How to Rearrange the Nightmare
“Outlaws, like poets, rearrange the nightmare.” ~Tom Robbins
What is the nightmare? The nightmare is the profoundly sick society that surrounds us. It’s the nihilistic narcissism of the zeitgeist. It’s the culturally conditioned mob unwittingly besieged with cognitive dissonance. It’s the spirit of the times devoid of all spirit.
Rearranging the nightmare is no easy task. It takes rebellious courage, audacious imagination, courageous mettle, and trickster aplomb. The path is not for the faint of heart. It’s for dreamers and schemers, power mockers and social levelers, tyranny topplers and cultural conditioning usurpers. It’s for those with the mercurial moxie to melt down the golden calf of the status quo junkies. It’s for those that realize that life is less about living the dream and more about making the best of the nightmare.
Become an outlaw:
“When freedom is outlawed only outlaws will be free.” ~Anonymous
In a world where sick societies create nightmare conditions, the first step toward rearranging the nightmare is to rebel against the arbitrary laws that prop up these societies.
An outlaw is a rebel, a revolutionary, and an antihero. They have the mettle to flip scripts, think outside the box, and turn the tables on authority.
They have great respect for universal laws (unwritten laws) but great derision for man-made laws (written laws). This is because they understand that humans are fundamentally flawed, fallible, and imperfect, thus the laws they create are equally flawed, fallible, and imperfect.
If, as Edward Abbey surmised, “few men are wise enough to rule themselves, and even fewer are wise enough to rule others,” then it stands to reason that we should never allow ourselves to be ruled over by others. The outlaw acts as a constant reminder of this self-empowered reasoning.
Outlaws are the ones putting the Powers That Be on blast. They remind the people that they should not respect written laws, but rather, written laws should respect the people. As Plato said, “For a state in which the law is respected, democracy is the worst form of government, but if the law is not respected, it is the best.”
Why is this? Because when written laws (written by flawed, fallible, imperfect men) are revered, they become rigid and corrupt. But when written laws are questioned, ridiculed, and found wanting, they never have the chance to become corrupt. They remain changeable and mutable.
By respecting unwritten laws and disrespecting written laws, outlaws act as a checks and balancing mechanism against power.
Outlaws don’t follow power; they learn how to turn the tables on power, even their own, so that power does not corrupt. They don’t kowtow to “the law,”; they question it, despite the “rank and order” and outdated narrative that props it up. They have the courage to do what it takes to maintain truth, health, and freedom. Even if it’s unpopular. Even if it means shame, a loss of reputation, incarceration, or even death.
Become a poet:
“Poetry, forgive me for helping you understand that you’re not made of words alone.” ~Roque Dalton
Once you have rebelled, the nightmare is seen for what it really is. Now it’s time to express yourself. The nightmare needs color. It must be hijacked by the imagination. It needs a reminder that it is nothing but a dream, and that all dreams fade.
Now enter the poet. The poet’s job is to reorder outdated order through artistic disorder. Poets are fierce discoverers. They are the tip of the spear of human imagination. They penetrate rigidness. They get beyond boundaries. They forsake all comfort zones. They are maverick painters, counterculture writers, madcap musicians, and unscrupulous sculptors. They dare to lose their footing and “slip into the masterpiece.”
If civilization is ever going to be anything more than a nightmare, anything more than a polluting shithouse in the interconnected order of things, then people are going to have to concern themselves with poetry. Art, music, dance, poetry, magic, these must exist on every level, or we are leveled.
The magic of poetry is the shaman in the abyss transforming darkness into light. It’s the blacksmith of the soul sharpening metal into Mettle. It’s a nonviolent dance-off in place of a violent stand-off. It’s planting seeds of curiosity in the rigid compost heap of certainty.
Poets tonalize an otherwise atonal world. They breech social constructs. They reimagine imagination. They reinvent God. They do so for the survival of the human soul despite the nightmare that outflanks it.
Become a beacon of darkness in the blinding light:
“Great men are like eagles and build their nest on some lofty solitude.” ~Arthur Schopenhauer
Become a lighthouse in the storm. But also gain the capacity to become a blacklight in the blinding light of culture.
Cultural conditioning is a blinding light that is magnified and mirrored by the status quo. It is the duty of each individual to refract this saturation bombing. Otherwise, we will never see anything more than what the sick society wants us to see.
Ironically, today’s Plato’s Cave is the blinding light of culture. It takes a particular flavor of courage to become a beacon of darkness that can pierce through this blinding light.
Such courage is gained by surviving a Dark Night of the Soul, where everything we believed to be true is destroyed by the Truth Quest. We experience “the darkness darker than darkness” of the Black Sun, and our soul is lit with a luminosity so bright it eclipses the sun. We become mysteriously paradoxical: darkness and luminescence in tandem, shadow and light united, a transcendent force to be reckoned with.
Become a sacred clown:
“Like all young men I set out to be a genius, but mercifully laughter intervened.” ~Lawrence Durrell
With the combined powers of the outlaw, the poet, and the beacon of darkness, we get the unconquerable sacred clown. A force of humor so powerful that power itself is overpowered.
Contrarianism is foremost with sacred clowns. They have the advantage of existential masochism, and the ability to make difficulty desirable by transforming setbacks into steppingstones. They strategically break rules and relish the freedom of having nothing to lose.
They are reverse-engineering shamans par excellence. Blowing up crossroads. Dancing a jig over God’s grave. Laughing into the abyss. Brightening up the nightmare. Their contrarianism bridges the gap between opposites, even as it topples thrones, kneecaps high horses, and melts down golden idols into molten puddles of “try again.”
The sacred clown archetype is the panacea of our time. It’s the vital force of nature that can provide the magic elixir we need to heal our profoundly sick society.
When outdated gods need to die, our inner sacred clown is just the energy we need to get past the fortified ramparts of our cognitive dissonance. When the nightmare needs to be rearranged, our inner sacred clown is the lightning bolt that awakens us from pretending to be asleep.
This energy is courageous but not obedient, humorous but not comedic, fierce but not violent. It has the cross-cultural capacity to flip scripts, flatten boxes, stretch comfort zones, and invert nightmare scenarios. And it has never been more imperative to our health as a species than it is right now.
About the Author:
Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.
This article (How to Rearrange the Nightmare) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.