘going back to the drawing board’ is the only possibility that is actually ‘non-deceptive’.

When we go back to the drawing board then the world opens up to us, contrary to what we thought would happen. We always see letting go of all our assumptions as the worst of all possible disasters; we see it as so terrible a disaster that we can’t even bring ourselves to think about it! We will cling to any forlorn hope rather than face the need to go back to the drawing board – we want to charge on ahead on the basis of our assumptions, not question them! And yet it is ‘not questioning ourselves’ that is the unparalleled disaster – when we can’t question ourselves everything narrows down and narrows down until we find ourselves stuck in the psychological equivalent of a cattle press; we can neither turn one way nor the other – all we can do is go forwards to our doom!  

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