The Wanting Machine

Everything in life is about ‘what we want’, absolutely everything, and the funny thing about this is that it’s not really us who wants it (whatever it is), and what we want isn’t a real thing anyway! We are being fooled on two levels, therefore — we’re being fooled when we think that whatever it is we want is a real thing, and we’re being fooled when we think that it is actually us who wants it. We couldn’t be more deluded than this therefore — that’s just not possible. We are 100% deluded, we are deluded about everything. It’s our deludedness (which arises when we believe the false information that we are being fed by our thoughts) that generates all this non-stop wanting.

We think we know what ‘being fooled’ means, but we don’t know anything about it until we know about this! We are incapable, in our usual mode of consciousness, to grasp the sheer enormity of this deception. The lie is too big for us to get our heads around. We might object to the suggestion that we are ‘fixated like limpets on what we want’ the whole time, and that ‘getting what we want’ is all we care about, but if we do find this hard to swallow then that’s only because we lack sufficient insight into ourselves. What we want and what we don’t want (which is what we call ‘attachment’, or preference’) is the only principle operating when we are living the conditioned life. Our will (our volition) in this realm is all about acting out our conditioning, and so it is this conditioning that determines what we want and what we don’t want.

Our conditioning (which is to say our minds) determine everything about us, and conditioning is made up of ‘preference’, is made-up of ‘like and dislike’. Like and dislike, in turn, are of course what give rise to ‘want and don’t want’. It’s all conditioning, in other words, and just so long as we are being driven by conditioning that we can’t be aware of (i.e., rules that are invisible to us) then everything is necessarily going to be all about ‘what we want’. Everything is going to be about ‘what we want and what we don’t want’ but at the same time the wanting in question has nothing whatsoever to do with us — it’s just the script that we have been provided with by thought. We’re being controlled by the script to believe that we are what is being scripted.

Thought tells us everything, it tells us when we are feeling good and when we are feeling bad. Thought tells us everything and thought also never tells us anything true (even though we might think that it does). Only in one way can what thought tells us be said to be ‘true’ — thought can only come out with true statements when these statements have to do with the world that it itself has made. This is the Domain of ‘Relative Truth’ therefore; statements made by thought can be true only in relation to the framework of reference that it has assumed. If, then, the Domain of Relative Truth is only ‘true in relation to the assumptions that we have had to make in order to bring that domain into existence in the first place’, what does this say about Relative Truth? And if all we know and take seriously are statements that originate in the Domain of Relative Truth, then what does this say about us?

We glorify this business of ‘wanting something and then successfully obtaining whatever it is that we wanted’. This is how we get respect and recognition in the world. Other people admire us when we are successful, and we admire ourselves too! It’s kudos all around in this case. The funny thing is however that I am being ‘manipulated without knowing it’, and this isn’t the kind of thing that we’d normally expect to be admired for! What usually happens is that we will be mocked and derided — that we should actually obtain kudos for being a successful puppet of the machine is more than just a little bit bizarre therefore. We are clowns who don’t know ourselves to be clowns and that’s the funniest type of clown there is! That’s what really gets a laugh.

When I want something very badly and I manage to actually get whatever it is that I want then I will feel very good, and not just ‘very good’, I will feel elated. If questioned, I will undoubtedly declare that nothing feels better (or could feel better) than the euphoria which I am currently experiencing. ‘It doesn’t get any better than this’, I will say. And yet the truly amazing thing about this situation is that I don’t really feel good, I just think that I do. Thought tells me that I feel fantastic, that things have never been better, and because I have spent my life automatically believing what thought tells me, I believe this too. Thought determines everything about us when we live in the conditioned reality, and if thought determines everything about us then when it says I am happy (or when it says that I am ‘a winner’) then I perceive myself to be happy. I perceive myself to be a winner who is happy about winning. The label is as good as the thing, as far as I’m concerned, and I never examine what that label actually means. I am ‘thought’s stooge’, in other words, and I fully expect to be given a medal for it!

This is what ‘the ego’ is — it is what we call the situation where consciousness has been fooled or duped into believing what the system of thought is telling it. The ego (or conditioned self) is the archetypal clown, as Wei Wu Wei says in this passage taken from his book Open Secret

When I was a child I was taken to the circus. There I saw a long series of entrancing performances that caused men and animals to execute every kind of astonishing and unexpected maneuver. And throughout, but particularly when the scenario and its appurtenances were being changed, there appeared a grotesque personage, vaguely resembling a human being, who interfered with everything but effected nothing. He fell over the carpets, bumped himself against every object, was slapped and kicked, and then took all the applause as though he were responsible for everything. We thought him very funny and laughed at him like anything.

Now that I am no longer a child he seems to me to be a perfect image of the I-concept, whose function is apparently his, and whose performance corresponds in all respects with that of the clown, in the circus which is our life. In all respects but one: we laughed at the clown in the circus, but we take seriously the clown in the circus of life, although the one is as ineffectual as the other.

We even believe that he is responsible for the performance, whereas as children we could see that he was responsible for nothing that happened, that his “will” was totally ignored by the circumstances to which he was subjected, and that in every event he was an unnecessary nuisance.

In one respect, however, our attitude is unchanged: in both the circuses we love the clown dearly and consider him more important than anything else in the show.

An inversion has taken place here— ‘being deceived by the system of thought’ and ‘being inverted’ are the same thing. We start off autonomous and end up as stooges who only think that they are autonomous, self-deluding slaves who only imagine that they are free. We start off in the real world and end up being images on a TV screen; we end up being no more than a show or display that the machinery of thought is putting on. Thought (the Great Amoeba) has made a copy of us and we think the copy IS us. Thought has described us, defined us, categorised us, and then we have somehow fallen into perceiving ourselves in terms of these descriptions, definitions, and categorizations. We’re trapped by our own descriptions, defined by our own definitions. We arelabelling machines’ , as Carlos Castaneda says , and we automatically label ourselves; the categoriser is summarily categorised by his own categories. The tool masters the one who would be using the tool and makes the tool out of him, and this is the meaning of the term inversion.

We don’t want anything — the System of Thought tells us what we want and we then go along with this in an act of passive identification. The System of Thought tells us that we are ‘the Wanter’ — it tells us what we want and what we don’t want and we believe it. We believe that the goal is real, and that the one who wants the goal is real too. It’s not just that we ‘believe’ it either — we perceive the System of Thought’s instructions to be our very own thoughts. In a superbly executed manoeuvre, the predator gives us its mind, just as Carlos Castaneda says. From this point on all we know is the relentless driving compulsivity of the thought-created world — all we know is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘wanting’ and ‘not wanting’, ‘desiring’ and ‘fearing’, and yet none of this has anything to do with us. This is just thought’s game which we are unreflectively buying into.

The urges to which we are subject have absolutely nothing to do with us — they are impositions on us — they are ‘external compulsions that we have unknowingly identified with’. The compulsions (or cravings) are ‘the fingers’ and we are the puppet — by being controlled we get to feel that we exist, we get to feel that we have a real honest-to-goodness existence as this ego-construct, and this is the ‘buzz’ that we are addicted to. The ‘buzz’ that we are so helplessly addicted to is the ‘buzz’ of being an ego, the ‘buzz’ of being controlled every step of the way without knowing it, the ‘buzz’ of being a slave who foolishly thinks that they are free…

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