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Exstasism

Today is Good Friday and tonight is Passover.  Both traditions mark the arrival of Spring as well as a time of remembrance and tradition.  From the awakening of the world outside to the obligations inside it is a time of joy and reflection.  They are holidays outside of ourselves and the daily pace of life.

Our current world, at least in developed societies, rarely has time for such reflection anymore.  Far too often we are expected to mechanically keep going through our daily slog.  The only antidote offered is selfishness, rebellion and retreat back into our own skin for a few moments of pleasure.  Old holidays based on ghosts do not mean as much as they used to.

That system is obviously not bringing happiness to many people’s lives.  I would like to propose an alternative outlook on life which I will call “extasism”.
The word “ecstasy” has several modern meanings.  To most people, it has sexual overtones that suggest that sex is the only real source of happiness.  It’s also the name of a drug, a close cousin to methamphetamine, that literally bores holes in your brain.  But the word itself comes from the Latin term “ex stasis”, or outside the body.  The principle is that true happiness is an out-of-body experience – feeling the world as if you are floating above and apart from it.

The idea of being “ex stasis” is more than a state of joy.  Nearly all religions have some tradition of being “not of this world”, or at least the rough and tumble daily life that diverts attention away from the things that really make anyone happy.  Gnostic traditions in Christianity were present from the beginning up through the middle ages, and they have their roots in the Essene practices of Judaism.  Add in Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, or animist traditions and you can see the common thread among nearly all people, all around the world.

To truly live outside of yourself is more than a few moments of meditation, it’s a way of life.  That’s why the concept of Extasism is necessary – a non-religious movement based on being able to step outside of your own troubles and see the world from a different perspective.  It needs a handle like Capitalism or Marxism because, as a philosophy, it has the potential to change how society and culture are organized.

Think for a moment about the problems that we see in politics, business, or any other aspect of the world we’ve come to make for ourselves.  Eventually, nearly everything comes down to selfishness – the desire for power or money or whatever it is that people think is going to make them happy.  But those who practice what our culture teaches rarely seem joyful, they only seem to want more and more all the time.  A truly happy person is, at their base, satisfied.

An active alternative to selfishness is the only way beyond this. Exstasism starts with being able to see someone else’s point of view and listen to what they are genuinely saying, but it also engages them because every perspective outside of your own is a chance to learn something new.  This curiosity is usually the first step towards being materially satisfied.

That’s not to say that Exstasism doesn’t have something to offer materially.  Any good negotiation starts with an understanding of what the other party needs and careful listening.  Two people are rarely completely at odds with each other, unable to budge, although it may take some time outside of yourself to understand where they are coming from.  While Exstasism means that happiness does not come from things, it goes without saying that we all need a few things for our own survival.

While true joy might feel like you are outside of yourself, it does not naturally follow that being outside of yourself brings you happiness in return.  The practice has to be more active than that, always trying to be decent and kind to the people around us.  While people are people, cultures are cultures – we all have different definitions of what “decency” means and how people should act in any situation.  Bringing the joy, the ecstasy, to a diverse world must always seek understanding between people and giving the benefit of the doubt whenever possible.

There is also great joy to be had in understanding how silly we all are, at least viewed from outside ourselves.  Happiness often starts with not buying our own BS.

There is much more to it than this, of course.  Exstasism is in many ways a continuation of the concept I have long advocated, taking a “Strong half-step back” from life – just far enough to gain some perspective but not so far that you can’t get your hands dirty.  But in a world where labels are important and common decency is awfully rare it seems that some kind of “movement” is necessary.  We can all develop this together, if you are up for it.  What say you to an anti-selfish movement based on understanding, decency, and ultimately bringing true happiness to the world?

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14 thoughts on “Exstasism

  1. Yes! Anything to make people less self centered and all about me, me, me! That really is the root of all of our problems right now. If it has to be a movement or whatever let’s do it!

    • That’s the plan. Don’t like the idea of a “movement” per se, but … perhaps I can publish a book on the topic & become a self-styled guru – wait, that’s all about “me”, too! 🙂

  2. Rather avoid something fancy and new, but if that’s what it takes to get people to be civil then go for it. Anything is worth a try at this point.

  3. This sounds good but personal responsibility has to come into it somewhere. Touchy-feely things like this always leave out personal responsibility & that seems to be where things fall apart.

    • Sheryl, you make an excellent point and that does need to be part of it. I’d like you to elaborate, if you have time – what do you think is the point where personal responsibility and being decent and civil come together? Does the idea of “standing outside yourself” sound too much like not taking responsibility?

      • Its just that if everyone is right then nobody is wrong so everything goes. We have to be selfish to be responsible for what we do and how we take care of our own. That is not totally different then what you talk about here but its not everyones job to raise children up properly for example. Maybe it does take a village and all that but the parents are always going to be #1 no matter what anyone does. You can’t just give kids over to the schools and expect that they will turn out different from their parents. That’s what I’m thinking about here but there are many other examples.

      • I gotcha. It’s not that everyone is right, but everyone has a point to make from where they are standing. People aren’t stupid, and they come to know and believe what they do for reasons. You may disagree with the reasons, but that does not make anyone necessarily either “wrong” or “right” – unless we’re talking about a provable fact.
        As for raising kids or anything else someone does, I think there is a lot of room for “personal responsibility” – in fact, this should illuminate it. If you can really stand outside yourself you should be able to see yourself as others do. Does that picture really look as good as you’d like it to?
        Your example of raising kids is one close to my heart, of course. People are responsible for their children, absolutely, but in the end we all share what happens as they grow up to be citizens. I would hope that people could see what others think about their kids and how they are doing – how respectful the kids are, what their work ethic is, and so on. I’m very proud of my kids and I do tell them to think about what other people must think of them – it seems to have worked. I certainly apply that myself.
        But your angle, generally, is very rich and deserves more than I’m giving it here. This is not the usual “everyone is right” sort of stuff – it’s more that everyone has a perspective on the world that at least deserves respect. I’d add “respect” to “personal responsibility” to make a list of things that need to be fleshed out to make this a real way of life.
        Thanks!

  4. You set up the problem very well – “Far too often we are expected to mechanically keep going through our daily slog. The only antidote offered is selfishness, rebellion and retreat back into our own skin for a few moments of pleasure. ”
    I have read this several times and I keep coming back to that. We do live in selfish society where people can’t see past their own lives it’s true. Why though? I think you may have something here but I’m not sure. If you want this exstasism to catch on this seems like the most powerful part of it, why we need it.

    • Thank you, I do find that to be the most important part. But I still propose solutions, rather than just complain. I like throwing ideas out there for everyone to think about more than anything, and background is important. Of course, writing a self-help book I can make a book out of is the next step. 🙂

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