Often I’ve been my own worst enemy in life, because of my intense need for the world to simply make sense to me. When we are in situations where we are really vulnerable, as I was for a long time as a new migrant, we have one primary need, that is the need to understand how things work. To have no control over one’s circumstances whatsoever is extremely frightening. To have a little control, through understanding how things work, can often mean the difference between keeping one’s head above water and the sensation that one is sinking rather dramatically.
Thus, one tries to read purposes and reasons into people’s actions when one can’t directly make sense of them. That way, one feels a little “in control” even when the reasons one furnishes to explain the negative situations are themselves of a negative nature. At least, now, there is an internal logic to the situation, even if the logic one is able to discern seems to be acting against one’s well-being. Making sense of reasons means one can work within a situation that would otherwise simply be too shocking — not just for its hostile character, but for it unintelligibly.
Reading meaning into situations where one is not really sure of what the situation means, because nobody has explained it to you, has a downside. One ends up making people’s hostility seem more logical than it is. I realize that as a white migrant from Zimbabwe, I attracted a lot of politically motivated hostility. The trouble was I couldn’t see it for what it was — an abstract style of aggression against someone of my origins. Instead, I tried to find a personal angle, because if it was related to something I was doing personally, I could correct that. To see things in a personal light meant I had more chance of taking control. And I needed that sense of control more than air itself.
My habit of trying to discern reasons, where there were none, began out of this original state of migrant trauma. Somehow, my capacity to generate reasons generated a very positive outcome. I began to see the world as being much more intelligent than it was. Indeed, everything I encountered seemed to be animated by a very high level of intelligence. Barring the moments when someone lets you down by failing to live up to the wonderful expectations of high intelligence, the world seemed to reverberate with a sense of living being. As I was becoming more aware of everything around me, I was projecting my own intelligence and being into things. Those things radiated back to me my own intelligence, in a way that made all sorts of actions seem to be noble, and striving for something higher.
I still didn’t have explanations for some forms of behavior I’d experienced in my past, but now almost everything seemed to have a logical reason and purpose behind it. That I was the originator of my sense of there being reason and purpose in all things escaped me.
This changed as I completed my thesis, and learned about the wide variations of experience that come from altered states of consciousness. We experience the world as we are, not as it actually is. Of course, this doesn’t mean good or bad experiences originate from us, but rather that we can develop different ways of coping with those aspects, be they good or bad.
Nowadays, I’m inclined to withdraw my intellectual projections from the world at large. I see it more as it is — that is, there is a lot of randomness and a lot of people rushing around who sometimes make errors of judgement, since the world obeys no metaphysical principles, as such.
I’m not sure what intellectual shamanism has taught me. I know myself better — but that self is always subject to change. More generally, I’m not threatened by anything anymore. I realize that what I was most threatened by before was (1) not understanding anything (2) my own intelligence, projected into others, that then began working against me.
I consider I’ve made satisfactory progress for my age.