Posted by: scintillatingspeck | November 22, 2012

No way of saving ourselves.

I have always been fascinated by the law of reversed effort.  Sometimes I call it ‘the backwards law’.  When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float… Insecurity is the result of trying to be secure… contrariwise, salvation and sanity consist in the most radical recognition that we have no way of saving ourselves.         – Alan Watts

We have no way of saving ourselves.  There are many, perhaps most, who reject this idea wholesale.  Possessed by the power of positive thinking and the deeply-furrowed beliefs of industrial civilization, there is simply no room in the brain of the average captive human to take in such a concept.  Their jaws are set, their eyes grow distant, the defense walls are solidly maintained.  And who can blame them?  Who wants to believe we can’t be saved?  Who wants to believe that atrocities are happening this very moment, and will continue to happen, despite our most passionate efforts to make them stop?  Who wouldn’t be seduced by the power of positive thinking, “creating your own reality,” forcing something to be true simply because you want it to be true?  Who wouldn’t cling to hope like a burr on a dog?

So be it.  I am leaving the average captive humans to their delusions.  I’m not writing this for them.  I think I’ve finally learned, through repeated head-banging on walls, that persuading people to accept unpalatable truths is not my line of work.  What is my line of work, then?

Slowly, it’s coming into focus, and it’s still not entirely clear, but I can make it out a bit in this shadowy place.  I think I am supposed to be a guide of some sort, a lamp-lighter, but only for those who seek me out, and only in the most non-prescriptive way.  This seems very much in line with everything that propelled me to become a librarian and a homeschooling parent.  Only this time, it’s not just about the ongoing quest for general knowledge, opening up the doors of possibility and learning– no, this time, it’s aiming for whatever redemption and sanity can be mustered in the face of certain death, yours and mine and everyone else’s.

It seems preposterous.  Several inner demons leap forward to jeer.  Who do you think you are?!  You!  You are nuts!  You think you have something to offer?  You think you have anything original to say, ever?  You think you could offer even a shred of freedom, or comfort, or peace to anyone?  These people you are supposed to help– what the fuck are you even offering them?  Give it up, you miserable, deluded, tangled-up wacko!

Demons: have a seat.  I will hear you out.  You may be right.  But I won’t allow your fear and rage to dictate what I do.  If you have truth to offer, put it out in plain view.

This backwards law, referred to in the quote above, this seeking redemption through the sure knowledge that we have no way of saving ourselves: this is the path that demands to be walked now.  It’s a path through a dark wood, and the trees are ushering me forward, their branches prodding me.  I can barely see.  Am I alone?  Sometimes I seem to be utterly alone and mostly terrified, and then I lift a lamp, a tiny flame, and I see a few faces peering at me.  Oh, we are just the same, down to the lamps we lift, the questions we ask, the anguish, the excruciating love.  I see, now.



  1. Love this, love you. You make my world larger, and brighter.

  2. Guess I’m one of those faces peering back at you, smiling.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: