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The Thing That Flees

In each of us there is ‘a thing that flees’. Either this thing can exist as a mere virtual possibility, or – more likely – it will exist as fully-fledged tendency, a well-established mechanical process. The thing that flees is the mechanical or rule-based version of ourselves and – generally speaking – it pretty much runs the show…

 

 

The thing that flees is rarely seen as it is – it is a master of disguise and almost invariably presents itself in a different light entirely. It’s one aim is to run away from life but rather than admit this it expertly camouflages itself, like a politician does, with a convincing outward show of being genuinely interested in this, or genuinely interested in that. It pays plenty of lip service to the idea of engaging with life. In reality, it cares about nothing but fleeing. In reality, everything it does is merely window dressing. In reality, everything it says is pure ‘double-speak’!

 

 

The thing in us that flees can’t very well show its true colours because that wouldn’t be fleeing. That would be like a corrupt politician telling the truth – if he did that then he wouldn’t be corrupt!  For the thing that flees (the thing in us that wants to run away from life) being open and candid about the fact that all it wants to do is flee, that all it wants to do is run as fast as it can in the opposite direction of life, would be a supremely courageous act.

 

 

If I am willing to admit to myself that I am running away from life, that all I want to do is ‘opt out’, then this willingness would represent a 180 degree change in my inner orientation. This would mean that my internal compass is no longer pointing in the direction of ‘I don’t want to be here’, no longer pointing in the direction of ‘I don’t want to know’! This would mean that my internal dial is pointing in the direction of ‘remembering‘ not ‘forgetting’!

 

 

If I have reached the point where I am willing to see the fact that everything I am doing is ‘fleeing in disguise’ then I am no longer fleeing. If I have reached the point where I am willing to be open to witnessing the unpalatable truth that I am running away from life on a full-time basis then this means that I am actually moving towards life!

 

 

The thing within us that flees is not honest, is not candid, is not open. If it was then it would not be ‘the thing that flees’. Instead of being open about what it is doing, the thing that flees puts a lot of effort into creating the opposite impression. It puts an awful lot of effort and ingenuity into creating the impression that it is all about embracing life, that it is all about celebrating life.

 

 

 

The thing that flees never tires of talking about how great life is, how wonderful life is. It never tires of talking about enjoying life, it never tires of talking about ‘living life to the full’. ‘Seize the day’, it says. The thing that flees puts all of its energy into pursuing goals which supposedly exist for the sake of enjoying and celebrating life…

 

 

Actually the opposite is true. All of its goals are there for the sake of increasing our ‘sense of security’ in the world and this is another way (a disguised way) of talking about running away from life. Goals are the antithesis of life. Goals are the inverted analogue of life. Goals are closed and life is open. Goals are about avoiding (or eliminating) risk, life is about taking risks. Life is a risk! Goals only exist in the rational mind, life is to be found in the undefined reality of the present moment!

 

 

The ‘thing that flees’ is not interested in the undefined reality of the present moment! Saying that it is not interested in the undefined reality of the present moment is seriously understating the matter. What the ‘thing that flees’ is fleeing from is precisely the undefined reality of the present moment! The whole point of everything it does is all about getting away from the reality of the present moment. Although the truth of the matter is of course that it will never manage it. Or at least, not really…

 

 

The way that ‘the thing that flees’ escapes (or tries to escape) from life, escapes (or tries to escape) from the undefined reality of the present moment, is by creating a false reality made up of goals, a false reality made up of abstract mental structures that we cannot see beyond. It escapes from living (or tries to escape from living) by creating a kind of ‘false living’ – a kind of ‘false living’ that is based entirely on chasing after mind-created goals. When we achieve these goals this is called ‘being a winner’ and when we don’t then this is called ‘being a loser’. If we manage to win consistently then this is seen as being what life is all about!

 

 

 

In the game that the thing that flees has created winning is the best thing in the world. Winning is the sweetest prize of all! Nothing tastes as sweet as this – certainly not life itself! The reason that winning is the sweetest prize of all for the thing that flees is because winning represents (although this of course can never be admitted) successfully running away from life! The ‘all-time’ winner is the one who has permanently escaped from life, and will never have to be challenged by it again…

 

 

When we experience the yearning (which we all know so well) to achieve a particularly attractive goal what we are experiencing is ‘the yearning to escape’ (although we do not see it as such). When we experience the fervour to play the game (i.e. the fervour of wanting to win at the game) what we are experiencing fervour for is the chance of successfully running away from life. The fervour to win is the fervour to flee – the two are in reality the same thing, only the one is the disguised form of the other.

 

 

The whole of our civilization is really just a disguised ‘running away from life’. We claim to value life, but we really only value the mental structures we have put in place of it. We really only value our own shoddy constructs. We aren’t interested in life, we are only interested in ‘playing the game’ that we are. We are only interested in our distractions, in our games, in our entertainments. Inasmuch as our culture is dedicated to the rational version of life (what the head sees, not what the heart feels), we are dedicating to escaping.  We claim to be ‘all about life’, but we’re not! In the following video Joseph Campbell argues that our civilization is against life, not for it –

 

 

 

Naturally our civilization is all about running away from life, and brutally repressing it whenever we can. What goes on in each one of us, in the microcosm, is faithfully reflected in happens on the outside, in the macrocosm, in the external reality that we have created for ourselves. It’s the same thing, the same old business, only painted larger. It is the same thing, only now it makes up our ‘external environment’, which is the only world that we know (or the only world that is allowed). It’s the same thing, only now it’s collectively validated. It’s the same thing, only now it’s compulsory. It’s the same thing, only now it’s ‘the law’…

 

 

So far we have been talking a lot about ‘the thing that flees’. But what is ‘the thing that flees’? What kind of a thing is it, and how does it manage to have so much power over us? No dictator, no tyrant, no earthly king or emperor ever had so much power over us as ‘the thing that flees’ does. As we have said, it runs the show!

 

 

One answer might be to say that it is the part of us that is afraid, and that is also afraid to see that it is afraid. Another answer would be to say that it is the part of us that ‘doesn’t want to see the truth’. And yet the very strange thing about this is that – as the song says – ‘the truth is all there is’…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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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