By Jed McKenna
(This article may be freely reprinted, reposted, translated, etc.)
I had a dream that I was awakeStan Laurel
and I woke up to find myself asleep.
I just finished speaking to a group of people in a small bookstore located two hours and one state away from my mountain home. Now I’m sitting in a nearby coffee shop jotting down some notes from the talk as a reminder for when I take more complete notes later.
At this particular talk, I was asked a question I wasn’t really prepared for and my answer was a bit incoherent. It is my jealously guarded little secret that I am not fast on my feet when it comes to thinking. I speak fluidly and expertly on subjects that I’ve already brought into focus by writing them out, but if I wander into territory I haven’t pre-explored, people get a glimpse of how the sausage is made, and it’s not a pretty sight.
Despite having chosen a secluded corner booth in which to sip my retro black coffee and make my archaic pen-and-paper notes, several attendees from the talk find me. I invite them to push a table up against my booth and we pick up where we left off.
We’re in a chain coffee outlet with a gas fireplace set in faux-stone, surrounded by a wall of glass looking out onto a vast field of cars sparkling in the sun, a gently flowing highway, and a forest of stoplights and utility poles set against a backdrop of tiered condos and excavation equipment consuming a mountain from the bottom up. And the whole place smells like urinal tablets. And the fluorescent lights are making my brain buzz. And the coffee is shit. I had only planned to be here for five minutes and already the urge to flee is churning within me.
The question I fumbled was about the overall direction of humanity. It’s a good question. Where are we as a group going? Is humanity evolving? Is there some grand storyline, some bigger picture? How far along are we? Does some greater adventure await us? Are we headed to the moon and stars? Are we all becoming beings of light? Is life about to get all good and no bad? Something like that. The answer is simple, but expressing it simply, isn’t. The main thing to remember is that as long as you’re in the herd, you’re going where it’s going, and the herd is always going in circles.
The true answer is that no one’s going anywhere because, on a shoreless sea, there’s nowhere to go. Despite the overwhelming evidence of a timespace, energymatter, causalistic, dualistic universe, the simple insight of nonduality conclusively falsifies it. Nothing Forever is true and nothing trumps truth. Mic drop, peace out.
The dreamstate answer is that you can dream whatever you can dream. What we think of as I is nothing more than a unique set of artificial limitations to your true, infinite nature. You can operate within your boundaries or try to overcome them to explore the fuller dimensions of your personal reality. We dwell in the dreamspace of Maya’s palace where little boys can grow up to be mommies and little girls can become dirtbag politicians, so if you want to dream we’re all turning into ascended masters and beings of light, sure, dream that.
The spiritual answer is that you’re making wonderful progress and fantastic things lie in store for you because you’re a loving and unique being. Just keep doing your twice-daily fifteen minutes of navel-gazing, guru-adoring, sacred-syllable intoning and alternate-nostril breathing, and you’ll become spiritually enlightened and be super happy all the time and never get a pimple or die.
The actual answer is that if you want to break out of the herd and reclaim your stolen development, it might be possible, but it’s a now-or-never, do-or-die sorta deal. It may not even be up to you, who knows? As with everything in the dreamstate, no one knows anything.
Those are my prepared and well-worn answers, but as I translated the where’s-it-all-going? question this time, it was about the herd’s dramatic arc. Where is the roadshow of mankind actually headed? What is the ultimate destination of the herd itself? That got me fumbling around with ideas of peak drama and terminal emotion and limited dynamic range, and the fact that the heaven-hell spectrum between misery and joy is already populated; our dramatic potential is already at full realization. As much heaven or hell as there can be, there already is. We can alter quantity but not quality. Something like that.
Where is an oak tree going? Nowhere really, it is what it is and it does what it does. Its potential is maxed out. It has achieved its full expression. It’s the same with the human herd. Our set and setting can change, but as far as dramatic and emotional range go, we’re maxed out. We have plumbed the depths of sorrow and ascended to the heights of joy, so all that’s left is costume and scenery changes to convince the audience that something new and fresh is happening. The human race is in full expression now, and effectively always is, so the appearance of progress is really just background change as the herd follows its long, circular path.
The sole beholder — infinite consciousness — is not subject to the constraints of time and space, so whatever ever was always is. From Brahman’s perspective, so to speak, there can be no mystery, and therefore, no drama, no amusement and no point to any of this dreamstate hoopla. Therefore, consciousness must first render itself fractured, finite, ignorant, half-blind, halfborn and emotionally inebriated in order to be able to enjoy the show. Hence, us.
I myself have not actually become anything in life. I am an adult and I am enlightened, but both represent the overcoming of artificial barriers. I have not achieved enlightenment, I simply stopped being unenlightened; I escaped the bondage of wrong-knowing so I see all that is and nothing that’s not. It’s the same thing with adulthood. It’s a natural condition which was stolen from me and which I stole back. Enlightenment and adulthood are natural and rightful conditions. Nothing was really achieved, false obstructions were simply removed.
Human Children are designed to maintain the tricky heart-mind balance required to populate and enliven the earthstage venue. The eyes-closed, fear-based, herdbound, ego-clad state of human childhood is not a cosmic fuck-up, this place is a playground and is meant for children. Perpetual childhood is an unnatural state that has to be constantly generated and maintained through the double whammy of emotion and ignorance. We are a special blend of infinite potential and artificial limitation crafted by perfect intelligence to produce and behold the tragicomic spectacle we call humanity, the only point of which is to distract from the reality of Nothing Forever. The Human Child is custom-tailored to play this exact role on this exact stage in this exact production for the exact reason of alleviating boredom.
That’s the answer I was struggling with during the talk. I don’t think it reflected the actual question, but I was trying to take a bland question in a more amusing direction. Let fear be your guide and always go into the darkness are good mottos for spiritual autolysis, but not for public speaking.
“Nothing is going anywhere,” I tell my little posse. “This is it. We may be chasing the carrot or avoiding the stick, but either way, we’re just going for the sake of going. There’s obviously nowhere to go and nothing to achieve, but our dense emotional shielding protects us from that truth because the show must go on.”
“Yeah, I don’t really agree with that part,” says a biggish, blondish guy named Sean.
“Thank you for your disagreement,” I say with no trace of irony or sarcasm, I hope. “What in particular?”
“Well,” he continues, “you make it sound like everything is, like, uh, what’s the point, right? Like we’re born and we live and we die and none of it means anything.”
By we he means I. If he were to write out his question and attack it, he’d first boil it down to; Do I have meaning?, and eventually to; Who, what and where am I?, and ultimately to; Who am I? Like all questions, it’s not to be answered but destroyed. We destroy questions by challenging the assumptions on which they’re based. In this case, I is the culprit. No-self is true self.
The truth is never hidden or withheld, we just don’t always like it. The dreamstate is not a place of truth but an escape from it. It’s an amusement park for the drama and play and fantasy of children, and ultimately for the amusement of the sole beholder we represent. I’m not suggesting that this playground is wrong or should be other than it is, I’m just a sign pointing curious outliers toward some of the lesser-known amenities the park has to offer like adulthood over childhood, integration over segregation, and pattern over narrative.
The dreamstate is a system of many systems, a house of many mansions, a park of many playgrounds. It’s not really intended for adults, but adulthood — awake in the dreamstate — is one of the games we can play. There’s also a game called enlightenment — awake from the dreamstate — but that adventure takes us out of the park altogether, and where’s the fun in that? The only thing to do outside the park is get back in, but continuing a dream you’ve awoken from is not as easy as it sounds.
“Then why should we even get out of bed in the morning?” asks Sean.
His question suggests that we’re searching for an answer we like rather than liking the answer that’s true. That’s a polarity issue. Sean’s objection makes sense in the no-sense sense in which something is true or untrue based on your feelings about it, i.e., there must be a God because life would be pointless and meaningless if there wasn’t, and life can’t be pointless and meaningless because that would be a major bummer.
When I don’t feel like answering someone’s question, I just put the ball back in their court.
“That’s a very good question,” I say. “Why do you get out of bed in the morning?”
“Because I’m not a nihilist,” he says after a pause. “I don’t believe in nothing, I believe in something. I believe we’re here for a reason. I believe there’s something important we’re supposed to do. I don’t know exactly what it is, but maybe that’s what I came here looking for, maybe that’s what I’m trying to figure out. I believe I’m on a journey, that we all are, that we’re learning and growing, evolving, growing closer to God or merging with the primal energy of the universe or, I don’t know, something like that.”
All the thoughts of a turtle are turtle, said Emerson, and all the thoughts of a juvenile are juvenile. Adulthood is like a scaled-down enlightenment; the fake one we all want, not the real one nobody wants. Just as there is no enlightenment in the dreamstate, there is no adulthood in the juvenile state, and just as enlightenment requires dying from the dreamstate, adulthood requires dying from the juvenile state.
I only meant to be in this faceless, soulless coffee dump for a few minutes. I only bought the coffee to rent the table. Now I can feel a shortening of breath and dulling of wit setting in. If we could all get out into a park or make a fire on a sandy river bank I could stand and pace and talk for hours, but this human-zoo space is sucking the vitality out of me.
“You’re embracing and reinforcing your false narrative,” I tell Sean. “You cling to spiritual fairytales because you have yet to open your eyes and discover your authentic pattern. That’s what you really came here looking for, that’s what you’re really trying to figure out. The good news is that, though you can’t have meaning, you can have purpose, but it’s not until you puke all that sugary, fear-based spiritual crap out of your system that you can understand your real situation and discover the unique path that is yours alone to follow. You’re not on a journey right now, you’re trapped inside the comfort zone of your own false narrative and mistaking motion for progress, but the only real progress you can make is toward your own realization, the expression of your unique pattern, and that’s what spiritual fairytales about evolution and progress and meaning prevent you from doing.”
He starts to object but I push forward.
“The dreamstate is a false construct in which we can’t distinguish between true and false because the structure itself — Maya’s Palace of Illusion — is false. We can, however, distinguish between artificial and authentic. Your artificial narrative is that of the herd; shuffling along, eyes shut, eating, reproducing, trying to keep up with your herdmates without bumping into them too much, pretending you’re going somewhere and that there’s some great meaning or importance to it all.”
“Then what’s my authentic narrative?” asks Sean.
“I don’t know. What is it?”
“I guess that’s what I’m trying to find out,” he says.
“Your authentic narrative — your unique pattern, your spiritual DNA — is not being hidden or withheld from you, but you won’t find it in any classroom or textbook, or get it from any so-called spiritual teacher, and you certainly won’t find it in the herd.”
“Then where do I find it?”
“You can only discover your unique path by traveling it. Awakening within the dreamstate is ot a one-and-done deal, it’s an on-going journey. Every step is the revelation of a new vista. It’s a process of continuous unfolding, but to discover your unique pattern you must first break out of the herd’s pattern and find your own way. That’s the death/rebirth transition no one likes to hear about, but there can be no adulthood without first dying out of childhood.”
“But what if someone is evil?” asks a girl who may or may not be related to Sean based on nose and forehead shape. “Are they supposed to explore their authentic nature?”
“Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so,” I reply, happy to be on solid ground again. “We can’t all be Dudley Do-Right, we need Snidely Whiplash too. If no one ties Nell to the train tracks, then Dudley is just a meter-maid and the dramatic production becomes boring and therefore pointless. Dudley may be the good guy, but it’s Snidely who drives the story forward. Dudley and Snidely are the equal and opposing elements of the yinyang symbol. Neither is better or worse, good or evil, right or wrong; they’re both essential and there can be neither without the other. Ultimately, all duality exists within context and all context is false. Excuse me, nature calls.”
They make room for me and I slip out of the booth and out the side door. Five minutes later I’m heading out of Everytown USA and back to the mountains where I can breathe again.
Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies. Learn more at WisefoolPress.com