(Originally posted on WordPress, September 30, 2008)
There comes a time when you’ve got to face the fact that the common denominator in all the fucked up situations you get into is you.
I could list the crazy shit I’d done, but there’s really no point. Suffice it to say that I could go toe to toe with anyone you’ve ever met for having a weird-ass past.
I’ve made some strange choices. I’ve done some dumb shit. I’ve been a pretty intense guy.
I’ve got a story I could tell you about me in the past, about the mental stuff I’ve done and been. It involves drugs, sex, and rock and roll.
Problem is, I always had an ambition. Deep down somewhere in me since I was a young kid I always wanted to be a philosopher. Not to ‘think deep thoughts’ as such, nor for the mystique of the thing, although to be honest I have gotten lost in both those sillinesses at various points.
No - it was because every now and then I’d get a glimpse of something. Or more specifically every now and then I’d see the world from a certain angle and everything would make sense.
I think it’s hard to describe what philosophy meant to me, but I’ll try.
For me, philosophy was the only possible answer. You see, once, when I was young, I looked around the world in which I lived and saw something unifying all the people in it, myself included. And that unifying force wasn’t good. There was some common darkness that united all humanity in a veil of delusion.
It was like a mesh of moral judgements that only existed in our minds. Like each person contained a whole constructed universe of division. Like everyone in the world, or at least everyone I could see, even (especially?) on the news or in positions of power.
That all humanity was subject to some kind of elementary flaw - a flaw that was completely universal and highly specific.
That was the kicker, for me. That the fucked-up-ness of the world was not random. I mean sure, the ways in which that fucked-up-ness expressed itself seemed infinite, and infinitely cruel.
But it seemed to me then that the basic mechanics of hatred were completely universal. It was the same mechanism, the same process.
And I resolved that if I could get to the bottom of that process, then maybe - just maybe - I could do something for the world in which I lived which would actually help it.
Now before you get all gung-ho, don’t get me wrong. I could talk for days on this subject - it has been the grand obsession of my life. The truth is though that it’s led me into some twisted places. Just as hate is hate is hate, no matter the context and no matter the scale, obsession is obsession is obsession.
I have been obsessed for a very long time.
A lot of my life I’ve been indolent. Wasting time for timewasting’s sake. You see one of the things about an obsession is that it gives you huge energy when you follow it, but everything else seems pointless beyond measure. I’ve spent a lot of time in trivial pursuits and I’ve not done many basic things that I really should have done. To give you an example I’ve beaten a vast number of computer games, but I’ve never learned to drive.
I don’t mind that much. I live in Edinburgh. It’s a lovely city for a walk.
The times in my life I haven’t been wasting time, I’ve moved with furious energy. All-consuming, burning energy levels. Like a kamikaze I’ve thrown myself at things and very often those things have broken me.
Don’t worry, I’m not bitching. All my really deep wounds are self-inflicted.
But recently, about a year ago now, I was introduced to the work of a man called Eckhart Tolle. He’s a German, a man who I would classify as a philosopher. A real one. The kind I’d always wanted to be. The kind I’d always thought of myself as.
I remember the first time I read something he wrote. I was in a hotel room in London, with a bunch of strangers I was trying to impress. The book was ‘Stillness Speaks.’ My friend Owen had been telling me to read Tolle for ages and, lacking anything else to do within reaching distance of my hand, I picked it up and opened it to a random page.
I don’t remember what the first line was, but I remember it stunned me. It was rare that I would be impressed even in the slightest by someone else’s philosophy. But in one line it was apparent that Tolle had been looking at exactly the areas I’d been looking at - the lies we tell ourselves, the divisions in us, the deep reasons behind all conflict.
And in the same line it was apparent that he’d gone further than me. There was a sense in my mind like “this is something new. Haven’t seen this before.”
There was a clarity to it. A deep clarity and truth that shone from his words. I’d never seen anything like it.
I buried myself in the book. On the way to the airport to fly back to Scotland I bought myself a copy of The Power Of Now, Tolle’s first book.
By the time I got home I realised that he’d written the book I’d been trying to write for ten years.
I started delving into his thought, delving into his ideas. This was deep, way deeper than anything I’d seen before. He was tapping something primal, something profound. It wasn’t like he was really clever and he’d ‘worked out the answer’. It was like he was living the answer, sending messages from the other side.
Every sentence in his book hummed with life and power. I read all four of his books.
Well, that’s not really true. I’ve never been able to make it through The Power Of Now. I always get halfway in then have to put it down with my mind blown.
But I made a simple error. I approached it like a philosophy. Like a system of thought. And it is a system of thought - Tolle constructs an incredibly coherent picture of the world around us that is as comprehensive as it is fascinating.
As a philosopher I’d always chased epiphany, chased that one insight that would make everything clear. Each time I’d hit it, get to that ‘eureka’ moment. Each time things would make sense. And each time the simplicity would once more descend into complexity and chaos. I’d lose it again.
This post is dragging out too long, but I wanted to give you some background on why I’m doing what I’m doing now.
You see, Tolle’s philosophy is worthless, as is my philosophy. What I’d always said was that beyond the world of moral division in which we lived there was another world, a deeper nature. A deeper morality that ebbed and flowed way below the level of what we normally understand by use of the word ‘justice’.
That state I called ‘compassion’. Eckhart Tolle refers to it as ‘presence’. My idea was that if I could find a way to destroy the fake it would expose the real. What I failed to take into account is that destruction itself is part of the veil of delusion. That destruction itself was the very core of the universe of morally charged fiction which was and is destroying humanity. For a decade I fought fire with fire, and all I burned was me.
To mangle the truth into something that makes sense in human terms, Eckhart Tolle has discovered the answer to philosophy. And it’s not something you need to understand with your head - or something I need to understand with my head.
It’s something I need to cultivate.
I’ve always been the kind of dude who tests stuff. If I’m going to believe in something, I’ll live it. It’s not because I’m brave. It’s because I’m genuinely interested in whether what I believe is true or not. And if it’s true, living it to the hilt will be a blast. If it’s not true, living it to the hilt will mess you up hard and fast.
At least that’s the theory.
So from today I’m going to be putting my money where my mouth is as far as Eckhart Tolle is concerned. I have an mp3 player. Ironically enough, it’s a Creative Zen player. It’s full of Eckhart’s audio stuff.
For 1000 days - that’s about three years - starting today, I will be listening to Eckhart Tolle at every available moment.
The rules are simple.
When I’m at work, at my desk, I don’t listen to Tolle. If I’m going out with my friends, I don’t listen to Tolle. If I’m in the shower I don’t listen to Tolle, until I get some waterproof headphones.
All other moments I have Tolle in my head. When I get up in the morning I listen to him on the way to work. On my lunch breaks at work I plug straight in. When I leave work I put on the headphones and listen. I continue to listen until I sleep.
When I sleep, I sleep with Eckhart Tolle playing all night. Then I get up in the morning.
I repeat this 1000 times.
This is the blog diary of 1000 days of presence, 1000 days of light. I’m pretty damaged goods, pretty dark.
We’ll see what happens.