Here’s a preview of my new Arthur Magazine column. An exclusive for Rushkoff Blog readers!
Reality as Subversion
I had a weird vision the other day.
Having brought our newborn back from the hospital just days before, my wife and I weren’t getting much sleep. I lied on the bed next to the baby and slipped into one of those theta wave trances you can reach on the way to a magick spell, visionquest, or psychedelic trip.
I was in a natural chamber of some kind, maybe a cave or clearing in a woods. It was a starting place from which any number of journeys could be taken. At each opening, another creature or entity beckoned me to follow it. And, had it been any other time in my life, I probably would have picked the one that seemed the most promising and followed it down the twists and turns of its path – and been either delighted or terrified by what happened. (The idea of being an experienced traveler or magician is getting better at predicting, guiding, or simply tolerating the variety of what’s on offer, and learning to bring back things or ideas of value.)
This time, however, for no particular reason other than really being okay with floating in that little entrance foyer, decided to stay put. The beckoning entities gave up and scurried or drifted down their reality tunnels, and I lied there, motionless.
Only then, after I decided to do nothing, did I notice the Elders. Three or four of them – shamans, prophets, zen masters, or some combination – sitting on a bench to my side, looking down at me. “Welcome,” they said, nodding. And I immediately got it. By doing nothing, I was doing everything. The path of no path. Just be.
And though I’ve spent a career, maybe even a whole lifetime creating realities for myself and others as a way of retreating from the oppressive consensus culture of the American Marketplace, I’m wondering if we might best abandon that tactic. Maybe, it’s time to stand still and let them do the conjuring.
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(Majority of this essay has been pulled out; see the whole thing in the current issue of Arthur! The text will be replaced once the issue is no longer current.)
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I’m thinking we should let them win. Surrender the unreal realities to the bad guys. If they want broadcast television, mainstream newspapers, or even the web, let ’em have it. They’ve conjured up an alternative universe that has very little true connection to what’s really going on here. And the market-based, competitive, reality-as-propaganda dream has swallowed them up. They are the victims of their own illusions. We don’t have to be.
We can take charge of the real reality they left behind; I mean the world we’re actually living in. The yards and streets and fingers and tongues. Let’s build bike lanes and barbecues, after school programs and AIDS care networks, places to play music and playgrounds for kids. They’re so busy monitoring the airwaves for signs of treason against the market or state that they’ve lost track of what’s happening between real people. Turn off your cell phone and speak to that guy sitting next to you on the bus. That’s about the most subversive thing you could do.
Instead, like well-meaning Pied Pipers, we play our tunes hoping the children might follow us instead of the other guy taking them off the cliff. But when we enter into that competition, we’re no better than the tune we can muster at that moment. If ours is more hypnotic or captivating than theirs, we win for the time being, and keep the kids believing our version of things until the next round.
And in entering that pissing contest, we deny ourselves the home field advantage. We live here, after all. If we can learn to sit still for a moment rather than following any of those phantoms, we can take over real reality, instead. It’s right here for the taking.