A Genealogy of Daydreaming as a Method of Amor Vitae

I drive more than I would like.  I rarely listen to the radio.  Who can bear radio news, radio personalities, radio commercials, or even radio music for more than a few minutes?  If NPR played classical music during commute times, or if there was a religious station that played Bach and Handel- inspired music, I might listen more.  On long drives, I often listen to an audiobook.  Much day-to-day driving, however, is spent telling myself stories.  I discovered, probably about a year ago, that my first and second most popular stories had almost become the same story.

There is much psychology that is bunk pseudoscience.  Freud served the social purpose of something like a mystico-tragic poet from a foreign land telling, in this case, post-Romantic psychological realism fiction.  And many of the foundational theories used in Educational Psychology are founded more on presumption and desire than science (Erickson, Maslow, Kohlberg).  Even the work of Jung, who I am most fond of, and whose ideas led me to study psychology, is loaded with junk.  But, like all of us, he worked with what was available.  One idea that I originally dismissed as psychological box-making, but have since readopted as a helpful description (rather than an objective reality) is the notion of temperament.  From the Four-Square matrix of temperament, I identify myself as a task-oriented introvert.  This helps explain, I believe, how my two driving stories became one, and how recognizing this was beneficial.

For many years now, my primary day dream has been the apocalypse day dream.  It evolved over time, but I have had it, in one form or another, since I was a child.  As my mind races back through the evolution of this practice, it only takes a few seconds to create a whole story.  Immediately prior to its present form was the drive-dreaming of grad school years – mid twenties – when I was an anarchist getting a master’s degree in philosophy: the stories often involved me escaping from the police or prison after being wrongly accused of something.  I kept what is now called commonly called a bug-out bag in the trunk of the Corsica.  This was before such preparatory stashes acquired their current name and popularity.  My mid-90s version was simpler than those of today.  It sleeping bag, gasoline, fishing equipment, and usually a shot-gun.  But now that I think about it, it was perfectly adequate for a broke grad student / country boy living in Georgia.

I think the practice was at that time partially inspired by Eric Rudolph.  While I believe Rudolph’s political actions were retarded and misguided, I felt a strong respect, and even admiration, for a man who had the ability to hide in the mountains and outwit the most powerful government in the world.  I still do, even though he has since been caught and is serving a life term in prison.  For a while, I thought about writing a book about him because I found him so interesting: he dropped out of school in the 9th grade, was kicked out of the military for marijuana use, and lived with his mother in a Christian Identity camp as a teenager.  I never met the man, but I feel like I know him (or his type) well: intelligent, driven, miseducated by those who look hard for meaning but begin with a flawed foundation.  At least some of the Christian Identity folks remind me of many academic Critical Theorists: they sense something deeply wrong in their conceptual schema, but rather than (attempt to) abandon the framework, they dig in, so to speak.  They “make it work” by making the system even more convoluted – adding additional cocentric circles – and claim that the larger society is deluded in some way and just don’t understand.

Prior to grad school, Eric Rudoph, and an intensive study of social and political philosophy, there were the propaganda movies of the mid to late 1980s.  Red Dawn, Top Gun, and Rambo provided examples of militant opposition to overwhelming (and unjust) force.  I wasn’t in the boy scouts, and as a family we didn’t go hiking and such, but there was no need.  I lived on a 140 acre farm, a substantial portion of which was swamp and woodland, and spent a considerable amount of time “at the pond.”  About 35 miles south was (and is) an Air Force base, and so it was not uncommon to hear and see military jets, sometimes flying pretty low,  over the farm, at the very time I was out survivaling with my fishing gear, Rambo knife, and hungry dog.  It was almost instinctual to hide from the planes, check their markings, and imagine how to proceed if they dropped paratroopers.  Before I was 16, I had multiple plans of defense against these and similarly likely eventualities.  And, even then, the goal wasn’t survival so much as effective and honorable resistance.

Going back even further, there was a child who, I think, was unusually religious.  The part of the Bible that interested me most were the stories of the coming apocalypse.  I knew they could be found in Revelation and Daniel.  I listened intensely when the topic came up.  Most of the old folks said they believed that Jesus would return to save the good people before the calamities began.  Others thought even Christians would have to endure.  I tended toward the latter: if God would make his own son die on a cross, would destroy 99.999% of the world in a flood, would kill all the Egyptian first born, demand genocide of the Canaanites, demand that Abraham be willing to kill his son, kick Adam and Eve out of the garden and curse all of their descendants because they ate a piece of fruit, allow all of Job’s family to be murdered in order to win a bet, and so forth, he was not going to allow believers to forego the time of Tribulations.  He just wasn’t that kind of God.  And since it had been 2000 years since Jesus said of the coming apocalypse, “this generation shall not pass until all these things are fulfilled,” hard times were way overdue and preparations were advisable.

The apocalypse dream has deep roots then.  I have kept it with me all these years – so much so that it has helped constitute me.  I am it, to some degree, and I enjoy planning to overcome cosmic or world-historical calamities.  Over time, the cause of apocalypse changed from God, to the Government, to a variety of different causes, each with its own set of circumstances.  When the Prepper movement started up following Y2K and really heating up around 2012, I was ahead of the curve, and encountered the movement with both engagement and dismissal.  It was immediately clear that many of the participants were using the idea of prepping as an outlet for their Consumerism.  The goal of prepping was (and perhaps remains) to buy a lot of gadgets that you will likely never use and food you will likely never eat.  Thus manifest, this is yet another example criticizing society or one’s larger group while retaining the very ideas and practices that ‘should’ be abandoned.  It is strange how we (whoever we are) seem to have an instinctual need to grasp on to some metanarrative.  I think that is what Jung was trying to get at with his archetypes.  The evolutionary study of this would be fascinating.

Whatever the case, many seem to share a fascination with being prepared for an apocalyptic event, and I have spent many many hours of driving, cutting grass, running, sitting by the fire … thinking about this.   An outline of the genealogy of this recurring thought experiment is provided above.  Although the practice and process itself has deep roots, equally interesting, I think, is the question of what the outcome of such events would be.  If I was terrified of such an event or found it odious, it seems likely that I would not be able to think about it so often without becoming neurotic and moving to the woods like Ted Kaczinsky, Jesus, Mohammad, John Smith, Thoreau, Siddhartha, or countless other nonfamous crazy people.  Instead, I keep a job (a really good one, relatively speaking), a home, and a family (somewhat nontraditionally, but that’s not mostly because of me, nor am I bothered by it).  So, it seems my preoccupation with apocalypse is neither neurotic or sociopathic.

The second day dream is the “what would I do with 10 million dollars” variety.  The amount of money is a placeholder for what would I do if money were irrelevant.  I think most all adults have done this at some point.  I realized at some point that, oddly, these two fantasies (SHTF & $$) were very similar.  In both cases, the result would be a life closer to nature – infinitely less commuting to work; more walking in the woods, more sitting by the fire, more gardening, more fishing, more being outside.  Strangely enough, in this thought experiment, after the initial purchases for family (I don’t really keep close, non-family friends; who has time for that?) and a few things for myself, I largely remove myself from the Capitalist system, if we want to call it that – knowing that consumerism long predates capitalism as usually defined.

Because I need to do some work today, even though it is Sunday, I need to wrap this up.   A benefit of coming to realize that both of these seemingly opposite hypotheticals led to very similar alternate realities was to understand that this is what I have wanted for most of my life. (Surely if I had it, I would then dream of something else to make it more perfect – because perfection cannot endure duration.)   Realizing this led me to add an extra instrumental value to daydreaming.  Instead of an end – something to do that I enjoy, it also became a means for getting what I want out of life – by thinking more explicitly about what makes me happy and what sort of life I would like to live.

I recently came across a term, that presently slips my mind, that seems to capture this process of efficiently maximizing pleasure by making one’s means become ends and vice versa.  The idea is reflected in the phrase “do what you enjoy, and enjoy what you do.”  This method of living attempts to combine Zen with the more active Amor Fati, or as Kat prefers, Amor Mundi, to create Amor Vitae: to love life – or, more precisely, to love living one’s life and doing it well.  Done effectively, this synthesizes means and ends and gives rise to a unified method of living.   One example of this is daydreaming: using daydreams as means to understanding what one enjoys and why.  For me, this includes thinking about I would live without existing constraints – in different situations.   I not only get to enjoy the daydreaming, but the I get to analyze the the shared facets of those daydreams (which I also enjoy) and then try to incorporate those recurring actions into my actual life.  This has led me to set aside time to do those things I would do if only I had the time and resources.

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