We're hand in hand in Aftermath the age of what will be Horizon smoke is rising from the wreckage that is We And in the smoke what shapes will form? What phantoms will we make? For we are made of form and formula but also dross mistake

-from Hand in Hand in Aftermath

You know how a virus works? It goes into a cell and changes the code so that the cell only produces more virii. In a way the virus steals the cell's identity, making it a part of a viral system.

If you ask me, the worst phase of being sick is when you've been sick for so long you forget what it's like to be well. In a way, you've lost a bit of yourself and become the virus.

People catch and spread memes like viruses. They're contagious, self-replicating little buggers. Like any virus, their goal is to spread themselves, to become a large, healthy, self-sustaining colony. We have to be careful how we handle memes because at a certain point its difficult to tell the difference between when we're using the memes and when the memes are using us.

This is not to say that memes are harmful diseases. But some of them can be if you get infected, infested, obsessed and invested.

One of the most pervasive and prevalent memes in this modern world is the meme called I Am. We live in an overpopulated era, floating in a sea of interchangeable people. In this ocean our biggest life preserver is a sense of individuality – the notion that each and every one of us is unique, distinct. One wants to say “I am not the crowd. I am not the group. I am not just another cog in the machine.”

We jump through personal hoops to distinguish ourselves from the others. We customize our identities so as to retain a sense of self, a buoy bobbing in the tide of the collective.

But this ego meme can become a disease. In moderation, it helps us understand ourselves. In excess, we define ourselves. In time, these definitions become rigid, inflexible.

Consider, for example, the “C student”. In his attempt to understand himself, he internalizes “I am a C student.” Armed with that identity he has no drive to do better. He accepts “who he is”. Or consider the average voter. He identifies with a political party and probably agrees with them about many things. The party tells him which sides of any given issues to support – no need to think for oneself there!

It can be a sickness.

The Machine, of course, is programmed to capitalize on this sickness. There are a variety of memes available to customize your identity. What color iPod do you want? Which TV shows are YOUR TV shows? What brand of cologne smells like YOU?

I am not suggesting that people abandon their sense of self. But I do think that people get addicted to self-definition and it leads to inflexibility. That's the Con talking – convincing each individual that she's composed of the ordinary dross we wade through every day.

Well turn down that noise — when I get off the plane I'm skipping the baggage claim.

“Your father knows everything about you”, he said. “So he has you all figured out. He knows who you are and what you do, and there is no power on earth that can make him change his mind about you”. Don Juan said that everybody that knew me had an idea about me, and that I kept feeding the idea with everything I did. “Don't you see ?”, he asked dramatically. “You must renew your personal history by telling your parents, your relatives, and your friends everything you do. On the other hand, if you have no personal history, no explanations are needed; nobody is angry or disillusioned with your acts. And above all no one pins you down with their thoughts”. (...) “But that's absurd”, I protested. “Why shouldn't people know me ? What's wrong with that ?”; “What's wrong is that once they know you, you are an affair taken for granted and from that moment on you won't be able to break the tie of their thoughts. I personally like the ultimate freedom of being unknown. No one knows me with steadfast certainty, the way people know you, for instance”. “But that would be lying”. “I'm not concerned with lies or truths”, he said severely. “Lies are lies only if you have personal history”. “You see”, he went on, “we only have two alternatives; we either take everything for sure and real, or we don't. If we follow the first, we end up bored to death with ourselves and with the world. If we follow the second and erase personal history, we create a fog around us, a very exciting and mysterious state in which nobody knows where the rabbit will pop out, not even ourselves.”

-Journey to Ixtlan, Carlos Castenada


Labels are descriptors about a person that appear to be immutable, but are actually very mutable in ways people don't expect. These are terms like “male”, “female”, “tulpa”, “alter”, “persecutor”, “bad”, “good”, “useless”, “useful”. They are all harmful when used as fundamental limiting factors. These labels are not permanent. They can and will change. Men can grow up and realize they are actually women. People can recover from mental and physical illnesses (even ones that are “incurable”).

Stop using them as limitations, even to yourselves. You are yourself. What other justification or classification do you truly need for your existence? You aren't accountable to anyone for basic tenants of your existential reality. Terms and implications that other people use don't have to apply 1:1 to you.

So stop making them permanent.

Stop labeling people for eternity.

Stop accepting labels as inherent qualities.

Stop giving people's labels so much power and authority over yourself.

Stop the cycle.

Even if it's a “fact”.

You are more than the labels that other people apply to you. You are the beautiful incarnation of an infinite being that is inherently unknowable and unlabeled. Stop being something you are not. None of the labels as applied to you truly matter unless you decide to give them that meaning and power. It saddens me to see people take those labels that other people give them and turn them into their entire composite identity without any room for anything else.

People change and grow, the labels of yesterday might not fit today and might be completely the opposite tomorrow.

Stop limiting yourself with labels. What else can you truly be but yourself?

When I see your face I know you are half mine
separated by the utmost care to remember all of you.
When I undress my body I see that I am half yours
blurred by sudden flight that leaves
the eye wondering what angels carved in their hearts
to remind them so vividly of their home.

When I see your beauty I know you are half mine
never to be held in a polished mirror
knowing the faithful hunger of our soul.
When I watch your eyes I know they are half mine
tracing a trajectory where sensual virtue is the very spine of us.
When I hold your hand I know it is half mine
wintered in kinship, it circles tenderness
beneath the moon and well of water when the feast is done.
When I kiss your lips I know they are half mine
sent by God's genealogy to uncover us
in the delicious cauldron of our united breath.

When I hear you cry I know your loneliness is half mine
so deep the interior that we are lost outside
yearning to give ourselves away
like a promise made before the asking.
And when I look to your past I know it is half mine
running to the choke cherry trees
invisible to the entire universe we found ourselves
laughing in sudden flight
eyeing the carved initials in our hearts.
Sparing the trees.

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course , the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream “I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.” The old woman smiled, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.  For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”

Student: So you’re saying that I shouldn’t worry about distractions when I perform my meditations?

Teacher: Isn’t worry the source of your distraction?

Student: I suppose it is. But if these distractions—

Teacher: They are not distractions. They are phenomenon of the outer world— vibrations traveling in the ethers from sources you have no control over. That and nothing more.

Student: But these vibrations influence my mind and my ability to concentrate. Isn’t concentration a vital component of successful meditation?

Teacher: Again, what influences your mind are not external vibrations, but your reaction to them.

Student: So how do I change my reaction so I can be more successful in my meditations?

Teacher: Is this issue only relevant to your meditations?

Student: It’s during my mediations that I notice it the most.

Teacher: Do you notice the fear or stress that the external world brings you as well?

Student: Yes.

Teacher: Isn’t this fear akin to a distraction?

Student: I suppose.

Teacher: Yet without it, wouldn’t you have the tendency to lapse into complacency?

Student: I don’t think so.

Teacher: Fear, and all the so-called negative emotions, can represent distractions, but they are catalysts and instigators of action just as well. Are they not?

Student: I see your point, but these distractions and fears are leading me away from my spiritual studies and cause me to behave in a manner not consistent with a spiritual person.

Teacher: And how does a spiritual person behave?

Student: They are poised and benevolent. They are tranquil in the face of distractions and fears. They exude peace and exemplify compassion. They express divine love to all.

Teacher: You have adequately described a mythological saint, but you have not described a spiritual person. Even in total darkness, a spiritual person can discover light. They are truth seekers and they wear the countenance of a thousand different personalities. They are not truth tellers. They are not truth expressers. They are not saints. They are truth seekers.

Student: My definition is a little idealistic, I’ll admit to that, but why is this important to the discussion around fear and distractions?

Teacher: Isn’t your concern related to your view of what constitutes a spiritual person’s behavior and your perceived shortcomings relative to that image?

Student: You’re suggesting that all of this can be traced to this fundamental misperception?

Teacher: Yes. It is a significant part of what energizes your reaction to fear and distractions. It is a form of self-judgment that defines your response to the external world. As you cling to the image and behavior of what you believe defines a spiritual person, so do you adjudicate your comparative performance, and in this regard, you will dependably fall short.

Student: But if I’m frustrated as a result of my idealistic image of how I think I should behave, are you suggesting I only need to temper my expectations and my frustration will end?

Teacher: Why should your frustrations come to an end? For what purpose do you choose to experience contentment and calm? Did you incarnate into this world for the purpose of composure and regal repose?

Student: I’m only saying that I desire to demonstrate spiritual values—of which peace and contentment—

Teacher: Spiritual values are as much about turmoil and stress as they are about peace and contentment. Spiritual values are not monotonic nor are they benign.

Student: But you speak like spiritual values are undefined and encompass... anything.

Teacher: You started this dialogue with the opinion that you were frustrated with external noise that prevented your successful practice of meditation. I pointed out to you that the issue was not noise or distraction, but your narrow perception of what behavior constitutes spiritual conduct and what does not.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

  • Jesus Christ, Matthew 6:25-34, NIV

Look at your rubber duck. Ask it what's wrong with your program. Why do you yell words at it in frustration when you hope you will be the source of the answer? The duck will tell you what you need to know, for the duck is wise.

Listen to your rubber duck when debugging, it knows more about the program than you do.










There is another use of the imagination which is very valuable. If you will imagine in your thought-body the presence of the qualities that you desire to have, and the absence of those which you desire not to have, you are half-way to having and not having them. Also, many of the troubles of your life might be weakened if you would imagine them on right lines before you have to go through them. Why do you wait helplessly until you meet them in the physical world. If you thought of your coming trouble in the morning, and thought of yourself as acting perfectly in the midst of it (you should never scruple to imagine yourself perfect), when the thing turned up in the day, it would have lost its power, and you would no longer feel the sting to the same extent. Now each of you must have in your life something that troubles you. Think of yourself as facing that trouble and not minding it, and when it comes, you will be what you have been thinking. You might get rid of half your troubles and your faults, if you would deal with them through your imagination.

You mentioned fear as being part of our basic underlying emotional pain.  How does fear arise, and why is there so much of it in people's lives ?  And isn't a certain amount of fear just healthy self-protection?  If I didn't have a fear of fire, I might put my hand in it and get burned.

The reason why you don't put your hand in the fire is not because of fear, it's because you know that you'll get burned.  You don't need fear to avoid unnecessary danger — just a minimum of intelligence and common sense.  For such practical matters, it is useful to apply the lessons learned in the past.  Now if someone threatened you with fire or with physical violence, you might experience something like fear.  This is an instinctive shrinking back from danger, but not the psychological condition of fear that we are talking about here.  The psychological condition of fear is divorced from any concrete and true immediate danger.  It comes in many forms: unease, worry, anxiety, nervousness, tension, dread, phobia, and so on.  This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening now.  You are in the here and now, while your mind is in the future.  This creates an anxiety gap.  And if you are identified with your mind and have lost touch with the power and simplicity of the Now, that anxiety gap will be your constant companion.  You can always cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection — you cannot cope with the future.

Moreover, as long as you are identified with your mind, the ego runs your life, as I pointed out earlier.  Because of its phantom nature, and despite elaborate defense mechanisms, the ego is very vulnerable and insecure, and it sees itself as constantly under threat.  This, by the way, is the case even if the ego is outwardly very confident.  Now remember that an emotion is the body's reaction to your mind.  What message is the body receiving continuously from the ego, the false, mind-made self?.  Danger, I am under threat.  And what is the emotion generated by this continuous message?  Fear, of course.

Fear seems to have many causes, Fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of being hurt, and so on, but ultimately all fear is the ego's fear of death, of annihilation.  To the ego, death is always just around the corner.  In this mind-identified state, fear of death affects every aspect of your life.  For example, even such a seemingly trivial and “normal” thing as the compulsive need to be right in an argument and make the other person wrong — defending the mental position with which you have identified — is due to the fear of death.  If you identify with a mental position, then if you are wrong, your mind-based sense of self is seriously threatened with annihilation.  So you as the ego cannot afford to be wrong.  To be wrong is to die.  Wars have been fought over this, and countless relationships have broken down.

Once you have disidentified from your mind, whether you are right or wrong makes no difference to your sense of self at all, so the forcefully compulsive and deeply unconscious need to be right, which is a form of violence, will no longer be there.  You can state clearly and firmly how you feel or what you think, but there will be no aggressiveness or defensiveness about it.  Your sense of self is then derived from a deeper and truer place within yourself, not from the mind.  Watch out for any kind of defensiveness within yourself.  What are you defending?  An illusory identity, an image in your mind, a fictitious entity.  By making this pattern conscious, by witnessing it, you disidentify from it.  In the light of your consciousness, the unconscious pattern will then quickly dissolve.  This is the end of all arguments and power games, which are so corrosive to relationships.  Power over others is weakness disguised as strength.  True power is within, and it is available to you now.

So anyone who is identified with their mind and, therefore, disconnected from their true power, their deeper self rooted in Being, will have fear as their constant companion.  The number of people who have gone beyond mind is as yet extremely small, so you can assume that virtually everyone you meet or know lives in a state of fear.  Only the intensity of it varies.  It fluctuates between anxiety and dread at one end of the scale and a vague unease and distant sense of threat at the other.  Most people become conscious of it only when it takes on one of its more acute forms.