All those things that the self constructs itself in relation to are ‘junk’.
All thoughts are junk, all ideas and concepts are junk; our beliefs, our goals, our strategies, our systems – they are all junk.
This junk is initially appealing to us because it appears to be ‘a means to an end’. It appears to be useful, or at least to have the potential of being useful, but really it’s just junk.
The apparent usefulness of junk lies in the way in which it can benefit the self. More essentially, the ‘use’ of junk is simply that it allows us to construct the self in relation to it. Junk is attractive to us therefore because we see that we can use it to enhance and consolidate ourselves – this is the advantage in junk.
Because there is such an important advantage in junk, to us it is not ‘junk’. It is something valuable, it is a treasure (at the very least it is a minor treasure). We treasure our junk because we treasure ourselves, anything that can help us ‘further the cause’ is therefore precious…
What this means of course is that the self is the true treasure, and anything that offers the self an advantage becomes a treasure by virtue of the fact that it furthers the ends of that self. The junk that we are attracted to looks good to us because we see ourselves in it, in other words. Its value is the value we place in ourselves.
But what the self doesn’t see is that if it constructs itself in relation to all this junk, then it too must be junk!
It never sees this – it only sees the junk of its own constructs as being valuable (i.e. ‘non-junk-like’) because of these construct’s value to itself. If it saw that it itself was nothing but another piece of junk, then it would not see any value in its ideas, thoughts, concepts, beliefs, goals, strategies and systems. The fact that it does see value in all of these constructs is proof that it does not see itself to be ‘no more than just another piece of junk’.
All ‘things’ are junk, including the thing we call the self. All things are junk because they are only ‘things’ – dead constructs, not possessed of any value other than the value which we ourselves place in them. The thing we call a ‘self’ is just as much a construct as its ideas and goals and beliefs (i.e. its objects) are, but by taking itself absolutely for granted – as if it were the standard by which all else must be measured – it can ascribe or attribute value to other things. By assuming its own basis to be fundamentally unquestionable, it can say what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’, what is’ useful’ and what is ‘not useful’, what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’.
By taking it totally for granted that it itself is not ‘just another thing’, therefore, the self can assign value. By assuming that it itself has some sort of ‘special’ value, the self-construct can become the arbitrator of meaning, the decider of value in other things. Via this very simple trick, it can become the judge, the ultimate authority – it can become unchallengeable. In short, it can become the Supreme Value – the very ‘centre of the universe’…!
The self is a thing that doesn’t see itself as being merely a thing, a thing that doesn’t know itself to be merely a thing. Because it doesn’t know itself for what it is, it becomes special. It becomes the absolute ruler of its own tiny world. Instead of looking at itself (which it can’t do because that would burst its bubble) it projects all its attention outwards, onto the things it surrounds itself with, the objects it has defined in relation to itself. Some of these objects or things it sees positively, as being advantageous, others it sees negatively, as being disadvantageous. Some it approves of, some it disapproves of; some it likes, whilst others it dislikes. Thus the self ascribes its own version of order, or ‘meaning’, upon the world.
The meaningfulness of the two categories (like versus dislike, good versus bad, YES versus NO) derives entirely from the ‘assumed value’ of the self that projects the values, and that self is quite lacking in any of the value that it assumes, quite necessarily so, since things are always empty of any value or meaning whatsoever (other than the value or meaning we place in them, that is).
Things can only be meaningful inasmuch as they relate to something outside of themselves, something that isn’t a thing. But the self-thing doesn’t relate to anything other than its own constructs, its own reflections. It is after all these constructs, these projections, these reflections, that allow it to construct itself in the first place. It can’t afford to relate to anything else (anything other than its own projections) otherwise it would deconstruct itself. This it most definitely does not want to do.
But the price of constructing itself in this way (which is the only way it can construct itself!) is that it is at all times an inherently hollow or meaningless concern. It is at all times merely a ‘thing amongst other things’; a ‘thing that doesn’t see that it is a thing’; ‘a thing that thinks some things are good and some bad’; ‘a thing that thinks some things are useful and some other things are not useful’.
All of the self’s values – which are so extraordinarily important to it – are therefore ultimately an expression of its own inherent nullity, its own inherent hollowness. It lives in a world that is made up entirely of its own blankness, its own nonentity, split up into positive and negative aspects, positive and negative projections, positive and negative attachments. In a kind of a way these projections do have an existence, they have a subjective existence to the self which is relating to them; when it relates to the positive it feels good and when it relates to the negative it feels bad, but really the ‘subjective good’ and the ‘subjective bad’ only come about as a result of splitting apart the original blankness, the original nonentity. And because they arise out of that original nonentity, they will always return to it. PLUS will always cancel out MINUS in the end… So although the ensuing vibratory drama is subjectively real to the self that engages in it, the ultimate nature of the drama is at all times ‘self-negating’ or ‘futile’.
But the secret behind everything is that the original blankness isn’t actually blank at all – it is only blank as a result of the closed or private game that is being played. The ‘game’ that is being played is that a world has been created which is made up of the tension between opposites – opposites which only have meaning in relation to the assumed ‘unquestionable viewpoint’ of the self. If this viewpoint is ‘specially true’ (unlike any other competing viewpoints that might have been taken) then the polar world that has been created has meaning – all the propositions that can be made in relation to it are meaningful rather than meaningless. But because this is all based on a groundless assumption, the groundless assumption that the viewpoint that has been taken is the ‘right’ one, the only true and correct one, etc, everything that proceeds (or unfolds) from this basis is actually quite meaningless. The self however – because it cannot ever (on pain of instant extinction) question its own standpoint – is prohibited from seeing this meaninglessness, and so it lives in a world of ‘virtual meaning’.
Meaninglessness that we can plainly see to be meaningless is one thing, but meaninglessness that we can’t see for what it is, is quite another. The lack of information that is clearly seen to be ‘lack of information’ is actually information after all – after all, the lack of information is itself genuine information… Or to put this another way, a lie that is admitted to be a lie is actually the truth!
This is what we mean by saying that ‘blankness is not really blankness at all’ – it is only blankness if we can’t see it to be blankness, just as ignorance is only ignorance if we can’t see it to be ignorance. But in order to play the game (in order to play any game!) we need this ‘blankness’, we need this ‘ignorance’. Otherwise the game simply won’t work!
Blankness (or ‘entropy’) is thus a necessary condition of the game we are playing, the game of ‘pretending to ourselves that we can get somewhere when we can’t’, the game of ‘pretending that we can get to a place that doesn’t actually exist’ – a place that is never any more than a deluded notion that has taken root in our minds. What it pretends is that it can get to that very special place which is ‘an UP without a DOWN’, ‘an advantage without a disadvantage’, ‘a YES without a NO’.
And behind this delusion (the delusion that the self can, if it plays its cards right, permanently have what it wants without also having to have what it specifically doesn’t want!) lies another delusion – the delusion that the ‘card-playing self’ exists in the first place…
The ‘blankness’ that we are talking about is therefore simply ‘the blankness of self-negation’, or ‘the blankness of utter futility’ – the blankness of an illusion that doesn’t understand that it is an illusion. ‘Blankness’ is a way of talking about the horrifically implacable sterility of our perennial endeavour to be a wave with a crest but no trough; it is a way of alluding to the hostile stony barrenness which arises as a result of our unyielding fixation or obsession – which is the fixation upon obtaining one opposite without the other.
This is the reason we can say that our constructs – our ideas and thoughts and concepts and beliefs and strategies and systems –are junk. Junk isn’t really ‘junk’ – it’s only junk in the sense that we have placed false value in it, it is only junk because of the way in which we have seen something in it (the glittering promise of advantage, the lure of self-benefit) that isn’t there at all.
Because we see this promise – or at least, because we did see this promise once upon a time – we make a point of surrounding ourselves with a huge collection of our junk-constructs, we make a world for ourselves out of the stuff.
The junk is what fascinates us, entices us, entraps us, hypnotizes us. And then, when the glittery golden glow wears off (as it does very quickly) we remain hypnotized, but in a very dead, very heavy, very inert sort of a way. This is the material trance, which is really just a type of living death. In the material trance all we believe in is ‘the material’, and we see ourselves as material too. If someone tells us that there is something important, something primary, which is not material we scoff at them, we laugh at them, we think them stupid…
We make our bed and then we lie in it. Once we’re in this trance then we don’t care about anything any more, only remaining in our trance. Whatever disturbs us from our sleep is ‘bad’, is ‘pain’, and whatever assists or facilitates our continuing sleep is ‘good’, is ‘pleasure’. This is our only value system, no matter how cunningly we might dress it up. Unconsciousness is our quest, our ultimate goal.
In life therefore we seek pleasure and shun pain. This is generally all we are interested in doing – we shuffle our junk, trying to arrange it in such a way that our sleep is pleasant rather than unpleasant. Trying to get it so things are ‘right rather than wrong’.
As soon as we get it right however it goes wrong again. As soon as the thing goes in, it pops out again. No sooner do we get the system running smoothly than some lousy snag develops…
As Steve Hagen says, ‘we flatten down the bump in the carpet only to have it pop up again somewhere else’. So we chase the bump around the living room, indefinitely. It’s a non-terminating problem.
We chase the ‘not-rightness’ around, we chase the discomfort or pain around, and are successful in this project only on a very momentary basis. The problem always pops up somewhere else, and then we have to start all over again.
We have to continue with the weary round.
Playing with our junk.
Looking for a type of ‘value’ or ‘commodity’ in it that isn’t there.
Looking for a self in it that just isn’t there…
What we see in the futile repetitive junkyard of our minds is therefore a measure of how unconscious we are – if we see something of benefit to us (a positive treasure) then we are unconscious, we are asleep. If we see something that is a threat to us (a negative treasure) then we are also unconscious, we are also asleep.
But when we see neither advantage nor disadvantage in the junk going around in our minds – when we see that it is just so much pointless cheap and tawdry garbage – then we are starting to wake up.
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.