The marketing strategy of the age is the mirror of the zeitgeist, or as Hamlet put it, the form and pressure of the time. We are relentlessly sold on the nearly transcendent potency of our individuality. We are all potential exceptions to expectation, if we would just buy whatever device it is that will stake our unique claim. You, too, could go viral for doing some stupid thing or other.
Or, maybe you’re a more sensitive type, a real artist.
I am reminded suddenly of a story Joseph Campbell told, from India. I don’t know where it appears in the literature and traditions of that culture. In any case, the story as Campbell told it goes roughly like this:
The demon Virocana had sucked up all the world’s waters and consequently the whole world was dying. Right off I feel like I’m veering off a bit into one of the stories of the seven Chinese brothers. Let’s say, rather, that Virocana had shut off the spigot of rain. He locked up the waters above and the Earth below was dying of drought. So, seeing this, Indra cast a thunderbolt at Virocana, and puncturing him, released the rain and saved the world.
Having done this, as Campbell said, Indra thought, “What a good boy am I!”
And thinking himself Good, he began to build himself a castle, so endlessly sprawling in its ambition that the Divine Architect (whose name I forget) came to fear that he would be forever engaged on this one project. The Architect appealed to the Supreme Godhead, to Brahman, and in response to this appeal Brahman visited Indra in his castle, in the form of a young child.
Whatever signs were necessary to convince Indra of the identity of this Child occurred, suffice it to say. My memory of the exact events here is foggy. The gist of it, though, is that at that moment, when the Child stood before Indra, a long line of ants was walking across the throne room. The Child pointed at these ants and said, “Indras every one.”
Hearing these words, Indra was shattered by awareness of how utterly common he was. He cast off his crown, cut off his hair, and abandoned his castle. Now, with that particular universe falling into disorder, the Divine Architect sought out the king in his self-imposed exile and re-convinced him of his identity, to which he returned in a state of appropriate humility.
THE POINT OF ALL THIS BEING, I am intimately aware of the tension between narcissistic inflation and a sense of utter worthlessness. I am a cis-gendered, straight, white, American, male… for fuck’s sake… and I’m not interested in salvaging some sense of social self-worth by declaring myself an ally. Not that I’m an enemy, but that such a posture feels like a total cop-out. I have spent much time considering these issues while driving, but I’m not going to try to unravel them here. Yet.
Anyway, I don’t want to live in fear of worthlessness, as it seems to me this sense is a necessary corrective. I just want to know all of the Real Ingredients of proper identity: the Divine Potency, the Killing Awareness, and the Wisdom of the Divine Architect.
In Other News
This morning I had a dream in which I placed a three hundred dollar bet in a poker game with Bigly. He was like one of those video poker machines, and when I won with three aces, he owed me $130 dollars. I woke up to absolve him of his debt.
But before that, I dreamed of downloading a program that (the dream video said) had been used to write just about every movie of the last fifteen years. Every script idea, so the advertisement said, was subjected to this program, which was essentially a relational database of all archetypal characters, which had been extracted by an inferential engine fed every story ever recorded.
Basically, you entered your story idea into this program and it turned the characters into cliches for you. It was both fascinating and depressing.