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4 Ways to Rejoice in The Folly of It All

“Often I tried the frightening way of "reality." Where things that count are profession, law, fashion, finance. But disillusioned and freed, I flee away, alone. To the other side, the place of dreams and blessed folly.” ~Hermann Hesse


We are set adrift on a cosmic sea of pointlessness. There is no reason for anything to exist. And yet it does. But rather than balk, rather than nihilism and ennui, rather than whiney woe-is-me self-pity, we should laugh. We should jeer. We should mock the nature of things, even as we honor it.


We should take responsibility for it. We should stare into the face of death and smile. We should stand toe-to-toe with misery and force it to reveal its deep mystery. Rather than bend the knee to our suffering, we should transform that suffering into vitality and strength. Into primal hunger. Into curiosity and wonder. Into transcendence and awe.


We should rejoice. Exult in the impossibility of existing at all. Delight in the improbability of life. Embrace amor fati. Take pleasure in the utter miracle that is our unfathomable universe.


1.) Know that you don’t know:

“He who thinks he knows doesn’t know. He who knows that he doesn’t know, knows.” ~Joseph Campbell


We are outflanked by the unknown. It beseeches us at every turn. It binds us like an existential straitjacket. It is impenetrable, unsolvable, unconquerable. Our knowledge is a molecule on top of a snowflake on top of an ice cube on the tip of an unfathomably massive iceberg.


So how do we extract ourselves from the web? How do we escape the quagmire? How do we climb out of the abyss of not knowing? The hard and fast truth is, we don’t.


If the journey is truly the thing, then that’s okay. It’s okay that we don’t know. It’s okay that we don’t have the answers. It’s okay that we will never find our way out of the maze. It’s okay that Plato’s Cave has us chasing shadows. It’s okay that our finite perspective cannot grasp the infinite reality.


It’s okay that inside our enlightened butterfly souls there will always be an ugly ignorant caterpillar.


It’s like that old Zen Proverb about the empty cup. The experience of knowing that we don’t know empties our cup. It allows us to “not know” so that we can become “empty” enough to receive new knowledge. “I don’t know” frees us to thrive in a state of prepared learning. Education by perpetual astonishment becomes the thing. We use the philosophical tool of “I don’t know” in order that we may be astonished by knowing something new.


Indeed. We are questions, not answers. We are stumbling fumbling question marks going through the motions of not knowing that we don’t know.


How do we climb out of the abyss of not knowing that we don’t know? We climb up onto the summit, into a state of knowing that we don’t know.


We keep questioning all the way. We keep recycling ourselves. We keep reinventing ourselves. There is joy in persistent inquiry and consistently not accepting “answers.” As Scott Adams said, “Awareness is about unlearning. It is the recognition that you don’t know as much as you thought you knew.”


2.) Crucify your past:

“The challenge to modern man is to reconcile the antithetical aspects in his personality. On the body level he is an animal, on the ego level a would-be god. The fate of the animal is death, which the ego in its godlike aspirations is trying to avoid. But in trying to avoid this fate man creates an even worse one, namely, to live in fear of life.” ~Dr. Alexander Lowen

There’s a terrible joy in letting go of the past that those stuck within its unforgiving clutches will never know.


The past is what it is. The future is not fixed. The present is where we alter our destiny and sacrifice our past despite the future. Crucifying our past is a creative act. It’s high art. It’s wrestling the past into a pressure point that has the power to transform a lump of coal into a diamond, a piece of grit into a pearl, or a dull blade into a sword sharp enough to cut God.


As Osho stated, “The man of understanding dies every moment to the past and is reborn again to the future. His present is always a transformation, a rebirth, a resurrection.”


We crucify yesterday so that the rebirth of today can become the wisdom of tomorrow. We reconcile the unhealthy aspects of our personality and merge them with the healthy. We become whole despite imperfection, fallibility, and wrongness.


Clinging to the past is clinging to our delusions. In order to heal and become whole, we must let go of the past. We must stop clinging to our delusions and become fully present and aware of our delusional nature. When we do this, reality reveals itself. Truth manifests. The raw, barebones moment swallows us up.


In this sacred space we become free to create from the future. We are free to imagine a healthier version of ourselves. We are free to explore new ways of being human in the world.


Rather than bemoan the past, we become the future. We liberate ourselves. Through surrender, we sunder our chains. We pull the future toward ourselves and transform the chains of the past into the challenge of the present.


3.) Climb the highest mountain and punch the face of God:

“We have convictions only if we have studied nothing thoroughly.” ~Emil Cioran


Audacity. Insouciance. Brashness. These are enduring habits to cultivate in the face of folly. When you’re outflanked by stupidity and parochial reasoning the only sane reaction is mockery.


Just because everybody else is chasing shadows in Plato’s Cave doesn’t mean that we must. We can choose to rise up with a Question Mark Sword in our hands. We can use it to split the smoke and mirrors. We can use it to cut through nonsense, chicanery, and bullshit. We can use it to slit the throat of the devil. We can use it as a spearhead that pierces straight through the heart of God.


As Terence McKenna said, “We are caged by our cultural programming. Culture is a mass hallucination, and when you step outside the hallucination, you see it for what it's worth.”


We should dare ourselves to climb the highest mountain. Mock the gods. Wrestle with God. Question the lot. Push our beliefs over a cliff. Watch as all our shiny golden idols shatter into a million pieces on the hard rocks of Truth.


As Arthur Schopenhauer said, “Great men are like eagles and build their nest on some lofty solitude.”


Nothing cultivates high courage more than a question mark tossed into a sea of period points. It’s like a candle lit in a once impenetrable darkness. It’s a mighty beacon of hope. Not hope for some pie-in-the-sky afterlife but hope for a fiercely grounded life in the here-and-now.


The kind of hope that breaks the spell that the outdated and unhealthy culture has over us. The kind of hope that rids us of wish and whimsy. The kind of hope that reveals the emperor has always been naked. Stripped of religion, dogma, jealousy, and judgment, the piercing light of infinity and the daunting darkness of mortality shine through.


We are doomed, but there is joy to be found in the parentheses.


As Aristotle said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”


4.) Rage, rage against the dying of the light:

“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die.” ~George Bernard Shaw


Mortal dread is all too real. Death is ever-looming. Existential angst outflanks us all. What is a mortal to do with such fleetingness, such overwhelming impermanence? How do we react to the crippling transience of it all? We meet it with humor and courage. We meet it with audacity and tenacity. We meet it with honesty and honor.


Forced to gaze into Infinity, a few things become clear: Absurdity rules. Certainty is folly. Security is an illusion. Rescue isn’t coming. No God is coming to save us from our sins. No so-called authority is coming to bail us out. No hero is coming to liberate us from taking responsibility for our own freedom. Unless…


Unless that hero is us, living courage-based lifestyles despite a fear-based culture. Unless that authority is us, questioning all authority. Unless that God is us, hellbent on destroying the hell that surrounds us with a will to humor that trumps the will to power.


There’s only one thing to do with such terrible freedom. Revolt! Rebel against despair and nihilism. Rebel against the absurdity of it all. Become a dissident to dissonance. Become the paradox flashing across the stage, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” but becoming something through the blood-and-bone knowledge of our own existential fury, our own unblinking ability to “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”


Such rebellion unburies God. It reignites the Phoenix. It lights up the dark. It shines a blacklight into the blinding light of culture. It reveals the primordial truth: energy cannot be destroyed only transformed.


Thus, we are transformed. We transform pain into providence, shadow work into soul craft, wounds into wisdom, death into rebirth. We get above it all by becoming it all. We get ahead of the curve by realizing everything is on the curve.


Our spirituality becomes a firebrand so red-hot that the outflanking universe has no choice but to take it right on the flank—seared and sealed, and put on notice that we’re not just a speck in the universe, we are the entire universe in a speck. We are God awake, and we will no longer pretend to be asleep.

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About the Author:

Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.


This article (4 Ways to Rejoice in The Folly of It All) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.


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