Welcome to “Let’s Get Metaphysical”. I’m your host, Malachi Constant, and this evening’s program brings the third of four visits with Professor Ludwig von Helsing, noted author of such works as “Pardon Me, Myth, But I’ve Never Done This With A Real, Live World”. Welcome back, Professor.
Professor von Helsing: A pleasure, Malachi.
MC: Last time, we were discussing the penchant humankind has for myth. In general, we use our myths to flesh out the story of our lives, to provide meaning which allows us to deny our mortality. Myths can be thought of as the principles around which we organize our actions. Many myths are based upon illusion, which, if we subscribe to such myths, makes our lives less authentic. The myth of the Warrior is different, however, and I quote: “…because that myth is not about denial but transformation through responsibility.”
PVH: Our search for the meaning of our lives from outside ourselves is an immortality project that is doomed to fail. Our lives are what give meaning. We choose the meaning of our life through the power of our attention. This is the power of taking responsibility. To become exceptionally aware beings is to take responsibility for choosing our myths. We seek meaning…but never find “The Meaning”. Our fellows accept the primary illusion, which makes them seekers after a hidden but discoverable Meaning. They soon find it, or live in the hope or despair of finding it. Warriors know that we will never find it. We remain totally involved in our myths yet detached from the outcome of our acts, for it is all folly.
MC: The warrior’s way is a myth, as such it too is folly, isn’t it?
PVH: By withholding judgment on the validity of the primary illusion, the warrior’s worldview is significantly different. It is an evolutionary difference. The difference lies in a past branching, one closer to the root. Just as in genetic terms, humankind recently diverged from the chimpanzees on the tree of life, in relatively recent times those who accepted the Self as the end to be supported by any means diverged from those who were unwilling to submit to the authoritarian dictatorship and endless propagandizing of the Self. Exceptionally aware beings evolve differently–they choose to be aware of the folly of the Self, and the impermanence of its tenure.
PVH: So the warrior’s way is high folly. Conscious folly. Controlled folly.
PVH: Living that myth lets us be our best, by bringing our folly under our control. Lets us give our all, and take nothing but the witnessing of the world. We transform ourselves from dogmatic, deluded defenders of some illusory Meaning into beings intentionally applying all of the energy at our disposal to the path we’ve chosen.
MC: Whatever that path might be. The path with heart. Who wouldn’t want to walk there? But how do we begin to get our folly under control?
PVH: It’s so easy it’s hard. We simply do what we know we should.
MC: But wait a minute, doc. I thought that nothing can be known, that all value judgments are suspect. So how can you do what you “should”?
PVH: This is the pragmatism of the warrior’s romance with knowledge. We choose those myths that attract us. Then we live the myth so long as it attracts us. But while there, the myth is lived to the full. The internal needs of the myth will decide what one should do. Which is another way of saying that the world will interact with that myth as one lives it.
MC: “We are not human beings experiencing the world. We are the world experiencing being humans.” So exceptionally aware beings attempt to authenticate the myths they live–they seek to personally attain the meaning offered by the myth.
PVH: Because in so doing they attain that meaning for the world. We are in complete solidarity with the world. We are not all of It, but we are nothing but It. And I believe that humankind has an inherent connection with silent knowledge, by which I mean the knowledge the world has about what happens next. I believe it because I believe in my experience of it.
MC: Sometimes we simply know. He shoots, he scores.
PVH: Exactly! When we are in touch with what the world wants to happen next, with Intent, we can feel it. We can’t miss. The average individual knows at some level of conscious awareness when they are doing their best. These feelings are a response to silent knowledge. At least some of the time, all of us have not done our best, and can surely also recognize that experience. We know we should do better. Warriors take this as a challenge. Others do not–they listen as the inner dialogue justifies the Self.
MC: We take comfort in the fact that everybody loses. We make excuses. We phone in our efforts. We divert our attention. We’re half-assed.
PVH: We recognize ourselves in others. Hence the phrase, “not living up to your potential.”
MC: As John Prine sings, “Steady losing means you ain’t using what you really think is right.”
PVH: Precisely! The inner dialogue reacts to this and calls itself conscience. But the phenomenon doesn’t arise in the inner dialogue–it’s far more encompassing.
MC: And since warriors don’t put their blind trust in that inner dialogue, they seek to also refer to other aspects of that phenomenon of innately knowing what’s needed to reach our full potential.
PVH: Warriors take it even a bit further, and seek to become as much in touch with silent knowledge as personally possible. To know what the world intends. To read its signals. Which is only magical in the sense that one is at last impeccably fulfilling one’s function as a working part of the world.
MC: Getting with the program. So the $64,000 Question: in a mysterious world where believing anything is folly, how can you possibly know which myth the world intends for you to live? How do I find the path with heart? How do I attain meaningful control of my folly? How do I surf the Dark Sea of Awareness?
PVH: To control is to moderate. Exercise moderation. Our position in a mysterious world leaves us unable to know which is the path that will lead to life and which to death. Any strategy we follow may be a mistake. Therefore a given path is followed as minimally as possible. Warriors stay on a path only so long as they are at one with it. They are not interested in paying lip service or dogmatically defending a position, in staying within a comfort zone. While on a path, the warrior gives maximum effort as elegantly as possible. An exceptionally aware being lives abstemiously.
MC: Hold on a minute, Doc, and let me grab the dictionary. “Abstemiously”–“sparingly used or consumed”, or perhaps “restricted to bare necessities”.
PVH: Warriors strive to do what’s necessary and sufficient. They strive to waste nothing. What is waste? More than is necessary. What determines what is necessary? The myth you are living, the meaning you seek. What is sufficient? Attaining that meaning.
MC: But are feelings all we have to go by? Doesn’t reason ever enter into the picture?
PVH: Of course. Question everything. Make a most thorough identification and examination of the myths you are living today. Identify the ways that belong to myths you don’t subscribe to. Choose the ways that trim your needs to nothing. Then you will discover what’s necessary and what’s irrelevant to the task of living the myths you’ve chosen. Some things you will find yourself better off without. Some things you will reclaim, and find that they serve better than before.
MC: So reason must be necessary. What part does reason play in the myth of the warrior?
PVH: Reason has the power to make our perception understandable, meaningful. As we shed illusion our ability to reason grows stronger, our inner dialogue becomes outwardly directed, and our awareness grows. The myth of sorcery informs us that our connection to silent knowledge is as pure as can be when we are acting from inner silence, with the inner dialogue turned off. But it also informs us that our reason is a tool.
The goal, as I understand it, is not to obliterate the internal dialogue and thus lose its ability to interpret and sustain perception, but rather to put the hand of our true self, the perceiver within, on the volume switch. We want the purest signal possible, but we also want to be able to tune it out. The Self, which abuses the power of reason in its own dogmatic defense, depends entirely on the “can’t get a word in edgewise” nature of its commentary on the world for the continuation of its regime.
MC: Warriors put the genie back in the bottle. But how should we spend our three wishes?
PVH: The answer to that is as varied as life itself. But let’s apply a few common sense ideas. Let’s say that I have successfully attained the meaning associated with a myth I am living. Let’s say, for example, I’ve finally afforded that Caribbean vacation. If I find my need for meaning still unsatisfied, doesn’t this imply that I should explore other mythic possibilities? Or say, for example, that I am unable to attain the meaning, and incapable of what the myth requires to attain it. They’re not giving away all-expense vacations down at the factory. Again, doesn’t this imply that I should explore other mythic possibilities?
MC: But what about the third case? What if you have attained the meaning you seek, and you are satisfied?
PVH: Then you are beginning to live the myth of the warrior! Warriors follow paths with heart. The meanings they find there are more than satisfying, they are awesome. They can be overwhelming. They require attention and discipline.
MC: Like being in school?
PVH: The warrior defines discipline as the ability to face with equanimity any circumstance, expected or not.
MC: This evenness of temper allows the warrior to pay attention. But how do warriors avoid the temptation to possess the beautiful things they find, to own them and so be held by them?
PVH: Discipline results in sobriety that guarantees that the warrior will not succumb to the desire to cling to any given meaning until all the juice is gone. The flower lives for beauty, and uses beauty to live. Warriors pay attention to the blossoming of all the flowers they meet. Exceptionally aware beings, they move from flower to flower like hummingbirds, here and then gone. They don’t seek to own the flowers–they enjoy them and move on. The flower shows little trace of their passing.
MC: It sounds delightful, so why doesn’t everyone live this way?
PVH: Fear, masked by illusion.
MC: So becoming disciplined means accepting more fear in your life. Is this really the way to go?
PVH: Think of what happens in our bodies when we are afraid: our senses are heightened, our attention is focused, our muscles are flooded with energy. Yes, warriors live with fear. But in the same pragmatic sense that they live with the need to eliminate bodily waste–sometimes unpleasant, sometimes not, but always essential. Fear is the necessary biological response to life in a predatory Universe. But think of riding a rollercoaster–fear can be fun! The more awesome one’s experience, the more fear one has. Warriors define discipline as the ability to focus on the experience, not the fear. The discipline that gets the skydiver out of the airplane.
PVH: “The art of the warrior is to balance the terror of being a man with the wonder of being a man.” So the warrior’s discipline is really just courage?
PVH: It is not only courage, it is sober, intelligent courage. A warrior is going to explore every other option before charging the machine gun nest.
PVH: Discretion being the better part of valor.
PVH: The defining characteristic of the warrior’s discipline is that it applies to experience lived as honestly as possible. This means that some standard techniques for repressing fear are unavailable to warriors. Warriors accept fear as the price of life, while the average person tries to minimize their fear at the cost of novel experience. They circumscribe their experience with routine. They protect themselves with faith.
MC: Is faith a bad thing?
PVH: Faith is an attempt to simulate a connection with silent knowledge, to reach a place of no doubt. If the doubts are answered, the fear which inspired the doubts can be ignored.
MC: But then the power of faith is strengthening. Don’t warriors need faith?
PVH: Indeed. But another way of saying controlled folly is intelligent faith. Controlled folly transcends faith. It transcends reason. It transcends because it includes them both but is greater than their sum. Faith allows you to give your all, reason allows you to remain detached from it all. A seeming paradox, controlled folly is the art of impeccability. Excellence in the pursuit of passion.
MC: Passion? I thought warriors were sober?
PVH: Yes, but they must discipline themselves to be that way. The question I’ve been slowly answering is: If I no longer use the rational machinations of the Self as the guiding force in my life, how do I choose a path? The answer: by listening to your heart. Symbolically speaking of course–a stethoscope is not useful. In the myth of the warrior, we are here to enhance our awareness, and in so doing enhance the awareness of the world. Awareness is enhanced through attention. We choose the subjects of our attention. We choose the meaning of life!
MC: By following what moves you. By discovering and using your passion.
PVH: Warriors strive to achieve what the world wants to happen next. They believe that, mysteriously, their passions are an indication of what that might be. They follow those indications as honestly and as ruthlessly as they can, with hope, wisdom, laughter, and affection. Hope, because we have to believe that doing our best matters somehow. Wisdom, because we know that our hope is useless. Laughter, because there is nothing to lose. Affection, because the best we can do is pay attention to the things we love. Our attention brings the things we love to the attention of the world. We are the world’s heart.