There is a difference between dominating by reason and abandoning reason in order to dominate. This was easy. But now we must learn that there is a difference between dominating by achieving the highest reasoning possible and dominating only the weakest thinkers – this latter being a “promotion” dependent upon self-deception: one limits the range of one’s vision in order to find oneself always the “victor.” One bribes the intellect with the easier of available identities, as when the skeptic imagines his honesty only when debunking an idiot and does not first evaluate each of the pursuits honesty has made possible.
Frustrated aggression can find a way to discharge itself through the exposure of another’s aggression. By exploiting the humiliation of other subordinates, he gathers around him and his message a force with which to challenge the “dominant aggressor.”
The old “virtue” failed, and we conceptualists imagine a higher rank through the “integrity of facing such a difficult fact.”
The one who is aware of the animal mechanism cannot release aggression directly without condemning his own behavior as something stupid ... crude ... self-destructive ... undignified. He is also however unable to redirect dishonestly. Thus, because he is aware, his drive to discharge aggression is dammed. Maybe he can only release by writing about it ... exposing the other two cases, in a supreme display of self-righteousbehavior that he does not or cannot deny. He takes this conscious indulgence as the only alternative to hypocrisy. Even the destruction of integrityis merely his only alternative to hypocrisy.
How can we identify and expose our own hypocrisy without presupposing something else of fundamental value and for which we sacrificed the error? When integrity demands its own destruction, one has in fact presupposed a higher standard ... a private standard that resists mere “identity” and “display,” but which survives within the private thinker. Thus, when we kill integrity by exposing its hypocrisy, integrity resurrects ... and calls to shame again the intellect which had condemned the very standard to which it appeals – for a higher moral judgment has indeedtaken place. The “higher” standard? We understand the impetus ... and do not fail to exploit it. Recognizing our own hypocrisy is our last claim tointegrity; the rest is complacency.
The drive to excellence is an overcompensation for an unfathomable deficit — just as could be the meanness in us. We hold out before us a counterweight, some sort of ballast, without which we would fall over. It matters little which of the two we hold out: great or mean, we balance just the same. Yet because it matters little, and because we must hold something, why meanness?
A man who takes himself too seriously often becomes the butt of the joke, and inadvertently becomes the life of the party – and of course the man who does not take himself too seriously, who has a sense of humor, tends to add life to the party as well. Likewise, an awareness of one’s own folly makes a healthier morality – that is, if one measures morality by the standard of applicability and not mere tenability. And if not, then complacency stands confidently on the rug again, a convenient straight man to this moral comedy....
I have pursued the shell of existence ... and it is not despair. Those who have found only despair here are those who embraced the shell in order to preserve the vacuum. Let it fill ... let it fill ... it takes no effort to let it fill.
A Personal Morality: A machine has been handed a manual which is said to be the function and said in such a way that we are to ignore the existence of the machine and its actual function. The machine, its function, and its manual are separate perspectives ... upon one reality.
We do not bother to sort these out in order to put together a strategy for reality, but mix and match elements from each perspective as a human consequence. We do not plan but rather find a behavioral harmony already in place through a natural force which might best be called, “the law of convenience.” What will get us through the day without upsetting our imagined rank and without rasping against the inertia of our habits? That is our “method.”
Those unfortunate truth-seekers are those whose manual is the most incongruous with the visible function. This incongruity can result from a poorly crafted machine, a poorly written manual, or a function whose capacity exceeds that of the technical writer. This incongruity results in an ongoing inconvenience which then forces the individual to sort out the various perspectives. Truth is not revealed to him from above or from the beyond – but from within – or so he feels it (and with some truth, for he has been cracked open under the boot of his circumstance). The most he can do with this otherwise impossible situation is claim, “I am a truth seeker” ... the “truth is within me.” But to see what he is talking about, others now look beyond themselves....
What never ceases to amaze me: how most people are not concerned in the least with an aim in life and yet seem content. And even those who claim a life goal rarely have asked themselves whether or not it had been accidentally inherited. Even if calculated, who could answer the question of why they were content with something beneath their admitted potential. Contentment and a deliberate aim must be antagonistic.
Unless one has the tact to dodgethe tasteless, one will not keep one’s taste for very long. Taste wants dignity, but to purchase it, tact must spend dignity upon strategic humble gestures in order to protect dignity into the future. An insistence upon one's absolute dignity in all events at all times quickly ends in a deeper shame than one could have thought possible, given one's aim.
There are not so many choices to thought as we would suppose, and we profane those few which remain. We believe that pushing an issue to its conclusion is a choice, wherein allowing the issue to develop on its own, favorably, is the least tenable but most substantial “choice.” We “intend” an outcome to an event — like “pure thinkers” hinged to their logic. We stop up our ears to take sole credit for the dance, but are no longer dancing.
Unstopping the ears and waiting for the music are the more substantial choices. We dance by our not “willing” too much. This choosing ... this getting out of one’s own way must require more discipline and preparation than one can endure, for why else would we have so few dancers?
From my point of view, it shows as much taste to sniff the cork as to stick it up my nose, but nonetheless I do sniff it to avoid putting my “non-conformity” on display. I feel pretty much the same way about dancing. I would just as soon dance to rock and roll as leap up and down naked to the beat of hollow logs, but refusing to dance puts myself on display. A universally acknowledged, “elegant” ballroom dance leaves me relishing the sights and sounds consequent of hollow logs, but I must don the tuxedo and go through the steps of convention. My taste often requires more conformity than nonconformity. For personally I find self-righteous behavior tasteless, and to resist such through a deceitful conformity suits my taste better than masking my urge for prominent display with “my highest principles.” I am a hypocrite either way and acknowledge that I yield ... but not without a hint of a principle that is a sort of self-righteousness of its own, but it suits my taste, my sense of dignity....
I am paddling against the current of this infinitely wide river, the debris rushing past me so strongly and swiftly that I believe I actually do move up the river ... whereas I am merely struggling upwards but nonetheless driven downwards by the strong current. To turn my boat around would be the more enlightened approach. I would drift at the same speed as the debris under the new illusion that I am not moving at all.
I have an aggression that has finally learned to yield so that it may dominate. It therefore appears passive.
Goal or Resentment? Progress or Regression? The goal organizes, the enemy organizes, and the lack of either scatters our force. The only pole with which to vault over resentment is a secure grip on a future goal and to have before one a supreme obstacle ... an enemy so exalted that all petty objects of spite are not really leapt over for the fact that they are leapt over incidentally.
One does not really overcome resentment; one can only preclude it.
One trick is engineering the moment of flight by securing a victory that reflects value upon ourselves. One might take this even further and develop a talent by repeating these moments of flight. Now one accumulates value through the increasing number of achievements and also borrows confidence from the investment in one's future potential.
What surprises us is that one can be in this physiologically liberated state even while calculating that one only deceives oneself ... which is perfectly understandable, knowing that resentment is in precisely the opposite predicament, where one calculates freedom from resentment but cannot experience it.
Politeness yields to courage when courage is misunderstood. But courage yields to politeness when politeness is understood.
It is only due to our inherited serfdom that politeness is seen as “submissive behavior.” And it is easy to twist this condition into a shoddyformula for “freedom”:
That which is submissive is polite.
That which is not submissive is not polite.
Freedom is not submissive.
Therefore, freedom is not polite.
And therefore, I prove my freedom with my inappropriate behavior.
What interests us here is that one is still reacting to the dominant. Only someone whose freedom is in doubt feels the need to prove his freedom. But no one needs to prove the obvious. Both submission and insubordination presuppose one's lower status. One baits oneself with the dare, If I really were free of the master, then I would be able to thumb my nose at him. But testing ability and managing ability are not the same predicament.
The goal, then, is not to be impolite out of a fear of submission, but to re-engineer a self-sufficient frame of mind where that which depends upon polite behavior is dignity. That is, the template for forming our question has already been provided by our condition ... by the fact that we descended from a long line of servants. Consequently, any choice between options will remain within the servant's frame of mind. The upshot is that we must reject the two options presented by ourinheritedquestion in order to see that we also have a choice between questions.
Is my value dependent upon this or that gesture? ... any fighting over which presumes the master's higher value? Or, am I finally free of any concern for the master whatsoever ... finally self-sufficient? We would prefer even to manifest our indifference through a feigned subordination than become subordinate by resisting. If in maintaining my dignity any “insubordination” is perceived, then it is incidental to my indifference: any offense would only be a consequence of the other's fear of inferiority.
The submissive gesture submits to a new valuation: Rank by gesture is a projection and therefore an illusion. Nonetheless, there is a projector of rank and according to which I cannot help but gauge my value.
My value is determined by a fundamental choice between two perspectives: 1) Do I deny the projector and thus hold to the illusion? If “yes,” then the submissive gesture determines my low value, and even resisting presupposes the dominant's authority over the standard for my value: I am subordinate or insubordinate ... but either way I am not dominant. Or, 2) Do I believe in the projector and thus hold to the disillusionment of foisted values? If “Yes,” then I hold the awareness of the projector and the strategy outlined therefrom to be the standard by which I evaluate my rank. My solution to the problem of gestures is slaved to this more fundamental standard.
If I accept the projector, I operate on the principle that to believe in the projection is to be deluded, and that to understand the process is to be disillusioned, and this latter enlightenment is of greater value than that of being duped.
There is a point in a dominance gesture where it becomes humiliation again, just as there is a point where, like the wave of the sea, we submit to the shore of our reality, and flow back into a swelling pride.
The truth seeker must know that he craves a substitute for the obvious first rank. If not, his denial is a twisted and frustrating climb toward a second rank that he can only sell as “first rank.”
He claims his target is truth, but his hidden aim is upon this substitute rank. He has closed the wrong eye and has aimed askew, for his target is truth ... but so that he might reverse the prevailing ranks,which is to say that he has two targets but only acknowledges one. Reversing rank by positing and proving the higher standard is how and why he seeks to become the “most honest.”
And he must resist even consoling himself with the knowledge that the obvious alpha is an idiot, for then he too indulges in a crude dominance display at the expense of the more refined. (Display ... vanity may be unavoidable but it is capable of refinement.) He does not want to rob himself of the motivation for climbing higher ... and the stimulus to climb higher is precisely his not being recognized as having climbed higher. How many times had rejection shoved him back on his spiritual path!?
The “real” highest standard is but one step below the obvious dominance standard. In another age he would have made a self-flattering distinction here between the real and the apparent. But this is the “real” valueonly because it understands the illusion of value, and the value of the “enlightened” state is only another way of saying that disillusionment is more valuable than continuing as a dupe.
Thus, our machinery projects value onto the world. On the one hand, there are the duped whose obvious ranks and values are only illusions; while on the other, there are the “enlightened” ... the disillusioned ... the humiliated who have seen through this sham. Thus, the enlightened holds a higher calculated value of “not being a dupe,” and yet all the while he cannot avoid his own physiological consequence! He continues to foist value onto the world according to the obvious standard.
His spiritual equation ... the “highest standard” is only calculated, and the calculation does not support the experience unless the calculation successfully manifests itself into the real world. That is, unless a self-righteous display takes place, hopefully in the name of reason and supported by reason.
But he must remain honest, precisely here: he finds value in the insubordinate position alone, and neither works for obvious dominance nor removes himself from the state of insubordination. Although he certainly craves dominance, he despises it at the same time. He does not deny the conditions underlying his motives for seeking truth – otherwise he would neglect to clean his lens of ingratitude and resentment: he would fail to overcome ingratitude and resentment because they were not yet impossible. This last point is the conclusion to a happy line of reasoning:
The conditions for truth – insubordination – are only perfect if one recognizes them as such.
For a Truth Seeker, the acknowledgment of perfect conditions can only result in gratitude.
And there is no such thing as resentment for conditions which constitute one's gratitude.