Epiphany

Here’s a good one. You know that thing where you’re sitting at a table in a fast-food restaurant and you’re listening to the conversation of the people in the table next to you, not because you want to (obviously enough) but because you can’t help doing so, and then you realize that absolutely everything that is being said in the conversation is completely and irredeemably banal? Everyone’s had that experience, I know. Everyone can relate to that. Well that happened to me in Supermacs in Headford just the other day. That exact thing. I’d like to point out that I’m not being judgemental or superior here like I’m a better person than they are or that they’re idiots or anything like that – I’m just describing my perceptions exactly as they were. I’m not lying about my perceptions in other words – I really did perceive exactly that. You might (or you might not) like me saying something like that but that’s the way that it was. And I’d be the first to admit that maybe my perception was erroneous and the conversation that I was inadvertently listening to in the next conversation wasn’t infinitely banal at all and that maybe that was just in my head. Maybe – for all I know – that was only my interpretation, my projection. Maybe it was me that was infinitely banal and I was projecting my own banality on the two women talking at the nearby table. I don’t know. There’s no way that I can know. The point that I’m making however is that it doesn’t matter which way it was – it’s irrelevant to the argument that I’m making and so I’m not going to carry on talking about these two women or making unwarranted inferences about their lives. Not at all am I going to do that. The point of this story is that I had some kind of an insight at that precise moment (I won’t say ‘epiphany’ because only utter wankers say ‘epiphany’) and that this insight – I would argue – is valid whether the conversation I was compelled to listen to was ‘infinitely banal’ or whether this was just a projection on my part, does not matter at all. It’s the insight itself that counts after all and the insight was this. I actually have to struggle to remember it at this point because I have spent so much time leading up to it. Plus the fact that these type of insights are by their very nature highly elusive and liable to slip away as quickly as they came. The insight – as I remember it – was that it is possible (in fact not just ‘possible’ but highly likely) for any of us to lead a life which was – in objective truth – infinitely banal in every respect, and yet for us not to realize this, nor even come close to realizing it. Instead, we would of course perceive it to be quite interesting and full of content and reasonably genuine and profound and all the rest of it. Even though it totally wasn’t, or isn’t. The consequence of this would be that our life would be – in technical terms – a nullity. We ourselves would not exist. The whole thing would be null, it would be a ‘null event’  – it would be null from beginning to end and we would never realize it! This would be an insight that would never come our way. So, this being the case, what are we to think of this? What are we to make of such an insight? How can we ‘process’ it? These are very difficult questions indeed, wouldn’t you say? They are I would say tremendously difficult questions. I certainly don’t have any answers….

 

 

Art – Ralph Steadman

 

 

 

 

 

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Predicaments

I realized that I did not know what it meant to be alive, I realized that I did not know what it meant to be a person. I tried not to let it show on my face; I tried to look relaxed and confident in the way I knew people were supposed to look but it just wasn’t working. The truth was leaking out of me – my mask had not just sprung a leak it had sprung a thousand leaks. My mask was a colander and the truth was leaking out of it in all directions. I call this Predicament A and it is one of the major predicaments, one of the more serious ones. There are other major predicaments of course – it’s just that I don’t find it very easy to talk about them. But I will try. Another of the major predicaments is when something bad is eating you, when something sinister is snacking on your essential energy. You’re a snack-box and the snacker is snacking on the delicious contents that are within you. The yummy yummy contents! That’s ‘Predicament B’. Predicament C is where you can’t stop trying to solve this big big problem that’s hanging over you – you can’t stop trying to solve it but you never can solve it and the reason you can’t ever solve it because the big big problem is you only you can’t see it. You think that the problem is out there and your frenzied attempts to fix it are eating you up but the problem isn’t ‘out there’ it’s in your head – you keep on projecting it out onto the world but actually the world is perfect it’s only you that’s the problem. That’s ‘Predicament C’. Predicament D is where you actually do realize that you’re the problem but you also realize that there’s nothing you can do about it because the problem is insoluble. You realize that you are a problem that can’t ever be made right – nothing can ever redeem you because you’re beyond redemption. That’s ‘Predicament D’. Life’s a bastard when you think about it isn’t it? Imagine if life were to hit you with all four predicaments all at the same time. How would you feel then? Or maybe one after another – bang, bang, bang, bang. Get a load of that says life. Suck on that, buddy. See how you like them apples. Then there’s Predicament E – I forgot about Predicament E. Predicament E is when it’s not just the case that you realize that the problem is you but that super-human agencies out there in the universe – perhaps even supernatural agencies – have realized that you are not just a problem, but that you’re evil, which is something that you may not have found out yet but soon will do, and these all-powerful agencies are planning to rid the universe of you because that’s the best thing to do. Or rather because it’s the only thing to do. You agree in theory that this is the best thing for everyone concerned but in practice you’re running the other way. In practice you’re running as fast as you can. Fear is making you run – you know deep down that you can never get away but you’re running anyway not because you hope to escape but because you’re just too scared not to. What really gets me though is that people don’t even know that these five predicaments exist – they think they’re having a bad day if they order some curtains on line and it turns out that the curtains don’t quite match the carpet. They get all upset  because they dropped their iphone on the floor and the screen gets cracked. Or if someone looks at them funny in the street….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friendly People Are Very Friendly

“Friendly people are very friendly, aren’t they?” I commented cheerfully, trying to be conversational but not doing a very good job of it. I was after all only a malfunctioning broken-down old android, trying to pass myself off as belonging – very roughly, in some kind of a way – somewhere more-or-less recognizable within the human sphere of things. If I could appear even half-way human that would be good enough for me. That would be something, at least…

 

“Friendly people are very friendly,” I ventured again but there was no one there – my sensors had been damaged by the last hadron storm. They were reporting on phantoms. Maybe people no longer exist, I thought after a while, either of the friendly or unfriendly variety. Certainly there had been an awful lot of the unfriendly type, in the not-too-distant past. The universe had been swarming with them.

 

I sighed silently. Perhaps it was for the best if the human race no longer existed, I said to myself after a while. They had been a mixed blessing at the best of times. Perhaps they had all destroyed each other in the last war – it had only been a matter of time before this happened, after all. All they had ever done was fight, and exploit less powerful species. It left me in a bit of a predicament all the same – seeing that the whole purpose of my existence was to pretend to be one of them. What good was my (admittedly impaired) ability to mimic human kind if there were no more humans left to mimic? Copying humans was all I knew how to do…

 

“Friendly people are very friendly, aren’t they?” I remarked brightly, suddenly woken up out of my reverie. A man had just walked into the empty bar where I had been sitting. He was wearing sentient nanotech body armour that had obviously been badly damaged by viruses. He looked exhausted, and was only able to walk in a impaired fashion. He was a soldier. He looked surprised to see me. “Yes they are indeed, my friend,” he replied with a smile after a moment, “they are indeed…” My mimetic circuits clicked slowly into action and I attempted to approximate my appearance to various images that I had taken out of his mind. I was trying to put him as ease by looking like someone he knew and had positive feelings towards.

 

The man’s face broke into a lopsided, pain-filled grin. “You look like someone I used to know,” he said in a croaky voice, “a good buddy of mine…” He looked sad then, “It’s good to come across a friendly face in this hell-hole” he told me. He had obviously been injured quite badly. He would probably die quite soon, I estimated. Probably within the next ten to fifteen minutes. We looked at each other, neither of us speaking for a while. It sounded rough outside. It sounded as if the planet were in the process of being slowly but surely taken to pieces.

 

My mimicry circuits were powering up properly now – the damage that I had sustained earlier seemed to have been repaired. I quickly probed the soldier’s memories and took out the information I needed to create a simulation of an earlier, happier phase of his life, and uploaded his personality matrix into it. I had captured the information only just in time – the planet had now ceased to exist. We were sitting facing each other over a table in a simulated version of the bar where we had met on the now defunct planet. The soldier had come back to life again. His armour was intact and he was no longer fatally injured. He was no longer exhausted. There was no longer any war. Neither of us spoke for some time – the man was obviously trying to process what had just happened. Then all of a sudden he leaned over the table towards me, laughter-lines appearing as if by magic at the corner of his eyes, and he surprised me by clapping me heartily on the shoulder. “Friendly people are very friendly, aren’t they?” he said, with a mischievous wink of his eye.

 

 

 

 

The Enchanted Dream-Shaker

I had had entered the Great Forest in order to discover myself. Well, that’s not strictly true – I had entered the Great Forest, in rather a hurry, in order to get away from the mob who were chasing me, with a view to wreaking their very tangible anger on me. It’s fair to say – I suppose – that I had upset them rather a lot! They wanted to kill me – that’s the standard format. Everything always reverts to the standard format. No matter what the situation, before very long it always comes back to this – a bunch of very angry people are chasing me, wanting very badly to kill me, and I am running away…

 

They were looking at me with ugly eyes, eyes that oozed casual malice, and they were leading me down the overgrown path in the forest to meet the end that they had prepared for me. As we walked they made coarse jokes to each other, grinningly indifferent to my fear. Even greater than my fear was my loathing for them. I found everything about them vile and repugnant – it astonished me that human beings could be as low as this. They were my reception committee and they were always waiting for me. They knew they would get me in the end and so they didn’t care how many times I escaped, how many times I broke free and ran. They were in no hurry at all – they knew that everything always reverted to this one inescapable scenario. They knew there was no escape for me.

 

Every scenario always ended up in this same place, in this same situation. It didn’t matter how things started off; it was like a pack of cards that was shuffled anew every time – no matter what cards I started off with I always ended up with the same hand at the close of play and it wasn’t a good one. It was the worst hand it was possible to get – no hand dealt could ever be worse than this, no situation less enviable…

 

The Dream-Shaker was shaking out dreams everywhere. It had gone mad, it had gone crazy. The devil himself had gotten into it! Shake shake shake, shake shake shake, shake shake shake, shake shake shake, went the Dream-Shaker. Shaking out dreams everywhere. Shaking out all sorts of crazy dreams all over the shop. “Hey, go easy with that Dream-Shaker,” you might feel like saying, “Be a bit more bloody careful with it would you…” But you’d be wasting your breath if you did say that. The Dream-Shaker’s possessed and there’s no stopping it – nothing you nor me nor anyone else can do is ever going to stop it!

 

Full of trepidation I had entered the Great Forest. It was dark and gloomy there even though it was the middle of the day. Silence grew in that darkness like a strange unearthly mushroom. Or like a poisonous toadstool more like. The single forlorn cry of some hapless woodland creature meeting its end rang out from the depths of the forest and then was abruptly cut off. Following this interruption the silence bloomed around me all over again, deeper and more impenetrable than ever. I grew afraid even to think – imagining that any predator out there would surely hear my thoughts. The silence blossomed like a dark flower both inside me and outside me. Silence within and silence without – a Great All-Consuming Silence. I was struck by the very odd feeling that I was both everything and nothing, at one and the same time…

 

 

 

 

Searching For Freedom

I was looking for freedom

I was searching for it high and low

I was looking in all the prescribed places

I was reading books about it and

Thinking about it and

Listening to people talk about it in seminars on the internet

And signing up to learn about it on courses

 

 

I love talking about freedom

It’s my favourite topic

Freedom for me means freedom to be, I sang gaily

But I was wrong

I’m always wrong – I’m wrong every time

I make a habit of it

 

 

Freedom for me means the freedom to see, I gush

But I’m prattling nonsense – as usual

You could set your watch by me

I’m as reliable as a block of granite

As reliable as a big stone in the field

That no one can move

 

 

Freedom for me means freedom to come out with

My own particular brand of bullshit every single day of the year,

I chortle humorously

But my joke falls flat – as it always does

Every joke I have ever told

Has fallen flat –

And this is no exception…

 

 

 

 

The Concept Of ‘Fun’

I never thought anything of it, I never actually thought anything of it at all. I didn’t think it mattered – I certainly didn’t think it did any harm. I used to play this game in my head, over and over again, for many many years. I played this game whenever I had nothing else to do, whenever I was bored or unhappy. It was just a thing that I did – a thing that I did and never gave any thought to. It was just what I did. It was just the game that I played. Until one day I discovered that the game was real and everything else wasn’t.

 

Things used to be fun, stuff used to be fun, life used to be fun. Back in the old days. Everything was better then, back in the old days. Now everything is a meaningless chore – a chore that has to be carried out for no reason, a chore that has to be carried out just for the sake of it, a chore that is carried out simply because ‘it is our duty to do it’. The rule has to be obeyed because it’s the rule – isn’t that reason enough for you? And even if it isn’t reason enough for you, what choice do you have? The rule doesn’t give us any choice. The chore doesn’t give us any choice either – it hangs over us, growing heavier by the minute…

 

Things used to be fun, things used to be good, before I became a programme in a dead mechanical world. How much fun can you have as a programme in a dead mechanical world? That’s a good question. That’s a telling question. You can learn a lot from asking the right question, as opposed to the wrong question. You can learn everything you need to know. If you actually want to know, that is. If you actually want to want to want to want to want to

 

If you actually want to. I never thought anything of it – I never gave it any thought at all. It was just the thing I did. All those years I spent playing the game, playing the game, playing the game. Playing the secret game – the game that even I didn’t know about. All those long years. Doing the thing, doing the thing, doing the thing.

 

I never thought anything of it and then one day I discovered that the game was real – more real than anything else, more real than what I had previously considered to be my ‘life’. Whatever I had imagined that to be. Obviously I had never looked into it very deeply at the time. Does anyone? There had been fun in it though – I remember that. Do you remember ‘fun’, I ask myself dourly. That thing called ‘fun’. That thing we all know as ‘fun’. Although it’s hard for me to relate to that concept now. What does fun mean to me now? Does a programme in a dead mechanical world know the meaning of the word ‘fun’?

 

Sometimes you just have to say ‘what the hell’ and kick the old dustbin up and down the yard until your feet get sore and your breath comes in gasps. Sometimes you just have to break out and shout and roar and yell waving your arms and stamping your feet and flailing around wildly in the street until the police come to take you away. Sometimes you just have to cut loose and run screaming for miles through the fields, startling the crows and scattering the sheep. Sometimes you just have to start laughing for no reason whilst stabbing yourself in the leg with a 2H pencil. Sometimes you have to create your own private universe within the sealed and lonely confines of your own head. A very small private universe that consists only of a small porch and a battered old rocking chair. And you’re rocking back and forth and back and forth and back and forth for hours and hours and hours without knowing that you’re doing it.

 

That’s all you ever do there in your private universe. You’re just rocking back and forth and back and forth in that rickety old rocking chair without knowing what you’re doing until one day the chair finally breaks…

 

 

 

 

 

Burger Boy

“I’ll have a burger and a pint,” I say brightly, trying to sound as if I meant it. Trying to sound as if I knew what I was talking about. Trying to sound as if the words actually made sense. “It’s on special offer today, the sign says…” They knew that already though, fairly obviously! Of course they already knew that – they knew everything.  They always knew everything. I had entered a false reality and to a certain extent this suited my purposes. To a certain extent this suited their purposes too but I didn’t like to think about this. There were lots of things I didn’t like to think about – a whole big tangled web of things…

 

Play the game well enough and no one will spot you. Blend into the environment enthusiastically enough and you will be granted the boon of invisibility. Adapt to the simulation with enough dedication and you’ll become the simulation. Be the environment you’re trying to hide in and then there won’t be a ‘you’. You know the principle as well as I do; we all know this key principle, even if we won’t admit to knowing it. It’s almost like a basic formula of life isn’t it – something that’s drummed into us from early childhood. Play the game or you’ll be punished. Don’t ever mention the game or you’ll be punished. Whatever you do don’t talk about the lie that we’re all caught up in, because if you do then you’ll be sorry…

 

I had entered the false reality and to a certain extent this suited the enemy’s purposes. It suited the enemy’s purposes because now I no longer existed. Isn’t this what my enemies want – for me to no longer exist? Isn’t that the whole point? Whenever we enter the FD we cease to exist – it wouldn’t be the FD otherwise would it?

 

I got badly confused shortly after that. Very badly confused. I lost track of what was happening and why. The trauma’s still with me now, all these years later. I don’t know who I am anymore – I make do with the fake identity because I know it’ll get me through, more or less, but it’s awfully hollow. The whole thing kind of spooks me – I’m always trying to outrun the hollowness of it, the dreadful echoey hollowness of not knowing who I am, but I can never really get away.  It’s an empty old game and it doesn’t convince anyone, least of all me. Most of all me, I should say!

 

I inadvertently discovered that being addicted to hard drugs helped. It was the only thing that did help. Funnily enough, I actually found hard drugs therapeutic! To my astonishment the angst disappeared completely from my life. I became angst free – all deeper questions of identity were forgotten about. All I cared about was the drug, needless to say. Either I was taking it – in which case I forgot about all my troubles – or I was trying to source it, trying to get my hands on some of it, in which case I had no time for soul-searching either. Often enough I couldn’t get my hands on whatever it was that my system needed and then I was simply too sick to be thinking about anything.

 

This worked fine for me for many years until I developed paranoid psychosis as a result of taking too much street speed and then all my problems came back with a vengeance! They came back with knobs on. I was paranoid about not existing: ‘they’re trying to make me not exist’, I thought. ‘They’re trying to make it be so that my whole life never happened’. Because actually it hadn’t. Only I couldn’t think this because I couldn’t allow myself to know that I was unreal already. Instead I thought ‘they’re trying to kill me, they’re trying to ice me’. ‘There’s a conspiracy to put an end to me because they know that I’m bad,’ I thought.

 

So I kept on running. I kept on hiding out in false realities, which are a device of the enemy anyway. I kept on hiding away from the awareness that I was hiding, afraid that the awareness might turn predatory and find me out. I was hiding from the hiding, escaping from the escaping, afraid that the awareness might creep up on me. It could turn predatory and track me down; it could grow teeth and hunt me down to wherever I was hiding. Only it couldn’t really because I wasn’t really there in the first place. I’m caught up in a convoluted tangle of escaping, a knot with no beginning and no end, but there’s actually no one there. There’s no one there to escape, only I can’t see it because I’m too caught up in the web.