When You are No Longer You

The Law of Identity, that is, cannot hold in  process-world ‘where,’ as the mathematical physicist says, ‘every electron has a date and is not identical to itself from one second to another.’ – RAW

I’ve been reading Email to the Universe, the last book Robert Anton Wilson wrote before he concluded his time as a living human being.  He is one of my favorite sources for exploring the inner workings of Taoist thought.  RAW uses the word Process as a translation of the word Tao, which he picked up from Ezra Pound.

One of the distinctions RAW works on in the book is the self-concept (and by extension other-self-concept) held by two basic camps of thought. There are the Western paradigm folks who nail things down into discrete packets of stuff in space. These we can call Spacers.  Spacers are also fond of pointing as the current location a thing holds.  Then there are the more Easter style paradigm peeps who note that a thing changes over time in a continuous process of existence.  This crowd we can call Timers.

Spacers hold that a thing is a self-contained component discrete from other things and stands on it’s own even while being part of larger organizations of things, and conversely composed of smaller discrete things.  A table is a specific thing that is composed of parts like legs, top, joints, etc.

Timers see that a particular thing, say a table, changes over time and is simply the state of the thing as it is now.  A table used to be a tree and will one day be termite food.

The funny and obvious thing is that both camps are right, just from a different view.  We are all nested and nesting in an infinitely complex web of interconnected things.  We also are subject to change over time.

For me this call into question the idea of names.  In the Spacer view it is sufficient for a person to have a specific label to track there place in the configuration of stuff that makes up reality.  This is not really sufficient for the Timers though as the Travis that is writing this is vastly different to the Travis who was watching TV while living at home twenty years ago having never even thought of being a writer.  So, it makes sense to attache a time stamp to the name-label to keep track of just who we are speaking to, or about, on any given occasion. Since the function of a thing is also affected by where in an arrangement of things it happens to be a locational stamp would be useful too.

This would allow for a much fuller conception of a person to deal with.

That’s what went through my head anyways.  What do you think?


Travis-(s)San Francisco, CA 94110, (t)1/9/2011 ~ 00:32

Conditioning: You’re Soaking In It

Your life is a conditioned one. All aspects of it. Everything you see, hear, think and do is modified by and works through conditions. Your birth itself is conditional. Without the conditions of your parents having had intercourse, you would not be. The food you eat, the rest you get, the motorists not running you down, your life depends on a thousand and one conditions every day. Without these conditions you cease.

Likewise your decisions, comportment, and way of passing through life are all conditioned. Your beliefs, culture, habits, and physical composition all impose themselves on how you perceive, and how you interact with the world.

For my part, when I am able to watch myself closely I see that all of the reasons and justifications for the actions I take come after the fact in 99 cases out of 100. I may have truly brilliant reasons for something I said, or an action I took, but almost all of them, almost all the time, bubble to the surface and are realized after the fact. This is my natural state of affairs, it is the sum and substance of the life I live.

Such conditioning is inescapable. Some spiritual paths make a call for living an unconditioned life, living spontaneously in the moment, choicelessly aware. I say bollocks. Such a moment is much more likely to be accidental than not, and even then any thing done has a backdrop of conditions, even if one of the conditions is to be influenced by as few conditions as possible! It’s a goose-chase, and in my not very humble opinion something of a waste of time.

Now, having said all that I will say that something can still be done. Just because our actions may be, for a large (if not most) part non-spontaneous, and driven by conditioning does not mean there is nothing to be done. Quite the contrary. What can be done is to modify the conditioning. You can “re-program” yourself in certain ways to have the habitual conditioned response produce results more in keeping with whatever set of ethics, and morals you may claim to have. The methods for doing this are myriad, and I would suggest that doing it for yourself is a hell of a lot saner and safer than having someone else do it for you.

  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Psychotherapy
  • Voice Dialogue
  • Socratic Inquiry
  • The Sedona Method
  • A 4th-Step Inventory
  • Reflection
  • Daily reviews of our actions
  • Scenario driven role-play
  • Chaos Magik
  • etc, etc, etc

All of these can be used to uncover our habitual actions and the net of conditioning we carry with us. Likewise, simple “Aha!” moments of, “Why the hell did I do that?” are pure gold for showing us bald-faced the programming of conditions we carry with us.

A simple exercise I picked up from Robert Anton Wilson easily reveals the depths of this conditional existence, as well as it’s inherit-ness and necessity. Take a seat, put a blank piece of paper before you, and raise up a pen. (Note paper and pen are crucial to avoid ease of self-editing and second guessing while jotting the list.) Now, write down 10 “programs” that run in your life that keep that life going. Don’t get fancy. If you’re experience is anything like mine when doing this list you will have some entries which are purely physical in nature. They are the basic running rules of the human-animal body, the conditions without which life would not sustain. To me that was an “Aha!” moment of realizing just how ubiquitous, and needed, conditioning is.