November 16, 2020
From Just Say No

i experienced what i would call radical liberation– the wild exponential flowering of possibility– when i accepted that there was nothing in this world for me. no happiness, no affinity, no satisfaction.

this liberation was not epiphanic. it’s a practice, a process. it is that most holy act, refusal: rather than a single positive assertion of will, a cultivated assertion of unwillingness.

the refusal manifests as stopping pretending, ceasing to lie to myself about my prospects and (most importantly) turning my back on the infinite vanishing promise of some happier future, that grand bet against which i’ve already hedged a lifetime of present moments.

a hard habit, the habit of stabbing each moment in turn on the gruesome altar of future joy: tricky to kick.

it’s distressing to reckon the senselessly sacrificed quondam quantum, the sunk cost, the waste. you’re already lost in the swamp; why stop chasing the will-o’-the-wisp? after all, the winking carnival-lights of this receding eden– consistently distant, no matter the pace of pursuit– did provide a goal.

the purpose of a dog digging a hole is to dig a hole. just so, the person chasing happiness is busy, is engaged, has an object towards which they can bend their energies, and being thus engaged, is “out of the world” — for they are in a cozy realm of the imaginary, a fantasy within which their goal appears attainable.

when one stops pretending it’s possible to be happy, or to be loved, the details of this fantasy fall away piecemeal. it’s disconcerting to lose not just the glimmering city on the horizon but the horizon itself, and what it divides– to lose the sky, lose the ground. it’s frightening to lose recognition of a coherent “self” in the mirror.

…because, for a reward to occur, someone must receive it. thus the relinquishment of happiness as a project is crucially a relinquishment of this imagined, potentially happy self.

letting go of this projected happier self is challenging. not everyone survives the loss. although it can sometimes occur rapidly or even catastrophically as the result of a “psychotic break,” it’s mostly more of an incremental dishabituating, a daily deconjuration. since this potentially happier self was only ever an amorphous, gesturally conceptual subject of conjecture, caressed into queasy quasi-existence, it takes time to brush all its cobwebs away. it takes time to break the ingrained habit of granting psychic berth to this totemic happy-self.

and when you have: then… what have you achieved? well, nothing– but it was nothing all along, wasn’t it? it was a frantic, desirous nothing tormented by the promised possibility of something. when one finally unclenches fingers from around this eternal nonpossibility, one flows into– or is flowed through by– a heavier, calmer, truer and spookier nothing, free from the poison of these fantasies.

this is deep water. the void is no longer merely lapping at your ankles. as the chains of cause and effect decouple around and within you, a tremendous stillness takes hold that, like the darkness inside one’s eyelids, has no color yet contains all possible colors. it’s a pure and totalizing emptiness, arriving with the elegant morbidity of mathematical formula, a backdrop encompassing all the fractal branches of “free will.”

now, when nothing matters, when there is no longer a self striving for happiness, more interesting possibilities begin to emerge: without energy; without distinguishment; without making a case for themselves. whims, grey fancies born of anomie, scraps of arbitrary action. and for each, why? yet for each… why not?

now, the void that begins just inside the skin, the empty space of the falsely individuated, capitalistically conceived “self” into which we’ve so insatiably dumped other people, relationships, sensations, goals, dreams, always hoping something would work, desperate to staunch the emptiness– now, just as silence has its own aural qualities, the absence becomes textural. it begins, gradually, to bubble, to alchemically produce. in this interiorized grave, enriched by the stinking corpse of selfhood, at last– perhaps too late? — fresh possibilities sprout from soil uncontaminated by hope.

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