Monday, July 11, 2016

The End of Thinghood

I recently got the impression that a bright, divine light is exerting a lot of pressure on the physical world, and I want to explain how that can be true even in this age of shootings, riots, and reality-TV-star presidential candidates.

The physical world is the world of things, and “things” are any real beings that have an identity distinct from other things. You as a person, with a name, birth date, and identity, are a thing. I, as Christian Swenson, am a thing. Everything (or “every thing”) that you can point to in the world is a thing, since by giving it an identity distinct from everything else, you’re separating it from the vast expanse of Being when seen apart from definition.

However, the light that’s putting pressure on the physical world isn’t a thing. It’s what’s real apart from things. This bright light is therefore beyond the world, since the world is a thing, and the light is very literally the absence of things. This doesn’t mean that the light is nothing, at least not in the normal sense of the world. The real nothing is no-thing: not dark but instead overpoweringly bright. It’s bright because, unlike things, its being doesn’t belong to itself, since (as a no-thing) “it” has no “self.” As with all light, it gives without taking; it is giving; it is love.

Since the light is whatever is real apart from boundaries and definition, when I say that it’s putting pressure on the physical world of things, I mean that every “thing” is engaged in a struggle to maintain its stable identity, its thinghood. The walls around things are heavily cracked, and eventually nothing (no thing) will be able to exist in its own stable sense of self. Speicifically, the light pressing in on the world has been apparent for at least the last fifteen years. 9/11 announced that vertical hierarchies around the world were in the process of crashing down, and the ever-increasing fervor of the gay rights movement brought this collapse even further. A hierarchy is another name for a thing; hierarchies are what “stick out” from the sea of Being by claiming that they own themselves. As such, any claim to autonomy and self-ownership is dying. You saw this first with corporations and governments , but eventually even individual people will look in the mirror and find that they don’t recognize what they see there. None of us will belong to ourselves; there will be no “selves” to belong to.

Another way of explaining my intuition is saying that each “thing” is in the process of unraveling. Every thing is a combination not just of other things, but more importantly of forces that pass like rivers between things. Things are not just made of being; they are more importantly made of becoming. As such, they will never be “finished,” even if things necessarily believe that they are complete in themselves. To say that light is pressing in upon the world is to say that the dynamic forces which compose things are becoming conscious of themselves in a new way. No longer needing the fixed mirror of things to see themselves, those forces will begin recognizing their being in-between things, in the process of movement and relationship itself. 

As such, the world is bound to divide into two camps: those who embrace their no-thing-ness and those who stubbornly cling to their thinghood. The more the no-thing camp is true to its own position, the more it will seem naive, open-minded, and odd all at once. On the other hand, those in the “thing” camp will give off an air of arrogance, certainty, and condescension. The forerunners of the former camp, the camp of no-thing-ness, already exist in a place you may not expect: pop culture fandoms. Fandoms, whether of Doctor WhoSherlock, or Supernatural, are hints of what religion may become in the coming generations. Members of these fandoms devote much of their time to media franchises, even though they know that their franchise isn’t “real.” And yet, Doctor Who is unreal only because it isn’t a real “thing.” However, Doctor Who is a real force, since it produces effects in people’s minds from entertainment to amusement to suicide prevention. To devote one’s time to one of these fandoms is to devote one’s time to its reality as a no-thing, as light. So as the light presses upon the world of things, you’ll get people taking the world less and less seriously. 

However, those who cling to the world of things will become more and more embittered in response to the influx of no-thing-ness’s light. People will spout hatred on social media more and more, and public shootings will continue to increase. However, these flashes of hatred are signs that the world is getting better, not worse. The thing-camp, whether in ISIS, Black Lives Matter, or gridlocked political leaders, are responding to the light’s threat. Thinghood is dying, and things are giving all their ammunition to defend their way of being. They will make it seem as though the world is decaying, but really it’s only the world of things that’s decaying, and they’re trying to reproduce in you some of the fear they feel themselves. Don’t fall for it; they won’t succeed. Eventually, the thing-camp will become so absurdly critical and bombastic that anyone selfless won’t be afraid but, instead, get amused.

You can see the contrast between these two camps even in last week’s events. Within a single week, we’ve had two major cultural events: Philando Castlile’s and Alton Sterling’s death by shooting and the subsequent outrage, and the release of Pokemon GO. It sounds insensitive to imply that these two events are comparably important, but that’s only because we don’t yet have enough perspective to see the effect Pokemon GO will have on the world of culture. With this simple video game, the world of forces or no-thing-ness and the world of things marry themselves in our cultural perception for the very first time. Though Pokemon aren’t real things, Pokemon GO lays the tracks for a way of being that doesn’t care about things’ reality. Instead, we have begun seeing the physical world only as a metaphor for the forces that can (only) manifest through it. Catching a Charmander in my driveway sets the light loose, since by doing so I see through the physical world to the forces of becoming that act through it. In other words, catching Pokemon is  a way to act without re-acting to world of things. However, the reactions to the aforementioned shootings are reactive to the extreme. Both sides fearfully see the other side as a thing, but by doing so they both unkowningly bring through forces of fear and hatred. The way forward is to simply leave the fray and turn the other cheek. The exodus from things has begun, and you can either walk safely amid the no-thing’s forces or get drowned by them.

If you believe me, you shouldn’t. Don’t take this post as gospel, but instead as an impulse to thought. Don’t look at it as a thing; look to the forces within it and follow them to where they want to go. In fact, do that with everything. So doing, you’ll help the light break through even more.