Losing Our Minds
There’s an article in today’s Guardian, written by an American citizen, which asks the all-important question of whether Americans are losing their minds.
But I can assure you that it’s not just Americans that are “losing their minds”. Go anywhere in the world right now and you’ll see and hear everybody losing their minds — Russia, the Middle East, Africa, China, Europe, Australia, North and South America. (Well, maybe Canada is a little bit calmer after the Harper years, but not by much). Everybody has lost the plot. Everybody is wandering in the labyrinth of the Minotaur.
All Jean Gebser’s diagnosis of the breakdown of the mental-rational consciousness structure amounts to is, in fact, just an extended and detailed treatise on the meaning of “losing our minds”, and why it might not be such a bad thing in the long term (assuming we have a long term).
Of course, a lot of people don’t agree that they’ve lost their minds. Their quite convinced that they are sane and that their mind is fully made up. They’re functional. They get up with the alarm clock, dress, eat breakfast, go to work, work, have lunch, work some more, grouse about it, commute home, eat supper, watch the telly, maybe yell and shout at the telly, maybe drink some beers, maybe pop some pills, punch the cat, kick the dog, go to the bathroom, crawl into bed, and repeat the same thing the next day. All quite normal. Nothing requiring much thought or reflection; running on auto-pilot. Life as Blake’s “dark Satanic Mill”. This running on auto-pilot convinces them they have not lost their minds. This they call “the common sense”.
There’s a lot of chatter in the media these days too about “mindfulness” — the practice of mindfulness. It wouldn’t be such a topic of interest if it weren’t for the fact that everyone has lost their minds. “Mindfulness” is promoted as the antidote to losing our minds. It’s a good antidote, too, but only for those who have become aware that they’ve lost their minds to begin with. The first prerequisite for becoming mindful is, of course, the humbling acknowledgement and recognition that you’ve lost your mind. And so far, not enough people have realised yet that they’ve lost their minds. They avoid the issue completely by calling it “the new normal”. They’re even proud of being mindless. Some even seem to think that the commandments of this inner zombie are the voice of God, or if not the voice of God, simply the natural biological programming of “the selfish gene”.
Mindfulness is actually the practice of losing one’s mind gracefully and graciously — “controlled folly”, in Castaneda’s terms. Those who realise that they are losing their minds are in a much better position, existentially, than those who don’t know that they’ve lost their minds.
The simplest way to understand Gebser’s breakdown of “perspectivising consciousness” and the “deficient mode” of the mental-rational consciousness structure is “losing our minds”, and that the most dangerous people are just those who don’t realise it yet.