We humans are not ruled by science, logic, politicians or even our deepest emotions and desires. We are actually ruled by a super weird narrative force perhaps best described as Myth.
Myth is present in nearly every aspect of society. It is a force more powerful than ecstasy and Carl Cox combined. Without it, no task great or small has any sense of urgency or meaning.
What is myth? Well I am not talking about obvious fictions like Zeus, Christianity or world government. I am talking of myths like beliefs— our everyday clichés, stereotypes, and prejudices. These are the myths that interest and concern me. These myths are more powerful than reason and logic. They give nearly all excitement and urgency to reality. Without myths, our lives have no necessity, that is, no real and felt significance.
Significance? Well significance is just a word, mind you. And for all you Platonists out there, sorry, but there are no eternal forms or concepts behind words. And for the Cartesians, there aren't even any ideas behind concepts! There is nothing like that! Myth is what drives people to expel energy towards goals. People believe in myths. Myth surrounds us and makes the struggle to survive possible and doable. Facts and logic are too detailed and self-contradictory for us. Myths are the drugs that we need to get us motivated. So why is that these half-baked mythical patterns are just so much simpler for our brains to grasp? I don't know. We just accept and adopt them. Somehow. Some way. For example:
Take this common myth of "how to unite people" from the 80's:
"In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?"
-President Ronald Reagan, to the 42nd General Assembly of the United Nations, September 21, 1987
This statement makes no sense, logically. War is alien? Then why do we have wars all the time? Can war can unite us? Even civil war? What? Is that true? Maybe it is? Is that logical? Hell no.
Many philosophers would have you believe that humans are reasonable or rational.
"Cogito ergo sum," Descartes said.
A literal translation from the Latin is "thinking thus being."
Cogito ergo sum is often translated into English as, "I think therefore I am."
We all know that last one, but do we really believe that one can predicate being only to those who think? (translation: Do we really believe that rocks do not exist because they do not think?) Do we believe that people who spend more time thinking have more existence than those who do not? Do we believe that we are all alone in our thoughts? Should we listen to the hippies when they say the entire universe is one single being living in separate time/space realities? Is there any evidence for that? Well that never stopped Teilhard de Chardin from his insane (yet admittedly well-organized and strangely-beautiful-in-an-LSD-trip way) rantings.
This is why I believe myth (other better words are maybe "narrative" or. "parole") is ultimately more important than reason or logic. Myth gives rise to Art, civilization, politics, and so much more.
But the rationalists would not be happy. Why not? Just because the so-called "rational brain" can construct a "real world" based on reasonable or logical phenomena is nothing very impressive.
Is Logic supreme?
Is "logic" even logical?
Well let's see:
Logic does not help explain the pain of existence.
Logic is certainly no friend to politics.
Logic tells us that religion is an unkind lie.
Logic is often the last appeal before extreme violence.
Logic could not even save us from poetry about snowflakes in 8th grade English class.
I counted till they danced so
Their slippers leaped the town –
And then I took a pencil
To note the rebels down –
And then they grew so jolly
I did resign the prig –
And ten of my once stately toes
Are marshalled for a jig!
- Emily Dickinson.
Am I fucking stupid or does that suck?
Logic. What good is it... Logically?
A cockroach is perfectly logical— every action a simple extension of trial and error logic. But a cockroach is not 'reasonable'. Maybe there is nothing very "logical" about reason or "reasonable" about logic.
"I wonder who it was that defined man as a rational animal? It was the most premature definition ever given. Man is many things but he is not rational. I am glad he is not, after all"
-Oscar Wilde, A Portrait of Dorian Gray
Most party people (ravers, clubbers, rockers, etc.) know that pure reason is not a good thing. A simple proof for this hypothesis (as if we had to prove that life is not reasonable!) would be an intense observation of the character of Dr. Spock on the hit 60's TV series Star Trek.
Spock the Vulcan is very logical, but his logic overwhelms his emotions. He is a stiff. No little kid (not even the really nerdy ones) ever want to grow up to be like Spock. Okay some do, but the exception somehow proves the rule.
But in "The Next Generation" series, the writers give up altogether on the character of a likeable Vulcan and invented an android named Data to take his place on the helm.
Data is as logical as Spock and often saves the entire crew in a tight situation. The reason his character is more likeable is because he seeks to become more human; something most of us who grew up in the Reagan 80's can easily identify with. Spock never wanted to become human. He always sought to become MORE Vulcan.
So what is it to be human? It's many things— to strive for greatness, to laugh and cry at the sane time, to dream of things that you want to have, to pose as something you are clearly not, to fail repeatedly, occasionally succeed, and to die. But not, as a God or at least a phoenix, to be continually reborn for all eternity.
This is not logical behavior. According to logic, we should perhaps just be born, behave, get good grades, find a suitable mate, shit out 2.5 kids, and then start a 401K pension plan.
Notice the further impotence of logic...
(yes, I fully realize that continuing to use a 60's television sci-fi character from a bad show to explain my theories about anarchy as rational behavior is a bit weak)
In the aforementioned television shows, Spock and Data are both given superhuman strength equivalent to several times that of a human. Curious? They are both logical AND many times stronger than humans. Maybe this is meant to imply that logic itself is a source of weakness which needed to be augmented with physical strength?
Cartoonish superheroes like He-Man and Superman are typically muscle-bound and also very logical. And they do not paint, write dirty poems, or go to raves in their spare time. In fact, one has a hard time imagining Superman cracking open a Budweiser, watching a football game, and then fucking Lois Lane on the living room floor during halftime.
Why? Because underneath the muscles and morality Superman has no soul! He doesn't have any myths to believe in that are greater than himself. Thus he has no sense of humor or sexuality. Superman is just a flying masturbator. And the magazines he jerks off to are his own comic series.
In fact, the very idea of an existential (independent-minded) or postmodern (existentially disappointed) superhero is unthinkable. This actually encroaches upon a zone of absurdity. And a great superhero with a sense of humor? Impossible. It's always the villains with the sense of humor.
Potentially from a rational or logical viewpoint, the ultimate animal life form is the cockroach. The cockroach lives its life like a good little modern North American citizen, creeping around when no one is looking and stealing and filthying up everything it can.
Which brings us to the question of will...
How does a cockroach decide to what to do?
Certainly it must have a will.
It has a strong desire to live, as evidenced by its pervasiveness. It thrives in an environment which is especially hateful and murderous towards it. One does not question the karmic value of killing a cockroach in one's bathroom.
Cockroaches are associated with disease and dying, but this is a reputation undeserved. The cockroach spends its time working for itself and seems primarily concerned with food and procreation. Even though it remains unaware of the fact that it is trespassing, the penalty is still death without judgment.
True, cockroaches have probably killed more humans than marijuana, and have driven more men insane. Yet cockroaches are legal and marijuana remains illegal. A shady man walking around a bus station with a couple ounces of dried cockroaches in his backpack will not spend a year in jail, even if fully prosecuted in a court of Law.
Yes, as unconcerned as governments are with cockroaches, the cockroach reciprocally seems equally uninterested. It cannot seem to help this no matter how hard it tries. Perhaps it thinks things like, "If I get involved it only makes me part of the problem", or "I will support evolution for my species when it appears on the ballot". Cockroaches do not demand equal representation in Congress. Cockroaches do not choose organic produce. Cockroaches do not drink Boddington's and Guinness. Is there something tragic in that?
But then what is tragedy?
A human is considered tragic when he cannot face up to his own stupidity even when it starts to hold him back. A cockroach is not tragic because it has no concern over its own stupidity and simply keeps on surviving at any cost. There is no immediacy and no eternal vision to the cockroach's life, and there is certainly no beauty.
Where am I going with this? So far I've discusses humans, cockroaches, and Star Trek. What could be so spooky about that? Well read on...
The actual point of this essay is not to prove the amazing number of similarities between cockroaches and people who are slaves to what they falsely perceive as logic. The point is rather something else. Something which Captain Kirk the explorer/killer wouldn't understand.
You see, the cockroach is blessed with a limited number of socio-political motifs. It can eat, sleep, mate and scurry when discovered by spiteful predators.
Maybe because we the people have no natural predators, we develop a false sense of importance. We save money for the afterlife, bomb defenseless countries, and preach the curious merits of being from countries that "celebrate freedom but don't practice it".
But in most cases, the cockroach for all its faults is still a model academic and a model citizen.
In summary, cockroaches are shit and people are cool because I like them better (although marginally).
Are you still there?
Can't you see that thinking about anything to an extreme level is not such a good idea anyway. Why would anyone assume that the philosophical answers to life require a Ph.D to read and understand?
Could it be that philosophy is a fascist plot? A ruse? A ploy to make a quick buck? I mean, what could be more non-commercial than studying the great questions of humanity... and then coming up with answers that no one except other philosophers can understand? It's ludicrous. The answer... if there is an answer at all... is very simple.
For me it all comes back to what motivates people to get off their ass. Something like Myth = Fiction * Truth. Is that the great equation of human significance? Are we are only as great as the reality we create for ourselves? Then with all this potential to reach for the stars, why do we continuously limit ourselves live like such creepy crawly bugs?
Well to think of it like that makes me wanna go spooky.