We defend ourselves against infinity with our purposes. Our purposes aren’t infinite, they haven’t anything to do with infinity, they have no relationship to the infinite, and that is why we are able to hide behind them!
How we love our purposes! We can’t live without them. We might sometimes get anxious or despairing over our chances of obtaining them successfully, but we still can’t do without them. We might create a narrative for ourselves which is themed entirely around our supposed ‘constitutional inability’ to do well when it comes to fulfilling our purposes (the so-called ‘loser script’!) but this negative narrative is nevertheless still preferable to not having a purpose.
The odd thing about our goals or purposes is how we glorify them even though they are nothing but crass limitations! We always claim that the goal which we are aiming at is something great, something pre-eminently worthwhile, etc, and when we do this we are being fundamentally dishonest. We are being fundamentally dishonest because it’s not that the goal is ‘worthwhile in itself’ but rather that it is worthwhile because of the unacknowledged function that it serving.
The function of the goals which we fixate upon so obsessively is to defend us from the unspeakable ravages of infinity, as we have already said. They protect us, they shield us. To paraphrase what Carlos Castaneda says, the function of our petty everyday ‘doings’ is that they protect us from the Immensity. They protect us from the Immensity that we do not wish to see. So whilst I might say that my purposes are valuable to me for the reasons that are written on the label in big letters, this is not at all the case.
Our purposes are not valuable to us for the reasons that are ‘written on the label,’ but for different reasons. They are important to us for reasons that don’t appear in writing anywhere, reasons that can’t appear on the label, or on the official manifesto. They are important because they represent something that we can attach our attention to, and narrowly define ourselves in relation to. This is the game of the purposeful self, which continuously weaves narratives around how well (or how badly) it is doing in relation to the all-important issue of ‘attaining the goal’, or ‘fulfilling the purpose’.
The game of the purposeful self is absolutely predicated upon ‘fundamental dishonesty’ therefore, and this is a very curious thing to consider. Everything it does is ‘back-to-front’; all of its motivations are ‘upside-down’. On the surface level of the game (on the explicit level) it is doing one thing (it is pursuing this goal or that goal, according to what this goal or that goal supposedly represents within the terms of the game) but on the hidden level, the covert level, it is doing something quite different. It believes its motivation to be one thing, whilst a truth of the matter is quite another.
The purposeful self is fundamentally (and necessarily) alienated from its own true motivation in other words, and this is one hell of a predicament to be in! It’s a predicament that is quite impossible to ‘resolve’ just as long as we keep playing by the rules of the game (which the purposeful self is absolutely bound to keep on doing, since it is only by playing by the rules of the game that it can continue to exist). The other way of putting this is to say that the purposeful self can only continue to exist if it carries on operating exclusively on the principle of ‘fundamental dishonesty’.
This is very clearly going to be the case – if I allow myself to see that the reason I value my habitual goals, my habitual purposes, is because they give me something to hang my attention on so it doesn’t wander off and see something that will disturb me, then this is in itself constitutes a disturbing awareness! It is an awareness that will disturb me very much! If I allow myself to see that I have contrived for my purposes or goals to be as ‘all-important’ as they are to me so that I don’t ever have to have to ‘look beyond them’ then in seeing this I have straightaway ‘seen beyond my purposes’, which is precisely what I did not want to do!
This ‘operating principle’ of fundamental dishonesty has to be adhered to scrupulously at all times therefore, and not only must it be scrupulously adhered to at all times, it is also the case that we must never allow ourselves to know that this is what we are doing. We could ask ourselves an interesting question at this point – a question that is interesting even though it is at the same time entirely ‘academic’ (which is to say, it’s clearly a question of ‘no actual practical relevance’). The question is this:
“If we could clearly see (in advance, so to speak) the highly peculiar and infinitely restrictive (if not to say torturous) nature of the predicament that we will be placing ourselves in by ‘playing the game of the purposeful self’ would we still go ahead and do it?”