The two modes of existence: activity and passivity. But is a passive man, always a poor man? Does a rich man ever fully embrace the joy of stillness? It seems many, desire to be rich, but how do they know they are not already rich?
Perhaps they do not desire to be rich, but rather desire the perceived fruit of riches: happiness. Man may consider happiness as a vacuity of problems that monetary wealth will allow him to nurture and enjoy. But how does he know that he is not happy already? Put simply, he does not. But he feels a an inclination towards unhappiness as he is hard pressed by the ringing in his ears for the answers to nagging questions:
What is a good life?
How do I live a good life?
Am I presently living that good life?
If not, how do I move closer to that perceived state of a good life?
But, when he sees in full view that he does not have an immediate problems in front of him, he may be shocked to see that this problem of a “good life” has been manufactured.
A penetrating realization — nature abhors a vacuum and man creates a problem for himself to conquer out of lack of necessity. Nietzsche points towards this addiction to activity and problems:
“Main deficiency of active people. Active men are usually lacking in higher activity-I mean individual activity ... Active people roll like a stone, conforming to the stupidity of mechanics. Today as always, men fall into two groups: slaves and free men.”
~ HATH 283
So, he sees that himself (“the ego”) is the the “problem” creating all the “problems”. Internalizing this mantra he prepares to rid himself of “the ego” and scale the summit opposite to material wealth: spiritual wealth. He seeks gurus who maintain that he become content with a “desireless” existence. But, seldom does he ask what basis gives these guru’s higher authority? Furthermore, caught up in his predicament, he may fail to ask how he knows such an existence will be “better”. Perhaps even more pressing, he may fail to see the irony of his actions in committing to solve yet a another manufactured problem by pursuing a 'path of enlightenment' in a different domain.
At bottom, he must ask himself,
"What is the nature of the conflict in both domains I am still attempting to solve?"
If he listens he may see that in both domains, the nature of conflict lies in the belief of states of existence that are more "positive" than the one he presently finds unbearable. Moreover, that in his capacity to identify such states, he necessarily creates his desire to move “up” into these more "positive" states.
At this point, his self (or guru bound) diagnosis of this self-inflicted illness of the mind may become clear to him. But, like a disciple forsaken by his own gods, he may feel insurmountable chasm unearth between his feet – the brightness of his existential burden blinding. For some time, he will venture back from the chasm into the desert, a seeker. But despite his effort: in search of oasis he will find none, in search of utility to bridge this gap, he will discover none, and in search of a lasting southing escape, he will recognize none. Perhaps, in forty days, or forty years he may return to the chasm, which has to this point upended and left his life distraught. He will, perhaps, have bent to the knee to the voice in his ears,
"I am a sick man.... I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man... I want now to tell you, gentlemen, whether you care to hear it or not, why I could not even become an insect. I tell you solemnly, that I have many times tried to become an insect. But I was not equal even to that. I swear, gentlemen, that to be too conscious is an illness--a real thorough-going illness. For man's everyday needs, it would have been quite enough to have the ordinary human consciousness, that is, half or a quarter of the amount which falls to the lot of a cultivated man... "
Notes from the Underground, Section I & II – F. Dostoevsky
For in view of the chasm, its inextinguishable machinery of desire which separates it, and the non-existent penicillin to bridge the gap, he is left all but abandoned. In earnest he may attempt one more call from the catacombs of his being,
How do I know this higher state, that object of the mechanism of desire, is better than the this present one?!
If he listens, he may hear for the first time the sound of his own existence. Bleached free of gurus, and authorities. Cast away from the sentimentalities of his idealism, and nihilism. He bears witness to a musical note which long escaped his tortured composition:
Ask yourself: who is the judge, within, who is ranking and qualify these states as higher or lower, and moreover, how do you know that the judge is correct in its evaluation?
For, this image he has created, the ultimate authority as judge of all his decisions and action, he has to this point left unquestioned. He has interrogated the line up of suspects – his ideals, thoughts, and acuity of consciousness – in search of the fugitive which has stood behind him all along: this judge, the evaluator, the thinker, who's conclusions he has taken verbatim. What is the difference, between him and this judge? He may only answer this question himself.
Perhaps, upon pondering this new fascination over, he may consider again, how, there may be no difference between the image of the judge and himself, and moreover certainty in the conclusion, there exists states which are "greater" than his current one, may have dwindled.
He will momentarily, fumble in anxiety and see that in his experience, he has indeed felt states he perceives as “better” than the present one. But, if he unbundles the feeling behind this, and asks:
What the logic which I have implicitly accepted from the judge that proves that it is indeed correct and true, that there exists states which are greater than the present one?
Indeed he will discover that in order to rank and file states of "greater" existence, he must create a new judge in his mind, whose duty is to evaluate the old judge’s conclusions. But, if, the present judge, cannot offer up a logical set of reasoning without delegating decision to a second judge, evidence must be provided (as sound reasoning) for the authority that the second judge has in evaluating correctness of the first judge's conclusions. That is, how may man trust the this new judge without evidence of its correctness? For it is obvious, that if he questions the second judge, the second judge will delegate the burden of evidence to a third judge, and the third to a fourth, and by induction to an infinite number of judges. The junction at which the individual has reached is called the Higher Self Problem, and by knowing the impossibility, from experience, of the existence of an infinite number of judges in his mind, he realizes that he cannot trust verbatim, the conclusions of the image of the judge (rational ego) he has created will be correct – and thereby must enter into this plane of reality with the tool set of his rational ego, and faith in something irrational.
As for the answer to the question of lower and higher states:
He may perhaps see that, if there can be no valid logic to determine whether the ledge beyond the chasm is greater than the ledge he currently stands – that is he is unable to create a judge which can levy truth about the situation – he must listen without thought and may conclude, in fact, that present state, he sought out to escape, is the greatest he could ever create.
Kind thanks Tobias Bjørkli for the cover image.