Tag Archives: personal responsibility

The Matrix: You Can Check Out, But You Can’t Leave

Although it’s too late to rescue the idea of The Matrix from pop culture irrelevance—the patient died of over-exposure and ex-sanguination, which passes for natural causes when it concerns anything of real substance in the American psyche—it’s never too late to do a post-mortem.

It has become the undisputed embodiment of evil, soon to usurp the Devil, the Ego, and Hitler and the Nazis . . . our favorite alternatives to looking in the mirror for the roots of our alienation, suffering, depravity, and insanity. It has become synonymous with “the mess we’re in” or “the human condition on steroids,” or, if you’re a child of the 60’s, “the Man,” or “the Establishment.”

These days “The Matrix” trips off the tongues of grandmothers and political bloggers alike, which is hilarious because it has acquired a rich diversity of mouthpieces to talk about itself. The hot topic of conversation is whether we live in a simulation or not, without realizing that the conversation itself is a product of the simulation that initiates a never-ending loop of contrived investigation.

Now that The Matrix has become fodder for breakroom banter its hold on us is even greater, because nothing pleases us more than to replace incisive examination with superficial chitchat. At least when it was still wrapped in a warm cloak of conspiracy theory intrigue The Matrix had a level of gravity to it. Now it’s about as compelling as Russiagate. What a relief it must be for The Matrix to be able to remove the corset from its bloated abdomen and let it hang out without shame, like a middle-aged man who doesn’t have to retract his stomach anymore around the ladies.

I recently saw a posting on YouTube of a talk by David Icke entitled, “Who Built the Matrix?” and tuned in to witness the unmasking of the scapegoat du jour. Mr. Icke scrolled through the Rolodex of Pure Evil and ruled out the usual suspects–“it’s not the corporations, intelligence agencies, central banks, illuminati, cabal, oligarchy, shadow government, or deep state”—and with each deletion my anticipation mounted. Is he really going to say it, I wondered, is he going to tell the truth in this posh auditorium full of well-dressed followers?

And here was his public enemy #1: “It’s extraterrestrials . . . “ Groan. Anti-climactic doesn’t begin to describe this bail-out of an answer. Once again we tiptoe to the edge of the pool, dip our bare foot in, shudder, and conclude: “Nope, too fuckin’ cold. Maybe tomorrow.”

Now, I can groove on a discussion about ET’s as much as the next person, but in demonizing extraterrestrials we conveniently opt for a source that is even more difficult to corroborate and pinpoint than an earth-based one, such as central banks or the intelligence community. It’s another example of the mind feigning ignorance of its own creation so that it can make a pretense of exploring itself, while twisting the investigative storyline into an exercise in arbitrary judgments and observations based on agenda, identity, and preference.

So, the spotlight gets turned even further from the real architect—it’s us, the human race, homo sapiens, John and Jane Q. Public, who created the Matrix and continue to do so! The Matrix is a product of thought as are we, and we hold it aloft as long as our thoughts make it so. As individualized aspects of consciousness and a collective mind, we all share in the blame because we determine what is real through the persistence of our thought patterns.

Since we’ve constructed the Matrix as a landfill for those aspects of human nature we feel we should revile, it is correspondingly imbued with the cream of humanity’s repressed material. It is little wonder, then, that we resist recognizing it as our own creation and prefer to see it out there as a nemesis and not as a messenger that has something profound to tell us about ourselves. It doesn’t help that we put the Matrix on the largest stage possible, because the higher the drama quotient the easier it is for us to not feel personally involved.

We love watching programs that depict a brave individual who refuses to kowtow to the Matrix and escapes with her fierce individuality intact, and we never identify with the amorphous force of oppression that seeks to squash that hero. (We love to hiss and boo when Mr. Smith enters the scene). We are both, but we fail to recognize ourselves in the latter even as the medium provides us the golden opportunity to see ourselves in all of our paradoxical glory.

And now the spoiler: We don’t really want to be free of The Matrix because we’ve built it according to our own specifications, making it the designer prison that we love to hate. Potentially, there is enormous liberation in recognizing that we are both the jailer and the prisoner, but we prefer a path to freedom that skirts personal responsibility and mortifying recognitions about ourselves and our species.

The only deliverance that can be achieved is freedom from the person within us that constructed the Matrix and accepts it as our fate. So, the self-image has to take a major hit if we want to at least see our role in the Matrix and the life story has to be deconstructed, because it is the blueprint we followed when we built it. Effectively, we have to write ourselves out of the script.

This is a formidable undertaking, since it requires swimming against a treacherous current of non-stop information that reinforces the Matrix both collectively and individually, leaving us very little room to imagine an alternative. A suitable analogy might be trying to find the exit in a hall of mirrors. Collectively, we fashion group agreements about the components, boundaries, and purpose of the Matrix, and use convenient elements from our existing stories (American culture, the military, intelligence, politics, banking, historical references) to construct a convincing argument that it is something separate from us.

At the individual level The Matrix provides a sticky canvas on which to lob and cement our identities of victim, outcast, unlovable, martyr, avenger, righteous one, the oppressed, and a host of other beauties.

Our imagination—currently hijacked and neutered by The Matrix–is waiting to be unlocked, if we can only wean it from the limited menu of myths, fantasies, and possibilities served to it through entertainment, cultural institutions, the educational system, and from our personal contribution to our brainwashing that we call our life story. The imagination can be programmed as easily as any other aspect of a human being, so that its deeper expression is virtually ignored through an IV drip of minimal stimulation administered by the culture at large.

If it sounds like I’m suggesting an escape from reality, it’s actually the opposite. It requires us to deeply examine the beliefs, lies, and misperceptions of our personal narrative that we’ve used as an unreliable guide to navigate this mess. If we can allow the restoration of our personal myths while deconstructing the limited version of ourselves that keeps us safe and miserable, we can forge an alternative experience that both transcends and exists concurrently with the Matrix. For example, will I embrace my destiny as an independent filmmaker or settle for a fate as a weekend wedding videographer?

Even as we consciously dive into these stories we’ve kept hidden and stunted, the price is that we risk becoming an even greater egomaniac than the one that unconsciously maintains the Matrix, because there is tremendous personal power to be reclaimed from liberating the life force expended to keep us immersed in the Matrix. That is one reason it feels safer to just talk about it. We’d rather assume the identity of the oppressed than risk becoming the oppressor. We see abuse of power all around us in every possible context, yet we believe we can somehow stay on the right side of knowing how to responsibly administer power without actually accepting the responsibility ourselves.

We will only flip The Matrix when we stop trying to figure it out or escape it, and instead be willing to engage with the lost parts of our totality that have assembled themselves as its building blocks.

How to Join a Cult, Get What You Need, and Move On

The term “cult” has been applied throughout history to groups that pose a threat to the existing establishment because they encourage independent thought and action, or a loyalty or commitment to someone or something other than the accepted authority. The word is utilized with precision by that same accepted authority and its supporters to stigmatize such groups, or by those who consider joining a cult as a pursuit to which only the gullible and weak-willed need apply. The lucky recipient of the term is almost exclusively a group or organization that promotes personal or spiritual growth.

Over the last 30 years I’ve been involved with no less than five groups or organizations that American culture would likely classify as cults, and I have not regretted my participation in any of them. My time in some was brief, while others lasted years, but all of it was valuable. So, in this post I’ll be using the word “cult” with great affection. I’ll also be using the abbreviation GMT (guru, master, teacher) to cover most of the bases in describing the person who calls the shots in a cult.

It is not my intention to trivialize the trauma that can result from unquestioned allegiance to a charismatic authority figure, but that could easily describe a considerable range of cultural icons and their relationship to their entourages, fans, students, and hangers-on: athletic coach, politician, CEO, rock star, motivational speaker, government bureau, Hollywood celebrity, talk show host.

My purpose, with hindsight, is to provide a few hard-won guidelines for evaluating one’s participation in a cult that I wish someone had given me a few decades ago. A lot of it will sound like common sense, but common sense can often go out the window when you have found your ideal cult.

With the psychological and emotional weight of apocalyptic scenarios that are presented to us daily—destruction of the environment, climate change, water and food shortages, global economic collapse, J-Lo’s wardrobe malfunctions, or an imminent World War III—we may see a surge in the popularity of cults. As we increasingly witness the corruption of previously trusted institutions and systems, people will naturally seek the perspective of a non-mainstream source to make sense of a frighteningly chaotic world.

Is it risky to join a cult? Of course! It’s also risky to get married, have a child, submit to a “routine” surgery, take out a loan, have unprotected sex, drive a car, quit your job, move to a new city, or simply haul your sorry ass out of bed in the morning. The common thread here is that we trust that the results will be worth the risk, and without risk we never learn anything new about ourselves or about life.

Arriving

A logical starting place is the question: Why do you find yourself considering joining a cult at this time in your life? Your motivations will consist of a mixture of conscious and unconscious drives, and these will shift and change over time. In fact, uncovering your true motivations for joining a cult should be a cornerstone in the foundation of the journey itself.

It is reasonable to assume that you are attracted to a cult in the first place because you feel your life is lacking something. However, the mind can spin a sense of lack in a thousand different ways. A good rule of thumb may be: If you are not there to experience something different about your life, then you are there to ensure that your life stays the same.

The personal/spiritual growth industry is one of the biggest perpetrators of lip service around, because the majority of us are not sincerely interested in infusing our lives with any tangible change. Rather, we want our lives to stay the same in a different sort of way. I do not feel this is a cynical observation, just a realistic one, and it can be corroborated by observing our own behavior, the behavior of others, and the general history of humanity.

The crux is we aren’t willing to pay the price required to willingly allow the unknown to enter our lives. That price may be letting go of a relationship, friends, a career, financial security, reputation, or all of these. The most difficult sacrifices, however, are the beliefs and identities that comprise the image we have of ourselves.

We are conditioned to cling to routine and habit as sources of comfort, stability, and sanity, even as we loathe the predominance of those same elements in our lives. Consequently, a significant percentage of the other cult members are there for reasons other than growing, maturing, or transforming and are pursuing an alternative agenda unbeknownst to themselves, and one of those people may be you.

My own initial motives involved a curiosity about the limits of human consciousness, a craving for mental and physical self-discipline, and a desire for practical tools that would serve those aspirations. I was in search of peak experiences and believed that an accumulation of them would culminate in some sort of consistent wakened state. Essentially, I wanted to make my life one long drug trip without having to rely on drugs.

After several years of involvement, though, I realized I was using the language of spirituality to delude myself into thinking I was growing or waking up, and that having a well-defined spiritual path was a way for me to feel superior to others. I believed that because I could drive a shit-load of energy up my spine, assume various hatha yoga poses, and talk the esoteric talk that I had become someone other than the self-absorbed prick I’d always been. At that point I had to decide whether to continue with the sham, give up entirely, or begin deconstructing myself for real.

Certainly, you want to find an environment and a GMT that make you feel welcome. However, if you’re there for no other reason than it makes you feel good, then you’re already on thin ice and better off at home on the couch with a pint of Haagen-Daz. At best you’ll be quickly disillusioned and leave, and at worst you’ll be road-kill somewhere down the line, because we all know that feeling good is an ephemeral state and not a reliable long-term indicator of a situation’s integrity.

My first suggestion, then, is to have a motivation other than—or in addition to—the sensation of being high on life that accompanies being in the GMT’s presence or hanging with the other cult members. Even if your initial reason turns out to have been a total delusion, at least you judged your experience against something concrete. You can also take solace in knowing that you exposed your own delusion, which is significant in itself and may compel you to periodically rediscover the purpose of your involvement. This keeps the experience fresh and interesting.

A common misconception about cults and GMT’s is that they operate in a rarefied realm where our family dynamics and past traumas will not pollute the atmosphere. If you don’t come down to earth from that fantasy on your own, someone else will be happy to assist you in that free-fall, solicited or not.

To that end, it is a good idea to have a friend or two among the members who have been around the block and have moved beyond the initial honeymoon, star-struck phase of involvement. They may provide you with a sober point of view on what is actually happening around you and be honest enough to inform you when your focus is misguided.

A familiar motivation is to find community or the family you never had. If pursued too blindly and persistently, this agenda will likely get you into a lot of trouble from projecting your desire for siblings or parental figures onto the other cult members and the GMT. Without exception, we all do this in any group setting. The extent to which we recognize that we’re doing it, however, will dictate how creatively we can use our time in a cult.

If you’re using the GMT to gain the approval you never received from your parents, it is likely to be expressed through the persona of the good student, which serves as a replacement for the good son or good daughter identities we are so fond of repeating on unsuspecting victims throughout our lives. Striving to be the good student was my way of sustaining my self-image as someone who didn’t make waves, avoided confrontation, and preferred to think the best of people and myself because that just makes the world a hell of a lot simpler.

This is not to say that a cult cannot be a valuable source of supportive relationships implicit in family and community, and foster a sense of belonging and being appreciated simply for who you are. That source of emotional and psychological stability should, however, also contribute to the development of an independent spirit and not just blind loyalty to the pack.

The GMT is there to challenge your illusions about everything, and your willingness to accept that challenge will give you an idea of the basis for your involvement. If you’re there primarily for community and stability you may hold all the more strongly to those illusions and find yourself judging the GMT as a disruptive influence to your connection to the other members.

Ideally, a cult is somewhere you can feel safe, but cannot hide, either. It should be place where you can make yourself vulnerable without fear of humiliation or reprimand. At the same time, it is an environment that may cause you to realize that any situation is only as safe as you know your own mind.

If you do not learn some extremely unflattering truths about yourself through your participation, then you are not paying attention. Over time, I got a good look at some of my less admirable qualities: cowardly, passive-aggressive, elitist, emotionally abusive, willing to look the other way regarding questionable behavior as long as my needs are met, just to name a few.

Looking back, you will inevitably be embarrassed by some of your behavior and naiveté, but that can form the basis for a newfound humility and empathy. The challenge is to face these perceived failings without falling into chronic self-loathing, which is just another mental strategy to avoid emotional maturity. Learning to accept yourself as you are involves embracing a lot of orphaned attributes that you kicked to the curb early in life in order to fit in and feel accepted.

Danger, Will Robinson!

The following are some cautions and pitfalls when considering a cult that can spare you a lot of grief if you recognize them in time. Some will be obvious upon your initial exposure, and others only become evident after some degree of involvement.

If you are required to refrain from certain activities and habits in order to become a member, this should give you pause. While you may not care, for instance, if you have to give up red meat or alcohol in order to join, you may still consider whether there is a worthwhile reason for the restrictions, and not just to make you a powerless child who cannot make her own lifestyle choices.

Is it tithing or highway robbery? If you are asked to surrender your life savings as a demonstration of your commitment to a non-material focus, it will likely pad your cult’s wallet instead.

If you are required to cut off communication with your family and friends, or if there is any indication that you cannot leave whenever you want, that should send you running for the exit.

If you’re required to perform any type of demeaning ritual acts that will prove you’re worthy of membership, then you are better off pledging a college fraternity because at least free beer may be forthcoming.

If the cult does not provide a means for moving beyond the cult and the GMT in the form of tools for self-growth, that is a red flag in my book. I’m referring to techniques for increasing awareness of energy flow, releasing repressed emotions, improving mental focus, developing intuition, getting and staying grounded, and fostering a connection between mind and body. Without such tools, to flog a well-worn cliché, how will the student ever become the teacher? If the lack of these aids doesn’t seem to faze you, then you may be on the path of the “eternal seeker,” which is analogous to someone who collects advanced degrees and never pursues their practical application.

However, those same tools for self-growth can be used to reinforce your current situation rather than to find a way out of it. For example, meditation can easily serve to suppress feelings and emotions. So, the way you use the tools is as important as their availability.

If you do not have the self-discipline to eventually use the tools in a moment-to-moment context to have an embodied experience of the principles underlying them, then your mind will only associate spiritual or personal growth with the setting of retreats, workshops, or classes.

You can attend workshops and classes till the day you die, all the while convincing yourself that each one is moving you further along a track of progress, and it is really just the mind whispering the lie that waking up is about acquiring more knowledge. The mind will make a habit out of anything in order to preserve its primacy and avert its un-doing, and your precious spiritual path is what’s for dinner. It, too, can easily become just another rote exercise consisting of an obsessive focus on regular attendance at workshops and classes.

If the GMT espouses only love and light and characterizes certain emotions and feelings as bad and others as good, this indicates a lack of wholeness and maturity. Unfortunately, the New Age movement has been riddled for decades with so-called teachers who peddle a Pollyanna, rose-colored version of the human condition. In reality, the splendor of humanity is more than matched by the horror of humanity and a GMT worth his or her salt will encourage you to find both equally within yourself.

If you are honestly looking for a visceral experience of the truism, “the entire universe resides within you,” you do not get to cherry-pick which universal aspects to embrace based on your preferences.

Beware of the cult that tries to sell you “enlightenment”—a word whose regular abuse has consigned it to a status of utter irrelevance. The notion of enlightenment now occupies the same level of credibility as the 72 virgins promised to suicide bombers after their glorious demise, or the hackneyed version of heaven with harp-toting angels. It is yet another Eastern concept of substance—similar to hatha yoga—that has been watered down during its transoceanic voyage to the West.

The Western portrayal of enlightenment resembles yet another pain-free state of reward for being good and virtuous, and a refuge from the baser aspects of being human. Our humanity is presented as something to transcend rather than fully experience, when we’re not remotely aware in the first place how it feels to be fully human. How can you transcend what you haven’t experienced yet?

If you are like me, you will repeatedly run into the assumption that a reward awaits you contingent on “right” behavior and thinking. It’s one example of how our enormous sense of entitlement as Americans insinuates itself into a context ostensibly concerned with selflessness. If the only reward turns out to be that you feel more alive than you ever have, would that be enough?

My last GMT asked, “Do you want to have a life before you die?” and that was good enough for me to hop on board for seven thrilling years.

GMTs

Why are we conditioned to be so disconnected from ourselves that we need permission from another to simply be who we were born to be? Instead of pondering this unanswerable question, it’s more fruitful to consider the purpose GMTs serve: We view them as someone who has found the thing in his/her life that is missing in ours. They provide us with a model for a life based on something other than fear, and encountering that impels us to look inward for that same experience. Bearing in mind this function of a GMT as a force that catalyzes self-examination is very important, because our unfortunate inclination is to use them as an object of worship to corroborate our feelings of inadequacy.

A skilled GMT can demonstrate the power of surrender, vulnerability, and witnessing one’s mind, elements for living a fulfilling life that are extremely rare in any mainstream context. By making yourself vulnerable to a GMT you open the door to glimpsing the forces that truly determine your life’s expression, as opposed to the delusions of control and free will under which we hazily operate. If you cannot make yourself vulnerable to the GMT, ask yourself whether that is because you don’t trust him or her, or because that’s where you draw the line as far as wanting to know yourself.

GMT’s are often intimidating presences, but are as deserving of your compassion as they are of your respect, because they willingly set themselves up to be targets of criticism, blame, comparison, and suspicion and that is not an easy mantle to assume.

The roles of a GMT are varied and complex: parent, psychotherapist, authority figure, friend, confidant. Being a GMT requires the self-discipline and awareness to be non-reactive, ruthless, neutral, detached, humble, vulnerable, and have the discernment to sense when each quality is needed. You will probably find your GMT everything from confounding to adorable in the span of a couple of minutes, because they act as a model for the paradoxical in human nature. It is no wonder that so many of them go off the rails.

If you’re on your fourth GMT in two years because the previous three did not pass muster, you’re probably looking for someone who does not exist and even if they did would teach you nothing. What are they going to do if you find them, show you how to be a perfect human being, which is the antithesis of a whole human being? Checklists are useful when shopping for a used car, but not a GMT.

A GMT is, above all, a human being with all the accompanying faults and desires. If she/he claims to be anything other than a human being—e.g. a saint, the reincarnation of a past teacher, an ascended master—I recommend politely excusing yourself. If too much energy is wrapped up in celebrating how awesome the GMT is, then you are involved in a personality cult. A GMT can only do so much to deflect such unwanted adoration, so it’s up to you to determine if he or she appears to bask in and encourage such behavior.

If you are exclusively attracted to GMT’s who are no longer alive, but have a large following, you may be avoiding the confrontation with a live GMT that could shake you to your core and initiate the unraveling of your life. It practically ensures a difficult route to finding the teacher inside you because you can never measure up to a beloved GMT whose memory is preserved, protected, and exaggerated by a legion of devotees. It can be a convenient device to stay small and convince yourself that you’re growing at the same time.

There is no one GMT who will be all that you need, nor will he try to fill every void in your life. And that’s a blessing, because if she did it would make it that much easier to fall asleep in a dependent relationship.

If you find yourself wanting to be your GMT’s buddy, it may be an indication that you are a bit power-hungry yourself and believe that close proximity to the big cheese may rub off on you. This makes it harder on the GMT because they have to deal with that projection as well as others you may have. It is their job to destroy your illusions about yourself and we usually don’t acquire friends based on their willingness to call us on our shit.

This is further complicated if you enter into a sexual relationship with the GMT. If the cult practices the conscious cultivation and channeling of sexual energy, it may ensure a mutually agreed-upon, grounded focus for the experience. In that case, a sexual relationship with a GMT is not inconceivable.

Otherwise, pursuing an emotional and sexual relationship with a GMT is likely a big, fat neon sign that your cult involvement is motivated by something other than a desire to grow up. We Americans are generally not capable of staying emotionally detached in a sexual relationship (I know I’m not), and emotional detachment is likely what the GMT will bring to it. If you bring attachment rather than detachment to such a coupling, there is likely to be pain, misunderstanding, and feelings of betrayal. Indeed, this has precipitated the downfall of many a GMT, and caused disillusionment for countless cult members.

If you feel you have been betrayed by the GMT, you have to ask yourself whether they acted the way they always have, but that this time you took it personally, or whether they truly behaved like an insensitive asshole. It is critical to recognize your own contribution, because no one is innocent in such a scenario. After all, you chose to make yourself vulnerable to an individual you believed could help you discover who you really are, when in fact that information can be known by you alone.

When an event is perceived as a betrayal, it is usually an indication that it was not a good fit in the first place or that one or both parties stayed too long in a situation that was clearly over, but neither had the courage to end it.

This is where you are on a knife’s edge in a cult: It is no easy task to balance surrender, vulnerability, critical thinking, and monitoring your feelings, but it is possible. Staying receptive to a variety of different sources of information will give you a fighting chance to maintain a grounded perspective.

When your GMT honestly tells you or demonstrates who they are, you need to pay attention! If they behave in ways you find difficult to accept, you may only hear and see what reinforces your idealized image of him/her. You are there to find the GMT within yourself and not to clean up the one in front of you. If you find yourself wishing the GMT would change or grow in certain respects, then it may be time for you to leave the cult.

Leaving

Any GMT will tell you that your path is ultimately a solitary one and only you can navigate its crooked turns and cul de sacs. This may sound mercenary, but you are using the GMT to get to yourself and at the point you trust yourself as much as you trust him or her, then it is time to leave. This does not preclude feeling immense gratitude for whatever valuable experiences you have had there.

It is important to frequently reflect on why you are participating and how you have benefited thus far. It requires a balance of critical thinking and honest evaluation of your inner state. Simply put: “Am I happy here? Do I feel fulfilled here? Is there something I’m not getting from the GMT that is important to me?”

The external expression of your life will also tell the tale: Have you still not found the courage to leave a loveless marriage, reconnect with your estranged family, refrain from self-destructive behaviors, find a career that is worthy of you? A consistent sense of numbing familiarity is a sign that either you are not using the cult to honestly examine how you’ve created your life, or that this particular cult is not for you. This is not an easy separation, but the longer you stay for the wrong reasons the harder it is to leave.

You will need to trust your own answers to these questions, because ultimately you have to rely on how you feel to guide you and not what the community or GMT may tell you, because it is naive to assume that they always have your best interests in mind. Every last one of us is functioning with a stunningly incomplete knowledge of who and what we really are, so it is easy to allow others to make such decisions for us.

It goes without saying that a cult is one hell of a place to observe the power of collective agreements and beliefs, and you will witness your own tendency to either take them on or challenge them. At times, the group-think will make it difficult for you to form your own impression of what is right and meaningful. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll experience the uncomfortable recognition of our mental default mechanisms that have ultimately led us to the brink of our own extinction.

One of the most useful pieces of wisdom ever given to me by a GMT was, “the purpose of a spiritual path is to exhaust the student,” but I never fully got it until I reached that exhaustion. At that point, the notion of spirituality collapsed and blended with every other category of human experience intended to make one person feel more special than another. It was actually a source of enormous relief and gratitude.

I realized what I had invested so much time and energy in was the slim opportunity to find a departure point, and not a security blanket of spirituality in which to wrap myself. And, if you do experience the dissolution of your spiritual path, it means that you’re free to create instead of seek.

Abandoning the search for meaning can release a tremendous amount of bound-up energy and invigorate your life in unexpected ways. It can result in some deep despair as well, of course, but if your practice has not prepared you for this, then it was never really intended to put you in touch with the full range of your humanity.

Although we tend to idealize the search for meaning as a noble pursuit, actually pursuing it can expose it as a major cause of human suffering. It’s not meaning itself that is the problem, it’s what we do with meaning once we’ve found it. We can’t be content with it on our own; we need a consensus to agree that this one is better than any other meanings. It becomes another source of separation instead of unity, another identity to protect, and a basis on which to dismiss others in comparison.

Because of our vastly overblown opinion of the human species, it cannot be enough that we exist simply to fully express who we were meant to be as individuals. No, good heavens, there must be some overarching meaning to all this that reflects our inherent majesty.

After your cult experience, if you trust your own definitions of “spiritual” or “sacred,” and know that it’s okay if those definitions are continuously evolving and self-contradictory, then you have a way of being that is rooted in feeling and personal experience instead of dogma, ideology, or a tired narrative that was recorded millennia ago.

Joining a cult can be an attempt to drop out of mainstream society, but what you learn is that you can never escape your own mind, and that it is a reflection of the collective mind in all its messy glory. You can, however, become intimately familiar with the workings of your mind, and therein lies your chance to rediscover what a cult and GMT can only point you toward.

Why Is It So Hard to Find Urgency? Part 2

http://www.patternreleaseenergetics.com

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “The Art of Getting Out of the Way.”

3. Until we’re willing to experience the nature and extent of the pain we’re in, we have a limited perspective on our situation and how to find a way out of it. Urgency springs from a transfer of energy that occurs when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to the pain underlying an habitual behavior or emotional state. The energy that was applied to suppressing the pain becomes available when we stop the suppression. It is a shift from a mental effort—suppression—to an effortless act—being vulnerable to our feelings.

That available energy is what we draw from to stay grounded and make a conscious decision to change an undesirable situation. Without that available energy, having a choice in the situation is in name only, because we will reflexively choose our conditioned, default behavior time and time again.

By the time we’re young adults, we’ve portioned out all almost all of our life force toward propping up a persona that we can live with and display to the public. Unfortunately, the script written for that persona is based on childhood adaptive strategies, traumas (real and perceived), borrowed beliefs, misinterpretations, fantasies, and false information. Besides making it very difficult to have a direct experience of what is right in front of us, it is our unwillingness to disassemble this web of misperceptions that stands between us and urgency.

In addition, episodes of illness and injury are woven into the story of our life and become associated with repressed emotions, such that a complete healing of the physical ailment requires revisiting the unresolved emotional component. We often fear what may lie on the other side of healing, because it will likely include the exposure of our hidden agendas around maintaining a certain degree of pain in our lives, and those agendas have to be sacrificed in order to achieve real healing.

In my 15 years in health care, I’ve watched clients (and myself) repeatedly choose chronic pain and illness—even death– over honest self-examination. We permit a depth of healing that corresponds to, but does not exceed, the degree of self-exposure that our ego can comfortably handle. In other words, the depth of our healing is directly proportional to how badly we want to know who we are and what motivates our behavior.

4. The mind leverages small discomforts to exert maximum control over our access to urgency. There is a whole universe of sensations and feelings that informs us about our emotional, psychological, and physical state at any given moment, but our mind dutifully chooses which ones to recognize and which ones to ignore and suppress based on the version of reality we’ve painstakingly assembled.

On cue, our mind-body produces mild, context-specific discomforts that signal the very tip of the pain we will have to confront in order to create change in our lives. However, these physical annoyances are not consciously acknowledged as heralding fear, rage, shame or whatever taboo emotion threatens us so profoundly. The more undefined the danger, the more the mind can keep us under its thumb. These discomforts and annoyances surface in that slippery interface between our everyday awareness and the unconscious, and may take many forms: jaw clenching, chest tightness, holding one’s breath, drowsiness, sour stomach, dizziness, and neck pain, to name just a few.

The discomfort’s message is a subtle, but powerful implication that whatever repressed emotions are uncovered will result in a worst-case scenario: death, destruction, public humiliation, or total loss of control. Until the repressed emotion is actually allowed expression, it is only indicated by this sensation-based signature of the repressed emotion.

Here’s an example. A man desperately wants to tell his father he loves him, but every time the thought occurs to him it is accompanied by a tightening of his throat. This has occurred so many times over the years that he no longer notices the discomfort, although without fail it has the effect of squelching the simple words, “Dad, I love you.” The throat tightening delivers the message that if he were to tell his father this simple fact, something bad will happen. It also masks the real reason he cannot say these words: a deep resentment for something that happened in childhood for which he’s never forgiven his father.

Not telling his father he loves him is the son’s way of withholding love in payment for that episode that happened so long ago. The underlying statement is, “I won’t tell you I love you until you admit that you were wrong.” The throat constriction is tied to the son’s inability to relinquish being right about the incident, and the trade-off is the loss of emotional connection to his father.

Since the son will not consciously admit to himself that he cannot let go of a petty grudge against the person who raised him, all that remains is the throat tightening to control his behavior. The end result is the son’s rationalization, “It just wasn’t the right time. I’ll tell him the next time I see him.” And urgency is successfully sidestepped yet again.

This is one of the mind’s primary methods of keeping us in our prison, both at the individual and collective levels. In this way, our past is always informing our present experience, and spontaneity, hence urgency, is kept at bay.

5. The mind may create a constant crisis state to avoid real urgency. This is a very successful strategy as evidenced by people who use rehab like a vacation home, make a hobby of attending multiple support groups, use permanent disability as a gravy train, or spend all their time putting out other people’s fires. If a person’s baseline state is to be in a crisis situation, how will he possibly be able to discern when he actually is in a crisis?

Hitting bottom for these people will be elusive, since bottom has become the norm. This phenomenon also attests to the extremely subjective nature of pain. Someone may, for instance, be willing to subject himself to the physical pain of heroin withdrawal, but not have the courage to confront the shame that fuels the addiction.

For someone to escape from this horrible trap, they have to recover a baseline experience of well-being, or at least neutrality. For someone who has lived her entire life in a crisis mode, this can be extremely threatening because feeling good has become such an alien experience and is not easily trusted.

If healing completely is too much of a threat to a victim identity, then the mind knows precisely where to draw the line to feel just well enough to keep the identity operational.

Why is It So Hard to Find Urgency? Part I

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “The Art of Getting Out of the Way.”

Have you ever found yourself envying someone who has received a terminal diagnosis or had a near-death experience, because he claimed that it dramatically enhanced his appreciation for life? Did it lead you to ask yourself, “Am I capable of creating that urgency within myself without needing to look death in the eye?”

Or, we all know a friend or family member whose inability to hit bottom has caused us to shake our heads and say, “Jesus, what’s it gonna take?!” And, in unguarded moments, we may ask that of ourselves as well.

Where does urgency come from and why is it so hard to find? The question becomes even more formidable considering the range of possible reactions to the aforementioned terminal diagnosis. For every person who finds a new immediacy in her life, there are many more that simply give up, hand their fate over to the health care system, or sink into depression or rage because of perceived powerlessness.

Beyond the typical dictionary definition, I would describe urgency as a force that compels us to overcome our habitual behaviors and beliefs to seek a more fulfilling life, and align our actions with our deepest aspirations.

Urgency is required to change many types of situations: quitting a self-destructive habit, ending an unhappy relationship, healing from a chronic health problem, and leaving a soul-sucking job are just a few.

This chapter will not attempt to address our collective inability to find urgency as a nation in rapid decline or as a species that is rapidly destroying itself and its environment. I feel that our individual barriers to urgency are an accurate microcosm of these broader contexts.

The factors that derail urgency are so insidious and varied that it makes sense to identify a just a few of the primary culprits:

1. We don’t give ourselves permission to desire what we actually want. If all we know is that we want a shitty situation to change, but we don’t identify why it has persisted and what we want in its place, it causes us to look for urgency where it does not reside in the situation.

For example, a person may say she wants a partner who is a good provider, but what she really yearns for is someone with whom she can express anger and not be rejected for it. However, she has never given herself permission to feel anger without feeling guilty about it.

In order to have a fulfilling relationship, she would have to find the courage to tamper with her carefully constructed identity of being a person who is above feeling anger. The real reason for her unhappiness in the relationship remains hidden because of her inability to honestly name what she wants due to its personal taboo nature. Until she is able to acknowledge that need she may not even be able to imagine herself in a different situation, and will likely continue in relationships with a partner that does not allow her to express anger.

We’re generally not taught to want something substantive from ourselves like learning to put our own needs first, how to be self-sufficient, how to recover our ability to cry, or be less inhibited. We often look to a therapist or teacher to give us permission to desire these things.

Instead, from an early age we’re handed ready-made constructs to chase such as financial and material success, romantic fantasies, fame, family obligation, patriotism, career, and advanced degrees. So, when our deeper desires gnaw at us they’re often not recognizable as real aspirations but rather as empty, vain pursuits, when compared to the prescribed goals of our culture. In other words, recovering our individual humanity often takes a back seat to being a productive citizen, a cooperative team player, or a good little consumer.

I wasn’t aware of what I really wanted from my life until I was 49, and since then I’ve held on for dear life because my own mind and the pressures of the world are constantly trying to convince me that I’m insane, irresponsible, and self-indulgent for desiring it.

2. We believe that we’re never going to die and that we’re entitled to a pain-free life. If asked, any sane person would deny holding these beliefs, but they are nevertheless clearly demonstrated through our individual and collective behaviors and are reinforced moment-to-moment by the health care system, mass media, our government, the entertainment industry, our educational system, and various other institutions.

Of course, we need only examine our own lives or anyone around us to know that death and pain are hallmarks of being in human form. So, how do we reconcile this massive contradiction in our minds and sustain beliefs that are disproven at every turn? Presto, the magic of suppression and repression enables us to occupy unlimited contradictory positions and avert pain or a spontaneous recognition of our mortality.

We can either choose the pain of staying the same or the pain of growing up, and that can seem like a bleak outlook unless we develop a relationship to pain and discomfort other than our ingrained default response of aversion and suppression. Unfortunately, we most often choose the pain of staying the same because familiar pain is our twisted security blanket, and the latter is an uncomfortable leap into the unknown. It is ironic that we often chastise teenagers for taking unnecessary risks with their lives as though they were immortal, while as adults we express this same belief in immortality through a profound lack of risk taking.

We are rarely encouraged to move toward pain and discomfort as a doorway to healing and change, and in fact, we’re likely to be labeled masochistic and mentally unstable if we do. If we voluntarily chose the discomfort of vulnerability and self-exposure more often, there would be little need for a self-help industry, spiritual gurus, or motivational speakers.

So, we look for urgency in a package that is anything but painful or threatening. However, urgency does not hang out in a warm and fuzzy place, and when we do not find it there the mind serves up a generous buffet of justifications and rationalizations prepared for just this occasion. We pat our ego on the back for at least making an effort to find urgency, but alas, it just didn’t answer when we called.

The Intervention Fallacy: Part III, Freeing Yourself from the Cycle

This is the final installment of a three-part series.

http://www.patternreleaseenergetics.com

[The approach to self-healing that I use in my Pattern Release Energetics work is described in detail in my e-book, “Activate Your Inner Physician,” available through amazon.com, but this post is intended to summarize the principles behind it.]

Breaking the habit of intervention and re-learning how to heal oneself is–pardon the cliché—simple, but not easy. The first step, of course, is to stop intervening or allowing others to intervene whenever you have an uncomfortable, disturbing, or unfamiliar sensation, pain, emotional reaction, or obsessive thought. This at least gives you a chance to discover what experience is being short-circuited with intervention. Most often it’s an encounter with hidden beliefs, repressed memories, and unexpressed emotions.

Since we’ve taught ourselves to fear this encounter, we need a strategy to replace our default response of suppression, and develop a different relationship to pain and discomfort. We start by restoring the lines of communication between our bodies, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. These lines of communication are silenced over time as we’re socially conditioned to regard a human being as a compartmentalized phenomenon.

I teach people breathing and grounding to create a foundation for reestablishing this communication and encouraging the mechanism of expressive healing. These two tools provide a means to stay anchored while focusing on the symptom you’ve chosen to explore. Then you rotate your attention between all the physical sensations and emotional components that accompany the symptom, which might be described as a voluntary embracing of chaos.

This causes a type of tension to surface caused by the mind raising its resistance to examining the deeper sources of the symptom. Allowing this tension to build while staying grounded erodes the false compartments between body, thought, emotion, and sensations, and enables a freer flow of information between the conscious mind, the hidden self, and the physical body. By simply choosing not to suppress this experience, you are harnessing the healing forces inside you and encouraging them to interact until a resolution occurs.

This may feel very foreign at first, because in American culture we’re generally encouraged to resolve tension as quickly as possible, regardless of the context. The creative possibilities that non-resolution of tension engenders are unimaginable to the conscious mind, whose agenda is to choose either black or white and then rigidly defend whatever it’s chosen. In expressive healing, black and white are allowed to occupy the same space until they work it out and a third possibility reveals itself: healing. Tension and chaos are essential elements in expressive healing, and they are precisely what are trampled on with a suppressive approach. This is not a logic that can be reproduced by the intellect.

Another way of describing this approach is that it’s a way to make yourself vulnerable to yourself. Until you can do that, making yourself vulnerable to anyone else is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Vulnerability–the willingness to feel–is necessary to access whatever is trying to get our attention through disease, illness, pain, or dysfunction.

We like to think of ourselves as feeling beings, but until we’re actually asked to feel we don’t realize how profoundly intellectualized our experience of life has become. We say all the time that we want to feel more alive, but are we willing to experience what that really feels like after a lifetime of being programmed into a narrow band of feeling and self-expression? It’s not a stretch to imagine, for example, that your personal experience of feeling more alive might get you a diagnosis of bipolar disorder from certain mental health professionals.

Becoming a more feeling person doesn’t mean having one’s emotions spill all over the place at the drop of a hat. It involves being able to sense and honestly evaluate one’s internal state at any given time. Am I angry? Am I jealous? Is alcohol destroying my liver? Do I get a headache every time I visit my sister? Have I fallen out of love with my husband? Do I hold my breath when I talk to my boss?

Recovering one’s self-healing abilities is a solitary pursuit, because you’re not going to find much support for it out there. There is an unceasing exposure to elements that reinforce the intervention model, and the degree to which society attempts to keep a lid on our fundamental ability to heal ourselves is daunting, to say the least. If you do pursue it with some commitment, you’ll realize more and more how our culture’s approach to living one’s life is about suppression in practically every context you can imagine.

The point of all this is not to skate through life in some pain-free state or “tidy things up” emotionally. That’s a big part of the problem to begin with since tidying up suggests that certain emotions are unacceptable. It’s to observe, feel, acknowledge, and express. It’s a way to become more aware of why we do what we do, think what we think, and how that makes us feel on both a physical and emotional level. We can take the initiative to begin unwinding ourselves right now, or go with the flow and wait until life beats the crap out of us yet again, or we wait for the wake-up call of an emergency level of crisis.

 

The Trap of the Politically Correct Mindset

Under the guise of respect for diversity, we have quietly cleansed American culture of any chance for honest public discussion around race, sexuality, gender, class, or any other distinguishing feature that would differentiate one person from the next. Political correctness is one of those cultural phenomena that cause us to shake our heads and think, “This must’ve seemed like a good idea at some point.” And then it becomes another cobblestone in the rickety road to hell.

The disconnect between what is allowed in public conversation or discussion and how we talk in private behind closed doors has reached an unprecedented level of absurdity. The PC mindset is a form of mental and emotional conditioning that accomplishes the exact opposite of its implied intention, resulting in divisiveness rather than unity. It is the literal embodiment of the “thought police” from Orwell’s 1984. PC behavior is what passes for respect in a society that wants to show how accepting it is, but is not really interested in honest connection between individuals, because that’s too dangerous.

PC is a brand of censorship uniquely suited to American sensibilities because of our persistent belief that we are the good, decent ones who won WWII, the protectors of democracy, the white knight of the western world, and the caretakers of a Disneyland where anyone can be anything they want to be. We instinctively know that the iron-fisted oppression of free expression and activism exemplified by the Russian, Chinese, or North Korean approach to censorship, for example, would never fly here. But, give us Americans a strategy to gag ourselves that can be justified as compassionate and democratic, and we’re all in.

It has become such a morass that it’s difficult to tell whom, if anyone, exactly benefits from the perpetuation of PC: Groups who want to retain the advantages of victim status? Prominent individuals or organizations that want to strengthen their façade of being the champion of the oppressed?

Guilt and shame are possibly the strongest elements that can sustain an intensely polarized situation, outside of an overt threat of physical violence. PC utilizes guilt and shame with a surgeon’s skill, playing on our secret fears that we’re not actually the good, honest, virtuous people that we hoped we were, but in fact that we’re just like everyone else. If we tow the PC line, though, we can at least fool ourselves and perhaps others that we are those guiltless beings of light.

Like everyone, I spent most of my life cherry-picking which thoughts I accepted as “my own” and which ones were “something else that wasn’t me” in order to create an identity I could bear. Eventually, though, it stopped making sense that the bad, evil people were always over there. I would find myself watching the news and continually asking, “Who are these fucking people who think it’s okay to believe in white supremacy, or think it’s okay to fire someone because he’s gay?” Eventually, the extremely uncomfortable answer was, those people are me!

Now, if I’m honest about the totality of what I see in myself, I see a homophobe, a racist, a misogynist, a misanthrope, a classist, and any other clichéd type of prejudice that can be imagined. And if there’s one I haven’t found yet, it’s just because I haven’t looked hard enough. And if anyone who’s reading this thinks they are not in the same boat, then they are deluding themselves.

PC encourages the suppression of thoughts that we don’t want to accept as our own, and beefs up our need to punish others for those very same thoughts so that we don’t have to look at them within ourselves. This is what creates the world in all its brutal duality. If these thoughts are not ours and don’t reflect our own nature and beliefs, then whose are they and how did they get into our heads? If we keep our taboo thoughts buried in the unconscious, then we can sustain the illusion of our innocence in it all. And that’s how history repeats itself ad nauseam.

Our social conditioning encourages us from the moment we slide out of the womb to choose a very narrow definition of who we think we are, and defend it until we die. That necessarily includes choosing what thoughts we’ll regard as our own. Rarely, if ever, are we presented with the alternative of acknowledging thoughts and acting out behaviors that seem to contradict each other. This could be superficially dismissed as hypocritical, but in fact it is just the opposite. We can weigh all the aspects that reside within us and go with what our heart decides, instead of choosing one side and going with what our mind decides.

Very few people buy into the idea that more you acquaint yourself with your own prejudices, the greater is your capacity for true compassion and acceptance. We simply don’t trust that a human being is capable of doing the right thing while consciously recognizing his or her judgments of others.

Unfortunately, the willingness and ability to witness all these conflicting forces and influences would be labeled by a lot of people as mental illness, instability, or at least a reason to see a shrink. Our mental health system would pathologize what is a normal and necessary recognition and expression of the vast range of a person’s mental and emotional being. Rather than expand our recognition of who and what we are, we’re told to change the way we think, when it reflects traits or beliefs that are deemed undesirable. It’s another exercise in contraction rather than expansion, because we stubbornly believe we have a choice in being who we are.

I feel this begins with a standard for human behavior that is embarrassingly over-inflated. It’s one of those “despite all evidence to the contrary, we still believe . . .” moments. It’s abundantly clear on both gross and subtle levels that one of our fundamental challenges as human beings is to live our lives from a place other than fear and survival. Look at how we behave even when our situation far exceeds having met our most basic survival needs. Yes, we’re quite capable of many admirable qualities, but we’re often chasing and appreciating only those, and in the process completely denying the messy ones even as they’re played out on the grandest stage possible. We want to clean up everything about ourselves, while we destroy the planet in the meantime.

The best we can hope for in a lot of situations is tolerance, not love, or even acceptance. But tolerance is a quality that is often not valued. No, we expect humanity to leapfrog right from bigotry and hatred to love, acceptance, and understanding, and anything less is unacceptable. This is way beyond a reasonable expectation. And, because being tolerant just isn’t enough, then we get to feel guilty about that as well.

All of us believe that the world should accept us for who we are, and on the surface it seems like a reasonable request. However, as individuals we often struggle with accepting ourselves for who we are, and we can’t count on others to do it for us. Look at your family and friends and see how many are on antidepressants, sleeping aids, or in rehab. It can be a painful process to become who we really are in this world because we know it may result in not being accepted.

The degradation of language is another aspect of PC that makes it so insidious. There’s no better example currently than the use of the word “racist.” In the past, as I recall, the word was used to describe a person or policy based on racial prejudice that prevented one from freely living one’s life. This included where you could work, live, or socialize, and included physical violence, verbal threats, and segregation.

These days the definition of the word has been expanded to include anyone who even has thoughts of racial prejudice, which includes all of us. This causes us to feel even more guilt and repress our own prejudices, and focus our efforts toward finding the “real racists.” This arbitrariness of the word “racist” is incredibly dangerous because the word has lost none of its incendiary nature yet is meaningless at the same time, which means it can be manipulated to serve any purpose and create instant reaction and action. There is no reference point anymore for what a racist is, so we are looking behind every bush and around every corner to find them. It is awfully reminiscent of Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare tactics.

We don’t even know from week to week what words are acceptable, and so any public discourse becomes increasingly artificial and constrained because of the fear of offending and being labeled as insensitive at best, and at worst a racist. This results in even more resentment of minorities and special interest groups because they’re given special protection from language, and we have to navigate a verbal minefield to have any meaningful discussion.

It also dulls our ability to recognize actual racism because so many false examples are thrown in our faces daily, and the over-saturation and mental exhaustion causes us to lose our capacity for empathy. Rather than opening a discussion, PC language is intended to immediately identify the victim and oppressor, polarize the situation, and prohibit any further discussion of substance. The language loses its meaning and people stop listening.

Recently this was driven home to me by the headline, “Oprah Claims Obama is Target of Racism.” Now, how much focus can I spare for one person who makes many millions of dollars for simply giving her stamp of approval to products and productions, and another who has the power to give a verbal command to blow my house up with a drone? Even after someone has clearly amassed the maximum power and influence that this country allows, can they still play the victim card whenever they see fit, despite the fact that their capacity for retaliation is practically limitless? Is victimhood a lifetime membership in a club or is it defined by a moment in time? Isn’t this disrespectful to the plight of those whose lives are being severely limited as the result of racial discrimination, or who face a threat of violence every day and are comparatively powerless to oppose it?

We’re making victimization a form of empowerment. If we don’t think there are distinct advantages to being regarded as a victim, then we’re being truly naïve about human nature. When a single word can be wielded to cause someone to lose his or her job or cause a company to go broke, it replaces personal responsibility and dialogue with the verbal equivalent of a handgun.

PC also perpetuates the lie that there is a rational fix for prejudice, and that all we need to do is think the right way, have the right exposure to people and circumstances, and then we’ll see the light. In reality, though, we acquire so many of our beliefs from family, friends, culture, tradition, education, and other unknown sources, that it is largely impossible to discern where we’ve come to believe what we do. In fact, prejudice is the epitome of irrationality, and that is one major reason for its confounding persistence.

We cannot simply tell people “don’t think like that” or “it’s wrong to believe that,” because any one individual has to come to those conclusions from his or her own experience. It can actually worsen our resentment when we’re instructed to think a different way and we don’t even know why we think that way in the first place. It doesn’t make sense to us that we judge people the way we do even without having a personal experience of them, so it becomes an additional source of shame.

Prejudice is largely a reflection of self-loathing, so expecting such an approach to work is like asking someone why they can’t simply love and accept themselves. When it comes to loving and accepting oneself, we’re talking about a very bumpy road that takes a lifetime to travel if indeed it ever happens at all.

We can legislate against discrimination but not against prejudiced thinking. It’s incredibly important to legislate against discrimination because we can show ourselves that we will at least take responsibility for fairness at some level, regardless of whether we’re willing to explore our own prejudices or not.

It’s incomprehensible to me why anyone would purposely pursue fame in America anymore, since the PC thought police have clearly made celebrities a prime target to use as high profile scapegoats. How many times have we seen this occur in the last five years or so? Here’s how it goes. If you follow a celebrity around long enough, you’ll catch them in a verbal misstep that you can hear on any street corner or bar, made even more possible nowadays by Twitter. Then the quote is immediately made public, mortification ensues, and then the contrite and humbled celebrity makes his or her public apology. Then there is the race among the so-called experts as to who’ll proclaim this a “teaching moment,” and thus has legitimacy and importance been bestowed upon an offhand remark.

This happened recently to Serena Williams, who had the misfortune to suggest publicly that a 16-year-old girl might bear some responsibility in not getting drunk out of her mind while being in the company of a group of horny teenage boys. Then came the mortification, and right on cue, the public apology.

The tentacles of PC are now spreading to silencing comedians, such as Tracy Morgan, Michael Richards, and Chris Rock. The most recent whipping boy was Steve Martin, who unfortunately caved and made his public apology. There is a very real danger to a free society in censoring comedians, because we rely on them to give voice to a lot of our cultural taboos under the rubric of “entertainment.” Without this, we lose a critical pressure release valve on the collective suppression of our socially unacceptable selves.

With our government’s increased surveillance of our daily activities, the PC nightmare will not get any better any time soon. One word in an email, blog, or a facebook post and you’re done. May as well learn how to life your life in a state of constant exposure and vulnerability. We are so afraid of who and what we are in so many different contexts it’s very difficult to know how an unfettered human being might act. Maybe it will lead some of us to a state of simply not caring about protecting ourselves anymore. Wouldn’t that be something?