Helen was delighted with her tartan scarf, and within two minutes of Jack walking through the door on his return from Scotland, they were in bed. The old magic was back.
As they lay in bed Helen told Jack how much she had missed him, and asked him about his trip to Scotland. This caused Jack some soul searching. Was he going to lie? And then he remembered what Vanessa had been saying about the lie – it made the world work.
“Well we did a lot of eating, and I really like haggis. I think I’ve put a few pounds on. We did some drinking, some larking around, met some other people, played some silly games, and generally had a good time.”
“Was there any women there Jack?” Helen asked gingerly.
“Yes a few, I spoke with a couple of them, but I was only thinking of you.”
It was unlike Helen to show any jealousy, but Jack could detect some insecurity in her voice.
“I hope you don’t go away too often Jack. I miss you too much.”
It seemed strange to Jack, that by peering into the mouth of the beast, he was becoming more sensitive to other people. He wasn’t wholly comfortable with it, it was better to be aloof.
Jelly had asked for a meeting in a couple of days time, and thankfully he was back in the dilapidated old Victorian terrace just a few minutes away. When he arrived he found Jelly in a pensive mood.
“There is so much to talk about Jack, but first I have something very important to tell you.”
Jelly reached over to the small box that contained his pipe, only this time the pipe looked different.
“Do you recognize this Jack?”
“It looks very much like the pipe my father would smoke.” Jack said slowly while he peered at this very familiar object.
“It doesn’t look like your father’s pipe. It is your father’s pipe.”
“I don’t believe you. How on earth would you get hold of his pipe. It’s ridiculous.”
“Do you remember that your father would often go away on fishing trips? Sometimes a day, and sometimes for as long as a week. And how he would sometimes take you fishing, but mostly he would go on his own?”
“Yes -what about it.”
“Your father was the leader of our movement Jack and …”
‘Rubbish; total nonsense Jelly. Why taunt me with this?”
“I’m not taunting you Jack. Have you never wondered why your father was so keen to involve you in discussions about life? Why he was such an unusually honest and upright man? You cannot deny that he was a very unusual man. And I suspected you wouldn’t believe me, so I have a photograph.”
Once again Jelly reached over to the small table and passed a small photograph to Jack. Sure enough there was his father, and quite nearby was Jelly, maybe ten years younger. Jack really didn’t know how to respond, and sat quietly while Jelly reached for his own pipe and began to smoke.
“I am not my father. I don’t want to be walking in his shadow. Why on earth are you telling me all this now?”
“I’m sorry that all of this seems to be happening at the same time.” Replied Jelly. “You probably noticed that it all got a bit emotional when Vanessa gave her opening speech. The reason for the emotion was simply that many of us were thinking of your father. And we have a rule in this club of ours, and it says that we cannot talk to anyone about what we do unless they make an active inquiry. When you asked Cedric about the books he was reading we took that as just such an inquiry, and so we introduced you to what we do.”
Jack was subdued, and silence reigned while Jelly continued to smoke his pipe. After five minutes or so Jack came to life.
“I want to know more about the lie Jelly. Vanessa spoke of it but I sense that it goes very deep. Everywhere I look people seem to be lying, and sometimes I find it difficult to deal with.”
“I’m glad you saw that Jack, and it’s a very big topic. In essence there are two ways that one creature can come to dominate another. The first is simply through brute force, the second is by outsmarting it. Clearly human beings are relatively weak in the brute force department, but we are extremely good when it comes to deception and lying. In fact I’ve even read that some psychologists believe we have developed our language to the extent we have simply so that we can lie more effectively. You may have noticed the people who are most successful in life are generally, not always, but usually the ones who can lie and cheat most effectively. And of course deception is an inherent part of life on this planet. Creatures will use camouflage to outsmart each other, they will use pretend bait like the angler fish to lure their prey, or a predator might distract a mother so it can then attack her offspring. This is how nature works in the main.
When we look at human beings we see a whole new level of lying and deception. Businesses even employ people to lie and cheat. They are generally called sales and marketing people. And as if this is not enough, they will also employ PR companies to lie on their behalf. Governments lie to their citizens. They manipulate statistics, they avoid giving straight answers, and they never reveal their real motives. But the worst form of lying is when we lie to ourselves. This is something most of us do most of the time. In fact this lying can only be maintained through internal buffers, and because of this we are all hypocrites. So someone might be a social warrior, campaigning for justice, and then they go and buy cheap clothes, knowing they have been produced by people on low wages and in intolerable conditions, but they conveniently push this to the back of their minds. Perhaps one of the most powerful ways we lie to ourselves is through envy. We may envy the way someone looks, or the car they drive, or their position at work, or any one of a thousand things. And we may grow to hate someone that we envy, all the time being unable to acknowledge that we simply want what they have got. We cannot admit that we feel this envy simply because someone has got something we want. Instead we may complain about the person to other people, and in extreme circumstances we may even try and harm them.
More generally humanity cannot accept its real nature. It cannot see that it is deceitful, hateful, envious, greedy, and many other behaviors that come straight from the beast, the will to life. If humanity could be honest about these things then we might be able to hope for change, but because we are unwilling to see our real nature we will go on pretending, and nothing will change. People will talk about progress, about peace, about the growth of the economy, while all the time the same old savagery pushes things along.
There is nothing you can do about it Jack. It is enough just to see it in the world and in yourself. Of course it’s not easy, but you will at least develop a good understanding of why things happen the way they do.”
“Doesn’t this make you despair Jelly?”
“Remember what I said to you Jack. We try, as best as possible, to study this as we might study anything else. However, I cannot deny that in the process of understanding all this you will go through your own dark night of the soul. But on the other side of that is understanding, and the understanding will make you free. There is a saying in the Buddhist tradition that the sage sleeps soundly in the graveyard at night. It’s a beautiful saying, depicting the fact that despite all the monsters, and the ghosts, and the zombies that inhabit the graveyard at night, the sage is not disturbed and sleeps soundly. You will of course see all the monsters, ghosts, and zombies, but eventually it will have no impact upon you.”
“Do you believe in God Jelly?”Jack asked with a certain desperation.
“You know, that is a topic much better put to one side Jack. It’s a slippery slope, and an invitation to wild imagination and superstition. We can talk about the beast because we can see it. You can see people striving to continue with their existence, and you can see that the sex drive is the most powerful drive in most human beings, apart from maybe the survival instinct. Although in reality they are both same. But when it comes to God you have absolutely no data to work with, all you have got is your imagination and your emotions. But there is something unusual Jack. Something unusual about human beings. Emotions such as goodwill, mercy, kindness, and compassion, cannot be accounted for in terms of the beast. In fact, exercising these emotions may disadvantage you in life. So why do we have them Jack? If you want to understand God you need to look within. And you are not looking for something that is foreign to your own nature. Didn’t Jesus Christ say that the kingdom of heaven is within? It’s part of you Jack, and the greatest tragedy of all is that many people abandon this most precious part of themselves in preference for what is external.”
“Did my father know all this jelly? And if he did why didn’t he communicate it to me?”
“Your father knew more than all of us. He had found his kingdom of heaven within, and this is why we were all very privileged to have him as leader of our strange little group. Your father didn’t really have to tell you anything, he demonstrated what he was to you every day. And he certainly did not want to force his own ideas and beliefs on you Jack. You got everything you needed from him, and he didn’t have to speak a single word.”
Jack was shaken by all of this, and had had enough. Jelly could see it, and so he put his pipe to one side and stood up. Jack followed him to the door, and Jelly grabbed both his hands and looking him in the face said, “go to Helen Jack, she is more important to you than you know.”
And with that Jack left. When he got home Helen simply wanted to curl up on the settee with him. It was simple and it was beautiful.
Jack wondered if his mother had known about his father’s activities. Certainly, she never engaged Jack in the way that his father did. He was fairly sure that his mother knew nothing. This was important to Jack, because he was uneasy about having to lie to Helen week in and week out. He wondered if he should just tell her. In any case, he might get some guidance by discovering whether his mother knew anything. He would go and speak with her after work.
His father had lived in a modest semi detached house. It was immaculately kept, and Jack’s mother was very house proud. After giving him a big kiss on the cheek, his mother reminded him to take off his shoes as he entered the house. She made Jack a cup of tea and sat down with him in the lounge. After some small talk about the funeral and the various relatives that had visited, Jack decided to ask his mother about his father.
“You know, it’s a strange thing mom, but I never really knew much about what dad thought. Did he tell you what he thought about things?”
“Oh no, your father was very secretive, he never really talked about anything very much apart from work and his fishing. But it is very odd that you ask that question, because I found some old books seemingly hidden in his garden shed. They mean nothing to me and so you might as well have them.”
With that Jack’s mother led him into the garden shed and pointed at the books. There were about 15 in all, and so Jack found a box, put them in, made his excuses, and left after giving his mum a big hug. He balanced the box on the handlebars of his bicycle, and made his way home.
All of the books were covered in brown paper. Jack carefully took the paper off to find a variety of authors and titles, none of which he was familiar with. But then he recognized the name of one of the authors, an Arthur Schopenhauer, and the name of the book was The World As Will And Representation. Some of the authors names were unpronounceable for Jack. The names looked German, French, and other nationalities, but Jack didn’t really know where most of these people came from. He opened the book by Schopenhauer to find the following:
“This great intensity of willing is in and by itself and directly a constant source of suffering, firstly because all willing as such springs from want, and hence from suffering.”
Jack immediately recognized that this “willing” is the will to life, and that it was true that all desiring is a state of pain, because it is a state of want. He became very excited. This was a large book and he had happened upon just a single sentence. How much wisdom was there in all of these books?
He was aware that Helen would soon be back from work, and so he packed the books into the box, and place them in the small shed behind the house. He couldn’t help but reflect how he was mimicking his father’s behavior.
His next visit to Jelly came around soon enough. He had many questions, and he felt sure Jelly would have insights into all of them. The tea ceremony proceeded as usual, and eventually jelly sat down.
“Jelly I have some exciting news. I’ve come across a dozen books or so my father used to read.”
Jelly suddenly became very attentive.
“Do you remember the authors of these books Jack?”
“I did better than that, I’ve written a list of them. Here take a look.”
Jelly scanned the list, looked at Jack, and said, “some of these books can be quite disturbing if you are not prepared Jack. It’s up to you, but I would suggest that we go through these books together.”
Jack had no problem with this, not least because he understood almost nothing in most of these books.
“I don’t understand them anyway Jelly, so I’m glad you are willing to go through them with me. In any case I got a lot of questions this week.”
Jelly seemed relieved that Jack didn’t want to dwell on the books.
“Okay, fire away Jack.”
“Both you and Vanessa have talked a great deal about this thing called the will to life, or the beast. Vanessa said it was futile to try and challenge the drivers and desires we have. If that is the case, why bother to do any of this at all?”
“Very good question Jack. The beast is not actually unassailable, as Vanessa indicated. By understanding it we gain some advantage over it. So the beast leads us to believe that we are the center of the universe, each one of us. This gives us our sense of self-importance and causes us to strive to exist, usually at the expense of everything around us. Again, as Vanessa said, if we can really see that we are not the least bit important, then many of the desires of the beast fall away to some extent. I see that one of your books is by Arthur Schopenhauer. He was a very great man, not at all understood in his own day, and still shunned by fashion conscious philosophers in academia. But he says something very important. Well, he said many things that are very important. He said that a man who knows that he is nothing will not fear becoming nothing in death, and his knowledge of the beast will overcome the desires of the beast. This is the gist of it all Jack. As you learn more about how nature works so the desires that are created by nature will lose their intensity. They never completely disappear, but to the extent that inner peace is possible it comes from understanding the nature of our existence, which is both truly awful and frighteningly magnificent.
The beast is actually like a small child. It’s petulant, wants everything now, is totally selfish, and is driven by basic desires such as warmth, food, sex, and anything that will assure its survival. But even though it is like a child, it should not be tackled head on. This only leads to problems. I imagine you know of the Roman Catholic priests who have been charged with child abuse. If you try and deny the sex drive it will cause mischief in other ways. These priests undoubtedly had good intentions on taking their vows, but an unfulfilled sex drive has to find fulfillment somehow. And it is the same with most other behaviors of this petulant child. It is very common to see people trying to practice loving kindness for example, only to become very angry and bitter. This happens because the beast needs genuine expression, and if we don’t like something or someone, it’s better to be honest about it. Trying to deny it will just make matters worse. This doesn’t mean that we go around telling everyone exactly what we think of them, it just means that we are honest with ourselves.
There is a twist in all of this Jack, and it goes like this. The beast is essentially desire. In fact you could replace the word beast by the word desire. All of your desires are from the beast, without exception. So when you said why bother to do any of this, that was a very loaded statement. The only way most of us know how to do anything is by pitching at some goal, and this is exactly the same way as the beast works. In reality, what most people call spiritual work is actually just beast work. It’s the same thing dressed in different clothes. Someone who goes chasing after money might be called greedy or a capitalist, whereas someone who goes chasing after enlightenment or freedom is called spiritual. But it’s all the same thing. So this work we are engaged in is very delicate. If we do it full of enthusiasm and desire to achieve something, then we are just like everyone else. In a way, we have to lose interest in everything so that we are not driven by anything. Most people will see that is a total negation of their life, and guess what, that’s exactly what it is. Various sages have said that we have to lose our life before we can find it, and that is exactly how it works. This is not easy work Jack, and pretty well everyone who is involved in our little organization showed up in Scotland. If we wanted popularity we could just sell a new meditation technique, or ways to visualize wealth, or anything else that might enhance a person in their life. But, as I’m sure you understand, that is just more of the beast.”
Oddly enough, Jack had no problem understanding what Jelly was saying. And it really didn’t seem so onerous, he had after all seen how his father lived his life. On the outside it was completely normal. No one would have guessed that he was involved in this kind of thinking. But Jack had more questions.
“It did seem to me that some of the people in Scotland thought they were a bit special Jelly. It would be fairly easy to fall into that kind of trap, wouldn’t it?”
“Let me tell you about being special Jack. Everyone on this planet thinks they are special, and because everyone thinks this it means that they are completely ordinary. The special people are the ones who don’t think they are special. We all want to be special because we have nothing inside us that fills us up. Wanting to be special is simply the desire for other people’s approval. You see it everywhere. People wearing the latest fashions, driving expensive vehicles, seeking fame, wanting to look good, wanting to sound good, and on and on. It infects every part of society. Academics seek approval from their peers, and many dream of producing something that will guarantee their immortality. Power-hungry businessmen are desperate to acquire more power than the people around them, and to win approval for their acumen. Musicians want fame, writers want fame, artists want fame, and most young people go seeking after this kind of fame too. It is because they feel empty inside, and need external approval to fill them up. It’s very sad really, and seems to become more exaggerated with each new generation. And of course social media has amplified all of this a great deal. That is why Vanessa reprimanded the people who were giggling at the misfortunes of others. She will not, and your father would not, tolerate any kind of elitism. That is the exact opposite of what we are about.”
Jack did have more questions, but he had had enough.
CONVERSATIONS WITH JELLY (6) – The Liar
Helen was delighted with her tartan scarf, and within two minutes of Jack walking through the door on his return from Scotland, they were in bed. The old magic was back.