The Twist

Life has a hidden twist in it. Or rather we should say that when we live life in the way that we always do live it, then it has a hidden twist (or glitch) in it.

 

The twist that we’re talking about here is very easy to explain – life isn’t purposeful and yet we nevertheless live it on purpose.  This involves ‘a twist’ because once we start living life on purpose then we can’t stop, we can’t go back. What’s more, we can’t see any way in which life couldn’t be purposeful – we’ve become incapable of seeing that it could be any other way. This means that we’re living life one way, as if it were one thing, whilst really it is another thing entirely – something that we really don’t understand and this puts a kind of ‘kink’ or ‘glitch’ in life that keeps tripping us up. We’re somehow ‘at odds’ with the basic nature of things and we can’t see it.

 

There are therefore two parts to this twist – one part is that we can’t go back to the way life used to be, and the other part is that we can’t understand how life could be any way other than purposeful. That has become incomprehensible to us – if we don’t live our life on purpose, deliberately, by design, according to our intentions, then how is it going to happen, we ask? Someone has to be in the driver’s seat, choosing what direction we’re going to go in, deciding what is going to happen next, avoiding problems that may lie ahead, making plans for the future, etc…

 

Both of these two parts make up one and the same twist of course – we’re stuck in ‘not being able to go back’ and we’re also stuck in ‘not being able to see that there is anywhere to go’. We’re caught up in living life purposefully and that’s that. It won’t happen for us spontaneously any more – if we don’t make it happen then it’s not going to. So now we’re in this situation where we’ve got this thing that we have to push around ahead of us wherever we go, like a rusty old supermarket trolley full of rubbish, and as soon as we stop wrestling it and struggling with it the thing goes off the track and ends up in the ditch. This is why as a culture we’re always banging on about ‘having a goal’ or ‘having a plan’. It’s also why we’re always talking about how great it is to be motivated.

 

‘Motivation’ is what gives us the energy and stamina to somehow keep pushing ahead with the old shopping trolley, uphill struggle though it is. It is the magic ingredient that makes it possible for us to keep the show on the road, and keep forging ahead to our Big Goal (whatever that might be) and with all the necessary (and usually very tedious) steps that lead up to it. We have to keep on ticking all the boxes until we hopefully get where we really want to get in life and finding the motivation to do this can be a challenge. It’s a challenge to do all the stuff that we’ve got to do along the way because we’re not really interested in that but we have to do it all the same and that’s why ‘motivation’ is such a magical word for us. It sounds good to us because that’s what’s missing! When faced with the artificial type of life that we’re supposed to be getting on with our natural motivation tends to depart and that’s why we have to go to motivational seminars and such-like nonsense.

 

There is something very terrible about all this talk of ‘motivation’ and ‘strategies’ and ‘tools’ and ‘goals’. It’s a horrible way of speaking. We shouldn’t have to be looking for ways to trick ourselves to stay motivated; we shouldn’t have to be using goals and targets all the time as a means of giving meaning to what we’re doing. Pretty clearly, something has gone badly wrong when we have to do this. What’s really going on here – loathe as we are to see it – is that we have had to substitute all of this goal-driven stuff, all of this ‘extrinsic motivation’, for ‘intrinsic motivation’, which is motivation that happens by itself. It’s as if the engine in our car has conked out and we have to get out and start pushing the thing ourselves instead. This will work fine if we’re going down a hill, or even on the flat if we’re strong enough, but once we start going up against a major incline we’re going to run out of steam very quickly. Then we’re in trouble because the car’s going to start rolling back down the hill again, in exactly the opposite direction to the one we want it to go in.

 

Replacing intrinsic with extrinsic motivation is going to prove untenable in the long run not just because its unremitting hard work with no actual joy or creativity in it, but also because the whole thing is inevitably going to reverse on us at some point or other. Our own will, as indomitable or as trusty as we might like to think it to be, is going to turn traitor on us and let us down. It’s going to start working against us instead of for us. It’s going to ‘flip-over’  – having been pushed one way as far as it will go the pendulum is going to reach its limit and go into reverse on us. It’s going to swing the other way. The fact that we can ‘achieve our goals’ is one thing and we’re very fond of trumpeting on about how great and wonderful and inspirational this is, but just as well known (if much less likely to hit the headlines) is the fact that we are forever undermining and sabotaging ourselves too. We are forever pursuing ‘perverse goal’ – goals that if we were in our right mind we wouldn’t really want to achieve, goals that are to our disadvantage rather than our advantage. This ‘reverse-current’ of our will-power is every bit as well known to us as the positive variety, it’s just that we don’t like talking about it so much.

 

This ‘reverse current’ of will might seem incomprehensible to us, it might seem like something that we ought to be able to ‘therapize’ away by coming out with lots of frothy psychobabble or ‘positive thinking’ (or possibly CBT) but we only think this because we don’t understand what we’re dealing with. We’re trying to ‘will away’ glitches that have been caused by our own wilfulness; we’re trying to deliberately iron out problems that are the result of our own pernicious ‘deliberateness’. What we’re actually coming up against here is the resistance that has been set up by the over-use of our rational will – this is what happens when we try to ‘rationalize life’ and make everything into a puzzle we have to solve, or task that we have to purposefully do. When life is made into a problem that needs to be solved or a task that has to be completed then resistance comes into the picture and then we find out (eventually) that we’re actually fighting ourselves.

 

As we started off this discussion by saying, life is essentially spontaneous in nature (i.e. it isn’t governed by rules) – it isn’t purposeful, it isn’t a movement that is on its way to a specified goal! As Alan Watts says over and over again, life isn’t something that’s done for a reason, in order to ‘get somewhere’ by it. The universe didn’t come into existence for a reason, it doesn’t exist in order serve our rational will. There’s no ‘plan for life’! Sometimes we hear talk about ‘God’s plan for us’ but this is the very same thing – it’s our own absurdly clunky rational thinking projected onto God because we can’t imagine anything else apart from ‘goal-orientated activity’. There always has to be a goal – where we are right now can never be good enough! There always has to be something missing, something that we need to reach out for. But all of this is quite ludicrous – we don’t live so that we can kill ourselves trying to obtain this, that or the other dumb concrete goal. To imagine that this is the case is to degrade life to the level of a game…

 

The ‘twist’ is therefore just another way of talking about resistance. The twist is what happens as a result of resistance – we’re resisting life happening the way it wants to happen by imposing our own brand of order on it. We’re trying to make life be the way we think it ought to be and we never see anything odd about this at all. We always try to make life be the way we think it ought to be simply because that’s ‘the way we think it should be’… We never look any further than this. That’s the end of the matter, as far as we’re concerned. We never look any further than ‘what we think’ – we never look any further than our own thoughts. What we have called ‘the twist’ is nothing other than our own resistance to life. When we strive to achieve a goal that we see as being good and wholesome that is resistance and when we perversely go against ourselves and ‘score an own goal’ that’s resistance too. It’s all resistance. Anything purposeful is resistance, by definition! We’re trying to achieve something that isn’t already the case and so by definition we’re resisting what is the case. Resistance is our basic activity – when we try to promote and further our ‘idea of ourselves’ this is resistance and when we ‘shoot ourselves in the foot’ this also is resistance. It’s all what we have called ‘the twist’.

 

Life itself isn’t twisted, we are! We are the twist, we are the glitch. We are the spanner in the works. This of course all sounds very negative (reprehensibly negative, in fact) to our rational-purposeful way of looking at things. No square-jawed, steely-eyed, high-profile motivational speaker is going to go along with this! The formulation of our predicament that we just presented here doesn’t give us a leg to stand on. It isn’t affirming for our concept of ourselves at all and that’s what self-help gurus, popular psychologists (or any kind of conventional psychologist, come to that) always offer us – affirmation for our idea of ourselves. affirmation for the self-concept is a lot like flattery – it might feel good at the time but it certainly isn’t doing us any favours in the long run!

 

Life’s a lot simpler without the twist. That’s like being a child again – life works with you not against you. With the twist – which we can’t see and don’t know to be there (since it is us) – complications and entanglements keep on piling up. Things don’t go smoothly, even though we will have periods when we think that ‘things are going our way’. The very notion of ‘things going our way’ is glitched however – life isn’t supposed to be going our ‘way’, it’s supposed to be going its way! Life isn’t supposed to be falling in line with some arbitrary mental construct (or idea) that we have come up with, and that we have put on a pedestal as if it were the most important thing in the universe. If that’s the way that we want to live life then we’re in for a bumpy ride and no mistake…

 

Ultimately, those bumps aren’t a bad thing though. They’re there to remind us of something – they’re there to remind us that life isn’t supposed to be purposeful! Or as we could also say, the ‘bumps’ are there to remind us that we aren’t really the idea that we have of ourselves. It helps to see that these bumps – our trials and tribulations – aren’t a bad thing. It helps because then we don’t take against them so much! We won’t hate them so much. Insight into the nature of things is always liberating – insight is always liberating because it shows us that everything is already in the process of sorting itself out. Everything is already in the process of sorting itself out and so there’s no need for us to intervene. ‘Insight’ is actually the mirror-image of paranoia in this way, because paranoia always shows us that something bad is happening and that we very much do need to intervene! Paranoia is ‘twisted insight’…

 

Insight shows us that we can’t do anything about being identified with the thinking self, even as it shows us that we aren’t really that self. We can’t do anything about our situation – if we try to then we just make matters worse. We pull the knot even tighter than it already is. The way that we are is the way that we are and that’s that! We are the way that we are but that’s OK because when we act as the purposeful self (as we always do act) then this creates a backlash which works – if we let it – as a reminder to remind us that we’re aren’t really this ‘purposeful self’, that life isn’t really this ‘deliberate’ or ‘forced’ thing that we have made it into. This isn’t a reminder to ‘do something about it’ however because as we have said there’s nothing we can do about it! It’s a reminder in the sense that it reminds us to remember something that we have always known, deep-down, but which we have nevertheless forgotten…

 

Knowing that everything is already in the process of sorting itself out means that we can ‘relax into’ whatever it is that is happening, so to speak. And if we can’t relax into what’s going on then that’s OK too because that too will sort itself out – all we need to do in this case is ‘relax into not relaxing’, therefore! Whatever level the tension or conflict exists on, we can relax into it being there and in this case, even though the twist is still there, and very much in painful evidence, we know on a very deep level of our awareness that it’s OK for the twist to be there because the twist ‘is its own solution’, so to speak. When we know that it’s OK for the twist (or glitch) that’s in life to be there (when we know that we don’t have to fight against it or try to fix it) then – curiously – knowing that stops the twist being the twist. We’re connected with our deeper awareness of who we are (the deeper awareness that knows that there’s no need to ‘do stuff on purpose’) and so there is no more divide. The twist only functions as a twist when we resist it – paradoxically therefore, if we allow it to be a glitch then it no longer is a glitch….

 

 

Image:The Birth of Venus (Audio Editor glitch) by Omletofon

 

 

 

 

 

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