First things first – I’m ashamed. Truly. It’s been nearly a year since my last blog post and my good friend Will Donbavand has convinced me to write less but more often. So heads up people – like it or not you’ll be hearing from me more often as of now! But first, here’s what I’ve been thinking about today.
Years ago, when I was about 12 years old, I somehow came into possession of a book published by what we all think of as ‘The Hare Krishnas”. They’re often seen singing and dancing along Oxford St, In London’s Glittering West End, and their HQ is just off Soho Square. led by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami they give out books, corner people for a chat and in the USA they gained a reputation for hanging out in the airports and trying to convince people that figuring out what their woes might actually mean in the larger context or their lives might be a better long term idea than attempting to run away from them for two weeks of the year. Which, of course doesn’t work anyhoo.
Any road up, the point is – I got this book. By the Hare Krishnas. And in the foreword, written by their guru, he talked about how our individuality, what we think of as ‘me’ is just an illusion as we work our way back to a great sea of consciousness from whence we actually originate. He said that when we die our ‘personality’ which is like a single drop of water, returns to this huge ocean and loses itself in the depths having returned to it’s source.
I was horrified! I’d no longer be ‘me’? By that time I was already getting a pretty strong idea about who ‘me’ was and I was determined to keep that going. I’d already been thinking about, and bucking quite hard against, the expectations of my family, my culture, my religion, getting to know my own likes and dislikes, my politics, my opinions, my talents (at that time I was mainly painting, drawing and writing stories) my physical being, my quick and agile mind – basically, I was convinced that I was awesome godammit and I’d be darned if I was going to give all that up. Spiritual evolution sounded like a bad idea if it ended up with me losing my hard fought for individuality.
Of primary importance along the way as I grew up was a TV programme called The Prisoner. I saw it first when I was about 7 but when they repeated it I was 14 and by then fully ready to take on it’s mix of politics, philosophy, surrealism, Kafka-esque themes and exegesis on the search for ones individuality and the nature of freedom in the face of all the pressures of society that conspire against ones freedom. I wont go into a long explanation of it but here’s a clip of the fantastic opening credits that not only have a superb theme tune but also give a brilliant introduction to the shows themes.
Needless to say that most of my teenage years and beyond Number 6’s fight against The Man helped me to define myself to myself. I was a free man. Free to do as I wished. I’d never be anyone’s ‘number’.
It’s funny how it goes, isn’t it? Change. How it happens, so slowly.
A couple of years ago I heard a beautiful song by Fleet Foxes called Helplessness Blues. The first verse goes like this :
I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me
But I don’t, I don’t know what that will be
I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see
Here’s a link to the song. It really is something else.
Listening to this song I’d realised how far I’d come. Somehow I was now more fully ‘me’ than I ever had been in the past. I’d left behind, many years ago, the expectations of culture, religion, tradition and much else that we see as our ‘identity’ but is in actual fact a subtle kind of ‘indoctrination’. I’d found my ‘path’ and it was , indeed, a spiritual one. It always was going to be that. Of course, I’m still an idiot for most of the day, let’s not forget that, but if I had ‘talents’ what were they for, who did they serve? Did I work this hard so that I could edify myself and massage my ego or could I actually be useful in some way to others, and maybe do something to help others who, like me, were trying to find their way along The Road Less Travelled?
In truth, there was only one answer to that question.
Once we have ‘individuated’ what do we do then? What’s the real purpose of that journey? I know some very strong individuals who are fiercely convinced of their own opinions, incredibly charismatic and can easily draw people in, but what do they actually DO, apart from pontificate and point out what’s wrong with the world, like, ALL THE TIME? And more, is the point of fighting so hard to ‘be yourself’ simply an end in itself. Is that all there is to it?
For me, and I can only speak for myself, I have a hunch that this fight for my ‘self’ is really about finding our what ‘myself’ really is, the true nature of the inner spark that is the ‘soul’, and then to take that soulful consciousness and all it holds BACK TO THE LARGER COMMUNITY and to help them find themselves too. For some people that ‘community’ might be their immediate geophysical location. For others it might be their religious community, or their racial community. It can manifest in many way. Go to places where communities meet and you’ll see that the people who lead them and you’ll see people who are strong and self evident individuals. It’s those individuals who seed and bring to fruition real, deep and lasting change. Some of them, sadly, are actually serving themselves, and that tends to end badly for them and all who know them. By their fruits ye shall know them. But it’s not difficult to find people who ‘found themselves’ and in that have discovered that the best place to be ‘A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me’ is to get down on their hands and knees knees and give their brothers and sisters, stuck in the mud of life and it’s ‘million sufferings and millions blessings’, a helping hand.
When I was 13 I could think of nothing worse than losing myself, my hard won individuality, in a sea of formless consciousness.
Now I can’t think of anything more beautiful.