Take a moment to sit back. Look at these letters, and focus your awareness on the word I write below. Sit and concentrate on it for a few moments.
Once that’s done, relax and focus your awareness on everything around you. It’ll feel like a widening of your awareness – as if your peripherals have expanded and you can notice everything around you, including say, your hand on the keyboard or on your leg or whatever. You’re not focusing on it, but you’re aware of it.
Through that basic, lived experience, you’ve understood what focus and awareness are, and how we are able to widen and narrow our focus.
Now from here, be aware of where you are, and ask why.
From that answer (maybe it’s “I’m at work” or “I’m at home”), ask why you’re there.
From there, keep asking why you’re there or why you’re doing what you’re doing, and keep deconstructing it. For example:
“I’m at work because it makes money” “I use money to buy things I like” “The things I like make me happy” “Happiness makes my life better” etc etc.
Keep going, and eventually, you might hit what I call a proverbial plank – the plank like on pirate ships, but instead of it being water below you, it’s a weird void that seems to be rather large and existentially unusual – perhaps it gives a form of anxiety.
In other words, you’re going to reach a point of asking “why am I living/surviving?”, and the plank you’re standing on is the answer. That answer might be “God” “divinity” “x philosophy” etc.
This tends to tie into what I was referring to regarding the deification problem, where people latch onto particular belief systems and ideas in order to keep them afloat and direct their identity/existence as human beings. That philosophical plank you stand on is, in a sense, the ‘safety plank’ that keeps you from falling into a pretty frightening area – the area of metaphysical exploration and the reason for your, and the entire universes existence.
And that’s actually fine! I’m not criticizing or denying your right to believe in whatever it is you believe in. In fact, if it keeps you happy and thriving in your life, then by all means, keep at it and enjoy. You’ve only got the one life and you really ought to maximize that based on your values. If it works, don’t fix it.
The area which I’m delving into though is an area for the curious and very, very adventurous thinker/explorer – me being one of those people. I’ve never been able to quell that insatiable curiosity and it’s part of why I was drawn to philosophy and psychology in the first place. It’s what keeps me ticking and writing, really.
There are two ways to explore this area, and that is in the external contemplation of the universe and the why’s, but also the internal, that being in meditation and deconstructing the sensations that you experience. I have done, and continue to do, both.
In meditation, you can sit there and eventually, via a gradual, patient deconstruction of focusing awareness, get to a strange “void” when asking what is it that is causing the thoughts that you are thinking (and thus the paradoxical nature of thinking the thought that asks about the origin of the thought that you just thought appears, too). It’s a very surreal feeling getting to that point, because there is a sense of impenetrable darkness/emptiness that you hit where thoughts arise, and yet you’re completely unable to identify the root of it, explicitly. The experience of experiencing awareness and consciousness itself on such an intimate level is a very unusual, and sometimes anxiety fueling experience. It tends to put you in a place of “what the fuck is this“. Maybe that’s just me, though.
Then there is the external. The examination of the universe, and existence as is. Using ol’ Aristotle’s rules you can observe and identify concretes and tie concepts to everything. Law of identity, non-contradiction and excluded middle. You can eventually get so good at it that you naturally think in a deconstructive, analytical matter where you can be precise in your identification of problems and tie it all directly to reality – a very handy tool because..you know, survival.
There’s a somewhat well known question that Jordan Peterson has asked before which bewilders a large number of people. The question is “Why is a tree stump and a bean bag both a chair?”. The answer, if you know how to work with genus and differentia, is quite simple. Learning how to think is very valuable indeed.
But I digress. You can orient yourself in reality if you remain active minded, and thrive in it. But for people who continue to ask the “why’s” and move down to the reason for being, the reason for things being the way they are, the point of all life, human life, etc.. that’s an area which is pretty freaky. That’s removing the safety plank that I was talking about and saying fuck it, I’m putting on my goggles and going for a swim in whatever the hell that void is. I’ll be back soon. Welcome to philosophy!
That’s precisely where I dwell and thrive in, because it’s the area of thought – consciousness, existence, the point – that is most intimate and engaging to me. I also think it’s the place where people who have endured tragedy in their lives fall into, and part of why people like me are important. Why?
Because people like me are the ones that will really ask the hard questions and make you face existence without the filters. When tragedy strikes in someones life, where all that mattered to them is ripped from their hands, their soul is scorched and they fall into a dark pit in which they are not accustomed to. What matters to them, the point of their existence, their reason for being, the “why” comes rushing at them in full awareness, and tragedy is its horse. It’s a terrible thing to see, because suffering really sucks. 2020 in particular was full of such tragedy for many. Nihilistic despair sapped the strength, and took the lives, of millions.
But tragedy and the often chaotic, random nature of life is also what can be the catalyst that helps you learn about what life is all about for you. It brings about the important questions that sit deep within all human beings – the why’s and the how’s. When the plank breaks and you slip into the void, you’re faced with serious questions that philosophy focuses on – and the role of philosophers, in my opinion, is to be able to guide you through that void and help you light your own fire so you can bring about the summers of life again. There are a whole bunch of philosophers I can recommend in difficult times, but that’s really a matter of self-exploration, too. I don’t advise or suggest any system, but rather I suggest that you seriously contemplate what life is about, what it all means, and what is it about life that matters to you. You’re actually capable of this. You’re capable of answering those why’s and acting in accordance to them.
Again, it’s a one and done deal, this whole living thing, and you really ought to take it as seriously as you can – and being serious means asking the really hard, serious questions, too.
Us philosopher types that swim in the void can certainly guide you, but you have to survive on your own and figure out what it is that matters to you most – that is, and always will be, an individual deal. Just remember, frogs are amphibian – I’ll be on land and in the pit of shit, surviving and thriving, ready to help.