last month

How I win every argument

Once upon a time I believed that winning was important. Not merely important…essential.

I did not know what it meant to believe. I merely believed.

Since I didn’t know what it meant to believe something, I didn’t even recognize that there exists a possibility of not believing. And certainly, I did not know that not believing could be immensely pleasurable.

Because I believed that winning was essential. And I believed that believing was also essential.

Something that was “beyond belief” was unreal to me. I only accepted as real that which I believed.

This is circular reasoning that I am describing. But it was the basis of my entire self concept.

And I believed that my self concept was real. That it was who I was.

Naturally, of course, with so much wrong belief and ignorance, I was experiencing constant pain. But since being in pain was not part of my self concept, I pretended like I was okay.

As such, I never actually looked to see what belief is. I never looked at my own actual experience as it is. I never looked closely enough to see what was beyond belief and self concept.

I lived unconsciously as nothing more than a bunch of reactive tendencies. If you pushed my buttons, I reacted predictably.

But I thought I was something else. I thought I was conscious, aware, present.

I thought that what I was describing as my life – the story of my life – was the truth about myself. So clearly I was deluded.

And being deluded, I argued every possible opportunity that presented itself. I argued with my parents. I argued with my teachers. I argued with my sister. I argued with my friends. I argued with my lovers. I argued with my neighbors. I argued with my financial situation. I argued with my feeling state. I argued with the weather.

I didn’t miss an opportunity to argue.

And I was in it to win it. I argued like it really mattered. I believed it mattered.

But still I didn’t even know the most basic things. Like what belief actually is.

Eventually, however, it was too much to endure. I fell apart. I collapsed under the impossible burden of being right, being seen, being heard, being validated, being accepted, being comfortable, and all the rest.

I couldn’t do it any longer. I failed profoundly. I failed so completely that I could not get up again.

Oh, I’ve tried. I’ve tried to get up. But I stumble and fall before I get up. In fact, I stumble and fall before I even get past the imagination stage. I never even achieve the smallest movement.

And this is how I win every argument.

I win in the only way I have ever found that is available to a complete failure like me. Because since I haven’t been able to get back up, all I can do is watch. All I can do is notice. And what I notice is impulses surfacing. Not literally, of course. But that’s the best I can describe it. Impulses surfacing.

And habits that seek to give shape and meaning to the impulses. Like the mind seeks to give shape and meaning to stars in the sky by calling unrelated phenomena by names like Orion or The Big Dipper.

Only habits. That is what the belief is. Only habit. Nothing more.

The unrelated phenomena that I have mistaken for myself – the sensations, images, memories, words, ideas, etc. – are merely impulses arising. And falling.

Seeing the actual nature of belief, it is crystal clear: there is no harm here. There is nothing to be harmed. There are only unrelated phenomena seemingly happening. And I remain untouched.

I win by not mistakenly acting as though I could ever get involved. I cannot. I cannot get involved.

All that could happen would be unrelated phenomena wrongly associated by means of habit and willful ignorance.

But blessedly, because that willful ignorance hurts, I look. And when I look, I see only unrelated phenomena. Nothing to do with me at all.

Joey Lott

Joey Lott is the author of numerous books, including The Best Thing That Never Happened and The Little Book of Big Healing. He lives in southern Vermont with his wife and children.

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