Skip to main content

SO MANY WAYS TO SAY ASSHOLE

The word solipsism predates Christ and appears in the works of philosophers, psychiatrists and metaphysicians alike. Derived from Latin, the term is used to express the notion that the self is the only reality. In short, a solipsist believes that the self (ipse) alone (solus) is (ism). Originally used by the Greeks, who believed that nothing outside the mind exists, and even if the external world does exist it cannot be known objectively or communicated to others, the term was also used by Freud who posited that other minds are not known but only inferred to exist. Because others speak and act as you do, and you exist and think, it is not a stretch to believe they do too. Rather than that they just appear to, as in a dream. Because though the characters in your dream seem to move and behave of their own free will, as thinking, feeling beings with motives and desires of their own, they are really only figments of your own mind, and any appearance that they are autonomous is merely an illusion. Which is why you can maim and murder while asleep and when you awaken dismiss your actions by saying the one you slayed couldn't feel, because he doesn't really exist. In this respect your dream self differs little from a serial killer who after raping and killing numerous victims absolves himself with the belief that because he did not feel their pain it must be unreal. Is the serial killer crazy? Do others exist and have minds and wills, or is it only seemingly so? You can never be sure. You can never know another, get into his or her mind. However hard the lovers may try. But penetrating others can be fun, which justifies the penis. Just don't go killing anybody.

If you look around you, you will find that there are many solipsists in your midst, perhaps yourself included. Those who believe they are at the center of the universe, the sun that shines on everyone else, those lesser mortals who are merely planets in their orbit. People so egocentric that they believe others are merely ornaments or impediments to their own happiness. I find this type in Los Angeles all the time. Even certain members of my own family fit the bill. It reminds me of the words of Christ. When Jesus is told that his mother and brethren desired to see him, he answers that his mother and brethren "are these which hear the world of God, and DO it." I keep preaching, but nobody seems to listen, of if they listen, to really heed me. The philosopher Rene Descartes proved his own existence with the words "I think, therefore I am." The conventional solipsist living in LA says "I think, therefore I am everything." A related term is egoism, the philosophical notion that the self should be the goal of all action, and others be damned! The egoist then becomes the egotist who thinks and talks about himself exclusively, so caught up is he with his own sense of self-importance. If in addition to arrogance he is exploitative and jealous of others, he becomes a narcissist. There are so many ways to say asshole.

But in these definitions the self is taken to be the individual mind, the personal point of view. Eastern religions, which predate the Greek sophists, broadened the scope of the self to include all that is. This "everything" is sometimes referred to as God, sometimes as the universe, sometimes as the universal mind. There is Ishvara (the personal God; the supreme soul), Atman (God dwelling in the heart of the individual) and the universe, or external world. But do any of these really exist? What truly exists is with you wherever you go, always. That is what it is to be omnipresent. To be real in the absolute sense, rather than just relatively so. What fits this definition? Not the external world, which disappears when you go to sleep. Not some personal God, who is only present when you think of and pray to Him (or Her). Not even your own point of view, which subsides back into the Self when you lose consciousness. Even your individuality is external and as such its existence is in question. As in the dream, when you conjure up a body to carry you around the dream world, only to awaken and find it was all a figment of your mind. We must act as though our persons exist as do the persons of others. If not we neglect the maintenance of our bodies and can wind up in jail for crimes against the freedoms of our neighbors. Even in a dream, it sucks to be locked up.

But while taking it as a given that the external world of which our personalities are a part exists, we must also allow for the fact that none of it really does. That the only thing in existence is the awareness in which the external shines, the awareness in which the individual mind participates, along with the minds of others. You are characterized by two things. One is your desire to be happy. The other is your self-love. Simply, you want to be happy because you love yourself. And you must infer that others are the same. Others love themselves and wish for happiness of their own, and these twin traits are what carry us through life. The trick is to broaden your individual view to include your fellow beings, unreal though they may be, and to concern yourself also with their happiness. You cannot make another person happy. Believe me I've tried many times, always in vain. The most you can do with the malcontents of the world, and there are many, is to say with Dostoyevsky: "You are only unhappy because you do not know that you are happy." You can however expand your love of self to include love of Self, of all that is. 

In Dostoyevsky's novel The Possessed, the narrator is a minor character named Anton who serves as the author's eyes and ears, and by extension the reader's own. Anton is the author's mouthpiece. He weaves in and out of the other characters' lives and moves through all rungs of society, rubbing elbows with the elite and serving drinks to his neighbors. He possesses detailed knowledge of personal histories and also a bird's eye perspective that takes in the whole. In his dealings with others, Anton is sometimes insulted, sometimes praised, but mostly he keenly observes everything around him, and with irony and humor he takes it all in stride. The narrator is unruffled, which is to say Dostoyevsky is unruffled, because whatever the fate of this character is, it all happens in the mind of the author, by characters who are also the author's creations. You too can be the Anton of your own life, or for that matter author, narrator and observer of your own tale. Be it tragic, heroic or comedic, just please let it be entertaining. Because nobody wishes to be bored.

Live as if everyone including yourself is a figment of your own mind, your creation. See yourself as other and others as your self. Because everything that happens to you happens through and in your own consciousness. This is what it means to be master of your own fate. DO it.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

SOUL CYCLE

This is not a commentary on the latest fitness fad. Because if it were, the little I'd have to say on the subject would be largely derogatory. I simply cannot see see how crouching in a stuffy, dark, cramped room surrounded by sweat-drenched strangers while expending a lot of energy and going nowhere deserves to be called fun, though aficionados tell me it is (fun). I tell these aficionados that if no pain no gain is your thing, discomfort can be had for a lot cheaper than $50 an hour. Try plucking your nose hairs. What we don't do for the sake of beauty. This endurance heir to the Stairmaster and elliptical is all hype. There's a name for the type who likes to run (or otherwise move) in place. It's called a hamster. 

This reminds me of a joke my father likes to tell, about what living with a woman turns a guy into. You go from a wolf to a sheep to a hamster. After nearly 40 years of married life, my dad has added cockroach to the zoological lineage. Which I'm sure …

EVERYTHING'S INTENTIONAL

There is no such thing as screw-ups.

Case in point. My excellent friend Deej comes over to help me beautify the garden. He immediately dives in, crouching down on his knees and weed whacking with his bare hands. Before I can say yay or nay, he proceeds to remove a huge clump of daisy greens from the oblong patch of Earth adjacent to the driveway. The area instantly looks bare. Like the back of Woody Allen's head. Smoothing out the soil and shaking his head Deej mutters to himself "I fucked it up!" over and over again. We try everything. Planting succulents in the daisy's place. Covering it with rocks. But still the area looks barren. And every time you water it the water trickles down onto the sidewalk in the absence of roots to hold it in place. It's getting dark so we go back inside. The next day I return to the spot with a clear perspective and remove all the other daisies, leaving only rose bushes and the succulents that DJ planted, and depositing 10 bags of m…

GRAY MATTERS

I was watching the TV show Naked and Afraid last night as I sometimes do. The show teams together two strangers, a man and a woman, who attempt to survive on their own for a period of 21 days in some remote and isolated region. Some of the locales featured include the Australian Outback, the Amazonian rainforest and the African Savanna. The man may have a military background, or be an adventurist or deep sea fisherman. Sometimes he's an ordinary dude who lives with mom. The woman is a park ranger or extreme fitness enthusiast or "just a mom" herself. Sometimes the couple quarrel, sometimes one or both "tap out" (quit) in a fit of anger or illness. It is satisfying to see them actually make it through the challenge and reach their extraction point. The victors are usually exhausted, emaciated, begrimed and bare ass naked. 

Even more satisfying, at least for me, is the occasional ass shot, snuck in at strategic intervals to boost viewership, of course. It's co…