Status Revisited

A few years ago I wrote an article on status, to rather mixed reviews among the online commenters. Today I’m going back to status, “doubling down,” as people like to say these days.

The proximate cause of this return to status is a set of studies I’ve been doing on Jesus. One of the things I’ve become clear on while doing this work has been Jesus’ strategy for getting his teachings to the people of Israel. And a major component of that strategy was to avoid any mixture of status with his personal image.

Jesus fought to maintain his “mind-slot” as an outsider and a non-powerful person. If he had allowed himself to become famous, people would have believed him for the wrong reasons. To whatever extent they believed him because he was a famous healer (or whatever), the degree of internal changes that his “believers” bore would be that much reduced. And people being changed on the inside was more or less the only thing he really cared about.

The details on this will have to wait for my work to be published, but I’m quite firm on that conclusion, and I think it was a stroke of genius on his part. Status, you see, poisons more or less everything it touches. As I noted in the article from a few years ago (and I’ll borrow from it for the rest of this post) status is a person’s condition, position, or standing relative to that of others.

That is, status automatically creates division and conflict, and always will.

Status forces us to think in terms of position, hierarchy, and dominance, and can’t possibly do otherwise; it is built solely upon our standing relative to others.

In other words, status causes us to think of others as adversaries and to compulsively compare positions. This is not a healthy thing.

To be very blunt about it, status is an archaic and barbaric model of seeing other beings. But it’s even worse than that: Not only does status poison our inter-relationships, it poisons our self-image. It requires us, always, to think of ourselves as above or below every other person.

Status stands before us as an evolutionary hurdle. If humanity is to rise as a species, it absolutely must transcend status. Until we do, humans will continue to think in conflict-centered terms, and human history will remain centered on conflict.

Status is a continuous belief in man versus man… a rather hypnotic belief, really. And it makes little difference whether we see ourselves on the “above” or “below” side of the exchange. If above, we’re given to arrogance and abuse. If below, we’re given to resentment and to lashing out. Both errors lead to inner decay and outer conflict.

Our present world is dominated by status-based structures. Whether kingdom, democracy or whatever, status-based structures set one man or group of men above all others. People of a “higher” position collect the production of the “lower” people, issue edicts for them to obey, and punish those who do not.

In other words, the ruling systems of the present world are incarnations of status… they are “status made flesh.” This is a primary reason why the world is perpetually at war. The very model sets man against man and group against group, automatically and unavoidably.

Status may be something we’ve been trained in; it may be something that has influenced us all our lives; but it is not “us.” It is, rather, a dirty and old habit.

Individual humans are able to transcend status fairly well. We usually learn, for example, to drop the concept among people we live with and love. And therein lies the proof that it is not truly “us.”

Humans, even while immersed in the poisonous and persistent mindscape of status, still demonstrate love and charity. That fact speaks extremely well of us. Human nature is better than we thought it was.

Again I’ll conclude with this: It’s time to start stripping status from our minds.

Next Week

Next week we’ll publish the second of our podcasts and will continue posting them every other week. See you then.

* * * * *

TheBreakingDawn

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.

  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.

  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.

  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

  • Get it at Amazon or on Kindle.

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

How Do You Describe Yourself?

This is a question that recently confronted me from several angles at the same time, and so I think it’s probably a good thing to look at.

There are three fundamental aspects to this, the first two of which we’ll examine. The third is mainly out of our control.

  1. How do you describe yourself to yourself? And perhaps more directly, How do you see yourself? Everything else pales compared to this. Self-estimation underlies not only what we do, but what we are. Even if you’re able to push past your fundamental view of yourself, it will drag you back soon enough. I used to say, “Self-concept is destiny,” and I don’t think I was far off the mark.

  2. How do you describe yourself to others? As I’ll describe below, this one can be tricky, and it certainly has been for me. There are two root problems: First, no short description can do anything but savage the truth of who and what we are. Second, these descriptions induce status-centered thoughts, and status is a poison.

  3. How do others see you? As noted above, this is mainly out of our control. We can react to such opinions, but that’s hazardous too. If we’re not very careful, we end up thinking as others expect of us.

Lifestyle Capitalism

One way this hit me recently was reading through the comments to an article I wrote on another site. The commenter saw my self-description as a “lifestyle capitalist,” interpreted it radically differently than I intended, and went on to say, “Nonetheless, there are some interesting thoughts here.”

And so I started thinking about changing or explaining this self-description.

I’ve always been uncomfortable describing myself. Even listing the things I’ve done makes me uneasy, for both reasons mentioned in #2 above. But the people I’ve worked with needed something to say about me… prospective readers would likely be confused without it.

In any event, “listing things done” has been bearable, but I left the description to others. And they dubbed me an “adventure capitalist.” I have done business in some wild places and ways, and so I accepted that one and moved on.

But as time went on, it seemed like I was portraying myself as some uber-rich venture capitalist, which I am not. And so I looked for something better. As readers of the subscription newsletter will know((See FMP #66.)), I arrived at “lifestyle capitalist” and described it this way:

Lifestyle capitalism is the practice of working for the sake of one’s lifestyle, rather than working for secondary factors like income or position.

A lifestyle capitalist, by my definition, might be someone with a very low income, but apparently that’s not how others see it… because of that status thing again. I saw lifestyle capitalism as “a path around the status obsession… a way of living apart from it,” but that didn’t transfer as well as I would have liked. Maybe I’ll have to add a follow-on line or parenthetical note to clarify. Ah well…

Status, Within and Without

Statusa person’s condition, position, or standing relative to that of others – is a blight upon the species. It automatically creates division and conflict and cannot do otherwise.

And by the way, I’m hardly the first to reach this conclusion. Here’s St. Paul (Saul of Tarsus) writing in the New Testament:

[W]hen they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

Not only does status poison our interrelations, it poisons our self-image. The very concept requires us to think of ourselves as above or below every other being.

So, in terms of external status, we can try to steer away from it, but we can’t control how other people categorize us. We can try to teach people that status is a prison to be escaped, but until they’re emotionally ready to give it up, they will not. We can plant seeds if we do it carefully, but after that it’s up to them, not us.

Status in our own minds, however, that’s something we can change… and if we want to function more fully and happily, it’s something we should change. Status cannot help but create damage. Either we’re above the other person (dominance, arrogance, etc.) or we’re below the other person (envy, bitterness, etc.). The very concept is a no-win proposition. The very best it can attain is “the same,” which easily enough rolls into “us versus them.”

And here’s the thing: None of us are monochromatic beings, fit for a single descriptive phrase or even a dozen descriptive phrases. The very act of accepting such a thing limits us and cannot do otherwise.

So, if you want to think of yourself as “a being seeking to understand,” “a being seeking to grow,” or something similar, that’s probably a good start… certainly much better than ethnicities, professions, and so on.

In the end, we’re probably best off dropping all such things and ending up back at the Bible: “I am.” Or, “I am that I am.” But most any sort of first step is better than no first step.

* * * * *

TheBreakingDawn

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.

  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.

  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.

  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

  • Get it at Amazon or on Kindle.

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

The Status Quo Is Deathly Boring

QuoBoring

Most young people know nothing but the world as it is. Their teachers assure them that this is the best form of human organization, all authority agrees, and their parents toe the party line. The system is geared to keep them shuffling forward quietly unto death.

What a waste.

What a crime.

What a bore.

Live dangerously and you live right.”

This line comes from the great author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and he was ever so correct. The life of meek obedience is a sin against the self. It is a surrender of mind and passion. It’s a half life at best.

But unquestioning compliance is the easy way. It’s what the system is designed to extract from you. It’s what school trains you for, it’s what corporations expect of you, and it’s what government demands.

In the end, compliance is extorted from you by manipulation and violence. Everyone does it, so you’d better do it. And if you don’t, you’ll get in a lot of trouble. We’ve all experienced this, but in terror of authority, we fail to call it by its true name.

And yet Goethe is correct. If you want to live as an energized, expansive, open, and honest being, you have no choice but to live dangerously… because the system has decreed real living to be dangerous. Only what services the machine is “safe.”

And it wasn’t just Goethe who thought this. I want you to see the thoughts of other men and women on this subject:

The meaning of life is that it is to be lived, and it is not to be traded and conceptualized and squeezed into a pattern of systems.
– Bruce Lee

Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered – either by themselves or by others.
– Mark Twain

The tragedy of life is what dies in the hearts and souls of people while they live.
– Albert Einstein

Life shrinks or expands according to one’s courage.
– Anais Nin

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a [condition] and remain in it. This is a kind of death.
– Anais Nin

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break your bonds; your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.
– Patanjali (2nd century BC)

The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle.
– Albert Einstein, Mein Weltbild

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.
– Oscar Wilde

All theory is against the freedom of the will, all experience for it.
– Samuel Johnson

Conscience is deceived by the social.
– Simone Weil, The Great Beast

The secret is that only that which can destroy itself is truly alive.
– Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy

Obedience Is Boring

To obey is to turn off your mind. To obey is to live someone else’s life. To obey is to cease existing.

But once you turn to the taskmaster and say “No,” you turn on. Your life enlarges, expands, and becomes a force in the universe. Five years later you’ll look back and be amazed at the scales that fell from your eyes.

Fear is a brain hack. Fear is the great enemy. Fear is death.

To love is to live. To live is to open your life to expansion, to deep satisfaction, and to love.

Please reread the quotes above. Turn and face the fear. Tell it to go to hell. Start living your way. Make your own mistakes. Repair them. Live and love.

* * * * *

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.
  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.
  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)

TheBreakingDawn

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

Hustled Through Life

Hustled

Most people, sad to say, are too rushed, frightened, and confused to think about what they really want out of life. They are hustled through school, forced into long-term decisions before they’re ready to face them, then held to those decisions by fear and shame. They choose from a limited set of options, and they know that change will be punished.

Eventually they get old and find time to think, but by then they can’t bear to question too deeply; that would jeopardize their self-worth, and they haven’t time to rebuild it.

For an intelligent, creative, and expansive species like ours, this rush to nowhere is among the greatest of evils. And yet it continues, mostly unquestioned. At no point in the usual Western life do we stop, take some serious time for ourselves, and think about the overall:

  • What’s life about anyway? What’s the point of what we do?

  • What’s the purpose of a career? Why should I care about it above everything else?

  • Why should I glorify the existing system? Why should I agree to support it?

  • Who paid for everything I learned in school?

  • Should I have a family? If so, why? If not, why not?

  • What do I think is fun? Does it really coincide with the beer ads on TV?

  • What’s the purpose of being like everyone else? Why am I so afraid to be different?

We don’t address such questions. Rather, we’re pushed past them. Even in a church or synagogue – places where larger questions are supposed to be addressed – the person in the pulpit wants us to become and/or remain a member of the congregation; their job depends upon it. There are true ministers and rabbis, but for most it’s all too easy to push their audience into what’s convenient.

As a result, we see little motivation in the modern West, save for the basest of motivators: things that match a line from the Bible that says, “Whose god is their belly.”

Mind you, I’m not against wealth, good food, or sex. I think those are fine things. They are not, however, the whole of life. We are much bigger than that. We ought not be limited to belly-level aspirations. But when we’re rushed, that’s all we’re able to see.

Status and Fear

The two big motivators we face in this rush through life – fear and status – are both negative.

Fear is a manipulation technology; people who make you afraid are hacking your mind. They want you to ignore reason and obey them fast. (I wish I could cover this in depth here, but we haven’t space. Please see issue #54 of my subscription newsletter.)

When we’re afraid, we make our worst choices. Put plainly, fear makes us stupid. But we encounter it on a daily basis… and it destroys us by inches.

Status is the compulsion to compare ourselves with others, and whether we’re looking for the ways we’re better than others or looking for our shortcomings, it is deeply destructive. It’s also irrational, but the advertising business would crash without it and advertisers currently own the collective eyeballs of humanity.

Fear and status are, in a broad sense, drugs, and if you had a choice between smoking pot every day or being on fear and status every day, I’d definitely recommend the pot.

Confusion

Let’s be clear on something: Nearly every adult in the West will agree that politicians are liars and thieves… and yet they obey them without question. Is there any possibility we’d do such things if we weren’t harried and confused?

When we are confused, we pass over our own minds and their deliberations. There’s an old joke: “Who are you gonna believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?” But that’s precisely what confusion does to us, and under the pressures of confusion and authority, most people will ignore their own eyes.

Such things do not happen to people who are calm and confident. But the existing hierarchies of the West couldn’t function with a calm and confident populace; their operations require people to be frightened, confused, and blindly chasing status.

As a Result…

As a result, most of us hurry through life, never knowing why. We live as others do, simply because that path is streamlined for us, exposing us to a minimal level of fear and shame. But that path does something else: It keeps us from experiencing ourselves.

Seldom has this problem been put more succinctly than in this quote from Albert Einstein:

Small is the number of them who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.

Stop following the crowd. Turn your back on the popular script. Stop feeding at the same trough as everyone else. Break away and learn to see with your own eyes, to feel with your own heart.

Don’t conform. Let people criticize you. Decide for yourself what your life will be about. Make it matter.

* * * * *

If you’ve enjoyed Free-Man’s Perspective or A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, you’re going to love Paul Rosenberg’s new novel, The Breaking Dawn.

It begins with an attack that crashes the investment markets, brings down economic systems, and divides the world. One part is dominated by mass surveillance and massive data systems: clean cities and empty minds… where everything is assured and everything is ordered. The other part is abandoned, without services, with limited communications, and shoved 50 years behind the times… but where human minds are left to find their own bearings.

You may never look at life the same way again.

Get it now at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)

* * * * *

TheBreakingDawn

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com