How To Annihilate Yourself
The pursuit is relentless and exhausting. It may be time to accept the humiliating reality that there’s no point trying to create a better…
The pursuit is relentless and exhausting. It may be time to accept the humiliating reality that there’s no point trying to create a better you
Here we go, another tempestuous day, struggling to figure out who and what we are, or maintain the existing versions. Doing strange things just to fit in. Rejecting ourselves for the sake of a collective identity. Some of us can’t even tell the difference; such is the extent and depth of the illusion of the other for which we have fallen.
It’s a collective fabrication — an Instagram model of beauty and value, a Vaynerchuk version of success. It’s an AI composite being infinitely wise, beautiful, serene, big-assed, loud-mouthed, wealthy and successful in every material sense, sitting pretty on the pinnacle of human achievement yet shallow as a puddle on a grey, wet Tuesday afternoon.
Whatever it is, I don’t have it. It’s out there somewhere, I know it, and whatever it takes I’m going to damn well find it. I don’t mind the sacrifice; I’ll make whatever sacrifices are necessary.
And when I find it, I’m going to shout about it. I’ll write an article about how I did it, how much I made, and how many valuable things I’ve learned. Maybe I’ll write an entire book about it.
I’ll sell my idea for bazillions!
I’ll be rich and happy and fulfilled.
Oh, to have it all.
This is a feature of the popular contemporary narrative around what it means to find fulfilment and success. It suggests you can make yourself happier, wealthier, better looking or whatever. Just buy the book, take the course, rise at 4:00 am every day, get the surgery, dedicate yourself to this or that daily ritual and et voila! — your life will be saved. You’ll realise the success you craved and life will become a cruise.
But you can’t. You won’t. You don’t.
Whatever it is you’re after, whatever form it takes, it never fills the void. The you that you wished for will never materialise. And so you, just like everyone else, are like a rat in a wheel chasing an imaginary version of you that you can never catch.
Maybe it’s time to give up.
“Kind prince there is nothing in the realm of ideas that is absolute, therefore all efforts to form ideologies are ultimately futile.” ― Lao Tzu
The entire idea of self-improvement, of self-realisation, that capitalist culture sells us is perhaps a kind of a fool’s gold. It’s a paradox that cannot be reconciled.
You see, in western industrialised society, we possess the naive belief that there is a formula for happiness. That somehow we can save ourselves from damnation and eternal darkness by following a set of guidelines or rules. Whether it’s religion, yoga, transcendental meditation, or even some new-fangled intensive fitness program, we choose our tool, but the result is always the same; we’re hiding.
Just as there is no hook upon which the universe hangs, there are no set of rules that will fix the apparent problem that is you. There is no fundamental basis for material reality, and just as you cannot lift yourself up by your own shirt collars, you cannot fix yourself.
There is nobody there. There is no you behind you.
Consider the bad, sad or in some other way incomplete you; are you not the same you that needs to do the fixing?
So how does that work?
If the bad you and the good you are the same psycho-physical organism, there’s no one to fix, is there?
It’s an impossible situation, one which the ego led self cannot resolve. But it doesn’t stop us trying. Round and round we go, trading one belief system, regime, partner, or motorcar for another in the vain pursuit of an improved happier self. The strange things is, from the position of this dilettante, it seems to be unavoidable.
Therefore, the only option available is to die completely to this idea of a split self — a fixer and one who is to be fixed. You must, in a way, annihilate yourself and accept the almost humiliating reality that there’s no point trying to create a better you. You are just as you are, with all your faults, indiscretions, neurosis and flaws, the fundamental reality. Any change that can ever come about will do so without your conscious effort. The change will be spontaneous, just as it is nature.
“To bear and not to own; to act and not lay claim; to do the work and let it go: for just letting it go is what makes it stay.” ― Lao Tzu
I have come to realise one of the truths of life is that this thing called happiness is not something that can be brought about by force of effort. We cannot make it happen through coaxing or coercion, by being good or kind, by striving for material gain or worldly success. Doing so merely exacerbates the problems we perceive ourselves to have in the first place.
Besides, the greatest of life experiences are not to be found in things that we can make happen through conscious effort. On the contrary, they appear without our planning or force of will. They creep up on us and surprise us when we least expect it. How fun would life be if we could plan it all to the end degree?
I know it’s trendy these days to suggest that we can plan our lives for success; however, this has not been my experience. I believe it’s a fool’s game.
Whatever thrill there is in these material things, it doesn’t last. By the time we make the money, save enough to buy the perfect tits or get the hair transplant, the feeling is gone. Indeed, within a month or so all we seem to have is the memory of how we felt.
So do we continue to chase that feeling?
When will it be time to drop the foolish notion that worldly success, the perfect partner, number of followers on Instagram will give us what we need?
I’m not sure.
But what I do know is that just as is the case with its opposite, there is no such thing as happiness. Happiness is a fleeting, subjective experience that is ultimately unreachable.
So I see no other option than to get comfortable, immerse ourselves in something, daily work, for example, and stay there for long periods.
Allow yourself to be expressed through something meaningful, not for what you can get out of it, but for the thrill of doing it. Create art. Realise the feeling is fleeting and don’t become attached. OK, so you will, but don’t hold on too long or you’ll be taken for a ride.
We can’t avoid the trappings of physical existence. After all, we are living in a physical reality. But we can become less hypnotised by the shininess of it all. The irony is that for that change to take place, we must become hypnotised by it all.
Only then can we know it and the change happens. This is the first lesson.
Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. Every morning you’ll find me sharing a new thought on life, art, work, creativity, the self and the nature of reality on The Reflectionist. I also write on The Creative Mind. If you like what I’m creating, join my email list to receive the weekly Sunday Letters