Detachment And Intimacy

Oddly, ‘detachment’ and ‘intimacy’ turn out to be the very same thing. We wouldn’t normally think that this could be the case but it is. Detachment (in the Buddhist sense of the word) may be thought of as distance (or separation) from the ego-construct. It is in (or through) this ‘distance’ that everything spontaneous in life is to be found – fun, humour, irony, creativity, emotional warmth, love, and intimacy. It all happens as a result of this distance and so ‘no distance’ equals the lack of all these qualities. The gap really means that this construct is not seen as being real in an unqualified way but merely as an arbitrary construct. To see the self-construct as an ‘arbitrary construct’ is the very essence of detachment, therefore! When there is no gap (no awareness of the arbitrariness of our conditioned sense of self) then the self-construct gets to be verified, it gets to be ‘all there is’. This is pure attachment, therefore – when there’s no gap then this means that we’re attached to the SC and its view of the world and so nothing else exists for us.

When there is no detachment from the self-construct then it is impossible to have any genuine intimacy (‘intimacy’ meant here in the sense of ‘closeness’, or ‘lack of design/ artificiality’). Everything the SC does is artificial, all of its relationships are artificial, which is to say, they’re not really relationships at all. An artificial (or thought-moderated) relationship is not a relationship at all because we never reach out beyond ourselves and our preconceptions. In this case we aren’t extending ourselves, as M. Scott Peck puts it. It ‘takes two to tango’, so it is said, but in the state of narcissistic withdrawal we’re performing a lonely ‘dance with ourselves’.

The self-construct can be obsessively engaged in its controlling, so to speak, but it can never be ‘detached’. ‘Attached’ means controlling – it means ‘like and dislike’, ‘preferences’, ‘fear and desire’; it equals ‘the map’, ‘the belief’, ‘the theory or the model of reality’. It is fundamentally artificial therefore and no matter how it strains it can never be ‘non-artificial’. No matter how the model strives to improve itself it can never cease being ‘the model’. Needless to say, it doesn’t feel good to be distant from life or distant from other people (because in this case we are distant from our own true nature) and so by the same token there is something wholesome and beneficial about being ‘distant’ from the self-construct. It’s healthy for there to be a gap between us and the self-construct, in other words. That gap equals consciousness, we might say – ‘no gap’ equals ‘no consciousness’. If there is no gap then I am the ego-construct and the ego-construct has no consciousness in it, only ‘mechanical reacting’. The life of the SC (endlessly celebrated by our culture as it is) equals ‘pure mechanical reacting’ therefore, and that is hardly going to be a lot of fun.

We could also say that ‘no detachment from these self-construct’ equals ‘being the machine’, and – as we have said – there aren’t a hell of a lot of laughs in being the machine. Machines aren’t renowned for their sense of humour after all; they aren’t renowned for being interested in anything doesn’t have any bearing on their own agendas and this is of course only what we would expect from a machine – all of this is perfectly normal for a machine, which can only ever operate within the specifications of its own operational parameters. The interesting thing here therefore is how it is that we are so blind to our own ‘machine-like’ qualities when we are operating in this mode – we get to be a machine that for the life of it can’t see itself to be a machine! We’re terribly, terribly limited but this limitation is profoundly invisible to us.

We imagine ourselves to be something else of course, something that isn’t a machine, some that bears no resemblance whatsoever to a machine. It isn’t quite right to say this however because we don’t actually imagine ourselves to be anything – we just assume. We assume ourselves to be something that is quite unlike (absolutely unlike) what we really are and – what’s more – we never bother to examine or look any further into what it is we think we are. We assume ourselves to be something that is more than just ‘an artificial thing’ (a puppet of the thinking mind) but we never stop to go into what that might be – we’re in far too much of a hurry to fulfil the needs of the conditioned identity to worry about the bigger picture. We’re way too busy being driven by the mechanical compulsions that are operating on us to reflect on what this compulsive motivation is all about, we just have this belief that ‘everything is going to be great’ – in some unexamined way – when the compulsion is obeyed. We assume the existence of some bone fide self that is to enjoy the prize, but really there is only the mechanical compulsion (which is not anyone obviously). In reality there is only the mechanical compulsion and the perception of an autonomous self is an illusion that we obtain by identifying with that compulsion.

What this comes down therefore to is this concept that we have of winning, which is the prized outcome of successful controlling. ‘Winning’ just means that we have managed to obey the compulsion that is operating on us; there is no actual ‘thing that is being won’; that’s a delusion, there is just the relief of pressure that we invertedly experience as being an actual positive (which is like perceiving the cessation of constant pain as pleasure). Nothing really has been obtained. We know that winning is great, we know that winning is what life is all about, and that it ‘says who we are’ (i.e. it says we are a winner) but we never stop to consider what the hell all this business really means. We never stop to consider that what’s actually happening here is that we are being acted upon by an external compulsion (or mechanical force) that has nothing to do with us. Somehow – in some bizarre fashion – we have created this illusion of ‘ourselves as effective independent agents’ out of the successful obeying of a mechanical force that has absolutely nothing to do with us! And if we fail to successfully obey the external mechanical force, we create an identity out of that too. We create a loser identity…

Such is the ‘life’ of a machine; machines don’t have any autonomy (that would be contradiction in terms), they are just slaves to the rules that define them. They are the rules which define them. When we identify with the self-construct then we glamorise the situation and perceive an autonomous self which is fulfilling (in a glorious fashion) its own autonomous wishes. The illusion of autonomy is what makes the self ‘glamorous’ for us, we might say, whilst in reality this perception is a total and utter hallucination – as we have said, there is only the situation of ‘mechanical rules defining us’, or ‘mechanical rules deterministically playing themselves out through us’, nothing more.

Oddly, when we identify with these external mechanical forces (which is to say, when we become ‘congruent’ with them) then as a result of this congruency, we confuse ‘what the external forces are compelling us to do’ with ‘what we genuinely or freely wish to do’) then the hallucination of the self-construct as a bona fide entity is generated, along with all of its necessary but very tedious dramas. When we say ‘along with all its dramas’ what we mean is – in essence – the heady mix that is made up of ‘excitement when things seem to get going away’ and ‘annoyance and disappointment when they don’t’. Nothing else has any place in our dramas – only gain and loss, only advantage and disadvantage. If it’s not to do with gain or loss then it’s not ‘a drama’; in that case it would be something else, something unrelated to the SC.

The drama seems meaningful to us when the way in which we see the world and the way the thinking mind tells us to see it are one and the same thing. The more of a gap there is between these two things the less meaningful it will seem! The gap, as we have said, corresponds to ‘actual consciousness’ and consciousness has no interest in dramas; it is ‘detached’ from all mind-created dramas, in other words. Because the thought-created drama seems meaningful to us we engage fully and because we are engaging fully with it the perception we have of being this mind-created identity gets concretized – it becomes ‘subjectively real’ to us, in other words. It becomes subjectively real in a very big way – it becomes the most real thing in the whole wide world for us! The so-called ‘engagement’ of the SC with its dramas is not the same thing as ‘engagement in life’ however – it is something very different indeed. What I’m ‘engaging’ with in this case are my own projections, my own projected desires and fears – I am ‘engaged’ with my own shadow in other words, which results – as Jung says – in an unpleasant alienation from the world rather than any sort of engaged relationship with it. I have created my own reality, so to speak, only the reality that I’ve created isn’t actually real. It’s a ‘phony reality’, or as we could also say, a game. It is a game I can’t help playing.

When we put it like this we can see that it is the self-construct that is ‘detached’ (in the common sense of the word) not consciousness; all the SC cares about are its own projections (which seal us off in our own private little ‘cocoon’, to use Jung’s term) it’s not reality that we are ‘attached to’ but what we project onto it. When the all important ‘gap’ comes into being (the gap or incongruence between my perception of the world and how thought tells me to perceive it) then – as we started off by saying – this is when actual spontaneity (i.e. honesty) comes back into the picture. Life itself comes back into the picture as a result of us not operating from the basis of a fixed geometrical point, which is what the conditioned identity is. Thought only works in terms of ‘fixed geometry’, after all. In conclusion, then, we can say that it is only when we are ‘detached’ (i.e. from the ubiquitous self-construct) that we can have any sort of genuine relationship with or interest in anything. We’re not detached from life; we’re detached from the compulsory game of the self or ego-construct, which is itself a state of absolute alienation.