Thursday, 25 November 2010
can't steer without a centre
Stephen Nachmanovitch always has something to say about whatever I'm thinking about. Thinking yesterday about life decisions, about getting caught up in endless cycles of instrumentalism and strain, I open his book this morning and read the following:
As living beings, we are naturally self-regulating and self-balancing, but in addition we have consciousness, with its attendant functions of pride, selective awareness, linear thinking, and ego maintenance. The profound difference between these two tendencies involves us in certain contradictions and difficulties.... In a healthy feedback system, trial and error have an easy, flowing relationship, and we correct ourselves without a thought. Most of the body's feedback loops are unconscious, for the very good reason that continuous judgements of value must take effect without delay, interference, or clenching caused by ego attachment.
...The extra piece that consciousness puts in is the attachment of ego to one side or the other. The ego wants to be right, but in the dynamics of life and art we are never right, we are always changing and cycling. This attachment to one pole of a dynamic cycle sets us up for all the afflictive emotions: anger, pride, envy. If one pole or the other exerts an inordinate pull on us, we can't steer because we have no centre.... On the other hand, if one pole holds something we fear, we will run in circles around ourselves to avoid it.This prolongs the fear endlessly. If I am obsessed by a thought or a pain, the only way out is to go right to the sources of the pain and find out what piece of information is dying to express itself.
...Underneath procrastination and fidgeting lies self-doubt. Self-doubt appends a litte superscripted 'but on the other hand, maybe not' to every impulse we have. We then find ourselves gnawing on each decision, changing course, retracing our steps again and again.
Consciousness may interfere with a naturally self-guiding system not only through pride but through desperation as well. It can be profoundly depressing to seem to be off-course all the time. Blake said, 'If the sun and the moon should doubt, they'd immediately go out!'
...The fundamental thing about vicious circles, by definition, is that there is no logical way out.... Fortunately, there are a number of non-logical ways out. Before we look at these we need to look at what underlies the vicious circles - fear.
Nachmanovitch 129-130, 131-132