All of us go through the same things. Some of us may experience them more intensely and some of us may get a stronger version but the events are ubiquitous, even if they differ in circumstance. I like to think of it as a horse going down the road. Some horses anticipate well. Some horses are trained better. Some horses don’t want to go down the road. Some are in a hurry and some are more casual by temperament. They are all horses however. They all have to go down the road. There are question about why that is. A lot of people have stayed up all night thinking about that.
Well, you have heard me give analogy after analogy. It may be by this time that I am talking in circles. How many times can I say the same thing a different way? …Quite a lot apparently. It is not hard to understand why such a complexity of views exists on a single, indefinable point. You take the essential thing itself and outward from that stretches infinity. The same infinity trails away within it as well. One might say that everything outside of it is held inside of it. Such statements confuse the mind.
The mind spends its time thinking and extrapolating. The mind is sometimes defined as quicksilver; that’s an apt comparison. It can also be compared to running water; a stream, a faucet. It can be thought of a pot of boiling water in its extremes and as a still pond in its final resolution. We’ve been told that it is all mind and that everything is made out of mind stuff, that it is ‘thought born’. It is the mind also that is shaping these words in explanation of itself.
It seems to me, if we can put aside ultimate goals for a moment, that there is only one thing that should concern anyone and that is stilling the mind. Perhaps that is the ultimate goal as well. It is strange to see such a powerful, collective focus on the opposite in our culture. One might say, “Well, that’s life, isn’t it?” My reason for saying that stilling the mind is all that should concern us is because, when the mind is not still, we suffer. Our suffering is in our minds as well. We may localize it to parts of our body; to conditions, to states of want but that becomes known to us only in our minds.
I do not deny that we have hearts and that we feel but that is in our minds too. It is interpreted in the limbic region of the brain. The physical seat of the mind is the brain. The brain isn’t the mind but it is the horse, the car that the mind rides when it sees itself as the resident of a particular envelope. That is a funny thing that the mind does. It defines things based on its knowledge and experience. The definitions may not be correct in any absolute or even relative sense but they seem quite real in the personal realm. Large mirages are viewed daily by large collections of people.
If the state of natural and enduring happiness is achieved by stilling the mind then it is perfectly true to say that a very large portion of the human race is insane. The human race is insane at most times. Sometimes it is more insane than at others. Presently it is more insane than at other times. Modern medicine is less efficient that older healing techniques. It’s invasive and deals with symptomatic suppression. It’s hard and cold and cutting and ignores the source of the problem. It’s devoted to finance and the promotion of dangerous pharmaceuticals. The best that can be said is that it isn’t as insane as it was a hundred years ago. Reliance on allopathic medicine is a sure indication of insanity.
It appears that God, the ineffable and the incomprehensible, can be understood according to certain rituals of behavior. It seems that God has a dress code and not a very good impression of women. It seems that God encourages all sorts of abominable behavior and takes no mind of those who pronounce these things and behave otherwise. That sounds insane.
There is a high level of respect given to certain people who live in LA where breathing the air is the equivalent of 2 packs of cigarettes a day. These people are in the business of creating fantasies based upon fantasies that exist in the minds of people who are insane. They celebrate worlds in which people eat bad food and drink poisonous beverages; people who scream and cry and use guns and bombs and drive cars very, very fast. These people leap out of airplanes on snowboards and then surf over tables in an outdoor restaurant, picking up a Campari on the way, while being chased by killers on snow mobiles with machine guns. They destroy the killers and then ski into the arms of a woman who uses a bicycle pump on her breasts, which may, or may not be why the nipples are there. That’s insane.
Millions of people support a leader who bankrupts them; sends their children off to gratuitous wars, kills in their name at a distance, whose favored associates plunder the landscape, poison the water, fouls the air and generally reduces the quality of life at great speed and they applaud that. That’s insane.
Huge factories pump out billions of strange plastic articles to jarring soundtracks of abusive, screaming incoherence so that these objects can be placed on the shelves of huge shopping complexes so that people can spend hours of each day studying them, buying them and then forgetting that they have them. Hours are spent chatting on portable phones about nothing. The rest of the hours are spent punching buttons on the phone to make video figures move about. Life entire appears to be composed of pretending to be someone else, eating wide varieties of chemically enhanced foods, watching television, driving to the aforementioned places, trying to have sexual contact with each other under false pretenses and then trying to get out of having sexual contact with them afterwards. Then ugly wars are fought to protect the right to have cheap fuel to do all of these things at the great expense of anyone who stands in their way. That really is insane but-
To the mind it all seems logical. As soon as you want anything the engine of the mind rationalizes the legitimacy of the acquisition. Thousands and thousands of men and women spend their days in offices devoted to the production of nonsense or dangerous goods. Thousands more work to protect their right to do it. Thousands more argue their legal right to continue. Along the way they all get sick and die. I’m sorry I am laughing but it is insane.
I haven’t listed even a small part of the insanities. I haven’t sketched more than a brief outline of the environment. It’s more insane than I make it out to be and it goes on and on and on. It’s always another permutation of the same insanity and it is always, ‘new and improved!’ Most people are sick and getting sicker and are more and more angry and unhappy about it. The only thing that makes them more angry and unhappy is you pointing it out. The worse it gets the harder they press. The more it hurts, the more they want. What am I to make of that?
Within the mind is a consciousness that is not separated as is the consciousness of the self-conscious mind. As the self-conscious mind is embroiled in sensation it is unable to connect with this consciousness. It can have no peace without this connection. This is one reason that death is a good thing; it forces surrender. It makes you give up; rather late though.
Right in this very moment, everyone has the capacity to turn their attention away from everything that their surface mind keeps pointing out to them, dangling in front of them, enticing them with, threatening them with, arguing about- setting up the condition for a self-contained argument about nothing- distracting, always distracting. Right now, one can gently lead the attention away and lead it away until the mind becomes a deep and still pool. It’s not going to happen over the weekend. No one else is going to do it for you. You cannot pay someone to do this in your place. People may start wondering if you are crazy. You may no longer be fun. You may drop out of sight entirely because you’re not part of the things they are paying attention to. If you don’t put your attention on something, your attention will unfailing be put upon something. If you don’t go in one direction you are automatically headed in the other. You can’t stand still. It’s a continuum.
Oh whatever, don’t listen to me. I’m probably insane.
'Speedbumps' is track no. 7 of 7 on Visible and The Critical List's 1987 album
'The Pope of Rock and Roll'