KEEPING YOUR SANITY IX
[This week, TTPer Yasuhiko Kimura provides us profound guidance on keeping our sanity amidst the excess stress, mass neurosis, and cultural decadence permeating our society today. Thank you, Yasuhiko! –JW]
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. ― J. Krishnamurti
The term “Neurosis” was eliminated from The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980 with the publication of DSM III. Whatever the official medical-psychiatric reasons may be, it is ironic that neurosis as such is no longer considered a class of mental disorder.
When the majority of the population suffers from a certain mental disorder, it becomes normalized. Thus, we can restate Krishnamurti’s quote:
It is no measure of mental health to be well adjusted to and normal in a profoundly neurotic society.
“There are many different neuroses: obsessive-compulsive disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, impulse control disorder, anxiety disorder, hysteria, and a great variety of phobias. . . the symptoms of neurosis may involve: anxiety, sadness or depression, anger, irritability, mental confusion, low sense of self-worth, etc.; behavioral symptoms such as phobic avoidance, vigilance, impulsive and compulsive acts, lethargy, etc.; cognitive problems such as unpleasant or disturbing thoughts, repetition of thoughts and obsession, habitual fantasizing, negativity and cynicism, etc. . .”
There is a pandemic of mass neurosis pervading our world. The ‘coronavirus panic pandemic’ would not have been possible without this ‘mass neurosis pandemic’. Neurotic people are tormented by fear and therefore, through fear-mongering, can easily be manipulated, provoked, and incited into mass hysteria, which is what this “coronavirus pandemic” actually is—a mass hysteria of a global proportion.
What is the etiology of neurosis? How do we determine its cause — since neurosis as such is no longer psychiatrically a mental disorder, a non-psychiatrist or a non-psychologist can offer a diagnosis without his non-license taken away!
So, in my view, neurosis is the various reactions of the human organism or the human brain-mind system to the condition of prolonged excess stress. There is a natural limit to the amount and degree of stress that the human organism can effectively process, which limit was set millennia ago in our evolutionary past.
Virtually everyone, living ambitiously in the collectivist modern world in pursuit of the mimetic desire for social and professional success and status, especially in highly populated and busy cities, lives with constant excess stress, far exceeding the natural limit that the human organism can process. Various neurotic thoughts and behaviors are rather normal reactions to an abnormal condition, i.e., chronic excess stress, which the modern human organism has to take but is unable to process.
The life and the lifestyle of constant high pressure and excess stress have been so normalized that people do not even notice the madness, the insanity, to which they expose themselves almost on a daily basis. A significant percentage of the population is in fact addicted to chronic excess stress. They live neurotic lives without ever realizing how abnormal it is to live in that way.
Normalization of the abnormal is the way or the process by which the culture becomes decadent and the society becomes destroyed. Look at the productions of the entertainment industry. Look at the creations of the art world.
Highly neurotic people are producing and creating movies, music, and artwork that are in essence self-aggrandizement of the neurotic and self-congratulation of the abnormal. They go beyond the normalization of the abnormal; they super-normalize it or hyper-normalize it.
The decadence of today, unlike in the past, is less about hedonism than anhedonia: the inability to feel pleasure and experience happiness; the experience of utter disengagement from the world of reality and the transmutation of all experience, including the corporeal, into hollow onanistic aestheticization.
This decadence is not just about drugs, sexual perversions, or fast food, though its manifestation includes them. Rather, it is about disembodiment, about the disconnection from the sense of the real that allows our society not only to abandon real cultural innovation but also to distract people from its meaningful teleological aspiration.
Such decadence also involves institutional and societal corruption and decay, and cultural and intellectual exhaustion at a high level of material prosperity and technological advancement.
This decadence is most prominently exemplified in the way in which the digital space has provided a theater of ‘politics as performance’ in which reactionary and atavistic social-justice crusaders are able to participate as a simulacrum of heroism—a kind of digital-age playacting wherein dissatisfied young people pretend to be Marxist, socialist, or fascists on the Internet, re-enacting the 1930s and 1960s with fewer kinetics but more memes.
The “woke culture” or the “cancel culture” is the most contemporary example of this simulacrum of heroism.
To be a revolutionary in the late 18th century required a great deal of courage and valor as well as real independent thinking. The independence in The Declaration of Independence was not only national but also individual. To be a social justice warrior in the early 21st century, on the other hand, only lends excuses and justifications to people to be self-righteously craven and poltroon, and comfortably in the neurotic hive mind collective.
The question is: How can we help people free themselves from this mass neurosis and decadent mass culture so as to restore sanity within and without?
Leaving the Crowd and Claiming Your Individuality
In the state of excess stress, human consciousness devolves. What happens? The collective unconscious hacks the individual subconscious, or the secondary consciousness, which in turn hacks the primary consciousness of the individual—the seat of conscious awareness, reason and conscience, namely, of rationality and morality.
That is, the ego, the locus of self-consciousness, becomes the placeholder to the secondary consciousness within the primary consciousness. The ego becomes the collective unconscious being placed inside the primary individual consciousness. The ego becomes a collectivist (a hive mind dweller), psychologically, and prone to collectivism, ideologically.
Consequentially, the ego loses touch with the seat of reason and conscience and becomes irrational and immoral (the secondary consciousness is amoral).
As the psychologist Boris Sidis first identified, “Mob-energy rises as the powers of the mass.” Whereas the masses increase in an arithmetical progression, the energies of the masses increase in a geometrical progression. That is, the masses grow as the logarithms of their energies. Ergo, if M is the mass of the mob, then M = Log E.
The more one partakes of the crowd, actually (physically) or virtually (digitally), the more the irrational and amoral secondary consciousness takes over the rational and moral primary consciousness. And the more one tends to succumb to the control and dictate of the hive mind/herd energy collective of which one is an undifferentiated part.
Therefore, in order to restore rationality and maintain sanity, we must leave (the madness of) the crowd and be alone, and claim or reclaim our individuality and individual space, within and without. We must find a space and time for solitude, to be alone in the universe and centered in our primary consciousness, in the awake, aware, rational self, in tune with the Law of Nature and of Nature’s God (Tao), away from the confused noises of culture and of culture’s icons.
This means that we need to make space for meditation and time for doing things that we love to do in solitude or in semi-solitude.
Meditation and Timeless
What is meditation? Meditation is a vacation from (sequential) time. Meditation is a time-out from all that comes with time, such as planning and achieving goals.
Meditation is the engagement with the Timeless, the Eternal, in the Now. Meditation is the act of attuning with the Infinite, the Openness, in the Here.
Time is the basic program that runs human existence. In meditation, time shows itself as the disturbance of Eternity. In meditation, you become undisturbed by time.
Meditation involves that you return to the pristine state of being wherein you are in tune with the Eternal and the Infinite. To bring-in any kind of goals or aims to the act of meditation is to corrupt it.
Meditation is a pure act of freedom. You meditate because you meditate. In meditation, you be cause. You choose to do nothing and just be. And to thus be is to be free.
Meditation is the act of being with yourself and with everything that is in your consciousness. Meditation is thus the act of being with Reality in its wholeness. You can also say: Meditation is the act of being alone (all-one) with God.
Where there is no time, there can never be any stress. Thus, I highly recommend that you meditate—that you find time to take a vacation from time in the Timeless.
Love and Beauty
To love and to be loved are two of the most profound longings of our soul. At the heart of chronic stress and neurosis there is fear. There is no medicine greater and more powerful than love that can ease and heal the person tormented by fear.
The way of love is the way of generosity and magnanimity. Generosity is the virtue of giving freely, while magnanimity is the virtue of forgiving freely. The degree to which we experience love in life is proportional to the magnitude of our generosity and magnanimity. To know love, we need to open our heart and suffuse it with generosity and magnanimity.
Those of us fortunate enough to have a spouse, a family, or a circle of friends who love us and whom we love, should spend as much quality time as possible with them. And extend our love to our communities where we can make an impact.
Also, we all have things we love to do. Doing what we love to do is so essential for maintaining sanity. I love classical music. There is no piece of classical music I do not like. I enjoy listening to classical music almost every day. Bach, Beethoven, and Rachmaninov are my three most favorite composers. Their souls harmonically resonate with my soul.
Reading great books is another activity that I love. For me, the beauty of expression is as important as the originality of thought or the depth of wisdom. For this reason, for me, Alexander Pope, Ralph Emerson, or Friedrich Nietzsche are as great as it comes.
One reason why reading of the founding documents of the United States such a pleasure is the high quality of writing. Many of the Founding Fathers were not only great philosophers but also great writers. Thomas Paine is one of my all-time favorite philosophers and writers.
Love is the ultimate Good as it reflects our highest value, and by surrounding ourselves with Beauty that invokes Love in us, we immerse ourselves in Goodness which is the wellspring of our spiritual wellbeing.
A survey of philosophical literature throughout the ages confirms that however different the accounts of beauty may seem on the surface, with a surprising regularity, the descriptions agree upon presenting beauty as a coincidentia oppositorum—a paradoxical unity and a transcendental consilience of elements that would otherwise seem to stand in irreconcilable opposition.
As Friedrich Schiller articulated, beauty fulfills our humanity in all of its irreducible complexity. However paradoxical it may seem, beauty satisfies our desire for enlivenment, movement, change, surprise, and novelty, while simultaneously our longing for rest, stillness, permanence, stability, and familiarity.
According to Thomas Aquinas, the Beautiful represents a kind of hybrid between the Good and the True. Beauty is Beauty because it contains both truth and good. Further, Truth is Truth because it contains both beauty and good; and Good is Good because it contains both beauty and truth.
Beauty is truth and good perceived in the world of appearance. Truth is beauty and good conceived in the world of abstraction. Good is beauty and truth achieved in the world of action.
Beauty is an intimate encounter of the human soul with Reality, actual and possible, which takes place in the meeting ground of appearance. In that intimate encounter, in the experience of Beauty, there is Love, there is Reconciliation, and there is Healing. In Beauty sanity becomes restored.
Yasuhiko Genku Kimura is a philosopher, a Buddhist priest and scholar, and now working as a consultant/advisor to corporate CEOs and their companies. His English publications include The Twilight Manifesto, The Book of Balance, and Think: The First Principle of Business Ethics.