All manner of things exist that most of us do day in day out, compulsively and often without joy.
Social media grazing, junk food guzzling. The news! A bit more chocolate. Some Dubliner cheddar cheese. Washed down with some more grazing and a nice cup of coffee. It’s not all joyless, but there’s a lot of compulsion in there.
Cattle don’t look terribly aware they are grazing and I’m not sure we are either – even if the reasons for doing so may be different. The grass is good, so to speak.
As Neil points out, it is the awareness of this sort of stuff that is the tricky bit. Catching it as it happens.
I’m actually a pretty compulsive and impulsive person by nature. Getting some of this part of my nature under control has been a struggle for me. Simple living, good friends, plant medicine, diet, and greater awareness have helped me a lot.
Like all worthwhile projects, it’s in progress.
Do I still do lots of things compulsively and without joy? Yes. I’m conditioned by myself.
In Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ once the inhabitants pass through the formality (read it) of being born, they undergo hypnopaedia – a nightly phrasal conditioning of sleeping children and teenagers along the lines of and reinforcing, their class. As adults they are aware of the constructed separations and rules of the world they inhabit, rigidly thinking inside the box broadcast to them in their formative sleeps. They are inside a matrix of ideology and context has been whitewashed from their minds.
On a cycle from Dublin city centre out to the southern edge suburbs yesterday, I travelled an old commute, remembering the many journeys in my car on that road sitting in the traffic. My resolve to start cycling back then and all the excuses I made not to do it. I never did either. It was laziness back then, pure and simple. I am a master of bullshitting myself, and soaking up beliefs about myself that were never mine to begin with.
Anyway the trip I did was easily four times the distance my bike commute would have been in the past. Nothing separates me from then except the act of regular cycling, namely some movement toward a choice I wanted to make.
I was alarmed by how easy the cycle was and my past and present propensity for mollycoddled overthinking. My thought process back then actually startled me a bit. I mean what other crappy limits do we put on ourselves each day through how we condition ourselves to think?
Maybe that’s just me, but I’d wager not. Am I constantly going around in a state of false assumption, like duped inhabitant of Huxley’s world? I don’t think so. Yet it only appears so to me because I likely haven’t pushed the boundaries of those assumptions. Too busy with the easy stuff. Because it is easy, there is lots of it, and it’s how the information machine that is society tells us it should be done.
I’m not questioning societal fundamentals here, or riding on any other particularly grand wide-sweeping notion. Simply the idea of how we perceive our thoughts.
Self-knowledge is a deceptively slippery concept amidst the digital information-soak today.
The hypnopaedic-like nature of much of the information floating the airwaves is something to be aware of. It’s not just the information or its quality either; it’s the volume and the medium.
Resist joyless and compulsive and meaningless.
Go with deliberate, joyful, and empowering.