Part Two: Integrity Loss and Recovery
commitment, sacrifice, and the impersonal nature of culture
© 2005 Antero Alli (updated 2/13/17)
We speak of “making real connection" with others. But what's real? The experience of real connection with others can elude us without any substantial internal resonance with what makes anything "real" for ourselves. When we are cut off from what makes life real for us, our thirst for the real can become so strong as to simulate its own mirages and fantasies of the real -- self-delusions that perform a shabby job of sustaining our inner lives, our relations with others and the world. These illusions of reality often require complicated justifications and external confirmations from those who buy into our fantasy -- the Cheerleading Yes Men and Yes Women, the many self-help books that promote the illusion of self-improvement, etc. There is no such thing as self-improvement. You cannot improve who you are; you already are who you are. You are not some kind of apprentice to yourself who will someday, with enough "self-improvement", become the real you. It is too late for that. You can wake up to who you are & embody that or, you can nod out trying to improve this thing called "self", whatever that is.
To simply know what is real may not be enough if we do not also commit to acting on what is real. Think of commitment as a force, an energy, that can be increased, applied, and directed to complete any task. Commitment expresses the force of follow-through. In the inner work of paratheatre, our firsthand experience serves as the primary source of our authority, integrity, and autonomy. But our firsthand experience means nothing without our commitment to its expression. Before self-commitment can be increased, it may be necessary to expose whatever doubts, distrust, or negation we were taught to assign firsthand experience as an authority source. If we were raised in a family and/or schools that discouraged trust in our own experience, then self-trust must be earned. Trusting firsthand experience as an authority source demands a time-intensive process of testing its legitimacy for ourselves. Once self-trust can be established, we are more free to interact with others and the world from a place of greater integrity. We are more ready to develop reality-based relationships free of wanting approval or acceptance for what we already know from firsthand experience. Seeking external confirmation for what we already know to be true is just another obstacle to self-empowerment.
SACRIFICE AND THE FORCE OF COMMITMENT
To sacrifice means to "make sacred". Any act of real sacrifice unleashes torrents of creative and psychic force. Sacrifice renders the ground of our being fertile for the act of planting seeds of new behaviors, new ideas, new beliefs, new habits and new rituals. To release something or someone we have grown attached to, that has given us much comfort and/or has become near and dear to our hearts, is to catalyze a radical change that can result in a transformation of being and not merely a temporary change of state.
A culture's sacrificial rituals enact whatever must be released, offered and/or given away for that culture's traditions to persist and/or reinvent itself. What needs releasing for any tradition to survive often appears as whatever is killing that tradition and/or devitalizing its originating culture. Without ongoing conscious enactments of ritual offerings and sacrifices, any culture can die a slow death. Previously vital sustaining rituals can, over time and repetition, naturally calcify into dead routines and rituals. Bali, one of the world's oldest originating cultures, has kept its traditions alive for centuries by an undying commitment to daily ritual offerings and sacrifices. (Also read "A Human Sacrifice" by Matt Mitler, director of Theatre Dzieci).
Our integrity exists wherever we are willing and able to commit 100 per cent. Where are you willing and able to stand behind 100% without wavering? If there is any place in your life -- no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential -- that you can stand behind this 100%, therein we find total integrity. If you can find no place to stand behind without wavering, then perhaps your integrity exists in your commitment to wavering.
At its root, the force of commitment is rooted in a deeper survival instinct of how committed we are to being on this planet. If you are still here and breathing, some part of you remains committed to being here. Integrity-building results from any process that strengthens and develops the force of commitment. Once we have discovered that area in our lives that we can stand behind 100% without wavering, that very force of commitment can also be redirected to assist other areas in our life suffering from integrity loss or, lack of follow-through. Commitment is a force, an energy that can be increased and regulated and then, applied wherever necessary.
INTEGRITY LOSS AND THE IMPERSONAL NATURE OF CULTURE
Integrity loss is not entirely a personal issue; it is not entirely our fault that we lack the power of follow-through. We live in an era where integrity loss expresses a cultural casualty common to any hyper-materialistic, death-ignorant society morally fractured by its own spiritual bankruptcy. Many of us attempt to endure this spiritual damage as some kind of private burden we carry for the impersonal culture of society. Even though this damage is actually not personal to us -- who here can take credit ? -- how many of us have mistakenly shouldered the burden of impersonal culture as a personal cause? What a complete waste of time and energy! The impersonal culture of society does not, cannot, care about the person. Society at large acts like a corporation that uses the person to advance its impersonal agendas.
Those who drop the impersonal burden of this cultural guilt do not become free of suffering. They merely become free of the impersonal social culture of suffering that depersonalizes the populace identified with its corporate mission. Only after we embrace the honest burden of our own existence, can we clearly see how unnecessary and futile it can be to take on the tragedy of the world. When we are fully accountable for our own life, we are less likely to believe we are accountable for saving others. The world does not need saving. The world is full of people who need saving from themselves. Exceptions are obviously reserved for those raising children who cannot be expected to become fully accountable for their survival until that time arrives.
I do not imply any withdrawal from lending a helping hand but rather, more awareness around how we actually can and cannot help each other. Not everyone needs or wants to be saved from the trance of impersonal cultural identification. Try breaking the trance of anyone resigned to the comfort of sleep and you will meet with the gnashing of teeth, the bearing of claws. The gesture of help to one person can be experienced as offensive, invasive, or insulting to another. If we are to effectively discover ways to assist each other, we must know how to put aside personal agendas to discover the nature of the other: in their own rites, in their own light, complete unto themselves.
Not all suffering is meaningful. Suffering becomes meaningless when it results in a meaningless life. Not all suffering is meaningless. Meaningful suffering occurs through any honest confrontation with the self through continual exposure to the existing conditions of our actual (not ideal) lives, i.e., not the life we wanted or believed we should or could have had, if only things were different. No -- I’m talking about your actual life. Don't confuse this self-exposure with fatalism. There's a living mystery pulsing within the heart of existence - - that we can exist at all is a mystery! By exposing ourselves to the existing conditions of our lives, we can experience the dimension of this mystery firsthand and, at some point, become aware that we have been embodying this mystery all along. We are the mystery.
Integrity-building begins by increasing the force of your commitment to whatever makes your life worth living. What brings value to our lives? What makes our lives worth living, without which our lives would not be worth living? To increase the force of commitment, look to where your integrity is already intact, that place -- no matter how small or seemingly insignificant -- where you can stand behind something or someone one hundred per cent with your whole being, with no ambivalence, hesitation, or wavering.
This action of total commitment feeds the being. The being is fed whenever, and wherever, you can hold the position of total unwavering commitment. The being does not fuss over appearances and forms. The being does not care about what you commit to or what it looks like. The being only cares that you commit all the way. Any full-on commitment is how the beng knows itself in action. Without this experience of total commitment, the being eventually shrinks and we succumb to the dreary, dismal status of non-entities, wannabes and the hungry ghosts of frustrated dreams. As long as the being remains diminshed, we suffer power loss that disables our capacity to dream ourselves into being (see Part Five, "What Drains the Power of Dreaming").
Part One: Orientation
culture, paratheatre, verticality, the asocial climate
Part Three: The Performer/Audience Romance
talent and skill, the total act, the No-Form technique
Part Four: Self-Observation and Ego
function of ego, embracing contraries, emotional plague
Part Five: Self-initiation
on the bridge between the worlds and
what drains the power of dreaming
Part Six: A Cultural Overview
a mass hallucination of a society gone mad