Purposeful behaviour comes out of our thoughts and ideas and nowhere else – purposeful behaviour is thought therefore – no matter what we might believe to the contrary. As far as we are concerned however – in this rationally orientated world of ours – purposeful behaviour (of the successful sort, naturally) is the best thing since sliced bread. We can’t get enough of it.
This is more than just a little bit ridiculous however – all we’re ever doing with our goal-orientated activity is perpetuating our current understanding of the world. We say (of course) that our understanding is the correct one and that we are simply acting on the basis of this correct viewpoint, which means that we are progressing in a real way rather than merely perpetuating our current way of seeing things (out of inertia, out of blind conservatism, out of ‘the fear of being disturbed’). It sounds better to put it this way, it is entirely more palatable. No one likes to see themselves as ‘acting out of pure, dumb, senseless inertia’.
To state that we are ‘acting on the basis of the correct viewpoint’ might be more palatable to us, but it isn’t true. Whenever we are in GO Mode our secret agenda is to preserve the frame of reference that we are acting out of. There is the smokescreen (which is where we are ‘attaining exciting goals’, where we are ‘progressing’) and there’s what’s really going on, which is ‘us indefinitely extending the framework ahead of us so that we never have to encounter anything other than the conditioned world that is being created by that FW’. We’re playing a game, in other words, and we’re determined to keep on playing it, we’re going to keep on playing it to the bitter end. It’s ‘a game’ because it’s only true because we say it is, because it’s something we don’t really have to do (we don’t really have to perpetuate the framework, of course) but which we do all the same. We could perfectly well let go of our way of looking at things if we wanted to, but we don’t want to. We are – on the contrary –maximally resistant to ever doing this. We’re maximally resistant to ‘taking the risk’.
This isn’t to say that we need to stop engaging in any behaviour that’s purposeful, that we should reject any behaviour that is ‘carried out for a concrete reason’. That isn’t what we’re saying at all; as Sessan Amakuki (1952 p135-6) points out here –
Without claiming that the practise of meditation will always lead at once to the removal of ignorance and the opening of enlightenment, yet to be able to sit quiet for a time and turn one’s attention within oneself is a great advantage in ordinary life, and this is the beginning of meditation. People these days have their heads boiling with thought and are ever turned outwards as if searching for something. They have forgotten how to still the heart and turn within for the inward vision. In fact they know the way of going forward, but not how to withdraw. In controlling the traffic at cross-roads, we have the traffic lights, Go! And Stop! If there were only the Go! and not the Stop! accidents would be inevitable. The Stop! is essential. Modern people only strive to rush on, as if they were all in a horse-race, and they have lost the power of withdrawing and reflecting. They go ahead and go ahead, but in the end there is a deadlock, a jam, and they finish up the pathetic victims of a spiritual disaster. By paying attention to how to withdraw, by turning within and reflecting, one can reach the inexhaustible treasure there, can experience directly the spiritual Paradise of Amida.
We need both GO! and STOP! – if we never stopped then we’d lose sight of what all our goal-orientated activity was about in the first place, and so we’d end up ‘controlling for the sake of controlling’, ‘keeping busy for the sake of keeping busy’, and so on, and this is exactly what – collectively speaking – has happened to us. We’re ‘keeping busy for the sake of keeping busy’ and if anyone ever tries to draw attention to this they’ll get shouted down from all sides.
‘Running for the sake of running’ or ‘playing the game for the sake of playing the game’ comes down to burying our heads in the sand and that’s a general strategy for life – we may note – that never turns out particularly well! It’s not a smart move. When we’re stuck in GO Mode all the time, from morning till night, then we’re headed for a crash – it’s as simple as that. Staying in GO Mode all the time means that our priority is to stick with the way that we have of seeing the world and trying to fix all the problems that arise on this basis (including – of course – all those problems that arise as a direct consequence of us being stuck in this narrow view). When this strategy fails to work out for us (as it always does) we do our best to stay hopeful and keep on trying, which we see as ‘being positive’ – all that’s really happening however is that we’re ‘sticking with our established approach because it’s too challenging to try something new’. There is – therefore – nothing very ‘positive’ about this at all – it is, on the contrary, the epitome of ‘copping out’.
This is a state of being in which we would prefer to stick to a failing strategy (and as a result endlessly involve ourselves in futile activity) rather than see that our whole approach is wrong. In this state of existence, we opt to spend all of our time doing something that just doesn’t work (and keep on hoping that one day it somehow will) and living our lives in this very flimsy comfort zone rather than going back to the drawing board and trying something completely different. We would – in other words – prefer to dig into the position that we’re in and put a lot of energy into validating it to ourselves, rather than give it up for the bad job that it is. The problem is that we honestly don’t believe that there is any other way, that there is any other way of seeing things, other than the one we already know about. To let go of what we know (when ‘what we know’ is synonymous, as far as we are concerned, with ‘all that there is’) the ultimate existential risk. Logic itself argues that we should not take such a risk, and so if we are ruled by the rational mind then we won’t do it. We will not even dream of taking such a risk.
Logic is not to be trusted in this matter, however. Rational thought is not to be trusted, and the reason for this is that thought (or logic) cannot – by the very nature of the mechanics that make it up – is not capable of seeing that there could be such a thing as a valid viewpoint which isn’t the same as it. Logic is a jealous god, a god that won’t tolerate any competitors. When we adopt a specific viewpoint we get to see a specific view and the only way to see any other view of the world is to give up the viewpoint which gives rise to it. This is therefore the whole problem – because of the entropy always associated with any specific viewpoint the information relating to all other views is missing to us, and so we can’t help concluding that our angle, our way of looking at things, is the only way. As Carlos Castaneda says, we’re trapped in one particular ‘furrow’, and we can’t see out over its edges.
This is the Prison of Purposefulness, therefore – just so long as we’re continuingly being purposeful (which is to say, just as long as we’re hooked on ‘logically analysing our situation and then trying to act on the basis of the results of our analysis’) then we will never see out of the particular furrow that we’re in. We’re not saying that we should never be purposeful therefore (which would be an absurd thing to say) we’re saying that freedom lies not in completely identifying with any specific viewpoint, which means that we don’t fall into the trap of being totally concrete about things. ‘Concreteness’ comes about as a result of the closed (or collapsed) state of mind, and whilst we always know where we are with a ‘concrete reality’, concrete (or literal) realities aren’t actually real. Freedom – on the other hand – comes from ‘not over-valuing rationality’ – the rational mind has its role to play, but we don’t make the very big mistake of granting it ultimate authority. We are aware that what says thought says is true is very far from being the full picture and so we’ll take its statements with a pinch of salt. If we value our freedom then we’ll never give thought authority over us; if on the other hand security rather than freedom is our priority then we will stick with our thoughts all the way!
What this comes down to, we could say, is not being afraid to stop and reflect on what’s going on. This however raises the question as to how we ought to go about ‘not being afraid’ – this is easier said than done, after all! The one thing we do know is that ‘how not to be afraid’ isn’t a problem that can’t be solved; there’s no ‘formula for courage’ because courage means letting go of all formulae! The only way to solve a problem is by identifying with a fixed viewpoint because it is this fixed VP that gives us our black-and-white (or concrete) picture of the world and so we can say that identifying with a fixed viewpoint is itself the problem we say that we’re trying to solve. Looking at the world in a particular rigid way and then going full steam ahead trying to fix all the problems that come into existence as a result of us taking this narrow and rigid view is the problem. The point is therefore that it is our rigid rule-based approach to life that generates all the problems in the first place – ‘whenever there is a rule there is an error’, after all (or as we could also say, ‘laws are the cause of crime’). When we attempt to flat-out control the world (which is what thought always does if left to its own devices) then it is this very controlling which creates the situation that needs to be controlled. This is, therefore, ‘the tautology that we never spot’.
In conclusion, there are two keys things we can say about purposeful behaviour –  is that it is rigid (since by insisting on one particular outcome we making any other outcome illegal), and  is that it is blind (because in place of any actual sensitivity to our situation – sensitivity that gives rise to intelligence – all we have is obstinate, bull-headed forcing, which, as we know, is quintessentially dumb). All we care about is pushing ahead to the predetermined goal – we’re not going to allow anything else to influence our agenda. This is why when we can say that when there is only GO! we are headed for a painful collision with reality. ‘STOP!’ sounds feeble to us, it smacks of failure or giving up, of being cowardly and unadventurous, whilst what is really happening here is that we are allowing ‘what’s out there’ to influence our theories of the world, our models or ideas of the world. We are taking in actual information; we’re stepping out of our box! GO Mode on its own is the modality of a robot, therefore. Or, as we could also say, GO Mode ‘on its own’ is all about promoting and perpetuating illusions, chief amongst them being the illusion of the ego-construct itself.
Image – peakpx.com