Tuesday, July 06, 2004

by Skald

My greatest source of weariness with this Age and society we live in is its abhorrence of experience. Ours is a world-society obsessed with numbers and symbols. Everyone talks, thinks about, debates, and focuses on the symbols rather than true experience. Quantity is everything. If something can't be quantified... it's considered unimportant and in essence... unreal.

"Experts" have replaced "Masters". A Master is one who has mastered a particular aspect of life-- through experience. A Master has deep experience and acquired skill. By contrast, an "expert" has mastered nothing-- s/he is an expert of symbols only... can quote what hordes of other "experts" have said about a subject.... but knows nothing of the actual experience itself. Thus we have religious "experts" who have never had a transcendental experience. We have language experts who can't speak a foreign language. We have basketball experts who can't make a free throw. We have Arab "experts" who can't speak or read Arabic and who have never visited the Middle East. Experts, quite clearly, are false masters. A religious expert (minister, imam,priest...) can quote the holy text but has no idea what it is pointing to... what experience it is trying to describe. Thus the expert gets lost in the symbols and adopts them as reality. And so we have the ridiculous phenomenon of people killing each other over whose book is the most holy.

This extends everywhere. TV is reality for most folks... while real experience is de-valued. People are terrified of symbolic, TV created fears such as violent crime... despite the fact that they, nor their family or friends, have ever been a victim of violence. They are terrified of terrorists despite never having encountered (or even seen) one. Meanwhile, the paper plant in their county continuously dumps toxins into their rivers and air-- which are indeed real threats to their health and life.... but few seem to care enough to peel their eyes of the TV.

This bedrock philosophy, that knowledge-symbols are more "real" than experience, is what makes our societies so insufferably boring. There are simply no peak experiences-- nothing of substance-- just talking heads and ever more lurid "entertainment".

The cure for this is, of course, experimentation. Experience is the vital-- essential-- thing. To understand "zen" we must experience it. To understand psychedelic drugs we must try them. To understand love we must experience love. Everything else is someone else's clever lie. Yet legions condemn and/or propose what they have never experienced themselves. There is no received wisdom, in the end. There are no real shortcuts. We must live to grow wise.

So this is a call for experience-- experimentation with one's life.... or as Gandhi called it: "Experiments with truth". Our task as Hobopoets is not to learn more but to experience more. Our task is to try more things... to try living simply, to visit other countries, to try drugs, to try new music, to try new places and people and idea for living. Our task is to expand the range and depth of our experience. Unplug the TV and get out there! Time for us all to stop yapping and actually try something new. Of course, I'm preaching to the choir here.

But that is life-- real life. All else is virtual reality... which is the programmed reality of parents, teachers, books, movies, TV, "common sense", the internet, etc... I love books but we must keep them in perspective.... they are useful as an inspiration for new experiences and as an aid for making sense of past experience. But without real experiences... reading becomes nothing but mental masturbation. A merely mediated life is for boring losers. It is experience which is the essence of an accomplished life.... which is the essence of wisdom... and which is the essence of being a Hobopoet.


Anonymous said...

It's about time that you turned comments on. I was with you up until you got on about Islam and Drugs, that demonstrates where common sense has parted company with your point.

AJ said...

We seem to have a great many readers other than our tribe of Hobopoets,... which is quite surprising to me but a positive trend, I suppose. I've gotten a lot of emails over the past several months and an anonymous comment as well. Unfortunately, I usually don't have time to respond to them all... my apologies!

Re: The anonymous reader's commments (which reflect a few of the emails I've received as well):

RE: Islam. I have, perhaps, been sloppy with my wording, as I generally despise the practices of mainstream, organized Islam (along with those of mainstream organized Christianity & Judeaism and most other organized religions). However, the anti-Muslim idiocy in America is equally loathsome and ill-informed.... seeing as it is generally based on propaganda and not direct experience. Most Americans have never met a muslim, much less traveled to an Islamic country. I suggest Matt Salleh's postings for a more rational view of an Islamic society (First Malaysia and now Indonesia). Also, I recommend Hakim Bey's writings on Sufism-- an Islamic mystical tradition very much in accord with Zen, Taoism, Mystical Christian teachings, and other versions of the Perennial Philosophy.

Regarding drugs, I should have specified "psychedelic" drugs (Mushrooms, LSD, Ketemin, Salvia,...) of course-- but otherwise my comments stand. I'm very much with Terrence McKenna and Aldous Huxley on this. To understand the full spectrum of consciousness it is necessary to experience it. Psychedelic drugs are the most direct and powerful way of facilitating such consciousness expanding experiences (though by no means the only way).