To become humane means to become guilty; or, in modern secular parlance : to become a bugger. The question (or rather : problem) then is : What next? Redemption is the way Scripture lays out as path ahead, “stop being a bugger” would fit its modern, more cynical variant. So, how do you “un-bugger”?
There is a tension in the run-up of becoming a bugger. On the one hand we know that people become guilty (or a bugger) at one point or another in their life – and we deem this not only as deplorable fate but, in a very profound sense, as a way of becoming humane, of joining the crowd. On the other hand we admire and yearn for the innocence, the person not sullied by misstep, guilt, bereavement. We admire the child but even more so the adult without fail. We long to be thus, but at the same time we feel that belonging to the crowd gives us a sense of reality and understanding we deny the holy (innocent) person to possess.
So how to “un-bugger”? Or better : Why “un-bugger”?
Again : We feel we belong to a world when we sense our own imperfection and guilt on a par with that of others. At the same time we feel urged to strive for innocence, the holy, the whole, knowing (or : believing) that being “there” means stepping outside of this world, to leave it behind, to become the one away from and apart of the maddening crowd.
If you want to lose ego, you first surely need one to get rid off. So you have to become someone first before you can be free again of this someone-ness. That is not trivial. There are, of course, traditions of raising innocent and at the same time knowing souls from childhood to adulthood without the interference of first becoming a person (in the above sense). The loss and subsequent find of the next incarnated lama; the stories of children becoming holy men like Krishnamurti; the usual advertisement of self-styled gurus and sensitives who from early childhood had been special in this or that .… (Its always from early childhood on.) But these are the exception. Normally you become an ego, thus a bugger, then some kind of penitent. Our whole justice- and prison system works that way.
The question is not if you can become a better person at all, mostly after some kind of fall, real or not. Also the question is not if one should try at all to become a better person, even if that is at the base of much literature, arts, theology.
The question is, why we should yearn and strive for perfection or redemption at all when being a bugger is (in a profound sense) exactly what makes us humane and gives us the means to connect with other people. Why should we long for redemption, when redemption means jumping off the wreckage of mankind and leave the fools behind? Personally, I would rather be a nasty jerk but keep an eye on my buddies than become a meditating monk in some happy valley apart from everything that reminds me where I came from. So why should we “un-bugger” at all?
In fact, we should not. And this is so not because being a perfect bugger likewise is, in some twisted sense, a way of bringing divineness into this world. It is not because some foolish Star Wars-ideology suggests that being a jerk means being a jerk at this very moment, thus making being a jerk at this very moment an instance of divine perfection and timelessness too. A bugger, coming from a hamlet full of snutty-nosed brats is not a holy bugger, he is a bugger. Nothing beautiful in suffering, even if suffering has its timelessness too. And nothing beneficial in the weird belief that only when things hurt does it mean one is alive. That is sadomasochism, not enlightenment.
No, we should not “un-bugger” in order to become holy, to get rid of our burdens. If at all, we should try to “un-bugger” because then we are more capable of being of any good to our neighbours and next of kin. You do not become holy in order to leave this place, you become holy in order to keep this a place. To show solidarity, respect, kindness. The point is that as the Eternal Bugger you may at first be occupied the whole time struggling with your demons, but afterwards you are in a position to offer a hand.
Demons are like guardians. They bewitch us and keep us at their feet. They not only prevent us from walking through a door before it is our time. They also keep us at the doorstep until it is our time, so that we cannot leave the fermentation we are put into. And then, one day, the guardians simply step aside, and we pass without further ado.
Such is the fantasy we tell ourselves about us and the meaning of distress, suffering, boredom, guilt. About what we are going through. It may even be true, sometimes, but still at its base lies the assumption (or the conception) that there is and ought to be some process of the soul’s betterment. Again, it is about leaving the world, instead of entering it.
But the image drastically changes when we drop this assumption (or this glorious ideal) of human betterment while keeping the picture of demons as guardians who bewitch us – to our good or harm.
If we skip the idea that suffering has a beneficial (and benevolent) core, we may treat it rather as a way to understand that the world – The World – is not made of facts, stuff, and concretes but rather of psychê, memories, soul. In undergoing his ordeals Parzival not only became a better man, he became a wiser man too, equipped with skills. Becoming a bugger is then a way to learn of what the world is made of. It makes us learn in an ego-changing way. It teaches us not that the world is good at its core but that it entails the good and the bad, the beauty and the ugly. We would not learn these features if we thought it were all about us and our soul’s betterment. It is not about betterment, it is learning about the ways of the world, about its contours. The way to learn is via the soul.
There is no self-redemption. This is not about falling from the height of innocence to the the mud of guilt from which one is supposed to rise again. (Even expected, given you are from some protestant and / or esoteric crowd.) Fall and redemption are not about you! Fall and redemption are a way of learning, to make one capable of offering a hand to those in need. For this, it is required that we have an understanding of the issues and a know-how of what to do next. It is not required that we become holy before we can start to act. It is about gaining competence to do something when we are in the position to help. It is not about our soul, it is about the soul of others, even the soul of the world – that we become acquainted with it by means of struggling within our own. (Provided there is such a difference.)
And it is not about some ascent from the empirical to the soulful either. It is simply not the case that in learning we start from the empirical and later somehow manage to enter the realms of the soul. Even as little children we see the world and us as soul. We do not learn the soul of the world by entering stages. We already see it as soul and try to figure out its contours. Contrary to popular belief the empirical is something very complex and complicated, and only later in life do we understand what in the world belongs to soul and what is rather part of the empirical. Fractions of this learning happen in education, other in beauty, in misery …. and in being a bugger.
It is in this sense that becoming a bugger and finding redemption are two stages of learning how to become, what Alex Steffen beautifully has called, “a good ancestor.” It does not mean that you may not end up as a holy man or as a criminal on death row. Things can go wrong. And it does not mean either that you first have to become a bugger in order to learn the skills necessary to help others. But empathy is never enough. It takes skills to become a good ancestor, thereby enlarging the possibilities, the depth, and the meaning of the world. For this at times we regret, and at times we organize. We do something. Like sitting still is sometimes something we do.
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