Part Two: Integrity Loss and Recovery
commitment, sacrifice, and the impersonal nature of culture
© 2005 Antero Alli (updated 6/20/19)



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 and accept yourself or, you can keep trying to improve this thing called "self", whatever that is. Who are you beyond your beliefs, assumptions, self-images, and ideas of who you are ? You are not only more than you think, you are more than you can think. Certain habits and behaviors can certainly be corrected and "improved" but we'd be mistaken to assume identity there.

Self-commitment means accountability for one's experiences, choices, actions, and their consequences. In the inner work of paratheatre, our firsthand experience becomes a source of authority, integrity, and autonomy. Before self-commitment can be increased, it may be necessary to expose any doubts, distrust, or negation that has been assigned to firsthand experience as an authority source. Perhaps we were raised by a family and/or schools that dismissed personal experience as too subjective to be relied on as a barometer of truth. However, the devalidation of your own experience can damage basic self-trust.

Trusting firsthand experience as an authority source demands a time-intensive process of testing its legitimacy for ourselves. Once self-trust is earned and established, we are more free to interact with others and the world from a deeper sense of personal integrity. Reality-based relationships can develop free of wanting approval or acceptance for what we already know from firsthand experience. Seeking external confirmation for what we already know may be the final obstacle to self-empowerment.



Any act of true sacrifice unleashes torrents of creative and psychic force. It's only truly a sacrifice if what we give up has become near and dear to our hearts. Releasing our attachment to objects, possessions, relationships, jobs, dreams and goals unleashes the forces we've invested in them. True sacrifice tills the ground of our being for seeds of new behaviors, new ideas, new beliefs, new habits and new rituals. To release something or someone we have grown attached to can catalyzes a transformation of being -- not merely a temporary change of state.

A culture's sacrificial rituals expose whatever must be released, offered and/or given away for that culture to persist and/or reinvent itself. What needs releasing for any culture to survive often manifests as what is killing that culture. A culture's sustaining rituals can, over time and repetition, calcify into dead routines and rote rituals. Bali, one of the world's oldest originating cultures, has kept its culture 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).

At its root, the force of commitment is rooted in deeper survival instincts for how committed we are to being on the planet. If you are still alive and breathing, some part of you remains committed to being on the planet. Our conscious lives are shaped by deeper unconscious forces of the death-wish and the life-wish. If you feel grave doubt or are deeply conflicted about being on the planet, the death-wish is winning. When you are more fully commited to being on the planet, the life-wish wins.

What makes your life worth living? What makes our lives worth living, without which our lives would not be worth living? At some point in our lives, we must face these questions of what we are living for: life or death. Until then, we are second-guessing our reasons for being. The death-wish and life-wish express contrary dynamics within the totality of our human nature; they are not separated at root. Each possesses a function in relation to the whole. Sometimes, it's best that certain habits or behaviors are allowed to die off; the death-wish becomes relevant. Other times, certain productive areas in our lives suffer weakness or insecurity; commiting to the life-wish can help there.



Integrity loss is not always a personal problem; 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 consumerist society fractured by spiritual bankruptcy. Many of us endure this spiritual damage as a private burden we carry for the impersonal culture of society. Even though this damage is actually not personal to us -- who can take credit ? -- many of us mistakenly shoulder 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 machinations and agendas. The impersonal culture is not your friend.

Those who drop the impersonal burden of this cultural guilt do not become free of suffering. They become free of the impersonal social culture of suffering that depersonalizes the populace identified with its impersonal corporate mission. Only after we embrace the honest burden of our own existence can we see how futile it can be to take on the tragedy of the world. When we are fully accountable for our own suffering and our own lives, we are less likely to believe we are accountable for saving the world or healing the planet. 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 are not accountable for their survival and for those who are commited to caring for the elderly and the dying.

Rejecting the impersonal culture of guilt does not mean shying away from helping others. It means we may need more awareness around how we actually can and cannot help each other. Not everyone needs or wants to be saved or awakened from their coccooning trance of impersonal cultural identification. Try breaking the spell of anyone resigned to the comfort of spiritual sleep and you will face the gnashing of teeth, the bearing of claws. Sometimes, the naive gestures of helping others can even be experienced as offensive, invasive, or annoying to those supposedly being "helped". If we are to actually assist others, we must first relax our personal agendas so we may discover more truth about their values, their history, their allegiances, and beliefs. Otherwise, we may be simply imposing our so-called help where it actually alienates or insults others or falls on deaf ears.

Not all suffering is meaningful. Suffering is meaningless when it results in a more meaningless life. Meaningful suffering results in a more meaningful life. How to tell the difference? Look to the results of your suffering to determine whether it's actually meaningful or pointless. Self-created suffering -- courtship compulsion, self-pity, nonstop complaining -- tends to render our lives meaningless. Suffering that builds character, compassion and strength renders our lives with meaning. Meaningful suffering demands an honest confrontation with 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.

Respect existence or expect resistance. A living mystery pulses within the heart of existence - - that we exist at all is a mystery! By exposing ourselves to the existing conditions of our lives, the dimension of mystery can be experienced firsthand. At some point, we may even become aware that we are this mystery and simply choose to embody it as such.




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