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The Lonely Commentator

By commentating on reality, we create the isolated ego-observer. What advantage then, we might ask, is there in doing this? What do we gain by the exercise? The answer here of course is that there is no advantage, except to that self-same ego-observer. The ego ‘gains itself’ and this is a very doubtful advantage, even at the best of times…

 

 

What we gain when we create the external viewpoint which is the ego-observer, is the possibility of commentating away from the outside without really knowing what it is that we are commentating on. What we’re actually commentating on is ‘the world as it looks from the perspective of this hypothetical external viewpoint’, this viewpoint which doesn’t really exist. Any value that the comments in question might have exist strictly in relation to this hypothetical viewpoint (which doesn’t really exist, as we have just said). The type of ‘value’ that we’re talking about here therefore is of a highly provisional nature, which is to say, the comments in question are meaningful only insofar that the POV that we’re taking is actually a necessary one (rather than being a ‘not-necessarily necessary’ one).

 

 

Why doesn’t the external or separate viewpoint that we’re talking about exist? This really is the sticking point in the argument – the point beyond which we can’t get. We can’t get beyond this because it feels so much as if there really is an external, separate viewpoint operating and because it feels so much as if we’re it! This abstracted viewpoint is me – it is the experience I am working with (or working through) every single day of my life. Being a separate observer-self is such an intimate, consistent and persuasive experience and since it’s pretty much the only one we have we find it virtually impossible to challenge. How can anyone come up and say that ‘the me’ isn’t real?

 

 

Subjective experience means nothing however – no matter how consistent or persuasive. We might as well argue that some illusion or other must be real because it is so good at looking as if it is! The ‘me’ isn’t real because it is an arbitrary point of view and if something is an arbitrary point or view (i.e. if we could just as well look at the world in a totally different way) then how on earth can we say that it is ‘real’?  We can say that it is familiar to us and that it’s very believable and that it’s highly consistent with itself (or that it’s the only POV we know) but none of this means that its real. That would lazy thinking; that would be a blatant misuse of the word ‘real’…

 

 

We know that the ‘me’ is an arbitrary POV because we can completely drop it (in meditation, for example) and then we discover that we aren’t separate from or external to the world at all. People have been discovering this for thousands of years. As the Buddha has said –

 

In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west, people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true!

 

 

The very notion of a distinct self or ego is absurd. The question ‘how do we know that an external / separate viewpoint on reality can’t exist?’ is ridiculous – how can anything be separate from or external to reality?  If we are separate from or external to reality then this simply means that we aren’t real. We’ve created an ‘unreal vantage point’ and hence all the comments we come up with on the basis of this vantage point are going to be equally unreal. My comments (i.e. my thoughts) are ‘real only in relations to an unreal standpoint’; they are ‘meaningful only with respect to a viewpoint that I am assuming to have independent existence when it doesn’t’…

 

 

If we wanted to say that something is real (as opposed to the thinking mind or the mind-created self) then we could say that consciousness is real. Consciousness is real because it’s not arbitrary, because it’s not an engineered or caused thing. It’s real because it’s not a construct, in other words. If no one set it up, arranged for it to be there, designed or programmed it to be the particular way that it is, then that’s enough to make it real! It’s real all by itself, it’s independently real, it isn’t ‘real because we choose to say that it is’. Before we say anything, do anything, think anything, we’re conscious.  Consciousness isn’t a product – consciousness is where everything comes from. If we want to be unconscious then we have to make arrangements for this to be the case, this needs to be set up or caused. The ‘conditioned mode of existence’ is a special case – it needs to be programmed into existence, it needs to be specially engineered in some way.

 

 

We are likely to dispute this, of course. If I ‘do nothing’ then nothing happens – I just carry on the same as always. I carry on being unconscious – as ever. I carry on being asleep. I carry on in my conditioned mode of existence, I carry on believing / perceiving myself to be a separate ego-observer. That’s a fact – that’s where I’m at and it’s not suddenly going to change all by itself. Experience – lots and lots of it – will show this! The thing is though that I am never ‘doing nothing’. This is never the case. I’m doing something the whole time  – I’m creating the illusion of the separate ego-observer by commentating on reality on a continuous basis. If I try to stop commentating on reality (or rather on how reality appears to me when I am operating out of the abstracted viewpoint of the rational mind) then I find that I cannot. The commentating continues on regardless – it’s not something that’s under my control. It’s is an ‘external master’, so to speak…

 

 

If I try to stop commentating all the time (i.e. constructing the world with my thoughts, with my mind-mediated evaluations) all that happens is that I start commentating on the commentary, and this is no help. I start looping – I start evaluating my evaluations. I start trying to control my comments and this is never going to work since ‘control’ always comes out of a fixed way of seeing thing (which is to say, an abstracted viewpoint). My attempted control of my non-stop thinking arises out of a thought that I have had about how advantageous it would be to become free from my own thinking, so how is this going to work? The essential problem here is that everything I do from the unreal vantage point of the ego-observer only serves to perpetuate that ‘unreal vantage point’.  Everything I do on the basis of an illusion is only ever going to further that illusions! And if I get dismayed by this, and start thinking to myself how wretchedly intractable my situation is, this despairing comment just goes to reinforce the unreal ego-observer all the more!

 

 

What helps isn’t ‘trying to do something about it’ (which is as we have said guaranteed to perpetuate the underlying illusion) but getting better at observing the utter absurdity of the situation. Here I am, the ego-observer, busy creating myself by making comments on what I take to be the world but which is really just ‘how the world appears to me when filtered through an arbitrary abstract viewpoint’. I’m not commenting on reality at all therefore but only on my own version of reality – a version that only has any meaning at all when I continue to take my arbitrary viewpoint as being ‘the only viewpoint there ever could possibly be’. I’m the lonely commentator commenting away on a world that has been created by my own comments! I’m commenting on (or reacting to) my own projections so as to make these projections continue to seem real to me. Moreover, this process is purely involuntary – it’s running on pure habit energy stored up in the flywheel of the mechanical activity that I have been feeding into just about forever. It’s pure inertia, in other words, and I’m just going along with it, going along with it, going along with it, and feeding into the inertia of the system all the time.

 

 

So really what’s happening is that the mechanical system is perpetuating itself through me. It’s operating me. It’s running me and I’m just passively going along with it.  I’m letting it operate me every minute of the day, and the whole time I think that I’m doing what I want to do, saying what I want to say, thinking what I want to think, And none of this is even real…

 

 

 

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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