to top

The Cult of Busyness

Goal-orientated behaviour (which is to say, ‘doing mode’) is how we stay unconscious. We always say of course that doing is good, that doing is great. We make a religion out of our goals – our goals are practically the Holy Grail to us. We think that something very good indeed can happen as a result of having goals and then being able to attain them – this is a very good thing even though – if pressed – we might not be able to say exactly why! We haven’t really thought beyond ‘how great it would be to successfully attain the goal’. We don’t think beyond ‘winning’…

This is ‘the Cult of Busyness’ – being busy proves that I am a decent, respectable sort of person – the devil finds work for idle hands, as we say. Being busy is highly commendable; prizes are awarded for this sort of thing! We are all beavering away for the common good; we are all working away to make something great happen. We’re not shirking the important task, which would of course be reprehensible. It’s as if existence itself needs to be maintained by our industrious activity; ‘not doing’ will therefore lead to everything going to hell in a hand-cart. ‘Not doing’ isn’t just immoral; it’s the road to perdition. We’re letting everyone down, not just ourselves.

It’s nothing new to say that ‘keeping busy distracts’ us, of course. When there is something that we don’t want to dwell on then getting engaged in familiar routines allows us to do this to some extent or other, as we all know. We have all used routines to ‘self-sooth’ or ‘self-distract’ in this way. All of our attention is on the mechanical details of what we’re doing now and what we have to do next and so there’s none left over to dwell on anything else. We keep doing the job at hand and we never look at the bigger picture. If we never look beyond ‘the next step, and the next step after that’, then we are absolutely guaranteed stay ‘unconscious’ (in this psychological sense of the word). This is however just one particular example of how ‘doing mode’ keeps unconscious – it’s a very obvious example. What isn’t so obvious is the way we all use ‘doing mode’ as a way of not looking at the bigger picture on a regular – if not to say continual – basis.

It’s not just purposeful doing that we talking about here – purposeful activity can only exist in relation to our purposes, in relation to our goals, and purposes/goals are mental constructs. Our ‘purposes’ are just a subset of the collection of ‘literal truths’ that go to make up our positive worldview. Our goals are essentially our descriptions of the world in other words, and as such they are not any different from any other type of description we might have (i.e. it doesn’t matter whether they have been highlighted as ‘a specific thing to aim at’ or not). So whilst we can say that it is our purposeful doing that keeps us unconscious, it is also – to an even greater extent – our positive worldview, the worldview that is made up of ‘all the things that we assume as facts’. The ‘positive world‘ is itself the anaesthetic.

This is of course nothing if not obvious once we get to thinking about it: just as we don’t look beyond the mechanical requirements of the task that we are currently engaged in, neither do we look beyond the concrete or literal world that we have collectively created for ourselves. That’s the whole point of a world that is made up of literal meanings – a literal meaning is a meaning that we never look beyond! If we looked beyond it then clearly would not be a literal meaning anymore. The literal world isn’t just a world that we don’t look beyond, it’s a world that we can’t look beyond. Once we start believing in the literal meanings that we are presented with then we lose the capacity to look beyond them – literal meanings don’t come with instructions on how to look beyond them, and so once we start believing them (which we have to if they are to be literally true for us!) then we automatically lose the ability to look beyond them. The concrete descriptions of the world that we take for granted tell us everything, they tell us ‘everything we know need to know about everything’, and so if they don’t tell us something then we just aren’t going to know about it.

There can be no doubt that we have created for ourselves a world that is made up of concrete descriptions. This isn’t something that we dwell on – we don’t go around thinking ‘I am adapted to a world that is made up of concrete descriptions’ – but investigation will very quickly show that this is indeed the case. All we need to do is notice the nature of our day-to-day thoughts – our day-to-day thoughts are inevitably of a ‘practical or concrete’ nature. They are ‘the world of the known’ rather than posing a question about the work that we don’t know, well that no one ever references. It is in the nature of thoughts to be ‘factually concrete’ in this way – that’s what Krishnamurti means when he says that ‘thought is always old’. Actually, we ought to be bored out of our minds by the concrete thoughts that we keep on thinking; we should by rights be entirely fed up with them (seeing as how they’re all terribly ‘old’) but somehow we’re not. Somehow they still go on making a claim on our attention, just as if they were fresh and new and no one had ever thought them before!

Speech also shows very clearly whether we are trafficking in concrete descriptions or not. There is a very particular language that is used concretely, it’s a wooden sound a dead sound, a sound that no thought has been given to. Concrete language has no music to it, in other words. To listen to concrete language that listening to a machine – it’s the sound of unconsciousness, we’re hearing. There’s actually no one there saying the words, it’s all on ‘autopilot’. Having said this, we should also point out that there’s no ‘harm’ in using concrete descriptions – we don’t want to philosophically investigate every single thing we talk about, after all – but when we immerse ourselves in wall-to-wall concrete descriptions then there is ‘harm’ in this. There is ‘harm’ in being immersed in literal meanings because this will effectively prevent us from ever relating to the bigger picture. We won’t know that there is such a thing. If I prevent you from knowing about the bigger picture (or greater truth) regarding what’s going on, without you consenting in any way to this, without you having the slightest clue that you are being hoodwinked in this way, then I am – unquestionably – perpetrating an act of violence against you. This is actually the ultimate form of violence. What we looking at here is the classic Gnostic motif of course – the motif of the False Creation.

So what we have is this world that is made up of purposeful behaviour (routines) and wall-to-wall literal descriptions and the whole thing is nothing more than a sham. It’s a sham because it’s not about what it implicitly represents itself as being about. All this doing and thinking is supposed to be serving some genuinely worthwhile function, but it isn’t. The ‘function’ that it is serving (for the most part) is that it is keeping us from knowing about the ‘bigger picture’. We’re trapped in the Image World, we’re trapped in a world that is made up of two-dimensional appearances and we’re kept so busy that we don’t ever have time to question anything. As children we question, but then later on as adults we learn not to; as adults we learn to simply ‘go along with things’, and so that’s what we do.

Some degree of purposeful activity is of course necessary; routines are to some extent necessary – we can’t be biological creatures and yet escape routines! – But if we are not to fall into a deep dark hole this has to be counterbalanced by purposelessness, which is to say, by inner silence, the silence in which we can look at things in a new way. In the world that we have created for ourselves there is no silence however – there is no science on the outside and there is no silence on the inside. There is no app that we can download that will bring about silence in our lives – silence is precisely that which is not produced by technology!

This is the problem in a nutshell – instead of using technology only when it is genuinely required or genuinely useful, we use it all the time. We never stop interfacing with our technology and as a result we are unwisely allowing our technology to define us. The more advanced (and more pervasive) the ‘technology’, the better it is going to be defining us. We can’t see where all this leads us; collectively speaking, we simply have no insight at all. The point we are missing is this – when we allow ourselves to be defined by machine then we become machines. We become reflections of the big machine.

We can take a big city such as London to illustrate what we’re talking about – as we walk around we can see there’s lots of ‘industry’ going on – there is lots of frenetic activity, lots of purposeful doing. A city is like a machine that is running very fast; it’s running very fast so we have to run to ‘keep up with it’. To a certain degree (as we have said) this activity is necessary – self-maintenance is necessary for every structure, for every system. The ‘basics’ are necessary. But all the activity in a big city such as London isn’t about doing something genuinely useful, or creating something that is of worth. That’s not what consumerism as a system is about! We’re not working to create anything real, we’re not working to produce greater well-being or happiness for ourselves; that’s not with what we are doing at all. What we’re doing is that we’re working at staying unconscious – that’s what the machine is really for, although no one will ever admit that…

Leave a Comment