Many people intellectually understand that the world is within; that the objects and relationships perceived ’out there’ are in fact, first of all, ‘in here’ – that everything you do, love, see, want and fear exists, first of all, in the mental-emotional self. But this intellectual understanding usually remains intellectual, abstract – of little practical value: If your money is running out, or your wife, or your world, you usually do not consider protracted reflection on existential credentials to be first priority. Even though you may intellectually appreciate that an external loss is really happening within you, and even though you may feel it gripping your skull, pressing down on your chest or sinking into your guts – your instincts are usually to solve the problem by changing the world. Or talk.
In the last few years the idea of the end of the world (meaning this human world-civilisation) has entered the edges of the mainstream, and people are starting to talk about it without fear of being labelled loons. Nobody, however, is applying what they know (or even what they don’t know) from their own actual lives to their relationship with a collapsing world. It sometimes seems, when reading all the anti-civ, society-collapse literature on the web, that nobody has ever had a broken heart, that nobody has ever faced total loss, that nobody has had to give everything in broken surrender, that nobody has ever had their personal world totally fall apart before. If they have nobody seems willing or capable of applying this actual experience to what we all will be facing sooner or later as the wider world falls apart.
This isn’t to deny the importance of discussing peak oil, new organisational paradigms, political blindness, the nature of institutional relationships in post-crash societies and all the other topics which occupy writers today who are looking at social collapse; but to make the point that these are all intellectual concerns. None of these things will be at the forefront of anyone’s awareness when society really starts to break down. What people will be aware of is intense fear and intense desire, and unless the nature of fear and desire are addressed now we will find ourselves – as individuals – completely unprepared for the enormous change, profound loss and horrorful uncertainty that is on its way.
It is not society that we need to be looking at, it is ourselves. On the face of it this is a bland truism – many people seem to be saying the same thing. And yet – where, in all the collapse literature, can you read about sex and making love? Where can you read confessions of the tiny crimes the self commits in moments of day-to-day crisis? Where can you read of practical ways to enhance stupendous creativity and decrease hyper-subtle existential anxiety? Where can you read about class – how how middle-class thinking corrupts generosity or abandonment – or about how freedom from the self also means freedom from work? Where can you find the connection between love and death and the earliest or strangest experiences of the divine? Where can you read about the nature of consciousness, how it changes in states of uncertainty, how it contracts and opens to subtle puffs of vibe-threat or suffering-facing – where, in a word, can you read about self?
It is not the world that is passing away, that is facing death – it is the self, and the end of self is, evidently, not something that self can prepare for; that will or will not happen ‘one day’ – it is continually present.
The world is ending now.
How To Deal With the End of the World or What Happens Today When Self Faces Unself
When the internet shuts down, and mobile phones stop working, and streetlights go out, and jobs cease to exist, and money becomes valueless, and you are constantly surrounded by people that, for once in your life, you have to have a direct relationship with, you will find that it is not scarcity that you need to learn to deal with, or violence, or the collapse of ‘democracy’, or the end of an oil-based economy. It is your self. The following short guide is a means to prepare yourself for a time when large chunks of who you are – your habits, reflexive desires, fantasies and repetitive thought patterns – are, through having no ‘external’ object to work on – annihilated, and you are forced to plunge into the ocean of unself that surrounds you right now.
UNTHOUGHT Fear and desire feed off brain chatter and associative thought trash. Unless you can master your thinking and the restless mechanical movement of your attention, you will be paralysed by thought-fear at the annihilating fact of total loss rising before you and unable to hold back from agonies of craving, anger, guilt or panic brought on by thinking during loss.
Use the city to practice thought and attention mastery. Walk through the metro enjoying your breathing more than the adverts, refuse to participate in gossip. See how pornographic news-violence has power over your attention – and in seeing this, take the power back. Allow the urge to rubber-neck disaster slip through your system.
DARKNESS Are you afraid of the dark? This doesn’t mean can you sleep in an unlit house full of people, it means can you walk through a forest alone at 2am? The darkness is more than just a physical threat, its an existential reminder of the unknown. Learn to face it as soon as possible. Find the nearest graveyard and walk through it at midnight alone, facing down any demons that might appear with the shield of unthinking abandon.
SEX Unless you are in contact with the delighted love-feeling that contact with the opposite sex naturally bubbles up, you’ll be a slave to murderous sex thoughts. This will be the same as now – unable to tell the gentlemen from the beast, prey to maulers, restless, cold or violent – but, when civilisation crashes, without social checks to keep these insanities suppressed or locked up, they’ll make a howling nightmare of life.
Use the city to practice the awareness that precedes automatic glances towards stimulus-response tits and arses. Practice scriptlessly, wantlessly facing the opposite sex in spontaneous ungrasping unknowing. Practice loving when you most don’t feel like it. Practice getting out of your fuckbrain when you kiss and entering the wide unbelieving body of sense-surrender.
VIOLENCE is built on sexual frustration (in that the connected warmth of love-making is without violence), and depends on restlessness and expectation. In civilisation violence is mostly anger and irritation, and leads to shame and vibe corruption; but when the bubble pops its going to get grotesque.
Learn how to deal with your own anger – by feeling your restlessness, and looking for the tiny expectations which lead to frustration and fury. You must learn to remind yourself, when angry (or afraid or depressed), that no situation is so bad that you cannot laugh at it, or find it interesting.
Facing other people’s violence is a different question, and requires a different kind of selfless courage. For this you need to learn to acquire instant discernment. Some violent situations require the subtle art of calm, watchful prisoner’s defiance, some require self-mastered presence – to sniff out a murderer before he even appears and not open the doors of your eyes a crack to allow him in – and some violent situations require the killer instinct – the death-fearless chucking of all chips to the wind in order to defend someone else. You can practice most of these in the arenas of cruelty that civilisation currently offers; the dinner-party, the office, the factory and the family.
FEAR stands before every nightmare you’ll face as the mask is ripped off the face of the world. Fear, first of all, of losing things you think or feel you have – your money or your dignity, your possessions or your qualifications, your power or your status. To practice overcoming these seek out situations in which you cannot use or rely on these things, situations that you fear or really ‘don’t like’ – aloneness, poverty, unscripted spontaneous theatre, nature, the company of the dying, mad people, children and extreme boredom are the classics, but everyone has their own private hell which, sooner or later, must be faced. Better to do it in your own way, now, than to be propelled into it by civ-pop.
Underneath fear of losing what you have, is the atomic fear of losing who you feel you are. This aversion to the emptiedness of unbeing is a constant background anxiety or tension which lies at the root of all fears, even the tiniest eruptions of anxiety or violence. To face it is partly a question of self-mastery – learning to let your self slip into inner feeling and full sensory awareness of the present-moment – partly a question of love – exposing yourself completely to another and allowing that gaze to raise your game – and partly a question of honestly – not mere confession, but the unjudging turning-towards of self-awareness, watching the self as it thinks and feels.
The super-intimate skills of self-mastery are not acquired by learning, psychology or magic but by actively seeking out criticism, uncertainty and the experience of unself, and by practicing, again and again, letting go, allowing and courageously, selflessly acting before the manifold opportunities normal life offers to lose your presence, break down, throw a wobbler or behave like a dick.