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Virtual Being

In the ‘conditioned world’ where no one is permitted true existence, the only way we can gain ‘being’ is to be granted it. The only way we can be granted reality, or granted being, is via the social context, via the consensus viewpoint. We have to pass the test, we have to apply for the right to be real, and have our application accepted by the correct authorities!



The hunger to belong, to be accepted or approved of, is therefore the hunger to exist. We need to exist because not to do so is pain – not to exist is failure, is ignominy, is secret shame. We carry the burden of this shame with us wherever we go. When we talk about ‘failure’ (which as we know is the ultimate put-down, since there’s nothing worse than failing) what we really mean by it – although we don’t realize this – is the ‘failure to be’, the ‘failure to exist’. What could be a more basic failure than this, after all? Nothing is as debilitatingly ignominious as ‘the failure to be’ and the only way we know to avoid this ignominy is to play the game that we have been given to play, and play it as effectively as we possibly can. The outcome of playing well is everything we ever wanted, it’s the biggest jackpot there ever could be – existence itself! The other side of the coin, on the other hand, is a life of shame, a life which we have to somehow live without either the respect of others or ourselves…



We don’t see it like this – we don’t (generally) see what we doing as ‘playing the game that we have been given’. We see what we’re adapting to simply as reality. Nothing is plainer to understand than this business of ‘having to adapt to reality’ and nothing is as brutal. It’s brutal because it’s coercive – the message is, ‘here’s the reality and now hurry up and adapt to it’! We’re given a model or reality and what is required of us is to conform to it without any question – conforming doesn’t mean questioning, after all! This isn’t a matter of questioning the reality we are supposed to be adapting ourselves to and it isn’t a matter of reflecting on our motivation for wanting to go along with this pressure, it’s simply a matter of ‘obeying the rule’. What’s not to understand as regards this business of ‘obeying the rule?’



Having to obey a rule is always coercion – how could it not be? Rules are coercive entities. What sort of a rule would it be that didn’t coerce you to obey it? What sort of a rule would it be if it gave you any choice in the matter? Rules are both coercive and at the same time arbitrary, which is to say, there is no good reason for us obey the rule other than what the rule itself says! We don’t see what is happening to us in everyday life in terms of ‘being compelled to obey arbitrary rules’, however. If we did, we wouldn’t be so happy about it, obviously! If we did, then we would rebel against the senselessness of it – there’s something that isn’t actually so very important but we’re being told that it IS and we’re being told that we have to act as if it is, and we’re also being told never to question this supposed fact. Who wouldn’t want to rebel against this nonsense?



We don’t see ourselves as being coerced, however. We see ourselves as responding effectively and appropriately to the need to adapt ourselves to reality, which is of course another thing entirely. Why call it coercion –we might ask – when what we’re talking about is ‘adapting to the way things are’? That isn’t being coerced, the well-worn argument goes, that’s life so just get on with it! This is something we hear a lot and it’s an argument there’s no answer to; it is designed to be the end of the argument – that is of course why we use it, that is why we’re so fond of using it. It’s a stick to beat people with. Not only do we say this to others, we say it to ourselves. We say it to ourselves all the time – it’s our way of shutting ourselves down…



Telling ourselves or others that we ‘just have to get on with it’ is coercion in itself however – we’re being coerced to accept coercion, we’re being bullied into accepting the bullying! The line that we are being fed here is coercion because it’s based on false information – what we’re being told is reality (or is ‘life’) isn’t reality (or ‘life’) at all, it’s a human construct. We’re being told that the construct is reality itself to stop us questioning it. We’re being beaten over the head with a big stick and it is ourselves that are wielding the stick, not life! Life doesn’t work on the basis of ‘obeying rules’ and reality isn’t a fixed determinate thing that we can mechanically adapt ourselves to. To imagine that this is so is to accept a ‘dumbed-down’ version of reality – a crassly dumbed-down version of reality that doesn’t call for growth on our part but merely our unquestioning obedience. The so-called ‘reality’ (which is really just a construct) is the great thing in this case, we’re just lowly functionaries who have to accept our place. We place the construct (our own construct) over us and say that it isn’t a construct! What this means is that we’ve been terminally disempowered – we’ve been subjugated by an arbitrary and very uninspiring authority. We’ve been ‘put in our place’ in relation to a construct that has no real value or worth in it at all. And this – of course – is pretty much the story of human life – we make ourselves ‘second-best’ to dumb ideas and ideologies, to unworthy philosophies and disempowering concrete religions…



The demand that life places on us isn’t to ‘blindly obey the external authority’, but to be conscious. We can’t be conscious by obeying rules, by following instructions or protocols, we can only be conscious by standing on our own two feet and not being swayed by those around us who will try to impose upon us their versions of reality (which aren’t ‘theirs’ anyway when it comes down to it but merely the ‘versions of reality’ that were imposed upon them without them asking for it). Going along with the structures or systems that exist in the world around us isn’t the challenge that life presents us with – the challenge that life presents us with is not going along with them!



The structures and systems around us are bullies that coerce us into accepting their patented version of what ‘life is all about’. When we allow ourselves to be bullied in this way (and it is done in such a fashion that we don’t usually see it happening) then the external authority of the system ‘takes over’ our consciousness and hijacks it into functioning according to its own agenda. We get ‘programmed’, in other words. When this happens then who we really are gets eclipsed by the generic version of ourselves, which is the product of thought, the result of adaptation. We then do our best to live the life that the system of thought says we should be living – which comes down to listening to the loud, coercive voice of ‘the bully’, rather than heeding our own intuition. The life we are given to live is not life at all – it’s not our life for sure and if it isn’t our life (but only some dusty second-hand idea of what life should be) then whose life is it?



Life happens when we live it ourselves, not by anyone else’s plan, and not by our plan either. If it’s generic then it’s not life because – as we have just said – only the individual person can to truly be said to ‘live’. Otherwise – if we let it all be decided for us by the powers that be – then there’s no life going on because all we’re doing is obeying mechanical rules. Life always exists in a state of disequilibrium, we might say, which means that it is quintessentially independent of all structures or systems. This is equivalent to Jung’s statement that ‘out of conflict comes consciousness’. If we allow ourselves to be completely defined by the external authority of the system then there is no consciousness, therefore. Consciousness has been repressed or denied by the rules, which is what rules always have to do if they are to continue acting as rules. As Jung says somewhere else, ‘rules are a substitute for consciousness’.



So what all this comes down to is a restatement of the observation that we made earlier that the ‘validation’ which we obtain as a result of successfully adapting ourselves to the structures / systems that surround us and make up our ‘conditioned environment’ doesn’t really answer life’s challenge. We’ve got confused and we’re answering the system’s challenge instead, which not the same thing at all. We are looking for being, but a rule-based system cannot provide us with this! It can’t provide us with being because it doesn’t have any. This is the same as saying that we can’t validate ourselves with our own thoughts, since the conditioned environment that we live in is, as David Bohm says, never any more than an extension (or projection) of our thoughts. How can we possibly validate ourselves with our own thoughts, our own constructs?



The conditioned environment doesn’t really ‘allow us to be’ in the way that we think it will (in the way in which society itself says it will, in so many different ways). Quite the reverse is true – by defining ourselves wholly within the terms of the game that is being played we deny ourselves our true being, which comes from inside us, not outside of us via our transactions with the social matrix. Nothing real can ever come from outside of us! Adapting to the rules of the game keeps us unconscious, keeps us from ever discovering who we really are, and so this isn’t really quite the same thing as ‘granting us being’. What we’re being granted instead is ‘virtual being’ and nothing good or wholesome can come out of virtual being, obviously enough! What does come out of virtual being (or the virtual self) is a long line in problems, which we can’t see as originating where they do (because we can’t question our basis) but project out into the world instead…



If adapting to society – and being validated accordingly – made people happy then we would be living in a very world to the one in which we actually are living. Being adapted doesn’t make us happy because the virtual self can never know happiness – it doesn’t have the capacity, naturally enough. Instead of genuine happiness – which is ‘off the menu’ unless we take the big step of dropping out from the game, which is the only way to be happy – we make do with various substitutes. We might make do with what John Berger calls glamour for example, which is where we put on the appearance of having a good time, and manage to get other people to buy into this. We might go for power instead – which is another big one – and get our satisfaction in life from having power over other people. We can play games, in other words, and games always involve controlling, and because they always involve controlling they always include ‘the virtual self’, which is ‘the controller’. But no happiness can come from controlling because in controlling all we are doing is arranging things to suit or benefit the virtual self, and so we’re holding on to this virtual self, this self which isn’t who we are. We trying to ‘suit the illusion’, in other words; in one way or another we’re trying to successfully adapt ourselves to an illusory system in order to obtain the benefits that we mistakenly imagine we are going obtain this way…





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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