The ‘great task’ in life is not, as we might assume, a positive one. As a rule, we feel that if we are not doing something positive in life (which is to say, if we are not working towards some kind of a goal) then we are being reprehensibly passive. We feel that we are then just ‘drifting aimlessly and letting stuff happen’ which – so we believe – is betraying life’s purpose (however we might like to put that). The ‘positive task’ means – in other words – that it’s up to us to make ‘something of ourselves’ and that if we fail to do this then we will have to live with the shame and ignominy of this failure. This is the ‘positive view’ in a nutshell and this is how we understand life.
We are very sure of this view of ours but just because we are so very sure of it that doesn’t necessarily mean that we aren’t completely wrong! Just because we are flatly convinced that life is some kind of ‘positive task’ whereby we ‘make something of ourselves’ (if we can) that doesn’t mean that we haven’t got everything completely backwards! As it happens, we can take it as an infallible rule of thumb that whenever we are ‘flatly or unreflectively convinced of something’ then we are absolutely bound to be wrong. All of the ‘convinced’ people in the world are completely deluded and this ought to be obvious (it isn’t obvious because we – on the contrary – allow ourselves to be influenced by them). All the people who think they really know what they’re doing are completely deluded, and they are the people we chose to lead us! Not only are all the ‘convinced people’ of this world completely deluded but – furthermore – it is this stubborn deludedness that has given rise to most of humanity’s suffering. Delusion (or conviction) always comes at a price, after all.
Anyone who has ever reflected on things will without any doubt whatsoever have realised that living is an art and not merely some kind of an exercise involving ‘bulldozing our way ahead’ in asserting whatever unexamined beliefs it is that we are unconsciously driven to try to assert. Charging dumbly ahead on the basis of a whole bunch of assumptions that we are absolutely never going to look at, and thereby afflicting these assumptions on other people in the world in general may be what almost everyone everybody does, but that does not mean that this has anything to recommend it! Clearly it has nothing to recommend it. Life, when it is lived like this, is nothing more than sheer wilful ignorance – if ‘ignorance is strength’ – as George Orwell says in 1984 – then it is a profoundly malign form of strength, not one that ever does anyone any good. Whatever we try to ‘positively assert’ it always comes down to the same thing – it always comes down to ‘the blind compulsive acting out of our unconscious assumptions’ and what good can ever come of this?
Positive living means ‘living on the basis of fear’ – it means ‘living on the basis of fear’ because we are afraid to examine our assumptions. We are afraid to examine our assumptions because they might turn out to be wrong and what would we do then? If we weren’t afraid then we’d take a good look at our assumptions but we are afraid and that’s why we make such a point of never looking! All belief is fear, all positive assertions are fear, all ‘positive endeavours’ are fear. Anything that is based on ‘not questioning’ is fear – fear might have many ways of disguising itself, but it always has the very same root. In a way, it could be said that we are justified in not wanting to examine our assumptions too closely. We’re justified in a kind of a way because we are always going to discover that our assumptions are wrong, because we are always going to discover that they have no validity. Our suspicions are correct, therefore. It could be said therefore that there is a kind of knowing, a kind of awareness behind our predilection for living positively. There is a very good reason for our ‘wilful stupidity’, so to speak.
This is only ‘in a way’ however. There isn’t really a good reason for treating life as a positive task because if we were ever to look into the matter a little more (which we don’t because we are afraid to) then we would discover that ‘our assumptions not being true’ isn’t actually a bad thing! It isn’t actually a bad thing because our assumptions are (of course!) only limiting us. To never question our assumptions is to never grow and that’s the worst thing that could ever happen to us. Why would we wish to preserve our limitations, and make them more (apparently) real than they actually are (which is not real at all)? Why would we want to glorify the very thing that is pointlessly hemming us in? Why do we worship the fetters which hold us prisoner? Why would we want to (implicitly) say that to be imprisoned is good and that to be free is bad?
This perversity arises naturally out of ‘the tautology of fear’. The tautology of fear comes about because of the way that we don’t look any deeper into what makes us afraid, and so – because we never look any deeper into it – we never allow ourselves to discover that what we were initially afraid of isn’t actually ‘a bad thing’. We get as far as understanding that if we were ever to examine the so-called ‘self-evident’ axioms that underpin our understanding of the world then they would necessarily as being false. And this is enough for us, this is as far as we want to go and so we head off in the opposite direction instead – instead of being orientated towards ‘exploring reality’ (and discovering whatever it is that we are going to discover) we are now ‘orientated towards back-tracking’ instead and denying what we have just found out. The reason we can call this a ‘tautology’ is therefore because as soon as we jump to the conclusion that discovering that our assumptions are false is going to be a bad thing we create the World of Denial, which is ‘the Fear World’. Yet it is of course also true that the only reason we jump to this conclusion in the first place is because of fear. There could be no other reason for taking things this way. Fear is feeding on fear: we are caught in a ‘closed circuit of fear’ and there is simply no way out!
There is no ‘way out’ (of course) because we ourselves have shut the door – we have shut the door and we have crossed ‘revisiting it’ off the list of possibilities. We no longer know that there is a door because we have decided that knowing about this door is such very bad news. On a very deep level – therefore – we have given up on life. Without knowing what we have done, we have jumped to the conclusion that ‘reality (as it is) is bad news’ and this is why we are locked into the Positive Reality, which is the World of Fear. If there is to be an answer to our problems (and for the most part – consciously at least – we are convinced that such an ‘answer’ exists) then it has to be something that comes about as a result of ‘the successful outcome of our positive endeavours’. Using James Carse’s terminology, we could say that have convinced ourselves that our salvation must come about as a result of ‘winning some finite game or other’. Reality has been turned into a mere game in other words and the answer to all our problems lies therefore in ‘the winning of this game’, utterly nonsensical and ridiculous though this logic may be.
When we talk about ‘life being seen as a positive task’ then what we are saying is that ‘life has been turned into a game’ – which it is not. We are arbitrarily identifying with the ‘position’ which is the concrete identity and then we are saying (or assuming) that life is all about this concrete identity that we have just made up. We are saying that life is all about the concrete identity ‘making something of itself’ and thus saving itself from the state of ignominious nonentity that is the lot of all those concrete identities which fail to save themselves in this way. We are ‘proving our metal’ in some way or other. What we’re really proving to ourselves however (or rather what we’re trying to prove) is that ‘the game is not a game’ (or as Greg Tucker says, that ‘the dream is not a dream’). By doing this however we are ‘inverting life’ – we are inverting life because we are making it all about the unreal concrete self, which is only a game that we’re playing. The better we are getting on in the positive task the more we are ‘subverting life’ and the more we subvert life the more absurd is the situation that we create for ourselves! We are making life play second fiddle to an illusion, and so of course we are ‘subverting’ it. It seems to us in our folly that throwing ourselves into the positive task is ‘the greatest thing ever’. We are very solemn indeed about it, but the more effort we put into the task the more ridiculous and painful our position becomes. We have made a basic error – we have taken life to be a ‘positive task’ when actually the task is negative.
Art: Fear Factory Shock wallpaper