So, here we are. Enjoying an opening. Parting the curtain, as it were.
In 1571 poet Richard Edwards wrote, “Pythagoras said that this world was like a stage / Whereon many play their parts; the lookers-on, the sage,” and so it is: the sage is wise, the lookers-on is not (but thinks he is) and the philosopher knows he’s not so seeks it out.
In 1623 William Shakespeare had a melancholy character named Jacques say in Act II Scene VII of As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
Then melancholy Jacques explained the seven ages of man from infant to old age as, “this strange eventful history / Is second childishness and mere oblivion / Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”
In 1971 another melancholy man sang of realization, “When all the stars are falling down / Into the sea and on the ground / And angry voices carry on the wind / A beam of light will fill your head / And you’ll remember what’s been said / By all the good men this world’s ever known. / Another man is what you’ll see / Who looks like you and looks like me / And yet somehow he will not feel the same” (Moody Blues “Melancholy Man”).
Whether that beam of light hits you depends on your version of reality. Are you full of yourself? Do you see? What do you think when not thinking?
In 1927 Martin Heidegger (1899-1976) the philosopher (not the plumber) described the feeling as being thrown into the life we’re in. We don’t notice we’re alive. In self-absorption we lose touch with the mystery of existence and the interconnections of being.
In 2015 Stanford University found that when one wins the “birth lottery” by being born into a high-income family, the economic pay-off is huge. Children from low-income families will have few opportunities for economic mobility (Stanford News).
In 1980 the Clash sang of this, “Some is rich, and some is poor / that’s the way the world is / but I don’t believe in lying back / sayin’ how bad your luck is” (“Bankrobber”).
Awareness of our “thrown-ness” is like the 1989 to ’93 TV show “Quantum Leap” where a physicist leaps through space-time to take the place of people.
In 1981 the Talking Heads sang of being thrown, “You might find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself. Well, how did I get here?” (“Once in a Lifetime”).
In 1954 Ernst Bloch said in The Principle of Hope that being thrown into the world is like a dog’s life and in 1971 The Doors put that idea in verse, “Into this world we’re thrown / Like a dog without a bone” (“Riders on the Storm”).
It is with a flash or a CLICK that we get it. In a moment of incongruity, we see greed bubbling out of self-importance, “All for me and nothing for you!” We see people do terrible things and understand completely.
People don’t know what they’re doing. If they did, they wouldn’t.
We know the billionaire in her gated community, the office worker with a chip on her shoulder, the shoe salesman with a wig fooling no one, the egomaniac electrician without imagination, the angry waiter, the crystal meth addict, the gangster…whatever! We know them all through imagination.
We know what people feel. We feel it too. We know why people do what they do. It’s like each of us is everyone and everyone is you!
When this realization occurs, it’s like the ending to Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” call, “With my lightning bolts a glowin’, I can see where I am go-going! You better look out below.”
In 1963 Kurt Vonnegut said in Cat’s Cradle that the greatest student of human nature is the one with the quickest sense of humour. But like a messy room we put off cleaning, we resist most what most needs doing. Most of the time there’s a split in our mind. We’re half-conscious, half-living machines. To restore ourselves it takes a conscious return to our senses.
In 2002 Cold Play sang about starting again, “Nobody said it was easy / No one ever said it would be this hard. Oh take me back to the start… Questions of science; science and progress. Do not speak as loud as my heart” (“The Scientist”).
In 1939 writer Henry Miller recommended we choose a language, “as fluid as music in order not to be broken on the sharp spokes of the intellect” (“The Cosmological Eye”).
Imagine you have a dream. In the dream you look in the bathroom mirror but the face you see isn’t your own. It freaks you out. You run downstairs to tell, but people don’t understand your language and you wake up in a cold sweat.
As you think about this dream, you realize how funny it is. You realize that sad and vicious people are taking the game too serious. Better to live and let live. Better to enjoy. We are living creatures of mind and matter. Hear the music from Interstellar!
When you lighten-up, you see yourself as not there.
You become an ethereal being as what you see becomes you. You see your point of view as everyone’s.
You dig those crazy ups and downs, those beauteous essences, disappointments, struggles, burps, pains, ugliness, injustices because flaws are absorbed in perfection.
The world is always as it could be.
Because it is.