18 February 2009
Mental Slavery: I'm Floundering
At a recent fundraising dinner, the speaker asked us to consider being honey bees instead of locusts. I liked reading The Secret Lives of Bees and appreciated Tori Amos' tribute to bees as well. There is something so contented about bees to me even though they are often referred to as "busy bees."
However, I'm floundering in becoming my true honey bee self. I'm muddled, and being muddled reminds me of Laura Riding's Four Unposted Letters to Catherine written in 1930. I don't want to be a part of the muddle. No-sir-ee. But, I do think I was/am this child.
The trouble is that people interfere with children – not because people are wicked but because of the way of the world. The way of the world is do a lot of unnecessary things. And so there is less time than there should be – I mean less laziness. And so children are hurried along and made to grow up and start doing things before they really start doing thing, that is, before they have finished knowing about themselves. And so there are a great many grown-ups who don't know everything about themselves. And so they do not light up everything around them. And so, however well they may do things, it is as if they did them in a dim light. They do things hurriedly and blurredly in order to seem to be people…
People say to [children] when they think that they have been playing long enough: "You are no longer a child. You must begin to do something." But although playing is doing nothing, you are really doing something; you are thinking about yourself. Many children play in the wrong way. The make work out of play. They not only seem to be something, they really are doing something. They are imitating grown ups around them who are always doing as much instead of as little as possible. And they are often encouraged in this way by grown ups. And they are not learning to be themselves…there are many people who are not entirely themselves because as children they were not given time to think about themselves….
…these people try to make up for not knowing everything (about themselves and the world) by doing things…the wrong kind of doing is doing that people do not do for comfort or fun but in order to prove themselves to other people…showing-off. The greatest show-offers and busy-bodies are men. And so this world is ruled by men because it is a world not of doing but of overdoing. A world of simple doing would need no ruling. It takes really very little doing to be comfortably and happily alive. We ought not to pay much more attention to doing than to breathing.
There are two things to understand about learning: one, that it is not real; two, that it can be of some good use only if people remember that it is not real….It all depends on its helpfulness to you. And no matter how helpful it may seem you must always remember that you could have got on very well without it – in the long run, of course, which is the only run that matters. …if a person is more inclined to doing than to thinking, if a person is so inclined to doing that she finds it difficult to get away from doing to thinking, if a person, that is, instead of knowing herself, continually prevents herself from knowing herself by inventing jobs for herself to keep her mind off herself, then learning can be helpful in winning her away from doing, for learning seems like doing is not really doing. Learning can teach her laziness, and laziness can teach her to think. So learning can be a bridge between doing and thinking. …it is nothing in itself and that is has no meaning, that is, no value, either as doing or thinking. From learning-laziness, then, you don't come to know everything: you do nothing and you know nothing about anything, you let things do and know for you. And you really aren't , and they really aren't. Now, what about thinking-laziness? From thinking-laziness, which is roaming idly in and out about yourself, you come to know everything about yourself. And this is not repeating old things but being something new, something that cannot be repeated, something that is yourself as long as you can be it and after that nothing else at any rate. And if you can be as newly true as you are because of you – providing, of course, that being yourself comes so easily to you that you a have a lot of being to give away.
…Once you know there is a muddle it is easy to be simple yourself. The trouble is that scarcely anyone will admit (least of all to children) that there is a muddle, and so it goes on , without a great many people even knowing about it. …some are aware of the muddle, and some are not. Some are wicked, that is, and some are stupid. The wicked want the muddle go on because in some way they profit by it' they are the crooked, or unstraight, or unsimple, people who have power over other crooked people who are wicked but only stupid. The stupid crooked people, as I said, are not aware of the muddle; they are just anxious to be good – not good in themselves but good meaning being nice, and being nice meaning pleasing the people in charge of things, the wicked crooked.
The straight people can't do anything about [the muddle] because they are not parts of the anyhow muddle: they belong to a straight way of things. They can only fight against the muddle by not being part of it. And of course this can't do much good because the muddle is so big by itself that it doesn't miss them. They can only fight by being straight and saving themselves from the muddle – by setting a good example. Sometimes you may even find the straight people trying to do more than set a good example; they may feel it so difficult to be easily simple, because of the muddle, that they may try to change it forcibly. But this is generally hopeless; they throw themselves into the muddle, which is so much bigger than they, and they disappear in it when, if they remain outside, they would at least be noticeable to others like them and make them feel less lonely and uncomfortably odd. It might even be possible to clear up bits of the muddle, if a great many straight people concentrated on a very small part of the muddle. But the only way that the whole muddle can be changed is if the wicked crooked people themselves change, and so the stupid crooked people after them – for these are the muddle.
…thinking is just being yourself. …knowing all about everything is being yourself over and over on and on as if forever, so that yourself is like one day of everything, and so as good as everything when it comes to the question of knowing everything about everything.
…if you knew all about yourself you [are] like a bright light that lights up other things. Well, just as a light shines outside of itself, so thinking is not locked up in a brain. Thinking can go beyond a person, and since a person is her thinking, a person can be more than she seems when you look at her as a person. Indeed there is no limit to what a person can be, that is, there is no limit to thinking. So we can put the whole thing like this: knowing everything about yourself is thinking building itself up, training itself, making itself strong, sure, exact, independent of the brain that you might say is like a nest for it in the beginning: and knowing everything about everything is thinking grown up, thinking not only being thinking but thinking thinking.
Nature you might say is the muddle that comes of anything being at all.…It is a muddle that doesn't prevent anything. It is only a muddle because it is always a beginning of things. The other muddle is a preventing muddle. …a really wrong muddle…is a sort of stale nature because it is neither a beginning nor an end. It is history....the most discouraging word that I know.