I am, like many of you, currently going through the hot flushes of my youth – a period that I can only presume I will spend the rest of my life reminiscing about and lionising. For me, this experience is perfectly distilled by the effervescent flare of light when, in the course of some debauched evening, I have misplaced my glasses or knocked my contact lenses out of my head – there’s something about the way that light takes on this strange quality which reassures me that I’m not only where I want to be, but where I’m meant to be.
I have always possessed a certain tendency to gilt my present and burn my past, and there’s a seductive propulsion to this world view. I am perpetually rejecting the mistakes of the past, and pushing through to the future, via the present, where I can be a Better Person, and make Better Choices – this is a Good Thing.
This concept is of enormous importance politically to our generation. Progressive politics, particularly surrounding issues of race, or gender, has become nuanced enough to accept fact that many injustices are not perpetrated consciously, but un-, or sub-consciously. This is, in my opinion, a really good thing for our society – those subliminal, linguistically enshrined, and genuinely ‘mindless’ aspects of injustice – have an enormous amount of weight in making peoples’ lives really really rubbish on a day to day basis. Thus we are offered a political experience where we can ‘wake up’ to truth, by learning about critical theories of gender or race, and undertaking a path of radical and perpetual self knowledge – analysing the choices we make every second of being, and examining how in control of our lives we actually are.
This is where the burning of my past comes into play. The revelatory, epiphanic act of ‘waking up’ to my subconscious biases, the social constructions which impinge on my conscious decision making is a deeply euphoric one. We suddenly realise what was going wrong, we diagnose this freshly crystallised symptom of our hypocrisy and imperfection, and consequently consciously act to counter balance or compensate for What We Did. I am then keen, in light of the loss of the burden of mindlessness from my mind, to immolate the decisions I made before I became the Better Person that I am today.
I think love can work a bit like this as well. Being in love is an experience of constant, repetitive, anguished, discovery of why its worth being alive. But, I don’t believe that love is any less vulnerable to revelation than subconscious misogyny. I have seen and experienced love that goes stale, love that isn’t expressed in the perpetual revelation of truth, but that calcifies with boredom and falsehoods and imperfections and dogmatic, unengaged people who go through the motions but don’t feel the truth that woke them up to the mindlessness of not being in love – they revert to the mindlessness.
The problems start to come thick and fast when we consider what the end game of the death of mindlessness is: there isn’t one. I have already woken up to God, and not to God, to Love and not being in Love, to Racism and Sexism and Beauty and blah blah blah more times than I have the inclination to count – we have all probably ‘woken up’ about as many times as we’ve woken up. The funny thing comes when you realise that by the very nature of the waking up, i.e. waking up to things you aren’t conscious of, of which there are an infinite number of things, it is not a finite process. If, hypothetically, I were to be forever, then merely through the act of being I would wake up an infinite number of times to an infinite number of shades of mindlessness. When you try to add a foot onto infinity, it literally doesn’t do anything. The radically active nature of the process of waking up means that we must both stand radically in the moment and set that which has come before on fire. If our minds are merely infinitely small dots on an infinitely long line, with no objective sense of progress or purpose in the face of infinity, then it’s easy to ask, why should I bother? No matter how many times I wake up, I will never get any closer to finishing this great puzzle, which is not only endless, but profoundly direction-less.
Here’s the great problem then, we are (I’m sorry to remind you), all going to die. This is probably not as sad a fact as it might seem, but given we’ll never know whether its fun to live forever, we’ll just have to accept the fact that It Is The Way It Is. So we find ourselves at a point on an infinite continuum of being through waking up to mindlessness, which it is impossible to hop off without shooting ourselves in the head, and which is devoid of any meaning anyway. Even by writing this article, I’m desperately attempting to trigger the process of waking up to waking up, and ending the mindlessness of mindlessness in one fell swoop, but even that won’t get us any closer to working out what the fuck it’s all about.