Sunday, 4 September 2011

Miserabilia and Suffering - Absurdism and Meaning

Back in 2005, I wrote a short entry on Miserabilia (MBs), conceptual entities that create misery, which run through the “cortex” of human kind. Now in light of Buddhist Suffering, or Dukkha, I will further try to expand the concept of Miserabilia/Suffering as a driving force that can be used as a tool for better understanding our reality.

First it is important to note, that MBs are neither positive nor negative entities, even though they may be associated with things that create negative feelings they can also create positive feelings, or no feelings whatsoever. Suffering directly stems from the human capacity of understanding the limitations of perception while simultaneously being able to conceive of the inconceivable. For example the human brain can conceive of infinity while also perceiving that infinity is inconceivable. “What follows from this is the conflinct between the human tendency to seek value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any,” (source) meaning being a conceivable-inconceivable concept or a miserabilium. The human ability to create miserabilia is extraordinary. Some examples of major miserabilia include: love, god, hope, faith, freedom, meaning, purpose, ethics, truth and knowledge. Not only are these concepts unattainable, they are undefinable, paradoxical, absurd, subjective and relativistic. Miserabilia function in a similar way to qualia, in that information is processed and interpreted into these highly unstable, ephemeral phenomenological entities but never directly experienced.

Archetypal miserabilia essentially stem from the human recognition and investigation of genetic (and subsequently, mental) limitations – although of course the ontology of these very limitations is questionable as everything. This investigation, or conceptualisation of these limits leads to the creation of miserabilia and has given rise to mythology, philosophy and culture; all concerned with the understanding of these concepts and indeed with phenomenology. Our genetic and mental limitations can be listed as a series of “problems”: the problem of knowledge, the problem of mathematics, the mind-body problem, the problem of consciousness, problem of induction and various others philosophical mind-jumbles. What all these have in common is the ability of the human to conceive them but not to be able to solve them. It can be summarised as such: we do not know anything, including whether “knowing” is even relevant in the first place, or if even the concept of “relevant” has any value. What all these problems have in common is probably phenomenological, in that they are all products of mind or consciousness (yet another miserabilium), seemingly emerging from what appears to be a highly complex physical process (physicality being another miserabilium).

Miserabilia in this sense become metaphors, metaphors that we create to label certain concepts that seem to be universal in human experience, concepts that again stem from genetic limitations and the ability to conceive of things beyond these limitations but without an ability to make sense of them. It is like we are presented with so much information that we are simply physically unable to process, so we abstract them, generalise them and contextualise them within our culture: to understand them and provide false solutions we create metaphors and languages, stories and mythologies, religions and philosophies, arts and sciences. Suffering creates more suffering, as the more we investigate miserabilia and the more we deny absurdity the more limitations we discover and the more miserabilia we create. Miserabilia just like archetypes are complexes of meaning, they contain the cultural and archetypal understanding of a particular concept which accumulates over the years. The more we investigate miserabilia and the more knowledge we build, the more limitations we discover increasing suffering while the archetypal miserabilia remain constant. There is no way to change these archetypes without drastically changing our genetic makeup as they are directly linked. The only thing we can do is develop a deep cultural understanding of miserabilia and how they affect our lives, in hope that one day a genetic mutation or genetic engineering might occur that will diminish them (and create new ones).

Miserabilia directly stem from the genetic code, they are part of the first phenomenological layers that are abstracted by the mind. Contemplating miserabilia is in effect direct communication with the genetic code, a concept hard to grasp. Jungian archetypes probably precede the miserabilium layer, or their very interaction is what creates miserabilia. The emergence of miserabilia happens because of the interaction of complementary forces as understood by Steiner. On one hand we have the genetic code/Jungian archetypes projecting upwards and on the other hand we have the virtual/software/perceiving-conceiving code projecting downwards. The interaction of these codes creates the apparently paradoxical conceptions of miserabilia which again in effect are conceptions based on genetic perceptions. If Jungian archetypes are the first internal perceptions-connections, then miserabilia are the first conceptions. The interactions of miserabilia then directly lead to the creation of the memetic layer which is the rationalisation and further conceptualisation of miserabilia which finally leads to the various humanities, religions, sciences etc., ie. the cultural level.

In this way miserabilia can be thought of as the archetypal memes: the first abstract meaning complexes derived from unconscious analysis of meaning. This highly archetypal meaning is abstract and loose just like the archetypes that spawned it. Miserabilia in effect represent the conception and abstraction of primal meaning. It is the human first trying to make sense of the primordial images (that are clearly derived from biological meaning, biosemiotics), creating a new level of code through observation of the interaction of these images. This also marks the beginning of separation from the unconscious where the internal world is recognised as being completely different than the external world, and thus the beginning of consciousness. Soon the human is able to ask, how or why?

Miserabilia are like a seemingly impenetrable wall. Someone going through deconstruction of personality (deculturing) one will inevitably reach this wall. It first starts with existentialism: what is the meaning of everything? Unable to solve the problematic miserabilia in any rational way one is only left with 3 possible routes as listed by Albert Camus:

The conception of the flow, of complexity, is thus direct awareness of dukkha which “denotes the experience that all formations (sankhara) are impermanent (anicca) - thus it explains the qualities which make the mind as fluctuating and impermanent entities. It is therefore also a gateway to anatta, not-self” (wikipedia) Contemplation on complexity is thus a form of Vipassana.

Suffering manifests through the 5 prerequisites (the skandhas), needed for conscious human existence: matter/physicality, sensing , perceiving (qualia), thinking/cognition (miserabilia) and consciousness (the totality of discrete cognitive constructs). The 6th aggregate is memes and culture. It is clear that the skandhas are part of supervening hierarchy, one leading to the other. Matter creates sensing mechanisms that can directly sense matter, sensations create perceiving mechanisms that can recognise the qualia, thought and cognition organise and react to the qualia while consciousness makes the discernment by putting together all cognitive constructs. It is very important to note that since all these are subsets of each other, they are all nested within matter, and hence within the grand flux of impermanence. In fact if one could separate them in levels of impermanence, consciousness would appear to be the most impermanent while matter would be the least.

Insofar as it is dynamic, ever-changing, uncontrollable and not finally satisfactory, unexamined life is itself precisely dukkha.[13] The question which underlay the Buddha's quest was "in what may I place lasting relevance?" He did not deny that there are satisfactions in experience: the exercise of vipassana assumes that the meditator sees instances of happiness clearly. Pain is to be seen as pain, and pleasure as pleasure. It is denied that happiness dependent on conditions will be secure and lasting. Gunas

In the first (passive) sense saṅkhāra can refer to any compound form in the universe whether a tree, a cloud, a human being, a thought or a molecule. All these are saṅkhāras. The Buddha taught that all such things are impermanent, arising and passing away, subject to change, and that understanding the significance of this reality is wisdom. Saṅkhāra is often used in this first sense to describe the psychological conditioning (particularly the habit patterns of the unconscious mind) that gives any individual human being his or her unique character and make-up at any given time.

Suffering is beautiful.