October 2 2003
The cost of the cul de sac
Why we willingly choose to destroy the world
By John Kaminski
I loved her, and I told her so. Yes, she responded, but you love me the way YOU want to love me, not in the way I want you to love me. So I thought about that.
And then she told me a story she'd learned from Osho, a guru from India notorious to some who didn't really know him but revered by many who did, including her.
It was a story about a cul de sac. Most of us live our lives reliving the same habitual pattern, and keep repeating it over and over again, so that our lives devolve into shallowness, and then pain, and we feel trapped, frustrated, and empty. Osho's lesson, she explained, was to learn all there is to learn about what you like, then finish that dance and move on to the next step to continue to see what life and the world can teach you.
Once the lesson is learned, leap out of the cul de sac, go beyond what you know and learn what you don't.
If you don't keep growing, she insisted, you're liable to wither and die, trapped in a blind alley from which you do not escape. The repetition of what was once pleasure can degenerate into torture if you don't.
I heard what she was saying, at least through my ears and in my brain, but perhaps not in my heart. After all, here was a woman I told myself I loved, an admirable woman, not to mention beautiful, full of integrity, practicality and a social consciousness more realistic than most.
Although I instantly recognized the cul de sac in which I was trapped — sexual pleasure — it has now taken me many months for the logic of Osho's advice to sink in, and I'm still not sure it has. I yearn to leap out of the cul de sac, to go beyond it, yet can't quite bring myself to do it.
But as I begin to discern the fuzzy, confusing border between desire and real love, and how habits and expectations can become objectionable and even destructive if they're not consciously reevaluated on a regular basis, it becomes clear to me that this is not just my problem with an overimaginative libido I have used to numb my frustrations over my inability to impact this world in a worthwhile and profitable way.
It is also the general problem of the human species and how each of us relates to the world.
We seek to take pleasure from it, and don't furnish the reverence and respect and appreciation necessary to make any love thrive.
Do I really love her enough to forego what gives me pleasure in order to understand who and what it is I love? Do we really love the earth enough to transcend our petty proclivities and try to understand what it is we're all doing here?
Silly stuff, huh? Comparing my love life to the degeneration of the planetary environment that enables us to live in the first place.
Maybe not so silly. Maybe surprisingly germane at a pivotal time in human history.
You need only look at what we have done to the world. Turned the Garden of Eden into a toxic waste dump. Doesn't that sound a lot like f***ing it instead of loving it? And isn't that what has happened?
At least in America, and perhaps in many locations around the world, we are suffocating in an endless electronic avalanche of prurient images deftly designed to make us covet an alluring array of essentially unnecessary items: toxic creams to keep our skin from wrinkling, automobiles that every year look more and more like penises, drugs that prevent us from remembering we are desperate and depressed from buying all these products that keep us from looking at ourselves.
All of these items are expressly designed to keep us from looking — really looking — at ourselves.
And while we Botox, Lexus and Prozac the scary shadows from our faces in the mirror, in the deafening silence of our distractions we cannot hear the fish screaming in pain as they leap from the ocean preferring suicide to life, or see the dead peasants on the road to Baghdad covered with flies and maggots in the dust, ominous monuments to our refusal to leave the cul de sac of our own self-deceptive delusions.
We let the world go by, preferring to hide in our orgasms of distracted delight and misleading ourselves into believing that these will last forever if we can just purchase the right product.
As long as you remain in the cul de sac of your own habits, expectations and desires, the world will not be cured of this manic affliction known as the human ratrace.
Most of us see only two ways out of this existential dilemma: through God or with money.
Some of those who choose God turn their backs on the sweaty, filthy, bleeding world and fantasize that their piety and self-proclaimed purity will protect them from the wrath of Jehovah (or whomever) when their mortal coil inevitably unsprings. It is they who create God as the Evil One, their protector and anesthesiologist who will cuddle their immortal souls while they pretend they don't hear the gunfire in their own neighborhoods, much of it generated by members of their own congregations.
Even those who choose to serve God for the right reasons do a disservice to Him by focusing on their own salvation rather than on the suffering of others, and I'm certain He doesn't like that.
Some of those who choose money insulate themselves from their own guilt by surrounding themselves with luxuries that titillate the senses and forestall self-analysis, reasoning that if they can stay distracted right up to the departure point and then just step in front of a bus they won't really have to worry about anything else.
But these two avenues both really lead to the same cul de sac, and as the whole world crowds down them, seeking sweet security in one form or another, the very conditions of the planet which sustain their lives, and their distractions, continue to disintegrate, and the only purpose of their perfumed escapes becomes a shortcut to self-destruction. Death by suffocation in the cul de sac.
So we endure the mocking lies of George W. Bush and his ill-bred ilk, who dissemble and get away with it because no one has the moral courage to challenge them in a straightforward way. We watch the world burn and the people die and shrug our shoulders, rationalizing that this is all horrible stuff, but that there is nothing we can do about it: the momentum of the system, all five thousand years of it, is just too powerful for one person to confront.
So we might as well either hide in our self-created depictions of heaven or laugh as long as we can and let the devil take the rest. Well, that is what is happening. The devil is taking the rest.
In the Book of Wisdom, Osho relates: "... unless you go into your suffering, you cannot be released from the imprisonment of it."
Please allow me to redact that down to the present political situation on Planet Earth. "Unless you see that the 9/11 tragedy was unleashed by the very people you pretend to trust most, there is absolutely no hope that you will ever live in a humane or just world, and you might as well shoot your children right now before you give your government the chance to do it for you."
Unless we see our suicidal course as a species as a direct manifestation of the way we are living and seeking material distractions rather than trying to find a worthwhile purpose for our lives, none of the dire situations that threaten our peace of mind and our existence are ever going to be resolved.
On the other hand, if you completely ignore the money situation and let your systems disintegrate while you are preaching about possible paths to peace, as I have, you run the risk of not being able to preach another day.
Perhaps this is my way out of the cul de sac. Sneaking out through the bottom on that day next week when they repossess my car and home, and worse, shut off my computer hookup. But at least I got to say what I wanted to say.
Back to Osho: "A new journey has started in your life, you are moving into a new kind of being — because immediately, the moment you accept the pain with no rejection anywhere, its energy and its quality changes. It is no longer pain.
"One cannot believe that suffering can be transformed into ecstasy, that pain can become joy. Whenever anything is total it turns into its opposite.
"This is a great secret to be remembered. Whenever something is total it changes into its opposite, because there is no way to go any further; the cul-de-sac has arrived. Watch an old clock with a pendulum. It goes on and on: the pendulum goes to the left, to the extreme left, and then there is a point beyond which it cannot go, then it starts moving towards the right.
"Opposites are complementaries. If you can suffer your suffering in totality, in great intensity, you will be surprised ... you will not be able to believe it when it happens for the first time, that your own suffering absorbed willingly, welcomingly, becomes a great blessing. The same energy that becomes hate becomes love, the same energy that becomes pain becomes pleasure, the same energy that becomes suffering becomes bliss."
All of which is to say ... we must accept that the world is not what those who manipulate us say it is. And in confronting the continuing horrors that are perpetrated in our names, the recognition of it will lead not only to the cessation of these horrors, but to the knowledge of why we allowed them to happen.
As long as we stay in the cul de sac, we will never know what hit us when the end comes.
So ... did I get the girl? Well ... I don't know yet. My damn pants are caught on the iron-spike picket fence surrounding the cul de sac, and I'm dangling from the top.
I do know she's out of the cul de sac and running free, and I also know that if I'm going to catch her, and really love her, that I have to understand why and where she's running, and not try to corral her into some predictable cul de sac of my own desires.
It's the same with the future of our world. It doesn't look good, but it's too early to tell. One thing's sure: we have to stop trying to shape it into an object of our own desire, and hear what it is telling us, where it is leading us, rather than abusing it by making it a prop to keep us from confronting the shadows in our own faces.
The earth, like the woman I love, is not a product to be used to fulfill our own selfish and ultimately delusional desires. She is a purpose that it is our distinct privilege and honor to try and discover. But if we stay in the cul de sac of desire, distraction, and deception, there's no chance we ever will.
In the immediate future, Kaminski is available for conversation every Wednesday at 8 p.m. Pacific time on Lewis News Radio
Don't miss America's Autopsy Report, a collection of John's Internet essays.