I saw a brilliant and formerly illiterate felon argue, via TED talk, that trading stocks should be an “everyman” endeavor, rather than a form of wealth manipulation accessed only by the elite few. I agree, except I’m more interested in cryptos, which I view as a natural evolution of fiat currency. We’ve been stuck at the level of fiat currency for quite some time, and however volatile cryptos may be, they represent at least something of a buffer from the rise and fall of individual nations.
However, this is not a blog about finances. I’m going to argue that a fully rendered cosmology should be an “everyman” endeavor as well, rather than a form of reality manipulation accessed only by clergy, cult leaders, and certain academics.
I get that most of us occupy only our own specifics. Our thoughts wrap themselves around what’s tangible, and shy away from what’s abstract, beyond a certain threshold. What does it matter, anyway.
Well — couple things, there. We can either take conscious inventory of our own beliefs, or spend our lives bumping into them in the dark, like furniture we inherited but never arranged, in a room with a light switch we never tried to find.
You might argue that, for most of us, this works ok. Does it, though? What are some things most of us sort of vaguely believe?
“Jesus died for our sins.” It’s amazing how many of us don’t consciously subscribe to Christianity, but occupy its cosmology anyway, by default. But let’s say we do subscribe to Christianity. Seriously, what the fuck does this mean? It’s apparently not as simple as “hey, your friend already paid your bar tab”. That means I get to drink for free, or at least I only pay for my drinks from here on out — something that makes some kind of sense. Do we get to sin more, thanks to Jesus, or less? I don’t subscribe to Christianity so it’s fine that I don’t understand this, but what I’m saying is, I’m not at all sure that Christians understand this. If anyone’s dying for your sins, it’s our lil buddies, the animals.
“Everything happens for a reason.” That’s big these days — especially when whatever happens, happens to someone else. This phrase is an example of a step towards individual empowerment, but unless it’s attached to some cosmological rafters that can support its weight, it simply collapses when shitty things happen to us personally.
“No pain no gain.” Here we stumble against, in the dark, the extremely sharp corner of a Davenport known as suffering. The Eastern religions have made a better study of suffering than we have. Look deeply into suffering and you will find all the important questions about existence, meaning, and transcendence. Look shallowly into suffering and you will find a Nike slogan.
“God gave us dominion over the animals.” Or alternately, loving animals like we love people is a sin. Or alternately again, dominating animals is just a healthy circle of life. I’ve been told all these things, by different people at different times, none of whom could connect these statements to what their own behaviors and desires in any cohesive way.
I could go on, but what I’m saying here is that we’d all benefit from cultivating a sense of irreverence towards all beliefs except those we identify as useful. Construct your own “everyman” cosmology! Why not? It’s not like you have to confess it to anyone. Even if you are Catholic, your time in the booth would be better spent having that motherfucker confess his sins to you. I believe (because it’s useful) that the shittiest rough draft of your own devise is infinitely better than the most complex final version of a haphazard inheritance.
Here’s an easy starting point: you’re gonna die. No matter what anyone hopes or fears, we can probably all agree on one thing — on that day, our understanding of what mattered more, versus less, in our lives will probably be reorganized. We spend so much time dreading the thought that we rob ourselves of its immense benefit. So, put your own inevitable death front and center, and reverse engineer your life’s meaning.
Here’s a trick for doing that: pretend that you are a method actor. You are like Christian Bale, in any role he’s ever played. You are so immersed in your role that you literally believe it to be reality, and you literally believe that character’s death to be your own death. That’s how much of a badass you are. That character’s triumphs and humiliations are your own. Everyone you encounter, in this film, are badass method actors in their own right. You respect them all immensely. To come together as a cast, and create something new, exploring and evoking such sophisticated nuance of humanity and emotion — wow. Your appreciation for the entire process is immense.
Now imagine that the project is a wrap, and it’s time for the post-production party. Everyone’s laughing so hard and making so many champagne toasts! And already planning ahead to their next role. Some of the actors want to travel even more deeply into the psychology they developed in this role. Some of the actors feel satisfied, and they’d like to try another extreme. The movie’s villain wants to be a hero next, or the comic relief. The movie’s hero wants to be the love interest next, or the sidekick. Some of the actors just want to phone it in, next movie, because this role was frankly exhausting. Others want to really stretch their abilities — they’re feeling ambitious, and only a super fucked up role will do, next time around.
Let’s push pause on that and feel around a bit. Many of us, now, have encountered the notion that we create our own reality. This idea hits us with a one-two punch; first — you mean I can have the wonderful life I want? And then — you mean I’m the one who created this bullshit I’m living now? It’s tough for us to imagine that we would have chosen what we’re currently living. It’s much easier to believe it’s the result of a schizophrenic, but ultimately vague, loving-slash-vengeful god, right? The real reason we repeat, ad nauseam, the “no pain no gain” catchphrase is because we suffer so fucking much, all the fucking time, that we really do hope it means something…good. The pain part is a shit sundae; the gain part is a cherry we put on top. In short, it’s nearly impossible for us to believe we would want to suffer this much, or deal with what we’re dealing with.
But! It’s not hard to believe at all that really badass method actors would choose really crazy roles! Here’s where my next helpful tip comes from: if you can believe yourself, and everyone else, to be BOTH the actor and the role, then you have access to a much richer vocabulary of interpretations. We all know a small minded person who cannot, for the life of them, see anything unwanted as a possible blessing. They can’t, at all, access an “everything happens for a reason” mentality. And we’ve all felt this way, been this person. Just know that a thing could happen for a very good reason, from the actor’s perspective, that would only seem like senseless anguish from the character’s perspective.
This is helpful because it allows us to exit our own likely dead dogma thought constructs about God. I’ll tell you this — any abstract concept that shows up on a coffee mugs or a piece of prefab home decor — something like “God”, “love”, “faith”, etc. — has been diluted in your own mind to the point of uselessness. Your instant gut reaction to the word “God” or the word “love” is — meh. Echoes of trauma, or simple confusion, or a snake eating its own tail, a self-licking ice cream cone. Fucking abandon that. It’s garbage.
Here’s something to get you out of your rut. We spend a lot of time, here on earth, arguing about what way is right. We identify the people doing it wrong (whatever that is), and try to make them do it right, or kill them, or send them to prison, or whatever. We each have a set of values. The house of our beliefs about reality contains many rooms. Some of them are light, some of them are dark. Some of them are cluttered, some of them are sparse. Some of them are clean, some of them are filled with cobwebs and rust. So from the comfort or discomfort of our cluttered reality-houses, we add our voices to the choir: everyone should care about this! Everyone should care about this! Our voices, in this example, are the voices of our characters, not the actors who play them. Our characters want a feathered nest, a smooth ride, a world that makes sense and that doesn’t come at us with its seedy underbelly and its sharp, sharp teeth. We don’t want mean people, or radical Muslims, or the liberal media, or white supremacists, or dogs that bark, or taxation without representation, or whatever other thing we’ve decided we don’t want.
But the actors, whom we truly are — or should I say, whom we predominantly are, no matter how deeply embedded in our method we become — are looking for bigger and bigger roles, with bigger and bigger paychecks. No audience wants a film about a nice street, full of nice houses with nice picket fences — unless something really bizarre is going to happen there. And no audience wants a futuristic dystopia unless something beautiful and familiar is going to happen there. A famous portrait photographer friend of mine, since deceased, told me once: every portrait should be, essentially, a kitten and a barbed wire fence. The soft and the hard, the good and the bad, the touchable and the untouchable, the familiar and the esoteric. We are artists of the soul, and we have an emotionally sophisticated palate. We care much less about happy endings (the kitten) and much more about deep, deep exploration of the infinitely primordial, but heartbreakingly transcendent nature of the embodied psyche (the barbed wire fence).
Side note — my cosmology includes animals, plants, crystals, mountains, and every other damn thing but I’m confining this discussion to human terms, for simplicity’s sake.
Which brings me back to the inevitability of our own individual deaths. Rather than simple endedness, though, the doorway of death is an exit from one stage, a singular project, and a re-integration with our own broader perspective, our larger career. Is there a perspective larger than the actor’s? Of course. There’s the cast, the director, the producer, the film studio, the genre. Or to put it another way, there’s the soul group, the guides who’ve chosen not to incarnate, the collective archetype being explored in that particular space/time construct, the energy signature of the planet as a whole, the overall spiritual gesture.
Here’s something: I don’t actually agree with or approve of this method acting construct, with its fundamental premise of total and immersive amnesia, until the moment of our deaths. I think it’s a big fucking mistake, a collective mistake. I think we’d be much better served to remember ourSELVES even as we strut and fret our hour upon the stage, and then are heard no more: it is, for shizzle, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound an fury, signifying nothing. I think we could do better.
But that better lies in the direction that, as badass method actors, goes against the grain of everything we’ve practiced. I think we could stand to be less believable, as characters, and more recognizable, as actors, on stage. Kind of like…you know…John Wayne. I mean, did that guy ever really act, per se? I respect it.
So the development of an “everyman” cosmology construct represents our own remembering. Our attempt to pierce the amnesia and say, “Yes…I think I might be…John Wayne…”. Whereas our method acting, no matter how brilliant, represents our participation in a reality — a vague, inherited cosmology — that probably won’t even get nominated. And this is something you might consider now, but that you’ll definitely consider on your death bed.