- We are biologically alive and
- We are mentally conscious of this fact which
- Allows free will.
Yes, when analyzed, we are but a whirlwind of quarks bouncing upon quantum foam. We have no knowledge of why quarks behave the way they do – it is intrinsically random. If we were self-aware of every aspect that makes up who we are as a biologically living, mentally conscious, “free” individual, we would see the foundations of our thought processes are sealed in that of unexplainable synchronicities. We are not those fractals. Beyond a base level, do these constraints matter? Do you first look at the top of a skyscraper, or do you analyze its foundation? The answer is obvious – in every practical consideration of the term, we have free will. Yes, there are societal constructs (these are breaking) and there are physical constructs. However, even though we have no control of the rules in life, it is ultimately up to us how we play (or if we play).
Free will is embraced in optimism, while pessimism takes logical refuge in fate. Both pessimists/optimists stand in the same hallway, with billions of doors to explore. The pessimist realizes there are multiple floors and that only one door (which may not even exist) holds access to exploring the other hallways. This mindset is intensified with the realization that there are also multiple buildings containing even more hallways, all contained within multiple cities, found on multiple planets, etc. etc. The pessimist focuses on the repetition of constantly exploring the same hallway over and over again; creating a mindset revolving around life’s limitations and the “cruel fate” we have been subjected to.
The context of what’s behind each door is ever-changing. Those who believe in fate see the limitations and recognize that life plays out like an experiment in a laboratory. Replace the rodent and the maze with a human and the aforementioned infinite hallway. The point? How long before we run out of curiosity? How long do our most intense moments of discovery last? How long before the desire to free ourselves from ignorance becomes too repetitious and we grow weary of constantly opening new doors?
The optimist does not focus on this heavy realization. Yes, while aware of our limited potential, free will ultimately understands that without this existential suffering, we could never experience the revitalization felt when discovering something truly holy, sacred, revolutionary or loving. The mindset which embraces free will shall walk the hallway and admire its never-ending layers in silenced awe, never bothering to worry about an upstairs or a downstairs floor.
The optimist lives for the next moment; every moment like a lottery in which one picks their own numbers and draws them from a spinning pot. Being that the ink is abrasive and easy to detect, with enough concentration, the optimist hopes to pull only the numbers found upon their own ticket. This process of matching and selecting the best of life’s randomness continues until they have found themselves entirely and intentionally lost in plain sight; dancing in the realization of infinite potential and ever thankful for the experience.
This experience is the same experience which pessimism (and fate’s mindset) views as a cold and unrelenting experiment – all for the amusement of some distant observer. Free will sees the observer as the true experiment. This mindset finds freedom through transcendence of the boundaries; finding never-ending space and place to rest and contemplate. The optimist knows that if the question is being thrown toward us (How long before we stop caring about finding novelty?) that an observer is awaiting an answer. The joy and lifeblood of any optimistic mindset comes from the loving feeling of wanting to live up to human potential and being gracious to have even had the chance. As this is an extended metaphor, the observer of this experiment and the one within the experiment of conscious (but limited) life are but the same person.
As children, the world is novel and even tragic moments come with the ecstasy of a truly new experience! Fate says we are confined to search for novelty until we grow tired of the never-ending futile quest, but if we are confined and conscious, we will always have free choices to make. Moments of shared transcendence continuously occur in reaction to progressive culture. This essentially proves that when faced with the challenge to explore a billion doors or give up and become self-destructive (escapism), collectively, we have chosen to explore.
Fate and free will, optimism and pessimism – these are both sides of the same coin. We are whole and feel different from day to day, inexplicably, like quarks (the foundation of our experience). Today I am an optimist and tomorrow I will no doubt face thoughts of purposelessness. The point is not that we “contradict” yesterday’s mantra in today’s actions, or that we can detect patterns of disappointment. The truth is we do have the capacity to listen. With this capacity comes potential for a love of life, that which goes beyond positive/negative thinking and that which is for transcendent purpose – to embrace every perspective, to attempt to empathize and to share our findings with any open ear.
A final thought:
If given immortality and omnipresent wisdom from birth, what would be the motivation to explore the hypothetical hallway, if one knew what was behind every door? Knowledge of surroundings would not necessarily indicate transcendence from fate and if anything, it would lead to a desire to create an experiment the likes of which we now find ourselves metaphorically within. From this perspective, it would appear that we are freer as mice in a maze, than the observers themselves. It becomes obvious how true free will does not only occur when one is free of responsibility, but as an embraceable mindset possible in any circumstance.
With enough self-confidence, we all begin to view ourselves, in some degree, as “messiahs” in our own respective fields and in our minds. Why would you not base your actions around your ideal life philosophy? The “Messiah” complex — the notion that “I believe, despite subjective nature of my rationality, that I am RIGHT and that you should trust my judgment.” We base everything, from positive and negative interactions, around this belief — until it changes and we become empathetic to the grander and more selfless ideas based in love.
But do we, really? Frankly, the ones who continue being right continue to do so due to a combination of having a sense for what the whole is thinking, at least in their particular location on the planet, and being charismatic enough to convince everyone of their own reality. The thing about conscious awareness is that we are always trying to get the most out of every situation, simply because we are aware of choice. Additionally, we at least have some idea of what would be a better outcome relative to our own personal tastes and personality/mindset. Thus, every action, in our own minds and at said moment, is the right one to take.
Think about how you rationalize your choices at their core — “Because I like it”, because you believe it is ‘right’, the only natural option of the moment, the only embraceable decision. If your chosen action is proven to not be as perfect as your perceptions allow, be prepared to show the world your negative side. Selflessness allows you to see past this, but only to a certain point. The more you break down your actions, what you are doing, the more likely deep, core motives are actually contradicting what you would perceive to be selflessness.
If you are helping people because that genuinely makes you happy, then are you helping people to help people? Is it possible that because your experiences with helping people have been positive ones, that the feeling is what you seek — not the charity itself? True selflessness is not even acknowledging favors or kind acts you are doing for another — it’s considering these actions STANDARD — the DEFAULT. To never expect a “thank you”, because anything other than selflessness is derived pervertedly from your default “HELP ALL HUMANS” outlook.
In other words, the messiah complex is an oxymoron. Those who are genuinely selfless would never acknowledge such a thing. Those who acknowledge their charitable actions in a manner which encourages an ego or elevates their being above the rest of the world are clearly not selfless. There can never again be a true messiah, as if he/she exists, we would never hear from him/her. The minute you hear of a messiah’s existence, you know it to be false, because true godliness (my definition of godliness = striving to operate at peak human potential) understands that living up to your potential is what should be expected, not something that is beyond the norm or deserves compensation.
The lyrics are found here. Here is the official music video:
“Don’t take my life away / Don’t take my life away”
The manner in which she sings this, rapidly and frantic, suggests that this song may work best if you take the lyrics on a literal level before analyzing interpretatively. In the main chorus of the song, it sounds as if Garbus is describing a mugging. From the opening line (“What’s the business?“) asking just what the hell is happening, to the realization that the mugger is moving closer (“From a distance“) finally to the attempt to try to empathize with her perpetrator (“I’m a victim!” / “I’m addicted!“) It all paints a very visual picture. The intensity of this image obvious increases with every repeated plea (“Don’t take my life away!“).
WhoKill as an album seems to deal with similar subject matter upon the surface, and then on a deeper level one can interpret these things to act as metaphors for more intimate personal issues and insecurities expressed in song. If you look at the opening verse in this same “Mugger” mindset, you can see how well it fits with just about every line. The opening, in particular, makes much more sense on a surface level when analyzed from this perspective:
“If I represent the one that did this to you / Then can away the part that represents the thing that scarred you”
It seems to be an extended plea intended to be said to the mugger, only to be mentally pondered. Muggers obviously don’t personalize or discriminate in terms of the individual; though if they are robbing you chances are you have a look of wealth or content. She rationalizes, “If you are mugging me because I look like everything you aren’t and desire to be (in terms of wealth), then you need to get over whatever it is that personally traumatized you.” Such a powerful, opening line. Obviously, we are starting to see the deeper intentions of the song.
Immediately after this declaration of “Fix yourself before you hurt me”, she declares (“Get up / Stand up / Get on it!“) both the listener and herself to defend against the situation as to change the outcome (“I am no longer who you thought this one would be“). A victim can be mugged, but a victim in self-defense is not such an easy target.
After this confidence boosting declaration, it’s revealed that she (as a victim) still ends up running into this mugger once more (“We end up around the mountain that I climb to lose you“) and despite how bold she was just moments before, meeting this mugger causes her to enter a state of shock (“Ask me, Tell me / but all my wisdom departed“). Finally we enter in the main chorus, the confrontation, where all she can ask is “What the hell is going on / How did I get here / Don’t take my life away / I’m just like you!”
This entire time we have seen how simply the song reads in a literal manner, but it’s during the third verse where we start to realize that the song works much more beautifully on a symbolic level. Regardless, finishing up the mugger theme, the victim in the song tries one final plea. She states how “I’ll bleed if you ask me”, and we see how the mugger’s response is a simple “No” (“That’s when he said no“) before we enter back into the confrontational chorus once more. I’d like to point out that the song ends asking the question “What’s the business?” repeatedly, as if Garbus is restating her disbelief of the entire situation.
Obviously, you can replace the whole Mugger / Victim theme with many concepts and interpretations, but what will remain consistent is the general narrative between the two parties. If you go for the relationship-route, the song becomes a symbolic tale of frustration between two would-be lovers. I see it as someone meeting someone who has been hurt in a prior relationship, so badly, that they see all of that heartbreak in every new person they meet, including the protagonist of the song.
This is very similar in subject matter to the song “Abducted” by Cults (I analyzed this here), the major difference is that Garbus is attempting a solution to the problem, whereas Cults focused on the sad cyclical nature of the whole thing. The first verse then declares the protagonist of the song to be their own individual and not connected to any horrific past relationships. The second verse reveals how the protagonist of the song does NOT enter into the relationship (“The mountain that I climb to lose you“), but ends up meeting this person again in life anyways (“We end up around the mountain“), this time demanding why things can’t work out (“Answer me this!“). At the same time, there is a realization that no one wants to throw their time away with someone who is just going to hurt them (“Don’t take my life away“), so the protagonist is repeatedly asking in the chorus “What’s the business” — what hurt you before/are you ready for this/I don’t want to be hurt — before finally revealing she does fall in love (“I’m addicted yeah!“).
Writing this, I see a plethora of abstract and less direct ways (ex- an internal dialogue) of looking at this song from several perspectives, but the two general interpretations I’ve provided do indicate that the song is a song about frustration stemming from misunderstanding and miscommunication. The protagonist attempts to overcome this (in whatever the medium is which the frustration is occurring, depending on personal interpretation), and in the end she finds herself addicted. The real question, is to what? To heartbreak? To falling in love with those who are scarred? The song’s brilliance lies in how many windows it can be seen through, and I hope my interpretation has provided some insight into whatever your personal interpretation of the song happens to be.
We’re bored. Collectively. It is a nice thing to be conscious, because we can be aware of this boredom, and furthermore correct it. The awareness that “nothing is being done which resonates with me as an individual” — we cannot stand this. Typically, we turn to family, friends, culture, sex, entertainment or whatever it is that satisfies this individual boredom. Some may turn to work, some may turn to creative endeavors, some may converse and some may internally meditate. All temporary answers to a very real question — we are conscious, and thus, bored.
There is a desire, it would seem then, to alleviate this boredom. During peak experiences in your life, boredom is the farthest thing from your mind, and this is because in these moments, you are fulfilling a purpose. Purpose is the antidote to boredom, and excitement stems from a fulfilling of said purpose. We’re bored, because we are conscious that we have unrealized potential that could be channeled towards a purpose.
However, just as boredom comes and goes so does that which alleviates it. You can play a videogame and enter a world where your purpose becomes scaled down to singular objectives and tasks. You can work in a career with stepping stones and promotions and an entire system suggesting a greater purpose. You can write the great American Novel, every chapter, every sentence, every word defining a thought — each seemingly reaching a greater plane. Something beyond.
All these things are temporary solutions. All fades. Purpose can be realized. The problem is not with boredom — the problem is with purpose. Boredom is completely natural, and is an instant reality check into one’s personal situation — a mental inventory for one’s greater well-being. Boredom is alleviated through purpose, and purpose is defined through the individual.
Purpose is not an infinite concept, and is very much defined through human perception. This limitation suggests that there will always be an end to your chosen purpose, and thus, a point where you find yourself bored once more. The moment you become boss, the moment you finish directing your debut feature film — all of these are but peaks upon an ever-rising mountain-range of illusionary achievement. We fulfill our boredom by creating systems of purpose which we can dedicate ourselves towards, and we care not if these purposes can be fulfilled in our lifetime. In fact, we strive to find purposes that can be completed before our death, and this explains why we so frequently run into boredom.
“The meaning of life”, is almost entirely subjective. There is, however, one objective aspect that anyone can observe, and that is whether one is bored or engaged in purpose. Someone can dictate their meaning for life, but in those quieter moments of contemplation, in the midst of exciting personal success, there are certainly moments of “blah” suggesting something lacking.
This is the ultimate guilt of conscious awareness. The minute we achieve something is the same minute we find ourselves in the same place we were prior to said achievement — once more with unrealized potential, bored and lost in the in-betweens of our lives. Instinctually, it would seem that the only lasting, eternal purpose would be that which is dedicated to the human species as a whole — this is where the concept of a family comes into play as being the only thing that can ever truly matter to us as bored, individual, conscious humans.
While it is nice to conceptualize the idea of grand human progression through microcosmic action, it is not enough to satisfy the immediate ego. The individual ego is always bored unless it is engaged in distinctive, macrocosmic purpose. Just as the greatest philosophers live by example, the greatest humans live through their succeeding sons and daughters. Those who struggle for the human collective and greater good are doing so for future generations — to provide a safe zone for the youth to contemplate the absolute nothing.
There is never an answer to boredom. To be completely free from such a thing is to be dead. Purpose drives us each and every single day, to the point where we as a species can sit around the collective fire, contemplating life and all within. Contemplating our actions, reflecting upon mistakes, attempting to allow our future selves (our children) to be gifted with the wisdom of said mistakes — and maybe someday we’ll get to a place where all that wisdom is truly, genuinely applied. This is the only eternal purpose we should strive for — that day during which, after a long day’s work, our children look up to the stars, speechless as their boredom has long-since been replaced by awesome purpose. Each star, reflecting a possibility. This is all that will ever relieve our inherent boredom — the idea that tomorrow, there will be a world, and that in that world our children will flourish and prosper. Each child — a complete realization of human achievement.
“Money” is an illusionary concept. As wealth accumulates, it is only inevitable that one will begin to mentally prioritize this illusion above all else. Materialism can create a heaven on earth, sure, but only upon the surface — past the novelty, money is lifeless and by itself cannot create or seriously maintain any emotion – let alone happiness. Enjoyment from life stems from one’s mindset, and when this mindset is shaken from illusion, it creates behaviors which many would refer to as “evil”. The statement could perhaps be rephrased, “Money is illusionary, and man’s repeated tendency to attach himself to this illusion fuels the evil of this world.”
(It is possible to have a large sum of money while still maintaining one’s core principles/self/character, but after a certain point your entire world becomes that of an illusion. Fame, success, connections and praise can be experienced in varying degrees, whether through a thankful smile or outright Beatlemania. Money is certainly a temptation, and thus the root of illusionary indulgence — but the individual is the resistance.)