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The Universe isn’t Serious

The universe isn’t serious. We think that it is but it isn’t. We very rarely seem to have the capacity to appreciate the universe at it really is – it’s like having a friend who is blessed with a truly amazing sense of humour, a remarkable dry wit, but being at the same time too dull and literal-minded ever to appreciate the fact. All of his wonderful depth of humour is wasted on us. We have no sense of humour ourselves, so we do not see it in others…




The universe isn’t serious but we are free to take it seriously if we want to. No one is going to stop us – we can take the universe as seriously as we like and the universe will play along with us. What happens when we start to take some aspect of our existence seriously is that everything very quickly gets to be ‘serious’ and we get caught up in peculiar type of situation that we are flatly incapable of understanding for what it is. What actually happens when we start taking stuff seriously is that we get caught up in a loop. A ‘loop’ means that nothing’s happening but we think that it is. It means that we aren’t going anywhere but we think we are. The thing about a loop is of course that there is apparent progress which eventually reveals itself (if we pay attention closely enough) to be no progress at all. At some point – maybe not for a long, long time – we discover that the apparent progress was an illusion.




When we fail to pay attention then we take the apparent ‘thing that is happening’ (the thing that is unfolding) seriously and we start investing (one way or the other) in the outcome. We start putting money on the outcome. We get all excited in ourselves – either positively or negatively as the case may be. The thing that we’re flatly incapable of seeing about our situation is that we’re caught up in a deterministic merry-go-round. We’re on a predetermined journey that isn’t really ‘a journey’ at all because it isn’t actually going anywhere, even though it looks very much to us as if it is.




The ‘predetermined journey’ that we’re talking about here is made up of destinations that look good, and destinations that look bad. We look forward to the former and dread the latter. We can relate this ‘predetermined (i.e.phoney) journey’ to what Joseph Campbell calls the negative adventure. The real adventure (of which the negative adventure is a parody) is the Hero’s Journey, which is really any journey that takes us beyond the bounds of the known and the safe into the uncharted territory that lies beyond. In this uncharted territory (which is another way of talking about actual reality, when it comes down to it) there are no such things as ‘good outcomes’ and ‘bad outcomes’ because for something to be either good or bad we must know what it is! On the Hero’s Journey there is neither good nor bad – everything that happens is equally mysterious, equally challenging. As Carlos Castaneda says,


The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.



The predetermined journey which is the ‘negative adventure’ is all known – it’s charted territory every step of the way. We never step off the map. It’s actually impossible to step off the map in the predetermined journey – that’s how come we say that it’s predetermined. This means that it isn’t real at all because reality isn’t a map! The negative adventure isn’t a journey at all because it always comes right back to where it started. It’s an illusory journey, a loop that we can’t see as such. Nothing’s a challenge when we’re caught up in the negative adventure therefore because nothing’s real – if it’s not real then it can’t be a challenge! Everything’s either good or bad as far as we’re concerned; it’s all either ‘a blessing’ (in which case we feel euphoric) or it’s ‘a curse’ (in which case we will of course feel dysphoric). We also talk a lot about ‘good luck’ versus ‘bad luck’, which is the very same thing. The thought of the one unfailingly induces a state of highly agreeable euphoria; the thought of the other inevitably brings about a state of very disagreeable dysphoria. Both states are equally flat, equally unreal, however. Both states equal only ‘the negative adventure’ which is a closed loop that we cannot see as such…




The predetermined (and therefore phoney) journey which is the negative adventure is thus entirely made up of what we might call ‘mechanical emotions’. A mechanical emotion is an emotion that we experience when the mechanical mind tells us that something is either good or bad! The humourless old mechanical mind (machines are always humourless) informs us that we are headed towards what it nominates as a good destination and so we feel duly excited. We’re thrilled, we’re delighted, we’re over the moon. We’re buzzing, we’re on a high. Then the humourless old mechanical mind tells us that we on route to a bad destination and so we automatically feel downcast, miserable, down in the dumps. We’re worried, depressed, demoralized, under a dark cloud. We’re all gloomy in ourselves. We don’t have any choice in this because the mechanical mind has told us that something bad is going to happen and we always believe the mechanical mind…




So this is how it works – it’s all just a ceaseless merry-go-round of up and down, up and down, up and down, over and over again forever. Nothing ever changes; this is all that’s in store for us. Nothing ever happens in the negative adventure – it’s all either illusory euphoria or equally illusory dysphoria. It’s all utterly humourless, utterly relentless in its appallingly banal predictability. Our good moods are every bit as banal and predictable as our bad moods! There’s nothing between them – one’s as infinitely tedious as the other…




We feel great in the first instance because we totally believe that we are getting somewhere that is both ‘good’ and ‘real’, and then we’re correspondingly miserable and down-in-the-dumps because we believe that this illusion is going to be taken away from us. We feel good because of an illusion and we feel bad because of the loss of the illusion! We’re going around and around in a circle, in other words, and we never seem to grow tired of it. Could there ever be anything more grotesquely undignified than this? I am going around and around in a tiresome meaningless loop, my countenance first being disfigured by euphoria and then by dysphoria. Both states being equally ugly since both are based on the same squalid, petty-minded delusion.




Our very seriousness (when stuck in the wretchedly repetitive negative adventure) is a joke that we cannot get. Our ridiculous seriousness is a joke because it is predicated upon a singularly narrow and small-minded delusion – the delusion of the concrete self which thinks it is either going to gain or lose. When we fall into the trap of taking something or other seriously (and losing sight therefore of the wonderful irony of our situation) then what has happened is that we have crystallized the humourless concrete self – for all the good that is going to do us! The humourless concrete self is the one who is either very serious about winning or very serious about not losing. It is the one who is either tediously elated on the one hand, or equally tediously despondent on the other. The dire seriousness we are talking about here doesn’t just derive from the concrete self – it is the very essence of that self. That’s what the concrete self isan utterly abysmal lack of a sense of humour!




There can be no situation more flatly self-defeating than this, seeing that the whole wretched merry-go-round (good and bad) is based on a thoroughly noxious illusion! When we’re in a good mood this good mood is based on a noxious illusion and when we’re in a rotten stinking mood this rotten stinking mood is also based on the same noxious illusion. So how funny is this? What great humour there is in this, if only we could get it! And if we can’t get it, then everything is transformed into pure, dismal toxicity – everything is transformed into a type of effluence, a type of ‘run-off’, a type of industrial pollution. The sublime humour of our situation is transformed into the smoky toxic exhaust fumes that are given off in such quantities every day by the terminally humourless machine of the literal mind…



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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