Update to original post:
I originally posted this in Oct 2018.
Since then, The Guardian invited me to write some stuff about the latest series. They edited down my full comments, so here’s the full version:
For fifty years, The Doctor, even in his most pleasant of incarnations, has had a singular trait – he is a psychopath. Not the serial killer type of psychopath, which psychiatrists report are a very small percentage, but the Steve Jobs type. He’s a benign psychopath. He’s a psychopath who, for reasons as yet unknown, has decided to use his intelligence for the benefit of others. And that is a large part of the joy in the character. A quick perusal of the PCL-R test for psychopaths (or what the DSM V might classify as an Antisocial/Psychopathic Personality Disorder) will suggest a list of behaviours that the Doctor definitely exhibits. For a start, he’s a complete narcissist. He always assumes (and insists) he is the smartest person in any room – and with good reason, because he is, of course, correct in that assumption. He has an extreme appetite for risk, always throwing himself (and, often, his companions) into danger, usually with a high degree of confidence that he’ll come out of it unscathed. He doesn’t really understand people or emotions and often needs a human to explain to him what emotions he should be feeling – or, at least, pretend to be feeling. During the Classic era, he would sometimes abandon a companion or other hangers-on without a moment’s thought for what that will do to them.
I was personally very excited to get a female Doctor. I loved Chibnall’s work on BROADCHURCH and hoped he’d cast Olivia Colman as The Doctor. Whittaker was a great second choice. I loved the outfit they chose for her and the overall look. I was very excited when I first saw the “key” teaser and had high hopes that Chibnall would bring the show back to its glory days, feeling like Moffat’s run with Capaldi was huge waste of the latter’s immense talent.
Unfortunately, from the very outset, I felt like Chibnall either doesn’t get the fundamentals of the Doctor’s inherent psychopathy, or has decided to write it out of this regeneration, making her a kinder, gentler, touchy-feely, kid friendly Doctor. Which is fine – he’s the show runner and it’s his prerogative to make the Doctor the way he wants her to be. But after a lifetime of Doctor Who fandom, at nearly 50 years of age, having to justify to my American wife why I continue to watch the show even during the poorly executed episodes (“because when it’s good it makes me cry! – don’t even mention the Van Gogh episode!”), I’ve given up and decided to sit out the rest of the Chibnall era. His Doctor doesn’t talk or act like the Doctor I have been watching since I was a child. She is full of self-doubt, indecisive, and wants a hug. That’s not my Doctor.
One of the problems with enlightenment is that most of the teaching about it we have inherited from the East. And most of the teaching from the East comes with hundreds or thousands of years of concepts that date back to a time when most people had little literacy, little education and certain very little science. So the terminology and explanations we get from teachers from the East (or people saturated in ancient teachings from the East) don’t get communicated in terms that make sense to the 21st century, science-literate Western mind.
But really – enlightenment isn’t complicated.
All enlightenment is, is the realisation, the recognition, that our self-concept – the idea of who and what we are – is false. It’s predicated on erroneous concepts. It’s never been true, never could be true, and never will be true. And we then need to adjust our self-perception with something more credible.
Despite what you’ll hear from many teachers, this process of seeing the errors with the old self-concept, CAN, DOES and MUST happen “in the mind”. The mind is that ONLY place where this self-concept can occur and it’s the only place where it can change.
The old self-concept that most people have, is that they are some kind of entity that is a) self-governing and b) separate from the rest of the universe.
But when we investigate that idea, we discover that it cannot be true. Our bodies are made of cells, which are made of molecules, which are made of atoms, which obey the laws of physics – therefore we are not self-governing. And those atoms are constantly coming and going from our bodies, and are interacting with the atoms of our surroundings, so we are no separate form the rest of the universe. What, then, are we? What should our new self-concept be?
If I contemplate those conclusions for a while, I come to the following further conclusions.
1. There is no particular thing I can point to, and say “this is what I am”.
2. And yet – I exist. If I did not exist, what is having these thoughts?
3. So some thing exists and yet is it no particular thing.
4. What is left? All things. Every thing.
5. Therefore I must be everything.
It also makes sense that if the atoms that make up ‘me’ (as in, the body I used to think of as me) come and go, then the atoms that are me now, were something else a few years ago. The atoms that were me a few years ago, are now something else. The atoms that will be me a few years from now, are currently something else. Which atoms are ‘me’? Obviously all of them. Which means I am simultaneously many things.
From there I consider that, according to physicists, atoms do not have a solid boundary. The nucleus of an atom is orbited by one or more electrons as a “fuzzy probability cloud”. Therefore, there isn’t even a hard boundary between the atoms that are currently me and the atoms in the air and furniture around me. If I could see at such small levels of detail, I would notice that my atoms blend into the atoms of the air and furniture. And the atoms of the air and furniture would blend into other atoms. And so on and so forth, until all of the atoms are blending into each other. The universe is comprised of atom soup.
Therefore what I am – what any of us, all of us, are – is the atom soup of universe. Which is, in other words, the universe.
There is only the universe. And I am that. And so are you.
We are the universe aware of itself.
The recognition of this – the new self-concept – is the first step of enlightenment.
The second step is the question: “So what does that all mean for how I live my live from this moment on?”
For the last six years, I’ve been working with Tony Kynaston on a book, The Psychopath Economy. It’s an exploration of why the world is so fucked up and why our leaders keep failing us. The manuscript is finished and we’re looking at various options for publication. I thought it might be a good idea to test it with some folks and see what you think of it. So if you’re like a preview of the book, click below to download it as a PDF or EPUB, and then please come back here and answer the five quick questions in this survey.
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