“Only burgeois suckers put hope in the future” – Alan WATTS

The world does not speak. Only we do. The world can, once we have programmed ourselves with a language, cause us to hold beliefs. But it cannot propose a language for us to speak. Only other human beings can do that.

R. RORTY, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

There are three classes of people in the Western world: the aristocrats, the proletariat, and the bourgeoisie. The aristocrats live in the past, because they come of noble family, and they’re like potatoes because the best part of them is underground. The proletariat live in the present, because they have nothing else. And the poor bourgeoisie live for the future; they are the eternal suckers.

A. WATTS

Yesterday today, tomorrow—these are servants’ categories. For the idle man, sumptuously settled in the Inconsolable, and whom every moment torments, past, present, and future are merely variable appearances of one and the same disease, identical in its substance, inexorable in its insinuation, and monotonous in its persistence. And this disease is coextensive with Being—it is Being.

CIORAN

Nature is like a musical expression, which means exactly what it says. Giraffes are giraffing, trees are treeing, stars are starring, clouds are clouding. Rain is raining. And if you don’t understand, look at it again. And people are peopleing. We notice that all these ‘suchnesses’ appear and disappear. They keep changing, they come and they go. But if you get hung up on your particular form—I’ll have to alter the language a little bit because, you see, “your form” makes a duality. Whereas you are your form. You’re what you’re doing. Now, you think, “Hmm. For some strange reason I must make that go on as long as possible.” And therefore you think you have an instinct to survive. And so the only thing anybody can agree about today, so far as the discussion of ethical and moral problems are concerned, is that we ought to survive. And therefore, certain forms of conduct have survival value and certain forms don’t.

But when you say to yourself you must go on living, you put yourself in a double-bind. Because you’ve said to a process—which is essentially spontaneous—that it must happen. And the basic form of the double-bind which is imposed upon all children is: you are required to do that which will be acceptable only if you do it voluntarily. So when we say to ourselves “you must go on,” the reason is, you see, that we are not living in the eternal now, where reality is. We are always thinking that the satisfaction of life will be coming later. “There’s a good time coming, be it ever so far away.” That one far-off, divine event to which all creation moves. Don’t kid yourself. As the Hindus have taught us: in the course of time everything gets worse. It eventually falls apart. Comes kali yuga, and Shiva at the end, and POOM! Which is to say, only suckers put hope in the future.

You see—I tell you, there are three classes of people in the Western world: the aristocrats, the proletariat, and the bourgeoisie. The aristocrats live in the past, because they come of noble family, and they’re like potatoes because the best part of them is underground. The proletariat live in the present, because they have nothing else. And the poor bourgeoisie live for the future; they are the eternal suckers. They can always open to a con game. So when they find out that, really, there isn’t much of a future, you’re going to die, they transpose the future into a spiritual dimension. And they figure this material world is not the real world, but the spiritual world is the real world. And there will be, somewhere, somehow, an eternal life for me.

A charge to keep I have,
a God to glorify,
a never-dying soul to save,
and fit it for the sky.

Well, then you say to them, “What are you going to do there?” Well, they haven’t the faintest idea. You know that? If you ask theologians about what they think is going to happen in heaven, they just dry up. Oh, you’re going to play harps—I mean, there’s a symbolic meaning to that which I could go into, but the average person’s idea of heaven is an absolute bore! I mean, it’s like being in church for ever. Children see this immediately. Children, when they hear a hymn like, “Weary of earth, and laden with my sin, I look’d at Heav’n and long to enter in,” and they go, “Oh god! Heaven is to be in church for always!” And they think hell is preferable; there’s at least some excitement going on.

And you see it in Medieval art. You go to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and you see Jan van Eyck’s painting of The Last Judgement: heaven on top, hell below. In heaven everybody’s looking like the cat that’s swallowed the canary, sitting in rows and very smug. God the father is President and… oh dear. Beneath this there’s a winged skull, like a bat, and squirming bodies, all nude, all being eaten by snakes and I don’t know—it’s a fantastic thing going on. But in that—you see, van Eyck had a ball painting that! Because in Medieval way it was the only way you could get away with painting nudes and sexy scenes; sadomasochistic, see? So that’s naturally why hell became much more interesting than heaven.

So therefore, this hope for the future is a hoax; it’s a perfect hoax. Maybe we will make spiritual progress. Everybody puts it off. Maybe if I work at yoga for ten years, twenty years, and do this thing, I will eventually make it. To mokṣa, to nirvāṇa, whatever. That’s nothing more than a postponement. It’s this business of… because you’re not fully alive now, you think maybe someday you will be.

Look, supposing I ask you, “What did you do yesterday?” “Now, what did I do yesterday? In fact, I’ve forgotten.” But most people say, “Well, let me see, now. Let me get out my notebook. I got up at 7:30 and I brushed my teeth, and I read the newspaper over a cup of coffee, and then I looked at the clock, and dressed, and got in the car and drove downtown, and did this and that in the office,” and so on, and you go on, and on, and on, and you suddenly discover that what you’ve described has absolutely nothing to do with what happened. You’ve described a scraggly, skeletal, fleshless list of abstractions. Whereas if you were actually aware of what went on, you could never describe it.

Because nature is multi-dimensional, language is linear. Language is scrawny, and therefore, if you identify the world as it is with the world as described, it’s as if you were trying eat dollar bills and expect a nutritious diet. Or eat numbers; a lot of people eat numbers. People play the stock market; they’re doing nothing but eating numbers. And yet they’re always unhappy, absolutely miserable—because they never get anything. So therefore, they always hope more is coming, because they believe that if they eat enough dollar bills, eventually, something satisfactory will happen. So eating the abstractions all the time, we want more, more, more time. Confucius very wisely said “A man who understands the Tao in the morning may die with content in the evening.” Because when you understand, you don’t put your hope in time. Time won’t solve a thing.

So when we enter into the practice of meditation, of yoga, we are doing something radically unlike other human activities. Of course, the way yoga is sold in the United States—like everything else—is that it’s supposed to be good for you. It isn’t. It has nothing to do with anything that’s good for you. It’s the one activity which you do for its own sake, and not because it’s good for you; not because it will lead anywhere. Because you cannot go to the place where you are now, obviously. Yoga is to be completely here and now. That’s why the word yuj means ‘join.’ Get with it. Be completely here and now… [+]


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