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Hook, Line and Sinker

The secret that is so thoroughly hidden from us is that we are everyone! There isn’t anybody that we aren’t. There’s nobody who isn’t us….



This, however, is the furthest thing from our everyday consciousness. This is the last thing we suspect. This is the secret that we’re not supposed to know. Instead of seeing that we are everybody we are all sold on the idea that we are only ‘ourselves’. I’m sold on the idea that I’m me and no one else. I’m the ‘skin-encapsulated ego’, as Alan Watts puts it. This idea is pushed big time and we’re all supposed to buy into it. It’s the single biggest idea in our culture – the idea that everything else is based on. It’s the ‘master idea’. The idea that ‘we’re only ourselves and nobody else’ gets pushed all of the time and we’ve bought into it hook, line and sinker. Plus the float and the rod and the bait-box and the whole damn fishing-tackle shop…



The idea is that its every man for himself and the devil take the hind-most! We owe it to ourselves to do our very best for ourselves. We owe it to ourselves to get ahead. No one wants to be friends with a loser, no one wants to hang out with a nobody, and so each and every one of us (‘each and every one of us’ being how we see ourselves) wants to be the winner, the one who stands out, the one everyone else wants to know, the one who gets to be right at the top of the shit-pile.



This is a raw deal we’re getting no matter no matter how it turns out, however. There are no winners in this game. We put all our money in being ‘the alienated me’ but there’s no way this can ever work out – even the winners in this game are losers, and THIS is the big secret that we’re not supposed to find out about. The ‘master idea’ is a lie!



We’re infinitely bigger than we say we are, and so how can things ever work out for us on this basis? No matter how well things work out for me on the assumed basis that ‘I am only this little self’, it’s still all going to turn out to be an utterly abysmal disaster. It’s got to. It can’t turn out any other way once I start off on this highly dubious footing. No matter how much I supposedly achieve, it can only ever be a joke! Who is ‘achieving’ anyway? Only the alienated ego. Only an empty fiction…



We all want to achieve great things but this is all on behalf of the little self who isn’t who we are anyway. I want to stand out, to distinguish myself, to prove myself, to ‘make a name for myself’, but who I’m making a name for is only ever going to be ‘this little me which isn’t who I am’. And yet it is very, very important that I am this little me, this ‘me who isn’t anyone else’, because if I’m not then I can’t get to be a winner and being a winner is what I want more than anything else in the world! I can’t get to be a winner unless someone else loses, I can put myself UP unless I put someone else DOWN at the same time, and so for this business to work I have to be ‘the me who isn’t anyone else’. I can’t get that very special feeling of being a winner unless I see myself in this ultimately narrow and limited way – that is an absolute prerequisite for the game to work. I can’t get ‘one up on everyone else’ unless I am NOT everyone else!  Similarly, I can’t get ‘one up on the world’ unless I’m NOT the world!



And yet this ‘very special feeling of being a winner’ (or being ‘one-up’) isn’t worth a damn! It’s completely worthless! It’s a lot of crap. The highly prized and perpetually sought-after feeling of being a winner, being ‘a success’, being ‘one up on everybody else’, being ‘on top’, etc, is the very same thing as the despised and feared feeling of being a loser, being a failure, being a nobody, being at the bottom of the shit-pile. It’s a strange loop, a Mobius loopit looks like two different things but it isn’t! It looks like two different surfaces but really it’s all just the one. The fact that there appears to be two things (two surfaces) is just a trick. Pleasure and pain, satisfaction and dissatisfaction, UP and DOWN, triumph and despair, are both the very same ‘surface’ that we’re busy running down, only there’s a kink in the system that we just can’t see. This invisible kink (or inversion) is what makes it a Mobius loop.



We can’t see that being up and being down, being on top and being at the bottom, being a winner and being a loser, are both the same thing and yet this is such a basic principle – the most basic principle of all. It’s also such a simple thing to understand, if only we weren’t being so very ‘rational’ the whole time. Being on top depends upon being at the bottom, the winner depends on the loser. The crest of the wave infallibly follows the trough of the wave – this is what a wave is. A wave is a reverberation, it is an oscillation between one pole and the other, one extreme and the other. Half of a reverberation, half of an oscillation, just doesn’t happen! It doesn’t make any sense to say that it can happen. The wave just doesn’t ‘hang together’ otherwise because the upswing depends on the downswing, and vice versa.



This then is the life of the little self, which is forever ‘chasing the high and running away from the low’, even though the low is following the high just as surely as a cart follows the horse that is pulling the cart, to use the Buddhist metaphor. The little self is chasing, chasing, chasing – forever chasing and what it is chasing it can never ever get, any more than a puppy chasing its own tail can actually catch up with what it’s chasing since what it is chasing is itself. It is forever knocking itself out trying to do something that is not only impossible, but also utterly ludicrous! As Alan Watts says –


Like dogs trying to catch their tails, cats running after their own shadows and lunatics trying to lift themselves up by their own belts, men try to make themselves what they think they ought to be – a form of self-deception which receives rude shocks when the surface of civilization is removed.


Not only is the little self forever fighting against itself, it is also always struggling against all its fellows – it is struggling against all those who it sees as being ‘not itself’. Which is everyone else. This behaviour is inherent in the nature of the little self which by its very makeup has always to be putting others down so it can thrust itself up. Even when it forms groups which it affiliates with these groups are still only extensions of itself, so that we then get the situation of one group ego fighting against another group ego, one collective competing with another collective. This is so natural to us that we think nothing of it. It’s what we do…



The law of its nature determines that the little self has to continuously compete in order to define itself – this is how we define ourselves as being either winners or losers. We struggle not just with others but also with the world itself – the little self is defined by its struggle with its environment so that when things go well it feels good, and when things don’t go so well it feels bad. When I am able to control effectively (i.e. assert myself) then I am successful and I feel good and when I am not able to control effectively then I am a failure and I feel bad. My whole life as a ‘little self’ involves chasing the former state of affairs and fleeing the latter…



As we have said, ‘the big secret that we are not allowed to know’ is that we are not this competitive little self at all! If we struggle – as we do – to define ourselves against everyone around us (and against the world in general) then what we define ourselves as being is not who we are.  I’m not this winner, and I’m not this loser. I’m not this elation, and I’m not this despair! I’m not the little wave that is forever going up and down – I’m the imperturbable medium that the wave is travelling on.



I’m not the reverberation, I’m not the vibration, I’m what is reverberating, I’m what is doing the vibration. We are bigger than the wave, bigger than the reverberation, bigger than the vibration…



We’re everybody! We’re everything! There isn’t anybody that we’re not. There isn’t anything that we’re not. As Alan Watts says, we’re IT!



We’re the Cosmic Self, the Big Self. The Big Self is like St Augustine’s ‘circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere’. And this Cosmic Self, this Macroanthropos, this Big Self doesn’t covet winning, any more than it fears losing…

Author: Nick Williams

Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.

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