We aren’t our thoughts and we aren’t thinking. Who we are has nothing to do with thoughts and thinking so why do we have so much to do with them? What’s the big attraction here?
One answer is to say that thoughts represent a solution to the ‘problem’ of openness. Openness isn’t a problem, and there isn’t any ‘solution’ to it, but nevertheless our thoughts (misleadingly) represent a solution.
Given that we are driven by such a tremendous fear of openness, anything that represents, however misleadingly, a ‘solution’ to this fear becomes immensely attractive, overwhelmingly attractive. Our fear of openness, which is the same thing as ‘an attraction to the proposed solution’, causes us to adhere to our thoughts as if with the world’s best superglue. There’s no glue like fear, after all!
We always think that fear makes us run away of course, but fear can equally well cause us to stick to anything that promises to help us escape from it. The need to run away is the same thing as the need to stick like glue to our escape mechanism, and our thoughts are what constitute our escape mechanism (or as far as we’re concerned anyway).
It’s not hard to seek to explain how this works. Openness is – we might say – infinitely complex – it would take more descriptive terms than anyone could ever invent to ‘tie it up’. There isn’t enough string in the universe to tie openness up – if openness could be all tied up and put in a neat parcel then it wouldn’t be openness. Openness can’t be closed down, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to! We can’t close it down but we never stop trying to do just this…
Each thought that we have (every thought that we could ever possibly have) represents an ‘oversimplified version of the universe’, a version of reality that can be (and has been) closed down. This is where the attraction lies, therefore. In a ‘closed-down version of reality’ things actually can be what we say they are – final answers exist, final solutions exist. Things can be what we say they are and nothing else! We get what’s listed on the label with no added surprises thrown in. Final definitions exist, in other words, and because they exist this means that there is no big bad ‘radical unknown’ waiting out there to ambush us. The one thing we don’t want is to be ambushed!
Every single thought that we’ve ever had is ‘a perfect oversimplification of the universe’ – our thoughts provide us with ‘a dummy’s version of how things are’. This is obviously true, no thought we could ever possibly think would make any sense at all in the open universe – the fact that they do make perfect sense to us proves that we are living in a pocket universe, a make-believe universe, a universe in which ‘final descriptions actually mean what they are (absurdly) supposed to mean’.
Thoughts are solutions to the ‘problem’ of openness, but they aren’t real solutions. Openness isn’t a problem, and there are no solutions. Why do we see it as a problem, and why do we want so badly to find a solution then? What’s the story here? There is only one answer to this riddle, and it’s rather curious one. It is what we might call a rather ‘twisted’ answer. The only reason openness is a problem to us – we might say – is because we have already fallen into the trap of thinking that we are our thoughts!
We think that we are our thoughts of ourselves; we think that ‘we are what our thoughts tell us we are’, and this – needless to say – constitutes a very tight loop indeed. It’s such a tight loop there isn’t any space in it for reality to come into the picture! There’s no space even for a tiny bit of reality to come in… This echoes fairly closely what Alan Watt says when he says that ‘A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusion.‘
When we run for the comfort of our thoughts, looking for the safety of the conveniently oversimplified universe that they provide for us, then what happens is of course that our thoughts present us with an oversimplified version of who or what we are too. They present us with what we might call ‘a compulsory identity’; they provide us in other words with ‘an oversimplified version of who we are that we can’t help believing in’. Of course our thoughts present us with ‘an oversimplified version of who we are’ – what else would we expect them to do? That’s the whole idea, after all; that’s what we are looking for in the first place (even though we don’t actually know that this is what we are looking for).
The oversimplified version of ‘who we are’ has an unholy fear of openness. Openness is the only thing there is; openness is the only thing there is and so it can’t be ‘closed down’, and yet ‘the self we perceive ourselves to be’ is nevertheless ‘a closed-down version of openness’, a ‘closed-down version of reality’. It is a defined entity, a ‘knowable thing’ – if the self wasn’t ‘a defined entity’, wasn’t ‘a knowable thing’, then we wouldn’t be able to distinguish it (or isolate it) from everything else in the world, and so we wouldn’t be able to have the prized experience of ‘being this self’. The self can only be the self when it exists in opposition to everything else, needless to say! It creates its existence via its intractable opposition to everything it sees as being ‘not it’.
Openness is the enemy, therefore. The self can’t exist in openness, and openness is all that there is (as we keep saying) so of course the self (with its necessarily limited or closed-down understanding of things) has to run away from it. Who we really are doesn’t need to run away from openness and seek refuge in thoughts and thinking, but – then again – we don’t know who we really are! We haven’t a clue who or what we really are because thinking won’t let us know. We’re being fed false stories the whole time and we’re believing them as fast as a we can. We’re swallowing the stories ‘hook, line and sinker’.
We are compelled by the laws of the oversimplified universe to understand ourselves to be this self’ and to be a self is to be forever running from openness. That’s what it means to be a self – it means that we’re running away from openness the whole time without knowing that we are. We don’t know that we are because we always legitimize our ‘running-away’ activity as being ’something else’, as being something noble and worthwhile. It is ‘running away’ (or ‘striving’) that creates the defined or concrete self, and yet it is only the defined or concrete self that needs to run away in the first place. Fear sticks us to the unreal thought-created self, and yet it is only because we firmly believe that we are this unreal thought-created self that we are governed in all things by fear…
Image: Pathologic 2