Mind Your Own Business (Redux)
The following recordings are from Jan’s final years, when his voice was diminished and he spoke in a low whisper. Some listeners may find these tapes hard to listen to, or difficult to understand. Thus, as another option, read the transcript below.
Otherwise, turn up the volume and enjoy! Those who carefully listened to Jan during this period consider that he spoke plainly and directly to the matter at hand, “pulling out all the stops,” as he understood that these were to be his last messages to his groups, and to posterity.
Summary = See below
Edited Transcript = See Below
Condensed News = See below
News Item Gallery = None
Key Words =
Notes by TK
Life is in constant movement to remain viable on earth. The carbon cycle: life consuming life to thrive. There is another kind of non-physical activity in life parallel to the physical. That is men’s minds minding each other’s business. Civilization is impossible w/o mind taking the general as personal.
Effectively it is just gossip, having no meaningful impact on your life. All gossip is ultimately about change and produces an energy capable of defusing physical conflict. Negotiation in lieu of war. (52:44) #3139
Notes by DR
Jan Cox Talk 3139 To the civilized: only when you talk and think can change happen. The constant talking is the only thing life has to change anything.
Edited by S.A.
Consider what Earth would look like without life. Think of the moon, or Mars, but with water. This planet would be nothing like it is if all of life, from plants to man, were gone. Life has a great deal at stake on this planet, because it holds the only lifeforms we have thus far seen in the entire universe.
If you consider Life in a not un-mystical manner, then for Life to survive, it is in a constant state of activity, in a way that differentiates it from the rest of the universe, and even from this planet. Unless you look at the atomic or sub-atomic level, you can’t speak of there being any activity in any aspect of this planet other than living things. The elements don’t need to be active. Iron ore can just lie there and do fine, as can all the other elements. The only time that any activity occurs is when some sort of energy is applied to an element.
Life itself is in a constant state of activity. At the most basic level, life is constantly consuming itself. Think of the so-called “Cycle of Life,” the carbon cycle, in which one form of life physically consumes another form. This a circular process, but you can imagine it starting with the sun feeding plant life on Earth through photosynthesis, and continuing with humans and animals either eating the plants, or eating other animals that eat the plants, and then the microbes and the worms eating us, and finally, the microbes and worms decomposing and feeding the plants. That is a constant, cyclic state of physical activity without which life would cease.
There is another form of activity of which no one takes account as a necessary activity for life to remain viable. That activity is not physical, but nevertheless has a parallel in the carbon cycle. We’re speaking of everything spiritual, mythical, and intellectual, which I normally lump into the civilized, intangible realm—man’s other reality. In that realm, without an internal, non-physical cycle of consumption, life could not be as it is here. You would have to at least extract man from the planet, and when you change one thing, you change everything. If man were extracted from life on this planet, it would be a pristine jungle filled with plants and all the other animals—but with very little change, other than, I assume, evolution.
The activity I am speaking of is based upon Life convincing man’s mind to take everybody else’s business to be his business. We don’t have to be concerned about the physical activity that keeps us viable. At the appropriate times, we get hungry. At the appropriate times, we go to sleep. If we did not have the feeling that everybody else’s business is our business built in as a natural part of consciousness, then human life, and ultimately, all life on this planet, would not be the same.
What I mean by the term, “your business” is nothing supernatural, nothing strange. People do not ordinarily make this distinction, but you can mentally group your thoughts into matters that are your business—your business—and matters that are not your business. Forget whether you’re interested in something, and bypass the fact that you know how thoughts can fool themselves and say, “That is my business.”
The only way that man survives as he is, is by everyone taking everyone else’s business to be, figuratively speaking, their business. To put it crudely, human survival requires an incessant kind of nosiness, but not any particular or constant physical action, because most of the activity needed for Life to stay as it currently is on this planet is intangible talk, including the internal conversations you hear in your head.
Figuratively speaking, you, as an individual, talk about the business of everybody else on the planet. Of course, you may not live long enough to get around to every single person’s business, nor do you have sufficient interest to want to talk about everybody’s business. If you were listening to a Hollywood gossip show on TV, and they talked for one minute each about thirty different movie stars, how many would you actually be interested in? Surely not all of them.
The point is that even though you either will not live long enough, or will not have the desire to stick your intellectual nose into everyone else’s business, if you consider all six billion people on this planet, then everybody’s business gets other people’s noses stuck into it. You may be of so little consequence in the overall scheme of things that you never make it to Entertainment Tonight or the National Enquirer, but the only way you can avoid having somebody stick their nose into your business is to become an absolute recluse.
The larger scene that I am pointing you to is a quite telling picture. As anyone can see, humanity on this planet is becoming more and more unified. We’re certainly not there yet, but although there are still a few groups in the jungles of South America or Africa that are living a subsistence existence, there are fewer and fewer people on this planet whose culture can be considered primitive or uncivilized. The point is that the less civilized you are, the less you stick your nose into other people’s business.
If you picture the gradual process, historically and spatially, of people becoming more civilized, then the more civilized they are, the more importance talk takes on, and the more they mind other people’s business. That is a very fitting definition of being civilized, and not a flaw, a sin, or a psychological quirk. Minding other people’s business is natural, and there’s no one that it does not show up in. It’s in your genes, at the cellular level. You still lapse into it, no matter how awake you are.
Your natural-born mind is as nosy as can be. You are taught to be nosy. Once children have a good, workable vocabulary and are having conversations, immediately you can start telling them, “You know that little girl next door? Do you know what her parents caught her doing?” A little three-year-old or four-year-old child will stop what they’re doing and say, “What?” As soon as you have a psychological body, you become a busy-body. Without any doubt, this gives Life some needed activity. Is it as though life on this planet has at least six billion synapses. Life, obviously, wants all of us to talk about other people.
Without any doubt, the whole field of gossip, the whole phenomenon of you feeling non-stop as though everyone else’s business is your business, is in some way a supremely important activity to Life. The earliest writings are gossip. Historians and archaeologists don’t use that term, because it doesn’t sound very academic. Scholars call those writings “mythical tales,” or “questionable histories,” but they’re gossip about people or about gods, who are just magnified people. Look back at all the stories created at the dawn of civilization—the Gilgamesh tales, the Sumerian and Egyptian mythologies, all the way to the Iliad and the Odyssey. Back then, the business into which people set their noses was other people’s behavior. All the stories of the Greek and Roman gods, the great mythical epics, are about sticking your nose into somebody else’s behavior, taking their behavior to be your business. “Hey, did you hear what Odysseus and his men did after they left Troy?” “No, what?”
That’s none of your business. Not in the sense that it’s forbidden or secret, but if you were back living in ancient Greece, and you were doing your best to bring your mind under control, to wake up, to achieve enlightenment, to find the light—then what Odysseus or anybody else was doing is not your business. It’s not wrong for you to poke your nose in there, but if you really want to wake up, and somebody says, “Hey, did you hear what happened to Agamemnon?” you don’t need to be chasing a useless car.
There you are, struggling to get your dog to sit down, or to find some way to stop him from barking, from jumping around, because you have already had flashes during which you could suddenly see in a way that you can’t ordinarily. You would want to tell yourself, “I’m doing something on my own, and thinking about what Agamemnon is doing has absolutely nothing to do with what I’m doing. It’s the opposite of what I’m trying to accomplish.” If, instead, you say, “Ooh, what? Tell me,” then you have stopped trying to awaken your mind.
Uncivilized, minimally-verbal people do not take other people’s business to be their business. Even animals do not stick their nose in another animal’s business. We’re not talking about trying to take food away from another animal, but if one dog gets up and starts wandering around in circles, other dogs do not get up and follow him, and say, “What’s going on?”
As I said, the first gossip is about other people’s actions, or the gods’ actions. In our time and place, among people at the so-called leading edge of civilized society—the political and social commentators in the New York Times, the Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker, and all the rest, the gossip is about what other people think, or, more specifically, what other people say. They do not write gossip about the actions of political figures or social commentators. In what are generally called reviews—critical surveys of other thinkers’ latest books, articles, or speeches—they write gossip, so to speak, about things those people have said, perhaps in writing in their own books. In other words, the more civilized you are, and the greater is the place in your life of talk as opposed to action, then the less is your gossip about what other people do. You look past that. You’re not interested in their sex life. You’re interested in what they say.
Even when people use the word, “I,” and talk about what they consider to be their personal opinion—what they think, what they feel—if you listen, what they’re saying is not about their business. Look at the endless talk going on in your brain day and night. How much of it is about what you would actually classify as exclusively your business? For that to occur in an ordinary person, he’s got to be either deathly ill or dangerously enraged.
For a split second, any reasonable person would understand that there are things that absolutely are your business and things that are not, but I imagine that the closest someone has come to remaining focused only on his own business for more than a split second would be if he were dying, or maybe thought he were, and his mind became absolutely fixed on “How can I cure myself? How can I survive this?” Suppose that, like in a slapstick movie, he’s hanging off the edge of a cliff, about to fall to his death, and all he’s got is a root that he’s hanging onto. For as long as he can hold on, probably all of his thoughts would be only on his business.
Now that I think about it, his thoughts wouldn’t be only on his own business, because in the midst of trying to figure some way to save his sorry self, he’d experience intrusive flashes of thoughts along the lines of, “If I die, how long will it be before my girlfriend forgets me, and takes up with Charlie?”
I’m just speculating, having never hung by a root, but listen to people talk—everyone from world leaders, political commentators, social critics, and religious leaders, to ordinary people you know personally. What do they talk about? They talk almost exclusively, almost a hundred percent of the time, about other people’s business. When people gossip about other people, even if they say “I’ll tell you what I think,” they’re still not talking about their business, because thinking is not their business in the same way that bile production or breathing is. Breathing is your business. You don’t breathe for anyone else. You don’t think about breathing for anyone else. As you’re breathing, you don’t think how half the rest of the world are not breathing correctly because they were taught to breathe in the Buddhist or the Islamic pattern. You have no thoughts about your bile production, your heart rate, or your hormonal levels, all of which are your business.
If you walk into the middle of a conversation, or you flip on talk radio, and someone is saying, “I’ll tell you what I think,” you don’t have to hear the subject to know that what he’s going to tell you is what he thinks about what somebody else said. I can’t resist pointing this out, because I know how the mind will go down tributaries and fool itself. People can sound as though they’re talking about what somebody did, and yet they’re not. A man says, “I’ll tell you what I think about the president’s latest speech. He went all the way out to the Air Force Academy just so he could have the right audience to fool with that phony-baloney Pentagon budget.” In other words, it’s almost as if the man was talking about what the president did, but he’s not saying the president went out to the Air Force Academy and got drunk and wrecked a limo. That would have been talking about an action.
You might think, “Sometimes there is talk about what somebody did,” but you’d be missing the point. As we become more civilized, what somebody did is less and less the focus. You’ve got to be fairly uncivilized—or, in our modern society, among the least educated or the least intelligent—to put your nose into other people’s business based on their behavior. This is the case because the more civilized people are, the more important they are to Life. They’re the ones who produce changes in Life. They’re the ones who create technology, create scientific and medical progress.
If it were left to the uncivilized, there would be no progress in Life by any definition. Things would be stagnant. You can go to a remote island in the South Pacific, or at least you could a few years ago, and if you’d been there forty years before that, you would see that nothing had changed. You can go out to the back country in Appalachia, Alabama, or Mississippi, and visit somebody you knew forty years ago. You get to their house, and you’ll see the same flat tire lying in the yard and the same rusty car up on blocks. You start to step onto the front porch, and you remember that forty years ago the first step was busted. It’s still busted.
There’s a piece of that inertia in you. It doesn’t sound very psychological or sociological, but there is some degree of built-in inertia in all of us, because hormones act on us the same way they act on animals. Animals don’t seek to change anything. Animals accept things as they are. If a lion trips over a big rock and breaks his paw, he starts limping, and he limps for the rest of his life. He does not look at the rock he tripped over, and think, “How can I change that rock so I won’t trip over it again?” It’s the same with the broken step on the house in Alabama.
It’s only once they are able to talk and think that people try to change anything. Change is inevitable only because Life has men’s ordinary minds continually take everybody else’s business to be their business. Evidently that kind of brain activity is the only thing that Life can use that will result in any change.
Something else you should find interesting is that of all this sticking your nose into everybody else’s business, all this activity that basically is gossip—only a very, very small percentage ultimately results in action. It seems to take forty billion trillion pounds of talk to result in an ounce of change. This is true for humanity as a whole, and it’s also true for you individually. Through your thinking and gossiping about things, you are in essence saying that things should not be as they are. The only reason people gossip about someone else’s behavior is that they think the other person’s behavior is wrong. You don’t gossip about somebody whose behavior you approve of. You’d have nothing to say. You want someone to tell you something juicy, something you’ll disapprove of. If your interest is in a religious conflict or political war, then it interests you for one reason—you’ve got a dog in the fight, a preference. You think one side is correct. That’s the only reason you gossip.
When you go from behavior into the non-physical realm, thinking about other people’s intangible life, you think about things they have said, either verbally or in writing, for one reason—you don’t approve. By not approving, you are tacitly saying—and very often you will say—that the other people should alter what they are saying.
Look at how much of this going on worldwide is necessary in order for anything to change. There are millions of Israelis on one side of a line, thinking and talking about the Arabs, and millions of Arab on the other side, thinking and talking about the Israelis. That situation may result in some activity, but will there be any constructive change? Any progress? The same can be said about any two opposing groups. Think of Republicans and Democrats arguing over a budget. Consider how much talk goes on, compared with how little results in progress.
Worldwide, groups of people have been engaged in this sort of thing for decades, and you’d be hard pressed to find any positive change to have yet occurred. Three or four major conflicts are fifty or sixty years old, and have accomplished nothing in the way of progress. Progress in the intangible sense generally means the resolution of conflicting ideas that seem to threaten the physical well-being of the participants. But notice—Life still has those opposing sides talking. They may be shooting and killing one another, but they have never stopped talking, and generally they talk more than they shoot, more than they act, which indicates that Life still is getting some sort of energy out of the fight. When Life stops being energized, you will know, because the two sides will quit talking. There will be nothing but physical conflict that will soon result in one side defeating the other.
The same thing occurs on the individual level. You hear someone in a bar talking about how he can’t stand his wife. He goes on and on and on. You ask him how long he’s been married, and he says, “Forty years. But by golly, I’m going to leave her this time!” There’s hardly a chance in the world that the man will leave his wife, because he and she are involved in the same thing as the British and the Northern Irish, the Palestinians and the Israelis, or the Indians and the Pakistanis over Kashmir.
As long as both sides keep talking, it’s producing a kind of energy that is not the same energy produced during overt hostilities. Warfare never results in anything constructive. It generally wreaks almost total destruction on the other side’s physical resources—the arable land, the factories, the ports, the cities. Life appears to keep such overt hostilities to a minimum, and it’s generally a fairly short time before one side defeats the other. From Life’s perspective, the critical activity is not actual warfare, not physical behavior. The heart of what Life needs is intangible verbal conflict. That conflict produces some sort of energy that Life can use, that in some way is constructive and positive to Life.
Look at yourself. Are there not several sorts of conflicts going on in you? You might have an internal conflict about your love life, and another internal conflict about whether the Indians or the Pakistanis, the Chinese or the Tibetans should win. Take sides on one of the latter issues, and you’re helping keep the conflict going. Not, of course, by physically keeping them in the conflict, but you are obviously feeding whatever it is that’s benefiting Life, because it’s not just the limited number of Indians and Pakistanis or Chinese and Tibetans engaged in their intangible verbal conflict that feed Life. Now Life has got you, on the other side of the world, feeding it your energy.
You could not be in man’s ordinary state of consciousness—you could not be asleep—if you did nothing but mind your own business. All of the internal gossip inside of our brains is serving a purpose for Life. It is clear, though, that Life doesn’t need every single one of us to serve that purpose, because if that were the case, it’s unlikely that Life would make it possible for us to try to wake up. Whatever this energy is, whatever it’s doing for Life, if it began to decline, became deficient, and Life got desperate, I’m sure Life would round up all of us slackers, all of us outliers, and drag us back into the fray. But notice—Life does that to us periodically throughout the day anyway.
I was trying to leave on a high note. I suppose it’s OK as long as I leave on a note.
Jan’s Daily Fresh Real News (to accompany this talk)
IN THE CITY, BURIAL OF THINGS DEAD PROVES NON PERMANENT
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Stories Standing Six Feet Deep In You
APRIL 26, 2004 ©2004: JAN COX
By the constant sound of the conversation,
a man knew that something was going on upstairs,
but could never make out exactly what,
’cause every time he would stop to listen in on what they were saying —
they would stop talking.
Many people have experienced this — and never tried it again —
why should they? — to what end?!
Few can ever hear the light at the end of the tunnel.
And this email just in:
“I thoroughly enjoy reading your comments about man and life, but I feel
much disturbed if I try to think such things on my own; is something wrong with me;
do I have a virus?”
Dear Sir: Your mother was likely licked by a cow before you were born —
but not to worry, all it did was make you normal;
if you find this condition ultimately intolerable: go find a cow and kick it in the ass.
P.S. You don’t have go far — just look upstairs.
Thinking about what other people say is okay;
trying to think about the fact that you don’t hear anyone talking
is prohibitively off-putting to most humans;
their nervous system is not wired nor programmed to handle such an activity:
this is why people struggling to wake-up have such a peculiar look on their face
(if they were visible….. and had any particular look on their face.)
Outside the city area of human consciousness, in the rebel territory of the brain, beneath an insurgent’s lone ranger mask is a face covering on which is inscribed
the words: “This is not a mask” — which is readable only from the backside.
Only a man who knows-what-is-going-on knows for a fact
whether he actually exists or not — both downstairs and up.
Following less than auspicious occasions one man was wont to remark:
“A miss by an inch is as good as a miss by a mile,”
until one day his twin brother noted that this little truism was not serving
their interests, so the man began to assert:
“A miss by a mile is as good as a miss by an inch,”
which seemed to him to have turned the potentially bad previous verbal impression squarely around and aimed it in the decorous direction of progress:
the only kind of progress there is in man’s intangible reality.
“Is this why more people become literary critics than skeet shooters:
it’s more difficult to measure your competency?”
And why men talk in terms familiar to the herd.
Men feel more comfortable inside to sit in a chair they know:
the mind they were born with:
a security blanket for the backside.
Note: The advantage for the few in stories with no salient moral is that
they should remind them of how difficult it at first seems to turn a train around —
and how simple it turns out to be.
At a downtown intersection a man suddenly addressed the people waiting there
for the light change:
“Although it is an accepted historical and cultural fact that some composers could write music so difficult that even they could not perform it — should we ergo excuse
a man for expressing ideas that he himself cannot actually think?!”
(And all the citizen-philistines in the crowd booed him roundly — then crossed over.)
All You Ever Need Note Regarding Originality & The Ordinary.
Sheep think that the hippest thing possible is to be embraced by the flock,
and be just another faceless head in an indistinguishable mob.
On one planet the creatures are kept in controllable captivity
by making them believe that the words in their dictionary are serious.
The certain man’s shopping credo:
“I’m not interested in anything I can afford.”
Facts You Shouldn’t Lean On Too Hard.
Beautiful women eventually get tired of being stared at,
and sleeping people can still be insightful.
One guy offers what he says is: “Damn good advice:
If you don’t understand something — act like you think it’s stupid —
that’s what life does — through man!”
“But it gets better: life makes men say things it knows is stupid,
and then has other men denounce it as stupid.”
“Stop it! — you’re killin’ me.”
Warning Concerning Dangerous Gangs.
If, in the neural west you can get three guys to pose together for a photograph — they’re dangerous!
City codes permit an upstairs and downstairs to residential buildings, but that’s all — that is ALL, dammit!
In Re Amnesty.
One man muses: “The only thing you cannot forgive is death — but hey! —
you don’t have to! — since you can’t!”
Upstairs Optics Update.
Just because a certain thing cannot be seen three dimensionally
does not mean that it cannot be seen.
People who can sometimes almost actually think —
commonly think that everyone else is having all the fun.
Only when you know for yourself what is really going on with life
do you recognize what ordinary men conceive of as fun, and who enjoys it how.
When the certain man begins, everything is: now-and-then;
later on, there IS no: now-and-then.
When the capacity of your eyes/I’s expands, so does the human concept of time shift.
“To your advantage, I assume.”
There is no downside to catching-on.
“How about how much harder it is to be amused?”
You mean by others?
“Well — ye-hah! — who else?! (Oh — I get you.)”
Seeing what’s going on in life is not only sitting alone in a window seat,
but is also being your own moving train.
“Is this why I once heard a defrocked city building inspector say that
only those who embrace and enjoy the totality of their residential structure
can ever awaken from the urban induced dream?”
What would a bureaucrat know.
When one man heard Bailey’s Irish Cream described as the most perfect provision
in that it contains all four of the basic food groups:
caffeine, chocolate, sugar and alcohol, he told his brother this made him realize
what would be the most perfect ordinary thought —
one which contained all four of the basic requirements to be ordinary,
but then refused to tell him what it was: (“Figure it out for yourself!”)
Siblings can be harsh — especially those within your own nervous system.
Pertinent The Privilege Of Individuality In The City,
And The Ever Lurking Question Concerning Freedom-Of-Will.
Having to stand-up-for-your-rights is proof you have none.
Only prisoners still in their cell, bang on the bars.
“Question: How can you tell if a man is awake?”
How many times are you going to ask that.
“Okay — a second question: Why won’t you answer that?”
All useful stories are apocryphal.
“Is this the reason there can be no religion of waking-up?”
All useful stories are red hot! — that’s why they’re always told about someone else. (E.g. “There’s this one man who…..”)
Real men don’t live in the verbal here-&-now.
(“Is that because perchance: there is not one?”)
A reader e-mails:
“Why do you commonly put someone’s questioning of something you wrote
in parentheses? What are you trying to emphasize by this device?”
And suddenly in comes another:
“Which do you find the more interesting and intelligent:
e-mails from actual readers, or the ones you write yourself?
P.S. Did you or me write this one?
Yours Sincerely,” etc.
Still does he remain out of work since losing his position as Posture Coach at the mortuary.
“Are you insinuating that he is…” Yes. (Maybe.)