Monday, May 16, 2005

Individuation and the Delusion of the Self

Larry D. Lyons II: egoist? pantheist? buddhist? you decide.

jaqua said...
its always a balancing act of ego vs. true openness of spirit, yes we are all one, yes division is the ultimate illusion, but individuation is divine and there is a such thing as you me and he

larry responds...
i believe that our notions of "you" and "me" are nothing more than temporary and fleeting phantasms. if we believe such things as "you and me and he" to constitute some objective reality, we are only fooling ourselves.

1. the development of the individual from the universal
2. The process by which individuals in society become differentiated from one another.

As I explained in an earlier blog entry, I understand divinity as unity. oneness... That which allows us to experience our intrinsic connectedness. Both of these definitions of individuation (webster's own) point to the distancing, separation or distinguishing of one from another, which is quite contrary to encouraging the experience of oneness. In this way, individuation moves us in precisely the OPPOSITE direction of the Divine, not towards it.

And what is this talk of ego? Is this in response to my statement that no one exists but me? Let's be clear: I communicated this idea in jestful language. I don't believe that I am the ultimate originator of all mankind and that everyone else is merely a version of myself. I do believe, however, that every single interaction I have is purposed to allow me to encounter, confront, experience or process my own karmic energy.

I encounter cattiness because I harbor catty energy and am being allowed the opportunity to experience its toxicity first-hand. I encounter beautiful people because I am being allowed the opportunity to experience and be reminded of my own intrinsic beauty. I encounter sickness, strife and suffering in the world so that I may challenge myself to avoid allowing myself to become implicated in the creation or perpetuation of such conditions. I believe there to be a karmic coordinate or implication of every single occurrence and interaction.

In fact, my entire life is a cycle of encounters with my own energy, often embodied as other people. In thinking about this cycle, the first image that comes to mind is that of washing a garnmet until it becomes radiant in its purity. With each encounter, I endeavor to experience the fullness of my energy... all of the jealousy. all of the love. all of the passion. all of the rage. Then, I wash that energy in such a way that when next I encounter it, it will be a more pleasant experience for all involved.

Aiight, one more analogy and Imma let yall go.

You can also think about this in terms of a fable. Fables are mechanisms that employ fantasy in order to teach a lesson. Generally, fables are told to children so that they can learn moral fortitude. This is done because it is presumed that children can not readily understand abstract concepts like patience, temperance or altruism. So, we give bodies to these virtues to facilitate the child's comprehension. Tortoises. hares, lions, mice. Once children can equate a particular virtue with a particular animal, they can begin to grasp the moral lesson.

Be like the tortoise. He was patient and not impetuous and he won the race.

In this way, my life is a fable being relayed to me by the universe. There are abstract moral lessons that I need to learn in order to grow and mature, so the universe presents Mervyn and Marie and Dorothy as embodiments of my energies. My interactions with each of them provides me with instructions on how to live my life more abundantly... how to realize Oneness.

Just as the goal of sharing a fable with a child is to familiarize him or her so thoroughly with the abstract virtue itself that they no longer need the fictional embodied character to act as a stand-in, so it is with me. My goal is to transcend the need for embodied forms to encapsulate my moral/spiritual and karmic lessons. I pray that the day will come when I look at you and see nothing but our Oneness. No separations. No distinctions. Just the Divine.


Blogger Anthi said...

That is the most wonderful photograph I have ever seen. Truly.

And as for divinity and oneness? That's an intriguing idea. It sounds pretty freaking cool at least.

6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find your posts healing: Absolutely healing. Although words and images sometimes do not coalesce or need not coalesce I can't help but to say that your image captures your message in a profound way. As a queer man of and with color your art speaks to me in ways I cannot even begin to fathom. You inspire me; you move me because you open a space to theorize the underside of old and moldy modernities. I love you L(i)ar(ry) for being an aberration: for promising aberration at a moment when metaphysics continue to persist violently. You are a beautiful soul: a soul with a lot of depth. Your pic's are slightly blurry, however. Do you have an overbite? It looks like you have an overbite, but I can't tell. Overbites are sexy! Keep smiling

8:12 PM  
Blogger Frank León Roberts said...

that picture is fabulous. period.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Liza Valentino said...

This is why I love you.


Larry, forget thought provoking, this is soul provoking. This is a perfect manifestation of thoughts onto paper. I am printing this out and I can guarantee I will be reading it for at least the next two days.


And, oh yeah, the picture is sexy as all get out. But you already knew that.

10:51 PM  
Blogger G. Cornelius Harris said...

Crazy...I'll keep you posted

2:46 AM  
Blogger The Humanity Critic said...

Cool pic, interesting post.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Larry D. Lyons II said...

anthi: thanks. this is my maiden voyage into photography and digital manipulation, so... you guys get to see the early stuff. watch me grow!

anon: prickly pear, prickly pear. taking you at face value has always presented its challenges... so i won't. what i will do is this: thank you for being interested enough to comment and stick around and continue to me mindful of how i manage my energy.

basquiat: merci beaucoup, suh.

soulful: aww sis! you give me JUST what i need. even before i understood Oneness, I knew you were me.

harris & critic: there's more where that came from stay tuned.

all: should you be interested in checking out the first pieces from the photography project inspired by this very blog post, you can view the "ego divine series" at

There you should have the option of viewing the images at a higher resolution than I can make available here on the blog. Happy viewing!

12:50 PM  
Blogger Lene said...

the picture looks flawless...

6:45 PM  
Blogger No4real4real said...

Yo seriously that picture is on point. When I saw the pic the first thing I thought about was your blog on drag. Prep drag, Kid drag, and Thug drag... I love it man. In each caption you can really see the emotion of each character. They are playing the roles wonderfully. I love it!

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Mama JunkYard said...

Your last few posts have been like two for the price of one.

Each picture, viewed alone is like a blog entry in itself.

This particular photograph is wonderful. I wonder though...of the "three yous" that we see, is there any which is more you than the rest? Is there any that you would rather not be?

As for the words that accompany the post...I think Soulful Aries said it best when she said 'this is soul provoking'.

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No but seriously, I think you're wonderful and nothing gives me more joy than to tease you. I love to tease; doesn't one tease in order to love? Edit, that is, in order to write? Perform, that is, in order to be? Indeed. And you of all oneness If anything I hope to make you laugh. That said you're onto something by not taking me at face value. How could you take someone whose name is a variation of an adverbial genetive--anon-- at face value? (BTW how did you achieve the effects? Expose!)

11:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Larry thanks for that. At last someone who speaks a language I can relate to.It was your previous piece that got me excited enough to sign up for Blog Ladder,and then you disappeared!Where'd you go anyway?
It's early in the morning and I have a prayer to do and the cat got left in last night and just shat right in the place where I put my forehead (there's a karmically interesting situation!..obviously I have some cleaning up to do!)..My head's full of stuff to tell you,ask you (commun-icate with you?) don't go away again so quickly please!

if you get time,have a look at the link on my blog in post "The Man With Two Heads.".I am intensely interested in the similarities/differences between Advaita Vedanta and Sufism and assume that your spirituality is/was,based in Hinduism?
You're an interesting and intelligent man Larry and you write very clearly and well..please don't go away.
I am inside the sufi/Islamic thing but have always had reservations and difficulties with it..and it's not so easy to find intelligent and open people who understand that "Worshipping only increases the duality." thing you expressed in the last post.
I hope we can have some fruitful discussion here .. I do get rather pedantic and complicated I'm afraid but I also have my little flights of inspiration and insight so maybe there's some good times ahead?
Yours in Unity(?)..on the path to the Divine(?) I hope!,
Uthman Collins..(alias Grego)

7:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome, Larry!!!

It is very late, but I wanted to acknowledge your post. We have many common thoughts and differences too. This is good! Grego and I have been going round and round. I am a Baptist minister's daughter. My brother is a Sufi Sheik...and me I am a follower the One, taking from of the pearls and gems of many.

"Be like the tortoise. He was patient and not impetuous and he won the race."

A great role model!

"I pray that the day will come when I look at you and see nothing but our Oneness. No separations. No distinctions. Just the Divine."

Recently, I met a visionary man from Nigeria. I've not seen him or heard his voice. In the truth as Rumi saw it, we've met like this 'between voice and presence." He gave me gift of a new name: Debbe Oneness. So perhaps we will see me in time.


7:25 AM  
Blogger Larry D. Lyons II said...

starfox: thanks! didju check out the others on the flickr site?

No4Real4Real: Now you're reading between the lines!! I just asked Steven the other day if he thought my blog community would be able to make the connection between the semi-theroetical conversations about the performativity of identity and my continuation of the discussion via photography. You, sir, have given us our answer. thanks!

Mama: girl... leave it to you to press even harder... to make me think even deeper about things. i love it! :)

"of the "three yous" that we see, is there any which is more you than the rest? Is there any that you would rather not be?"

hmm... this is ridiculously difficult to answer, and for good reason. initially, i thought i'd say "i can identify more with the chap in the blazer and the kid in the pink" because they enjoy broader ranges of expression. in short, i find perfomances of [hyper]masculinity to be stifflingly restrictive, and haven't, therefore, invested very much energy in that performance in the last 10 years or so.
BUT - as I look at the chap in the blazer, I realize that he doesn't exist at all. This chap's entire wardrobe is a parody of conventions. He knows how intellegence is performed, how class is performed, how debonaire is performed, how cultured is performed, how privilege is performed...His entire wardrobe, in turn, is the costume required to enable these performances.
So, to answer your question - I must say that they're all equally me, in that each individual in that picture acknowledges that identity is something you perform not something that you "are" fundamentally or possess intrinsically. Each of them consciously puts on the costume and puts on the heirs, laughing all the while at the very conventions to which one might perceive them to be subscribing.

Anon: I love you. You are welcome here. The effects were achieved by some careful copying, pasting and a few minor adjustments in photoshop. More on that later... maybe.

Grego: you careful reader, you!
i'm SO affirmed by the fact that you enjoy(ed) my meanderings.

my religious background, like many black boys of my ilk, is in the baptist church. i only began to explore positions further east upon the latter stages of undergrad.

hinduism accepts the idea of a single divine reality (Brahman) as well as the idea of an immortal soul which is lodged in the body and will pass on to successive lives. buddhism rejects both the reality of an eternal God and of the self. nothing is permanent, everything is interconnected an in a state of flux. for this reason, i think myself to be more buddhist in my spiritual positioning (though i should note that i'm far more interested in honoring the homegrown and makeshift improvizationality/instantaneity of my spiritual journey as it unfolds than in subscribing to any one particular organized religion or philosophy). perhaps most importantly, i reject the centralizing, hierarchizing and gendering of the Divine.

all that said, i'm elated to make your acquaintance. simply elated.
i look forward to interacting!

Debbe: Three cheers for the spawn of baptist ministers! I can totally identify with the "taking from of the pearls and gems of many", it's a very fulfilling (more inclusive) way to approach the journey.
Sista, you are blowing my mind with your re-naming and its implications. You stay close, you hear? Methinks we may be able to build together for a spell.

9:37 AM  
Blogger John K said...

Larry, the digital image captures so immediately and powerfully what you've been writing about in this and other posts, particularly around individuation and oneness/unity, and the performativity of your subjectivities and identifications. The violet and white dialogue or conversation, like your previous ones exploring the photos you've posted, also strikes me as re/presenting a quasi-embodied analog to the image, but I love how you say at the end of this one that you're striving to transcend the need for embodied forms. (Hit me up directly some time because I have a question about this particular comment.) All in all, an amazing series of investigations.

12:59 PM  
Blogger SmilingOnThaDL said...

Wow, that picture is speaking to me!

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Jaqua said...

Larry would you agree that oneness of spirit and oneness of flesh are two different things?, when you look at the natural world, what do you see?, many different lifeforms existing at the same time at the same plane of existence. Would you think the God-self creator of all would limit its existence of self with one prototype, individuation is my way of explaining that reality, just like when the churches I have attended in the past always make it a habit to say "I see the God in you", there is God-self in all of us, division is not un-Godly but just the opposite, its when we use these divisions or the illusion there of to hurt each other. And as for the ego vs. openness of spirit, I was talking about me, and I was gathering from your words that you experience the same challenges occasionally, and we could commiserate nothing more, no attempt at harming you or passing judgement, I am glad you are with me in this journey.

6:03 PM  
Blogger Larry D. Lyons II said...

john: thanks for the astute observations. imma holla at you on the sidelines.

smilin: aiight, so what are they saying? :)

i'm ambivalent about the distinction between flesh and spirit (see also Morrison's Beloved). i do not believe in a God, a self or a Creator. neither do i believe that god or godliness exists within us. why? there is nothing but the divine, so it can not be encased or contained by/within anything (a body, a self, etc).
division is the fundamental rupture of divinity. you say that it only becomes deleterious once we use it a certain way, but i disagree. any act that insitutes, encourages, requires or incites distance is inherently deleterious in that any such estrangement is contrary to the experience of oneness.

Everyone: thank you for your thoughtful responses. i am affirmed

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the way you seek and find and process this energy thing you call Larry. Very nice, very nourishing. Very happening.

Pleased to be a part of your life.


9:44 AM  
Blogger solitaire said...

I'm with Starfoxx... how do you do it, bruh? I love it!!

p.s. I'm looking for one of the suited brothas, as in the picture... can you find me a straight one, pls? THANKS LOVE YA! lol

11:10 AM  
Blogger Ms. World said...

I don't have anything new to add except you are a total superstar! Please keep shining your brilliance on us all because you are speaking some very interesting truths!

7:07 AM  

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