What I desire is a return to the profundity of experience. I want a
society where everyday activity, however mundane, is centered around
how incredibly profound everything is. I want that profundity to
become so immense that any mediations between us and it become totally
unnecessary: we are in the marvel. When I am in that awe, words are so
irrelevant, I don't really care if you call my experience "God" or
not. All I know is it is the greatest pleasure possible: to hug a
tree, to jump up and down at a beautiful sunset, to climb a
magnificent hill, to take awe in what surrounds us. I am a hedonist,
and I will have these pleasures; neither the religionist nor the
atheist shall lock them away from me!
Primal peoples were in touch with this profoundness, and organized
their life around it. Religion is a decadent second-hand relic of this
original, authentic mode of experiencing, that attempts to blackmail
by linking social control and morality with profound experiencings.
Primal peoples sought to avoid whatever distracted from this
profundity as much as possible. Obsessiveness of any sort could
distract from the holistic goodness of the environment.
Why are we here? To experience profoundly.
Our task, therefore, is to rearrange life (society, the economy) such
that profundity is immanent in everyday life. Spirituality
represents the specialization and detachment of profundity from
everyday life into a disembodied, disconnected, symbolic realm that
becomes compensatory for an everyday life whose immanence is banality.
It is obvious that we don't regularly experience wonder, and this is a
social-material problem, because the structure of everyday life
discourages this. Other societies in history, however, have
endeavoured to discover what is truly of value in life, and then, and
only then to structure everyday life upon those evident values.
We wish to make calculation and obligation islands in a sea of wonder
and awe. We wish to make aloneness a positive experience within the
context of profound, embodied togetherness.
Western spirituality has perpetuated a separation between the material
and spiritual realms, probably because it arose out of a civilization
ruled by an out-of-control materialism. The world used to be
experienced profoundly; in spiritual terms, the earth used to be
inhabited by spirit. Western spirituality abstracted spirit from the
world, from the flesh, leaving an enlivened, disembodied spirit and a
deadened, barren world. It is our job to refuse what has been
artificially separated, not through a symbolical gesture, but by
existentially redressing the alienation to which we have been
Human being have developed over the past two million years various
strategies for taking care of what some have called our "needs".
Various original affluent society have been invented, and our task would
be to examine these and chose the strategies which best support an
everyday experience of profundity...
We are are discussing a life where one gives joy to others through the
mere act of being, where exchange of gifts is a way of life, where
one's routine has inherent meaning, not because it makes reference to
some symbolic system, but because it opens out onto kairos, the
profound moment, the experience of ambience, awe.
In order to do this we must develop a pace that is conducive to
this, a set of understandings whereby the experience of profundity is
a value and for which rests, pauses and meditations are in order as a
part of routine, and a social reality based upon sharing of profound
experiences as primary exchange rather than the exchange of money or
Our job is to reinvent primal peoples! Through our imagination and
what little we do know there is no evidence against such group
movement. We must imagine these primeval peoples, in order to create
an incredible myth in order to live it, to become it!
Silence was a great feature of such times. People gestured towards the
world. Experiences of awe, wonder, were everyday affairs. Because
people lived outside, they had a much greater oxygen content. They
lived in a perpetual oxygen bath, which produces highs, heightens the
sense of taste and smell, and is very relaxing. Anyone who has camped
out in the open air knows this experience.
This energetic connection with the surroundings was immense; an
incredible exchange on all levels was constantly taking place. It is
within the context of this immenseness that our words, our
'rationality', our technical pragmatics seem so narrow, so very small.
Far from being primitive, these were people enjoying and interested in
preserving immenseness. This is no idealism. A concrete experience in
nature can demonstrate the incredible power of the outdoors. One may
engage in an intense, strenuous experience with others for a few hours
(a night hike or some such) and then afterwards meander about in total
silence, gesturing at most, exploring movement, smells, and impulses.
This will give a taste of how rich it all is. This is what we have
lost in our narrow obsessiveness with technicality. What Zen
practitioners strive for a lifetime for, our ancestors had by
birthright. Sure, they didn't know how to make a waterwheel or how to
harness electricity; they didn't want to: they had better things to
do! It is even remotely conceivable that they did know of these
things, in potential form at least, but saw them as trivial to the
process of life...
In the silence, all of the chitchat and all of the worries and all of
the monuments fade. In the is-ness, what need to leave one's mark?
What need to become immortal through art or culture? Disappearance is
erasing the record, off track, no trails, no history. One is in the
disappearance already. All one needs is to lose track, to stop
recording, to turn off the tape machine, to disappear, it's all
right... It's okay to disappear. Do so now. The grass in front of you
is all that ever was or will be. It has no memory, no future. Just
So when we know this rich heritage, when we reach into the heart of
our being and know that humans very like ourselves lived a good two
million years in this way of being, we are awed, and the scum at the
top of the pond, the curdled milk of history, our obsession with
technicality, pours off and we are left with the pure froth of Being.
John Landau, 1998
- From Against Civilization
(Reproduced with permission)