Why Facts Enslave Us

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I believe we really can’t know anything for certain – we can discern patterns, tendencies, habits, and navigate these uncertain seas accordingly in a boat made of courage, patience, and wisdom.

The most common objection to this, interestingly, involves the Sun.

The conversation almost always goes like this:

Willem: [flux of reality, absurdity of facts]
Objector: But, some things are facts. The sun will rise tomorrow, that is a fact!

The rising of the Sun. A fact.

This interests me because many, many traditional peoples tell stories of how the Sun struggles to rise every day. Whether as father, or mother, or some other related and grand being, the Sun’s journey out of night, across the blue mountain, and back into the dark belly of unknowability, the Sun doesn’t even know if he/she/they will make it today.

So you’ll find traditional peoples encouraging the Sun up at dawn, singing songs, saying “You can do it! We’re watching, noticing you, we haven’t forgotten the steepness of your daily climb, or the treacherous descent on the other side…”

And yet, modern peoples consider the notion that the Sun will rise tomorrow “a fact”.

Let’s talk about slaves.

I believe the master-slave contract goes like this:

Master to Slave: I will give you complete security in return for your labor. You will always know your job. You will not have to question, or think for yourself – I have all the answers. For your obedience, I will guarantee these four walls will never move. Your world will be ruled by cause, and effect. Disobedience and punishment. Obedience and reward. You, in turn will be master to all the slaves under you…who will require the same contract.

For modern peoples, I believe that anything they call a “fact” really indicates a slave that works under them. Facts work for us – brutal, hard labor. If you don’t believe this, take anything reliable and “factual” in your life – your job, your intimate relationships, your 3 meals a day, and make it a question:

Will I have a job today? What job will I have?
Will my intimate partner still want me?
Do I get to eat today? How will I eat?

If you have the mental power to truly believe, even if for just a moment, in these questions, and these questions sufficiently apply to you (perhaps they are irrelevant to your situation – if so, question something else) you may feel the massive burden settle on your awareness. Yes, you have to struggle for a full day and answer these questions somehow. You must struggle with the not knowing, the stress of an uncertain future.

I am a software developer. Really? And if that job is gone tomorrow, what are you then?
They are my life partner. Really? And if tomorrow you wake up to find out your relationship has degraded over the years and finally ended, when you weren’t paying attention, what then?
Food comes from the store. Really? And if the petroleum-based transport system hiccups, and three days later this ingenious system of “just in time” food falls apart…what then?

Can you turn your facts into questions?

Said another way, can you turn your facts into awareness and relationship?

Like the wolf whose ears still move, still listening even in the deepest of sleep, can you return to and stay in relationship with the world and all the enslaved beings – especially the enslaved matter – the Sun, the Moon, your computer, your car, your bicycle, the enslaved water churning and spinning through your plumbing, your home and its panoply of different materials stolen unasked for from the four directions of the landscape.

Can you live the Question? Can you wake up, wondering in the darkness before dawn if we’ve arrived at the last day, if perhaps even today may not arrive, and still live a full life without fear?

If this feels like a burden, like too much to ask, well, this explains why so many hold tight to their enslavement. Freedom seems like such an unvarnished good. Perhaps, but to truly rewild, re-willed, become self-willed, and recognize the re-willedness of everything around you in both the pitiable city and the willed-erness, takes a willingness to embrace a kind of rare maturity, an impossibly ancient sense of adulthood, that the domesticated cringe from. The work, the tremendous spiritual work.

I only want to make the choice as clear as possible, so you have a fair shake at making your own choice, rather than having it made for you.

As fellow animist writer Heather Awen mentioned recently, we’ve woken up, in the first hour of a world where the toxic culture of dominion, the world-spanning cancer, devoured the earth. We stand amidst the rubble making a new life. Though the lights keep flashing, the gadgets still whirring, the traffic still flowing, the soldiers still have bullets for their guns, their bodies and lives become more ghost like, lived in memoriam to the sticky honey-sweet dream of suffocating domestication. Living their own question – “what can we accomplish when we smother life for an idea – how tremendously can we build up the grand architecture of our banality?”

Though we see this fading world of mist around us, we hold on to the firmament of relationship, invisible to domesticated eyes, a hotly burning, starry flux of listening and speaking, of exchange and understanding, of never knowing and always yearning, of at-home-ness in our nest of the tenderness of the grand mystery.

Photo Credit: @Doug88888 via Compfight cc

3 Responses to “Why Facts Enslave Us”

  1. Asrik Says:

    Thank you for posting this. To say something is “a fact” has a lot of interesting implications behind it.

    It implies that it is possible to trace an original cause to
    It implies the world consists of separate elements (as opposed to, for example, interdependent relationships)
    It implies that language isn’t subjective
    It implies that the world is mostly unchanging
    It implies that the world around us does not react to us

    It may or may not be “true” to say that the sun will rise tomorrow, but my question would then be; what is that fact doing for you? What role does that fact play in your life? How does it help you live a fuller, richer life?

    I kind of have this mental image of “facting” or “is-ing” that it’s like a freeze-ray that forces a cloud of possibility into frozen definition. For me, the question then becomes, do we want to live lives full of definition or possibility? I choose to live a life full of possibility.

  2. Willem Says:

    Your freeze ray sounds a lot like civilization – freezing complex, dynamic ecosystems into urban deserts for the purpose of creating enslaved material objects.

    Perhaps this explains why the civilized value facts so much – maintaining and creating new “facts” (from the latin to make/do) underpins the soul-killing production economy that makes civilization work.

  3. Asrik Says:

    Another thing that occurs to me: when someone says that “the sun rises” in a certain way they are factually “wrong”. The sun doesn’t rise, the earth turns. To say “the sun rises” implies an assumption that the Earth is at the center of the universe with the sun revolving around it. If we want to be “factually right” instead of talking about sunrise and sunset, maybe we should be talking about “dayturning” and “nightturning”. For more discussion see here: http://nature.pagannewswirecollective.com/2013/01/08/colloquial-quandaries-referencing-the-sun/
    For me this gets at the core of how facts, and fact-seeking, pinions our thought. It doesn’t allow us to remix reality. I want more reality-jamming in my lived experience.

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