Infinite inertia becomes ‘something else’, infinite inertia becomes a qualitatively different reality, infinite inertia becomes a world of its own – a world that is constructed on its own terms.
If there was only a finite amount of inertia then it wouldn’t rule everything. If there was only a finite amount of inertia then it could be overcome – it would offer resistance for a while and then it would give way. The dynamic, the active, the ‘alive’ would then prevail and there would be no residuum of inertia left to be calling the shots, sticking its oar in, or in any way interfering with the proceedings.
We can also think of this in terms of laziness. If I am only somewhat lazy then with a bit of persistent effort I can push my way through this barrier and once I have pushed my way through it and am out on the other side I will not go back. Why would I go back? Once I have discovered the unlimited energy of life, felt the pure unimpeded energy of it, then why would I wish to return to the wretched dull blankness of laziness? Laziness has nothing to recommend it as a way of life – it brings no benefits. The only reason I go along with and accept it as normal is because I know nothing else; if I did discover another way then I would never want to return to it.
But suppose my laziness were infinite. Suppose it were all that I know. Suppose that it were an absolute law unto itself. In this case infinite laziness would form the basis, the bedrock, the fundamental reality around which everything else must rotate. If this were the case then infinite laziness would be the master, it would be the supreme governing principle by which we see and understand things. Everything then becomes about serving this laziness, fulfilling its needs, promoting and perpetuating its interests. When laziness is the supreme governing principle then it is no longer seen as ‘laziness’, but instead is automatically validated or justified as being an end in itself.
This being so, then whatever aids me in serving this unquestionable laziness is ‘good’ and whatever obstructs me in serving it is ‘bad’. Whatever helps me in obeying its dictates is a friend or ally, and whatever gets in my way is the enemy, and must be dealt with accordingly, with as much force as is necessary to vanquish it.
Change is the enemy, genuine innovation is the enemy, curiosity or free thinking is the enemy, individual initiative or inspiration is the enemy. Anything different is the enemy. Anything that does not serve the master of laziness is the enemy. Anything that isn’t belonging to the unquestionable, all-ruling ‘system of laziness’ is the enemy.
What we are talking about here sounds very familiar. It is familiar because we actually all know this sort of thing, this dreadful all-pervasive systematic conservatism, this deeply entrenched neophobia very well. In one way we can say that what we are talking about is any type of a human system, be it an institution or organization of some sort, or society as a whole. Most essentially however, what we are talking about is that most venerable of institution of all – the institution which we call the self.
The self is the embodiment of infinite laziness – it is infinite laziness personified, although to actually see it as such is the very furthest thing from our thinking. Far from seeing the self as ‘the embodiment or emblem of infinite laziness’, we unreflectively exalt it to the level of the ‘supreme value’. It is ‘an end in itself’. For us the self is the fundamental reality around which everything else must rotate. It is an absolute unquestionable law, the supreme governing principle – the master which must be obeyed in all things.
What after all does the self ever want to do? What is its perennial aim? Its aim is to fulfil itself, to serve itself, to obey itself in all things. What it wants is that that everything should accord with its own plans, its own schemes, its own agenda. And what are these plans and schemes about? What does it want, what does it desire, what does it wish for? The answer here is simple – the self just wants to get its own way. The self only ever wants one thing and that is for its life to be as easy as possible, as convenient as possible, as lacking in challenge as possible.
This is not always clear to see because often enough the self seems to ‘work’ quite hard – it often exhibits what appears to be great industry and purpose. The motivation for this industry is invariably ascribed to noble causes of one sort or another. Something great is to be accomplished, something wonderful is to be achieved. Lip service is paid to all types of different things, whether it is God, or Nationhood, or Civilization, or Charity, or Truth, or Culture, or Education, or Progress. These are all the masks that laziness hides behind.
In reality however only aim is ever being followed and that is the aim of self-promotion – the self is seeking to secure itself, protect itself, defend itself, fortify itself, consolidate itself and so on. If the self does engage in activity that is apparently effortful or difficult it is only for the sake of protecting the sanctity of its own laziness. The lazy man may work very hard to make sure his laziness is never challenged, just as a cowardly man may run very fast indeed to make sure that what he fears does not catch up with him.
What this apparently dynamic activity comes down to in every case is optimization. If the supreme number one all-important prime directive is to ‘stay the same’ then it follows that – if necessary – any price must be paid in order to obey that directive. The price that needs to be paid will always come down in the end to ‘feverishly driven activity for the sake of maintaining the status quo’. The status quo is ‘the pattern of the self’ – the fixed and limited pattern of being that I have identified with in order to become a ‘self’. It is what I know and am familiar with. It is what I am scared to let go of.
Optimization is change for the sake of not changing, change for the sake of staying the same. I am securely ensconced in a position and I am willing to fight very hard indeed to stay there. With regards to the sanctity of this position, this ‘status quo’, I am liable to react very violently indeed – there is nothing I will not do to protect it. If you disturb me, or threaten to disturb me, I might manifest the most extreme of behaviour in order to make sure that the threat is nullified.
With regard to the hidden core of fear or insecurity which inevitably exists deep-down inside of me (which is the type of fear or insecurity that threatens the truth of the fixed or dogmatic world that I want to believe in) then this repressed inner doubt will similarly drive me to energetically engage in all sorts of ‘compensatory’ behaviours – behaviours that on the face of it might well appear ‘positively purposeful’ rather then merely defensive. It appears that I am bravely ‘reaching out for a positive outcome’, rather than merely running away as fast as ever I can from an outcome that I am infinitely reluctant to face, which is the ‘outcome’ of change.
The inherently deceptive nature of optimization-type behaviour is exemplified perfectly by idea of a ‘goal’, which is one thing if looked at superficially, and quite the opposite if seen with a bit of insight. Orientating oneself to a goal seems like a laudably dynamic and proactive sort of a thing – everyone rushes to praise a man with a goal. And yet what is a goal if not an extension of the self? A goal is the logical extension of the self’s assumptions and interests – there is nothing more to it than this. My goal is all about me, it is a reflection of myself. It is me projected out onto the world. On the most superficial of levels goal-orientated activity seems dynamic and proactive but really it is conservative and reactive. It appears as if something new and exciting is taking place but underlying all the feverish hype and fanfare and purposeful industry there is nothing exciting, nothing inspirational happening at all. All that is happening is that the self is being served. The self is promoting itself, consolidating itself, extending itself, protecting itself, perpetuating itself, and so on and so forth, and so what is there to get excited about?
When I make a goal for myself all that I am doing is projecting my own hastily-contrived description, my own arbitrarily thrown-together idea or theory of the world, out onto the real world, and this is a quintessentially sterile and pointless action – just as all self-promotion is sterile and pointless. Self-promotion (or self-protection) is the very opposite of creative. It is the perfectly unreflective enforcement of the status quo, the unthinking perpetuation of the incumbent regime out of an inertial/reactive tendency to fear change.
This is in fact a very handy way of describing the self, to say that it is an inertial ‘mass’ (or rather an inertial ‘virtual mass’) which – whenever it is threatened – automatically or mechanically reacts to protect its position (whatever that position might be). This is human psychology in a nutshell – there is really no need to say any more on the subject!
The motivation of the self is then at all times pure laziness, no matter how it might seem. As disinclined as we are to see it as such, the everyday common-or-garden self is the visible emblem, the embodiment of absolute, utter laziness. Much as we may not like to see it, the self is the entity of laziness – it is laziness personified.
If the fundamental entity of laziness (laziness being the psychological equivalent of inertia) is the self, then we can say that the fundamental entity of physical inertia is the particle, or what we call ‘matter’. What makes matter matter is the way in which the degree of its interaction with everything around it is strictly limited or curtailed. Although there is always some degree of interaction or ‘communication’ between each physical object and the rest of the universe (if this were not so that object would not be part of the universe since neither party would have any way of knowing about or responding to each other) it is of course demonstrably the case that for the most part – at least as far as our regular mode of perception is concerned) all definable physical objects ‘carry on being themselves’ no matter what is going on around them. If they didn’t have this stubborn tendency to carry on being themselves no matter what then they wouldn’t be definable or describable objects, and if they weren’t (in whatever sense) definable or describable objects then they wouldn’t be objects at all since the whole point of objects is that they have some sort of stable independent existence!
Thus, we can say without fear of contradiction that what makes material objects into actual ‘material objects’ (i.e. relatively stable features of the environment) is the fact that they persist in adhering to whatever their particular individual format happens to be in the first place, and this is just another way of talking about inertia – i.e. the tendency of things to stay the same in the face of whatever forces might try to change them.
Being a material object necessarily entails having a significant degree of ‘indifference’ to what is going on around you. This is also a perfectly good way of talking about that psychological ‘particle’ or entity that we call ‘the self’ – the self doesn’t really give a damn about what is going on around unless it has some relevance to its own well-being, its own perpetuity, its own continued existence. This is after all why we say that the self is ‘selfish’! What else could it be? The self can no more be unselfish than a physical particle can be ‘non-particulate’.
The self is only interested in its wider environment on what we might call ‘a strictly limited basis’: if what is going on can aid or support me in the all-important goal of my own self-maintenance then I am attracted to it and see it as being ‘a good thing’, and if the converse is true then I am averse to it and see it is ‘a bad thing’. My world (which is the only world that I have any interest or time for) is thus composed of all the elements which I have either positive or negative attachment to, and my ‘life’ is made up of all the dramas that get acted out around my perennial attempts to secure for myself as much as possible the former and avoid the latter. If I didn’t operate within this closed circle, then I would cease to operate as a ‘self’, just as it is true that if a particle ceased to interact with its environment on the strictly limited or closed basis that it does interact on (i.e. if it became an open system) then it could no longer be discernable as a particle. It would no longer have a separate or particulate existence, and so there would simply be no particle there to talk about.
Any given particle can only continue to be a particle by virtue of its inertia. This inertia – the inertia (or indifference) of the material world – is not a minor affair, one that is easily overcome. On the contrary, the inertia of the physical world is massive, colossal, absolute. It is the basis for everything – the basis upon which all business is conducted. We might say that that the inertia of the physical or tangible world is ‘pragmatically infinite’ and that overcoming it is simply not an option. It is a given, a ‘fact of life’, and it is precisely because this inertia is such a given that we have the particular attitude that we do have towards materiality and the material world, which is to say, the attitude of seeing it as the absolute fundamental unquestionable reality.
And yet, despite the astronomically high degree of sheer obstinacy that this material inertia manifests, it isn’t really as absolute as it seems; at a certain level of energy, all of its characteristic ‘formatting’ disappears and any semblance of what we know as the material state ‘goes out of the window. As Paul Davies (1987 p 124-5) says:
…As the energies of experiments (and of theoretical modelling) have been progressively elevated over the years, a trend has become apparent. Generally speaking, the higher the energy, the less structure and differentiation there is both in sub-atomic matter itself and the forces that act upon it.
Consider, for example, the various forces of nature. At low energy there seem to be four distinct fundamental forces: gravitation and electromagnetism, familiar in daily life, and two nuclear forces called weak and strong. Imagine for the sake of illustration that we could raise the temperature in a volume of space without limit, and thus simulate earlier and earlier epochs of the primeval universe. According to present theories, at a temperature of about 1015 degrees (about the current limit for direct experimentation) the electromagnetic force and the weak nuclear force merge in identity. Above this temperature there are no longer four forces, but three.
Theory suggests that with additional elevation of the temperature further amalgamations would take place. At 1027 degrees the strong force would merge with the electromagnetic-weak force. At 10 32 degrees gravitation would join in, producing a single, unified superforce. …
..If some very recent ideas are to be believed, as the temperature reaches the so-called Planck value of 1032 degrees, all matter is dissociated into its most primitive constituents, which may be simply a sea of identical strings existing in a ten-dimensional spacetime. Moreover, under these extreme conditions, even the distinction between spacetime and matter becomes nebulous.
Whatever the technical details of any particular theory, the trend is that as the temperature is raised, so there is less and less structure, form and distinction among particles and forces. In the extreme high-energy limit, all of physics seems to dissolve away into some primitive abstract substratum.
In short, what happens at these unimaginably high temperatures is that the stable, differentiated modality of material existence gives way to the ungrounded flux (or ‘unbroken movement’) which David Bohm sees as the essential or unmodified nature of the universe. All of those ‘eddies in the flow’ which did not appear to be part of the unbroken flow return to that flow, because that is all that they were anyway.
Matter isn’t really matter at all, it is ‘spirit that has forgotten its own true nature’. It is infinite energy that has congealed, coagulated, slowed down to a snail’s pace. Matter isn’t matter any more than stasis is really ‘stasis’ – stasis is ‘change that has forgotten its own true nature’. Matter is flux that has somehow got fooled into thinking that it is something quite different. As Bill Hicks puts it –
All matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves.
Just as matter isn’t really matter, I am not really who or what I imagine myself to be. What I lazily perceive myself to be is the very furthest thing possible from what I really am. I am not this localized assembly of particles and molecules. I am not this limited set of taken-for-granted ideas. I am not this absurd fixed and compartmentalized identity. I am not this static disconnected and alienated image. I am the transcendent reality. I am that which is most hidden from my limited vision. I am the very furthest thing from what I think I am.
I am the Unitary Flow itself – the inscrutable and ineffable ‘River of Change’ that flows majestically and incomprehensibly from – to use Jung’s phrase – an unknown origin to an unknown destination.
Image: Democracy by MARCIN OWCZAREK
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.