Experience is always about content and container, life-form and environment, center and horizon. Most often, our attention is focused on the contents. This particular experience, this object, this social role, this life, this, this, this. We forget how much the container affects not only our ability to relate to all these contents, but also the nature of those contents. Like the meaning of words, which manifests only within a certain linguistic context, so our experiences receive their meaning from the broader container within which they arise.
The container works as an interface for us to relate, interact, manipulate and play with the contents of experience that are supposed to inhabit it. This is particularly evident within social settings. The container is provided by a certain set of rules, codes, scripts, masks. We learn that, in this space, I will be identified as this, and I shall perform those motions with so and so.
The interface (the container) is similar to some extent to a software that enables the user to access the computational power of a computer. I can do all sorts of things with a computer, but I need a way of letting it perform a certain task. I can have a super-computer, but if I have the wrong interface, I might be limited to play card-games or check emails only. In a broader perspective, the hardware we access to have experience is our body. And as Spinoza famously said, “nobody as yet determined what a body can do” (E2p3s). To access what the body can do, we use interfaces.
I suggest that most of what we call “mind” in ordinary parlance, is actually an interface. The fact that we have interiorized it doesn’t change anything. Most of what we appropriate as “my mind” is a bunch of scripts that we have learned and that guide us in navigating different circumstances or situations in which we happen to live. In this sense, our mind is not a little, isolated software running in our brain, but rather a broader cloud-system, based remotely and accessed locally (for the Spinozists: remember that my mind is just a mode of God’s infinite thought).
Now, in most cases, our “mind” or “interface” or “container” is relatively narrow and rigid. It is highly specialized on a specific task, but in order to be so, it becomes very selective and closed. In order to be “this”, it should be clear where the boundaries are, what counts and what doesn’t count as “this”. Models, ideals, exemplars, but also precise rules, codes, schemes are necessary to make it as apparent as possible what the shape of the content should look like. As we embody this kind of “mind” or “container” in our lives, we end up relating to one another always through the intermediation of some pre-established script. We talk to each other following the rules of a given shared language. We work with one another following the rules of capitalism and competition. We live together according to social, political and legal constraints. We fight each other playing with the rules of war, and we even love each other based on the pre-conceived ways in which we think love should look like.
In this situation, rule-following is good, and rule-breaking is bad. The anarchist, or the one who for any reason is unable to follow, becomes either an enemy or a burden. We look, relate and judge each other and ourselves from the point of view of the container within which we live (which is so intimately rooted in us to call it our mind). But whoever is exposed to the possibility of encountering enemies or burdens is not free. Even if there is no disruption now, the possibility of the disruption is a ghost that hunts the apparent peace, making it brittle. Then we live in the state of permanent anxiety and fear, we look at each other’s as wolfs ready to attack: homo homini lupus.
We need a change of mind—a change of container. This new container would be something capable of allowing for a form of relationality that does not confine our potential to one specific role or mask, but draws from the whole spectrum of what we can do (and maybe we still have to discover). This new container would still enable interactions, but instead of basing them on a pregiven script, it would allow them to arise spontaneously, unpredictably. It would provide still a general frame (since without frame, without container, there is no content). But this frame would be there only for disabling all the other more specific frames, deactivating their confining functions, and thereby empowering a deeper access to the depth of our unfathomable potential. Not a container to become this or that, but rather a space to be free of being everything, nothing, something, and change.
In this container, we would still meet each other. In fact, we would meet each other for the first time, for how we are before and behind all other masks we take on. We would meet each other only one time, only now, regardless of the past that brought us here, and disregarding the future that will take us away. We would meet each other naked, vulnerable, infinite, beautiful. And we would be at ease with one another, we would trust naturally, spontaneously, in the natural goodness that refracts itself in all beings. We would learn how to walk through existence following the pace of this trust—trust in each other, in ourselves, in being and emptiness. Homo homini deus.
This container (this mind) exists. It is made of little fragments coming from different places, like the net of bird made of twigs coming from different trees. Each fragment is a little reminder to values that keep us together, on the same ground, that remind us to allow ourselves to feel safe and dive into this larger horizon that awaits us. The container will be made of echoes coming from all directions, but will not look like any specific place—it will be impossible to identify a definite ideology, or to put on it a specific sectarian flag. It will be open and vague, and a bit naïve, but free, and welcoming, imperfect, fragile, impalpable, yet very present and real, embracing and holding whatever and whoever steps into it.
I witnessed this container at the last Ecstatic Dance Festival Holland. I’m sure it exists elsewhere as well. I suspect that it is spreading, it’s becoming bigger. It might still be made of bubbles that exist relatively apart from one another. I bet that if they merge, if they manage to encompass the space we live in, the planet, the Whole, we might have a better chance to discover what we can do.