Only in the last seven years have I begun to realise that most of the noises firing off inside my skull are not objective reality. That the whole worldview churning around – consisting of ideas, stories, labels, names, political parties, philosophies, beliefs, religions and opinions – is little more than habitual mental narrative, often quietly steered by formative education and reinforced by mass media.
From childhood, we are taught how to think like everyone else. This dictates our perception of the world and atrophies one of our best attributes, discernment. Trying to reject or unwind perceptions that are often decades-old can incur the cost of stigmatisation by friends, workmates and family.
Big Dad used to talk about the crab bucket, where any potential escapee would be pulled back down by its permanently-ensconced companions. Back to ‘normality’.
To make life less confusing and difficult to understand, in a swirling babble of narratives and counter-narratives, requires some solid ground as a base. My experience is that being in nature offers a good starting point to contemplate essence.
Maybe an hour or two walking, holding a fishing rod or digging an allotment. Where you go from there will be unique to you. Stillness and quiet can be good friends in this process. My experience is that silent contemplation, without the mudras and mantras of a formal meditation, can be effective at stilling the mind. And for receiving information.
One of several people who have helped my own dedicated inquiry is a bloke called Neil Kramer. Like Big Dad, he has moved from England to California, but retains a delicious Mancunian accent. He has a website, where a couple of dozen podcasts are free to download.
In short, he says: ‘Your philosophical path, your inner exploration, will be your own work, but here are a few tips I’ve picked up while thinking about this stuff’. Nothing is rammed down your throat. More a case of ‘I offer this for your consideration’.
Inevitably, I don’t agree with all of his discernments about the external world. But his rejection of political correctness as a censorship tool, that places a stultifying lid on our imaginations, feels right. As does his notion that many of society’s structures act primarily to stop us thinking for ourselves. His view that ‘normal is not your friend’ resonates very deeply.
I’m grateful to him and all the others that have chipped in along the way, in the quest to make sense of it all.