Principia Discordia > Think for Yourself, Schmuck!

There's Nothing Special About You (and that's liberating as heck)

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Nibor the Priest:
This is an attempt to get my thoughts together about the illusion of the self. I find this stuff comforting - it's the nearest my rationalist ass gets to 'spirituality' - but also very hard to put into words, at least words that don't sound like they're coming from a basement stoner. I won't pretend it's central to, or even part of, Discordianism, but it's part of mine and that's OK. If I ever try to make a holy book I might put it in, between the comic stories about whales that I'm better at.

I'm not sure if it makes any sense at all, to be honest, and I'm a little wary about posting it here. But I think at the very least it's a nice thought experiment, and it's better than arguing.



Don’t get me wrong: you’re probably all right. In fact, if you’re reading this, chances are you’re pretty cool. That person rocks. What there’s nothing special about is the fact that it’s you. The fact that this spark of consciousness happens to be reading through these eyes in this moment.

Just as cosmology tells us that every point in the universe has equal claim to being the ‘centre’, every sentient being has equal claim to being me.

I believe this is the meaning of, or at least related to, the tenet in both Buddhism and Taoism that the self is an illusion. It’s also my solution to both the Zen koan ‘This mind is Buddha’ and the story about the man pissing in a phone box in the SJ Games Principia. I don't believe in reincarnation, but I think this has similar or even identical implications.

It has fascinating ramifications for empathy, because nobody’s happiness is less, or more, important than your own. Same with nobody’s sadness, or anger, or misfortune, or education, or virtuousness, or sense of their own success or failure. As far as the universe is concerned, they’re all you, same as you are. They are therefore exactly as deserving of your sympathy and care as the person reading this. Love thy neighbour as thy self, because your neighbour is you. The President is you. That person you can’t stand? You. Sorry.

This doesn’t imply that criminals should go unpunished or even that jerks shouldn’t be sneered at, but it does mean that questions around those things should be considered with a view to increasing the net good for everyone. Whatever that means.

And if the self is an illusion, then so is selfishness. If you screw someone else over to benefit ‘yourself’, all you’ve done is lowered net happiness. Any selfish act is not only unethical, it’s literally pointless. More than that – it’s nonsense.

Frontside Back:
If it's me against you, you got me outnumbered since for every me there's many of you.

Me stays pretty stable in comparison to you who changes identities on a whim like a schizophrenic actor locked in wardrobe.

That's quite special, I think I'd rather be you.

Point on Zen:

The central tenet of Zen Buddhism is that there are no distinctions and no categories, all of that is illusion. A good example of this that logically shows what is meant by it...

Consider a sandy shore on a riverbank. Consider the grassy hill behind it. Consider the tree atop the hill. Consider you yourself, sitting on the beach, watching the river.

Can you determine where the river ends and the beach begins? Where the beach ends and the hill begins? Where the hill ends and the tree begins?

Can you determine where the landscape ends and you begin?

The answer is, surprisingly, no.

Consider that at the edge of the beach, just outside of what appears to be the waterline, water is still flowing through that sand. At the edge of that flow, the water is there but motionless. At the edge of the waterlogged sand, the sand is still damp. It gets progressively less damp as it approaches the hill, where the grass grows in the sand as much as in the dirt at first.

As you go up the hill, the dirt covers the roots of the tree, and a squirrel or a beetle or a child doesn’t notice any difference between the ground where there is no root and the ground where there is. Dirt coats the lower edges of the bark, thrown up by rain and wind, painting the bark yellow-brown: the eye can’t see the edges.

And you? Sit still long enough and the ants will crawl on you as surely as the earth. Birds will land on your head, shit in your lap, and pull your hair out to line their nests with. You are not separate from the landscape.

Zen Buddhism takes this one extra step further, to the wall as we say.

If you cannot distinguish the river from the beach from the hill from the tree from you, then it’s all you. There’s nothing else there, reality is you. “I am everything and everything is me,” taken extremely literally.

An initial reaction people have to this idea quite often is “but if I come across a monkey, it will remove my arms and shit down my throat out of sheer spite, if it was me I could stop it from doing that”. But cancer is you, and it kills you insidiously by choking and draining everything out of you. So really, what distinction is there? Both are parts of you that will kill you dead, you just have a mindset that separates the monkey from the human body, and that distinction is falsehood.

It’s one of my favorite things to consider when I’m having a very bad day. Because if I’m having a bad day, EVERYONE is having a bad day.

Doktor Howl:
"The president is you" seems kind of like a normalization of the pee-stained replacement Jesus.

Also, I disagree with the premise.  I mean, no offense, but I can believe you or I can believe Mr Rogers.

It’s not a strong belief of mine, it’s a useful reality tunnel for certain times and places. When I wish to be cruel to someone but that would be a bad idea, or (as stated) on very bad days.

Some other times and places, it’s useful to draw very hard boundaries. Certain kinds of bad days allow for no boundary crossing. Anytime you deal with Nazis. Etc.


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