“I wanna rise above, gonna rise above,” chants Henry Rollins on an old Black Flag track. Most people assumed he meant on a personal level that, because his behavior exhibited higher standards than others, he somehow considered himself superior in an absolute sense, and therefore, despite not having achieved the change he desired, he could rest easy with conscience and self-image knowing he wasn’t part of the mess – and in hardcore music, it is universally understood that modern society is a nearly inextricable mess. He might have meant that, but today, here, we’re looking at another meaning of rise above.
We live in a time that, underneath the veneer of positive mantras and feel-good accomplishments like “rights” and “democracy,” is deeply troubled by its lack of correspondence to reality. Most of us believe in mythical beings that will come down and make everything absolutely right. Very few have any concept of how to address the whole of the problem. Nearly all have veered off the highway heading toward realization, self- and truth-wise, and have picked up some specific flag they hold up while screaming at the others, “You’re wrong, listen to me, or all is lost!”
The foundation of this web site is nihilism, or the belief that when we strip away all the perceptions and feelings and illusions that exist only in our heads, we can see what reality is, as a physical, working part of nature, and act upon it. Our enemy now is error, whether we call it sin or stupidity, and the only antidote is reality. We can all perceive reality to varying degrees, with limitations on our sense-abilities (such as blindness) and our perception (different intelligence potentials). There is no absolute standard, except reality itself. When we recognize that, we’ve started to out-think the problems that plague us now, and that’s the only rising above that there is.
It’s tempting to get detoured into emotions, such as bigotry or the tarantula-like pulling down of those more capable or beautiful than oneself, or into specific ideologies, but really what matters is the goal: fixing the problem. We can sit around and console ourselves with having had a “higher” or more moral standard of behavior than others, but that isn’t reality, is it? — it is only thoughts in our head, manipulation of our self-esteem, and the like. It feels good for our self-image to believe in some airy ideal that can never come to pass, but is “right” in an absolute sense, and therefore we are privy to a secret that others miss, but that’s not effective, nor is it realistic. It’s wanking. That technical term describes the psychological process inherent to such feelings: pleasuring the self outside of the world. Pornography. Drugs. Supernaturalist religion — pick a metaphor, because they all relate to that same passive, absolutist idea.
When one looks at life as a continuum, much as nature is – and we are part of nature – it becomes clear that there is more that unites us than divides us, when we can get over the masturbatory nature of dividing ourselves into camps and making a complex issue into a linear one so we can each claim absolute right and put down all the others. “pwn3d,” as the Internet kids say – doesn’t that feel good? For a short time, perhaps, but in the succinct words of Sepultura, “problems remain!” While we’re off feeling good about ourselves, nothing has changed – and in fact, for every minute that we’re distracted, those who cut to the chase and enrich themselves at the expense of everything gain power. They’re not evil; they’re an extreme of shortsightedness, a type of insanity that will always exist and will always destroy all good things, not from desire for evil but from lack of reality and the spiritual strength to care about anything other than immediate gratification.
We agree more than we disagree. We all want to earn a living and have families, but industry at the expense of all else is stupid. Clearly hating money, and hating others for being more gifted or beautiful than ourselves, is stupid, but yet no one wants to deny the needs of the entire population for the immediate gratification of an elite few. Racial bigotry is moronic, but every race is well-served by separation from others and preservation of its own culture. The list goes on. These are not complex problems, but what keeps us from seeing them is our need for the “I, I, I, me, me, me,” the self-image that keeps us feeling wankingly good for being “unique” or “different,” important to ourselves, gods in our own minds. You thought such things were limited to totalitarian leaders? Inside each of us is a Stalin, a Mao and a Pol Pot, and it doesn’t matter that we haven’t killed anyone. We’re strangling the future of all of us by being obsessed with self-image.
And you don’t even own your own self-image. It’s a construct that exists as seen by others, from the form of an idealized “everyone”; that’s how everyone sees me, as the (insert recombinant identity here). I’m the most important so-and-so in this tiny part of the world, or this tiny community. Oh, yeah. And without those around you, what would that image mean? The only philosophies that endure are those which would be the same on a deserted island as in the busy city. Doing what is right, affirming what is real and acting on it in a healthy way, — this never goes out of style. True, you do not get rewarded with public praise, necessarily. You may die alone on an abandoned battlefield, task failed. But you rose above – you addressed reality, and found a way to help us out of this mess.
So why leave the mess behind? When one gets over the fear of death, life itself is paradise; shortly afterwards, one sees the wisdom of death, but this is an esoteric study that all of our audience will not share, so no more is said of it. Our world sustains itself. There are fruits on the trees, animals, and most of all great beauty. And not just in nature, per se. Any task you take on that makes you quake in fear is a victory, from taking on the task itself. You may fail, but what is failure, knowing that you grew so much you could do something you cannot even now believe you did? You may die, and be forgotten as dust, but no amount of memory or public acclaim will change that. Even if they have statues of you in every public square for the next ten thousand years, no one will know who you were – what your personality was like, your character, what you loved so much you would sacrifice anything for – these are all forgotten, and you become another empty name.
This is reality. It’s not accessible to everyone, so you won’t see mention of it on things like televisions or movies or popular books, because one loses money and popularity by appealing to truth instead of things to which everyone in the crowd can nod knowingly. Such crowd-pleasers are like get well cards, or silly homilies people recite (“absolute power corrupts absolutely,” “you never know what you had until it’s gone”). They’re like too much sugar in a cake; disgusting, but only to those who have had and can appreciate a better cake. But to find reality is to leave behind the mess, and to rise above in terms of what you expect from yourself, and then to begin making it real. Only this overcomes the inherent depression of living in a mess, which is a sense of futility and self-loathing for NOT having changed the issue.
It is fortunate to know both one’s audience and one’s critics. The critics of this article will, as those who passively snipe from the sidelines do, never attack its content. They’ll attack the author. “That’s fine and well,” they’ll sagely say, rolling eyes, “But don’t you notice you’re doing the same thing? This is your philosophy, it’s all about you…” trailing off to snickers. Yet they’re wrong. This philosophy doesn’t only exist here, nor does it require me to tell it to you. I’m here telling it because this is one way of rising above, and the “me” behind it doesn’t matter. I didn’t create my own gifts, whatever they are, nor did I create my own persona, nor did I create nature. I am at best a conduit for ideas that exist elsewhere, no matter how creatively I phrase them; this is true because reality is consistent, and thus there are not as much “new and better” ideas as ideas that more closely approximate reality. What you’re reading is a translation of reality, not a creative writing project to develop a “new” and “different” and “unique” philosophy for the sake of making me feel special.
In fact, it’s more accurate to say you’re reading a message from the trees, than to say that you’re reading the wisdom of an author. All of the ideas in this article are represented in physical, real-world, OMG the here and now physical reality. This is how our universe is structured. As it came before us, and we aren’t born with angelic absolute knowledge of it, we spend much of our time interpreting our world, as how well we adapt to its workings determines how well we survive. Right now, on the surface, it looks like we’re surviving well, but the disease runs deep and far within, so it’s time for change. Instead of inventing some new ego-pleaser, let’s focus on reality and rise above in the only way that matters – success.