The more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t shake the feeling that libraries, those grand repositories of freely accessible knowledge, wouldn’t have what I needed for my project. I imagined haughty librarians looking down on me through bespectacled eyes cackling away. ‘Sorry, our shelves only stock the finest of human education, not – the – lack – thereof!’ Nor had I seen anything in new or used bookstores either. But therein laid another problem: without knowing exactly what I was looking for and with DIY get-rich-quick books up the yin-yang, how could I spend what little money I had without wasting it? I’d never come across anything like ‘How To Get Ahead When You’ve Totally Fucked Up and Lost Everything – For Dummies’. Mind you I’d never really had to look before either. And returning it in my condition would be even more of an ordeal. Yet what if what I was looking for hadn’t been discovered yet and was waiting to be written about? A silly thought flashed through my mind: maybe I could write a successful book on failure! Now that would be something considering I didn’t even have a pen or paper to write with. Nevertheless it was intriguing.
My thoughts turned to learning and the acquisition of knowledge in general. As far as I could recall the subject of failure had never come up in high school or university. In fact everything seemed based on the presumptive nature of success. It was as if failure didn’t exist, yet here I was living proof to the contrary. What if society wasn’t as advertised? According to Krishnamurti, I wasn’t just a member of society; I was society. This fit nicely with current advancements in holographic thinking: the whole contained within the part. By logical inference if the knowledge didn’t exist then either I wasn’t a failure or there was something wrong with the knowledge or even me. But I didn’t know who I could turn to for answers.
While it was difficult admitting I didn’t know everything, it didn’t change the fact that I didn’t. From what I could see, ultimate knowledge had to come from ultimate learning, which could only occur through the living experiences of each and every individual on the planet. So why did we kill one another instead of nurturing this fact? What if not knowing how was part of our evolutionary journey as well? Images of the Library of Alexandria flashed through my mind and its demise at the hands of incomplete-knowledge-wielding ‘savages’, but what about the custodians of such knowledge? My dad always said it took two hand to clap. So what could have happened to create such profound hatred and the subsequent razing of such knowledge from existence?
Objectively, knowledge was knowledge. Its acquisition and interpretation, however, were subject to human-based value systems. Throughout history it had become prized, owned, controlled, suppressed and wielded against each other with a ‘mine-is-bigger-than-yours’ mentality (where had I heard that before?) Nowhere was this more evident than in the knowledge kept hidden in the vaults of the Vatican. While science tried to substantiate religious claims, it was in danger of becoming a new religion with scientists its new priests. And anything that stood in the way of progress was tantamount to stagnation and retreat.
I stepped out of time to review a humanity evolved into families, tribes, groups, factions, clubs, cults, religions and the like. Yet all were divided by knowledge so far removed from source that it was second hand at best. But what was firsthand knowledge and where did it come from? Was it the knowledge of the gods and did humanity have access to it? If inter-connectedness necessitated respecting diversity, why was conformity so important if it was only part of the journey? So many questions, yet the way my body was vibrating I knew I was on to something.
Afraid of the claustrophobic, freaking out and public humiliation the library would inevitably entail, I turned to the only real things at my disposal, namely, my mind, body and senses. From these came the faculties to think, feel, communicate, research, understand, etc. But if that were true for me then it would have to be true for others as well. In a blinding insight, I saw how everyone I’d meet on my travels – poor, rich or otherwise, was a living library of information just waiting to be tapped. And if I could write and share this information it could one day find its way into the public domain and add to the overall completeness of knowledge.
It felt so good to come up with an idea that not only served my needs, but involved humanity in a selfless manner as well. On the practical side it ensured the information would be inclusive, current, unbiased, doable and untainted by my addictive manipulations. In a scene out of a western movie, I was dragged, gagged and bound to a post. Guns were cocked and fired. As the bullets closed in, realization pierced my body. Despite wanting things to be different, I was ultimately responsible for my life and all its decisions.
I stomped on the ground, shook my fist and pushed the whole universe away like a hurt little boy who hadn’t got his way. It’d got the last laugh after all. A stinging line from NA recovery pierced me to the bone: ‘Today, I can make no decisions by myself’. I, who was in no state to make decisions, would eventually have to make the most important one of all. Even giving my power away and making others responsible for me had to come from an initial decision on my part. Great! Fucking great! My stomach heaved; my mind vertigoed and a thousand emotions roared. The bullets entered my brain and I silently cringed and awaited death like a beaten and broken man. But I’d never been a man. I was a child who’d tried his best to look and act like a man; an impostor at best.
© Michael J. Varma, The Gong Show, 2011 –
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