How do you get what you want?

Tuesday, 28. July 2009

At the moment I am waiting for two huge and critical events in my life, the failure of either of which would kill me. My third major event has been a success but I also need these other two and I do not know how to achieve them. So I revisited an old discussion on a thread I posted elsewhere...with comments and reassembled here.

There are only three states of being. They are: 1) wrestling with problems that never end, 2) accepting the occurrence of miracles now and 3) doing as little as possible while you wait for something great to happen. Nothing else matters. There are no other realities.

(This precipitated some comment about other possible states of mind, to which I replied as follows…)

…..The normative mind always thinks reality is about itself and might typically ask which state it should choose but I’m not even trying to broach that question. My intention is Kantian: to describe which states of mind are actually possible. You cannot choose your mood.

I don’t claim to have it perfect yet. And I suspect that the most effective way to be is to cultivate the loosest grip possible on whatever reality passes your way.

(There followed some further interesting discussion about waiting if what you were waiting for never happened, if we were just waiting, without a purpose… There was a strong implication that we collectively did not differentiate clearly between action and waiting…)

….I think the state of being that I have so far called “waiting” is the most complex and subtle of the three and will take a very long time to penetrate with any real understanding. “Waiting” is merely a shorthand for now.

It is obvious what receiving miracles and trying to get things done mean but it is not obvious what constitutes right action when you cease from action.

One obvious thing that the “waiter” is not doing is that they are not planning. Nor are they worrying away at the outcome. Anxiety belongs in the trying state so if anyone is anxious they cannot be waiting.

Waiting may have a neutrality as to outcome, or perhaps it is tinged with the expectation of certainty by virtue of being about realism. Trying, by contrast is all about the unreality of wanting what you have not got.

(There were further interesting contributions about waiting and trying, then…)

I see receiving as the momentary thing when the miracle happens and waiting as a far longer process that occurs between times of receiving, which are, as it were, fulfillments of themes that were brewing.

For me waiting starts with a soft touch: deliberately leaving something alone, like having the willpower not to scratch an insect bite. Scratching is like doing and it inflames the bite.

(The discussion continued back and forth for some time before it became far more complicated, with people suggesting subdivisions of these three possible states of mind and even coming up with moods that appeared not to fit the model at all. I conceded that sleep, coma and unconsciousness did not fit the model… Then someone suggested giving as a fourth category, which I found convincing at first. I later asked this question…)

….I think we can include giving, then, but I accept that madness and coma may lay outside of the scope so far.

So we have


Do we also have these:

out of consciousness


(Remember, that our game was to find a finite set that covered all possible states of mind. Someone suggested states of absence of mind and I agreed…)

YES, we definitely need a category absence of mind – and it should also include what I call automaticity and what Reich called the oral spillway, where people speak only for emotional reasons or to balance their energies and the content plays no significant part.

(Someone suggested destructive states of mind, and I elaborated)

Automaticity is very common. It’s when the person speaking is literally mouthing words to release emotional and/or physical tension, so, yes, your destructive states definitely fit. I would extend it to include fixations and addictions that dominate behaviour and incongruent performances like people who have to turn everything into a joke, for example. Obsession also.

Clearly these things overlap with the domain of trying.

This is getting more complicated than I’d hoped.

Finally, we appeared to be agreeing on six states of being, summarised by another contributor like this, the six possible states of mind….)

attempting/trying (useful)
destructive behaviour/thought (useless trying)

…and then someone else suggested a model with 13 states!!!! To which I instinctively replied:

Anything that is not simple can never be true. Complexity is always part of the cycle of trying.

(We gave up for a while and then I backtracked to this summary…)

My original 3 were:

the acceptance/receipt of gifts experienced as largely uncaused, or miracles
attempting or trying to mould life (the striving and scheming which most of the population does constantly,
attending/waiting (an antidote to trying, wiser and possibly requiring conscious choice or willpower)

to these people have added:

giving (which we have not yet discussed very much, but does superficially seem to be a 4th category)
absence or unconsciousness (which may be a subset of trying, a kind of negative trying, or may be a separate state as in medical coma)
destructive behaviour, also undiscussed, also possibly a subset of trying (who can tell me what distinguishes destructive behaviour into a separate class from trying, please)

I suppose what I am questioning most is the useful trying, which was entirely missing as even a possibility from my original three. Also, I am not sure that destructive behaviour deserves its own class.

Someone strongly opposed my pejorative remarks about trying, to which I eventually responded…

I meant “trying” to be a pejorative word right from the start. My original three possible states was meant to be extremely radical.

This was deeply opposed but I justified it thus, veering back to the beginning:

As always, I am looking for the Kantian essence. Just as you cannot have epistemology without space and time, so I am seeking an exclusive set of possible states of being, ultimately without making any judgement upon them.

Thus one cannot receive whilst one is trying, but one can wait to receive. The addition of other states by you and others makes me question whether my original three is a large enough group but nothing is so far determined in my mind.

I have not made this distinction between good trying and bad trying and I am not yet convinced of its virtue. Nor am I convinced yet that things like unconsciousness or dreaming are anything other than trying in another form. And coma? It’s not really a state of being, is it?

When the tryer eventually receives whatever it is she thought she wants she will in that moment have ceased trying and allowed the miraculous outcome to happen, after which she will probably generate new goals almost immediately and start trying again. Perhaps she would have been far better off just generating her goals and then waiting for the miracle of them coming to pass.

Being willing (for something specific to happen) was how Werner Erhard used to put it, but the rest of this idea cluster is new territory that he did not cover.

This was not popular, but someone cleverly implied that my real, covert subject was: How do you get miracles to happen? This has a hint of truth in it…

After this the discussion rambled a little and more or less broke up in flurries of mutual misunderstanding. I strongly felt that I had not and could not get my Kantian purpose across. This is a more or less continuous experience of my life because metaphysical reality is just as real to me as practical things like cooking a meal. Others seem to feel differently.

My three major events were and are:

1) a new love and partner in life after the death of my wife; this has happened, convincingly, without me doing anything at all; it was the event I expected least and the one I might have lived without

2) the recovery of my health after serious heart problems following the death of my wife; this is the event I need most and though progress is being made I cannot say that I feel whole again or ever will because I cannot complete even small tasks without breathlessness

3) a change of scene and a new home, to distance myself from years of grief; I did not know that I needed this until it came upon me and I have done everything possible to locate a house and make my own fit for sale; the wait on this is electrifying

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