“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
You know that feeling of wakefulness and unease that comes over you when you started clinging – binding yourself to a woman, or to a desirable object, or to an irresistible pleasure that quickly turned into an obsessive fixation that left you feeling impoverished, deprived, senseless, irrational and very miserable. If you ask me, I know that feeling all too well. Really, this is the price we pay for an increase in consciousness, not only do I suffer the burden of sensitivity, but also the burden of knowing what confusion and madness is transpiring inside my head. Even with our capacity for rationality and inclination toward logic, still we endure in our despairing romanticism, as if we have been stripped of our inherent power and were clutching at the edge of a cliff, fighting cruelly and persistently for our salvation. And even when I know that I am growing compulsive, dominating, excessive and wedded to anything pleasurable and gratifying, I am still faced with that bitter and inescapable truth – that I can’t force myself to feel any different than how I am at present feeling. I can treat this as an invitation to accept my sentiments for as long as they last, or I can decide to worsen my shape by deliberately and sometimes unconsciously turning down my feelings and pretend to myself that I am someone else altogether. One might tell you to refrain from growing attached, from wedging yourself to the impermanence of everything pleasurable, forgetting that attachment, in spite of being unconcerned about it, can still hold sway over your inward state. I can merely watch and observe feelings of despair, dejection, regret, guilt and sorrow, but that doesn’t take away from involuntarily sensing their emotional weight. I have wrestled with this idea for a long time, but it doesn’t seem to me that you can circumvent attachment by pretending to be detached or by feigning coldness – let’s be sincere with ourselves, for a moment, isn’t this a kind of self-deception and dishonesty, aren’t we terribly fooling ourselves by pursuing such a path with the hope of lessening our fondness and attachment?
Self-centredness is dangerous, it brings rise to much needless suffering and confusion. It misleads and muddles us into thinking we are entitled to possess, to be desired and pursued, to feel important. Really, this egomania can swiftly turn into a destructive cycle of infatuation, fixation and serious passion, to the point where you are so inebriated by sexual desire that you grow indifferent to everything that is of service to you. At which point, I start to recollect a forgotten and bygone time with a wretched urge to haunt that which casted a spell over me and brought me copious pleasure. Even knowing we are never going to relive a faded memory, the depressing conclusion that accompanied it causes us not only to resent it, but also to transport ourselves back in time and exploit it, once more. For even when a woman gives you the cold shoulder, you almost want to forgive and defend it and piece things together because of the pleasure she furnished you with. This is what it means to be driven by the sexual, the pleasurable, the gratifying. For it is not so much the woman that you long for, but the pleasure and satisfaction that has been tied to her in association to you. There is an evident wretchedness about this driving impulse, and even when we recognise our own misery, we still happily relish it and entertain, with a shudder of hope, a dead past that has nothing to do with us.
Perhaps, we don’t know how to have a pleasurable memory and be done with it, we tend to desire to mistreat it until we pervert it, unless it was corrupt to begin with and corrupted ourselves in the process. Regardless, an insatiable appetite and poor self-control almost always leads to unhappiness, disappointment and remorse. And unless we learn from the past and recognise that no amount of pleasure will ever be sufficient to satisfy the unappeasable soul, we will remain perpetual slaves of our own poverty, constantly in need and feeling in want of that which ultimately won’t indefintely satisfy us and will, once it is gone, leave us craving it once more. This tells me, then, that the antidote is not found in heedlessly complying with this lustful yearning, but in learning how to regulate it by cultivating a different part of yourself – that part of you that is tied to everything intrinsic and deep-rooted; the man-power that was endowed to you by divinity. But I shall not forward any false hope, or encourage you to ‘man up’ with the fervent prospect of turning you into an insensitised, sadistic animal. There is a more sensible path, I believe, but one that is inevitably paved with hardship and pain.
For, some senseless men seek to totally desensitise themselves to feeling because they are fearful, they simply dread the feeling of sensitivity, for it turns them into uncontrollable, desperate, emotional beasts and they’d rather diminish their own pleasure and intimacy than wrestle with the pain that comes with sensitivity, ecstasy, attachment, and sexual desire, and then gradually conquering these temporary impulses, with the knowledge that the accumulation of those painful and unfortunate endings that were mingled with that indelible pleasure will ultimately fortify your character and integrity and lead you to the kind of manlike supremacy that you sought when you were fallen to pieces. You don’t want to cage yourself from the torments of rejection, attachment, sex, closeness and repose – such an attitude does not settle the difficulty, it merely hides it and puts it away, only to later come back and disturb you, reminding you that to shun it is not to overcome or master it. Unless we learn to accept that whether by attachment or rejection, discomfort is unavoidable and desirable somwhere along the line, we will never gather the adequate experience to cultivate that fair-minded detachment which will extricate us from the excesses of self-indulgence and passion.
I don’t seek to confine myself, in spite of the pain that I ought to endure if I am to enjoy my most memorable pleasures. Conversely, I seek to master such pleasures by deliberately acquainting myself with them until I deprive them of their power over my internal state. However, such an attitude requires a courageous willingness to plummet into the abyss, because you will topple over at some point. And you ought to be prepared for the fall, not in defeatism, but in bright aspiration and assurance, realizing that there is no such thing as a terrible ‘fall’ without a joyous ‘rise’. The integrated man is he who has not only tolerated the terrible fall, but who, after having been dismantled and blown up, arisen and stood up, illuminated and enriched by the wisdom and consequence of his trials and tribulations. Had he not put himself in jeopardy, he would have remained negligent and unconscious of his weakness, in turn paying no heed to his potential might that lies dormant beneath the surface. It is useful to remember that when a circumstance turns intolerable, the moral is heavier but acceptance is tougher. Thus, a tougher acceptance yields a deeper, more eternal, more rebellious, more complete transfiguration of character. For that reason, a betrayal of the ego is often a prerequisite to its transcendance, for unless you first shatter a fragile ego, you can’t strengthen or remould its shape to make it firmer and more sophisticated. To overcome the frequent hurt of egotism, you must suffer the greater hurt of thoroughly devastating it. We are unduly tied to our self-regard, to the point where such a tie becomes an act of true self-denial and shelter against the necessary suffering of being, that will, indue course, reveal the finer workings of our own essential self.
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