Do you ever question why you read this kind of thing? What is it that drives you to leave the comfort of endless distractions to contemplate hard reality? So let’s state our predicament as briefly as possible.
The great thinkers of ages (Buddha, Spinoza, Schopenhauer) all claim we are desire. We do not desire; we are desire. Spinoza says the essence of man is desire. Schopenhauer says our bodies are the objectification of desire. However, what kind of desire? At the root of all desires is the desire to exist. Like the Buddha and Emil Cioran state, until that desire has died, we will suffer, only because all our desires cannot be met and we ultimately die. How can we rid ourselves of the desire to exist when we are the desire to exist? This is where the various sages differ. Spinoza would say go with it. Schopenhauer would say renounce it by seeing the sufferings it causes. The Buddha claims liberation is possible through his various truths. I go with Spinoza.
What we resist grows in strength. To oppose the beast called the will-to-life is to make it stronger, and as a result, we suffer more. Both Gurdjieff and Spinoza state emphatically that we are slaves of the will-to-life, and the only options we have are to be an unconscious slave or a conscious one. To be conscious means we understand, and that power of understanding allows us to mitigate much suffering. Both Spinoza and Gurdjieff claim that understanding and its close relative being can confer some form of immortality. That these two sages lived two hundred years apart and said the same thing means there may be some truth in those statements. I’m not interested in those claims, living a conscious life that has fewer sufferings is good enough for me.
Back to the original question. Why do this? Spinoza would say that your mind instinctively knows that the way to preserve itself is through understanding. What drives many people to steel themselves to stare reality in the face is the simple fact that nothing else has diminished their suffering. Perhaps staring the beast in the eyes will lessen our fear of it – of suffering and death. I have found this to be the case, although this is not a trivial undertaking or for the faint-hearted. Courage and perseverance are needed. The alternative is to suffer unconsciously, and as Gurdjieff states so brutally, to live as a “thing” and upon the death of the body to disappear forever. Whether that is true – no one knows.
The endless distractions can provide temporary relief, but ultimately make matters worse – we become more neurotic. The only choice we have is to face the beast – the beast that we are. Having done this, we may discover that the beast is not as all-powerful, or ferocious as we think it is. It is easily calmed through the act of acknowledgment.
I’ve said it many times. The work to understand and to see reality cannot be done in isolation. For the few who are interested in more than the five-minute distraction they get by reading these articles, two people are willing to mentor and provide support through a methodology called SOUnd – sense, observe, understand. Real work, rather than entertainment and distraction, will only ever be of interest to the few. The price that has to be paid is great, but the rewards even greater.