“The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.”
— Carl Jung
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
— Jesus Christ
I’ve been making a lot of silly, absurd rap songs lately. Like this one:
Playing around with wacky, non sequitur, spontaneous, and nonsensical poetry—sprinkling in a few heartfelt epiphanies here and there—and recording this poetry over some funky beats I’ve been making.
This practice has felt immeasurably nourishing. Like a massage for my inner child’s soul.
I have felt reconnected to my own essence in a way that feels metaphysical and far beyond anything explicable in materialistic or mechanistic terms.
I mean, all I’m doing is scribbling and rhythmically verbalizing ridiculous rhyming sequences of preposterous hieroglyphs over jazzy sound-patterns, right?
Why in the world would this feel like a soothing hot bath for the heart of a young whippersnapper somewhere deep within me?
Why does this practice feel inexplicably liberating on subtle, multidimensional, ineffable levels?
I don’t know exactly, but I have a couple theories:
1. Innocent Play
“The kingdom of the father is spread out upon the earth, and people do not see it.”
— Jesus Christ
Jesus said we must become like children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven—a Kingdom which he said is on Earth, yet invisible to most humans.
Essentially, this means that we need to ‘snap out’ of our calcified ‘adult’ reality-tunnel.
Through decades of routine life and cultural indoctrination, we gradually come to see life as a ‘normal,’ humdrum affair.
We believe we are seeing things ‘objectively,’ when in truth we’re filtering out vast quantities of mysterious weirdness all the time, in service of reducing life to something that feels safe, coherent, manageable, and predictable.
The cost of doing this is enormous. We gradually become drone-like automatons, humming along in little circles, doing our daily dance, failing to notice that we are living in a truly miraculous, inconceivable reality.
“Astonishment is the proper response to reality.”
— Terence McKenna
To rediscover the living, shape-shifting, majestic riddle of being, we must return to the ever innocent heart of our child-self. We must once again remember how to play, laugh, experiment, and gaze upon the most ‘ordinary’ things with eyes full of sparkling wonderment.
We must remember that every single scene in the play of life is an astounding, once-in-existence light show of mesmerizing texture and color and flavor, disappearing in the same moment it appears, never to be seen again. Just notice how life is continuously and instantaneously renewing and refreshing itself, in every nanosecond, forever. No two instants are the same.
Innocent, carefree PLAY is something that can greatly assist us in this quest for re-enchantment. There is great normalcy-dissolving medicine in simply letting yourself get weird, loony, loopy, goofy.
This can look like anything: Climb a tree. Do a somersault. Dance. Draw a squirrel riding a nematode. Make strange noises. Use weird voices. Put on an odd costume. Write nonsensical stream-of-consciousness gibberish about nothing and everything. Listen to eccentric music. Experiment. Have fun. Make stop-motion films about golf balls becoming sentient. Build LEGOS. Play with action figures. Travel. Run around naked. Walk aimlessly. Get loose, non-linear, unquantifiable. ANYTHING.
For me, making daffy rap music really does the trick. It’s a realm where I feel so utterly and completely free to be ANYTHING. To be my full and vast and irreducible and un-box-able self.
“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then, I contradict myself.
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”
— Walt Whitman
This segues nicely into my next point / theory…
2. Disrupting & Transcending the Cult of Making Sense
There’s a foundational lie hidden deep within our culture that is basically invisible to most people.
Most of our civilization is built atop this lie.
It is so ancient, so deeply-embedded, so fundamental, that almost no one questions it.
Most everyone implicitly believes it, even many advanced ‘experts,’ teachers and guru figures.
The lie is basically encapsulated in the following paragraph (that I wrote):
“Life makes sense. Or at least, life can be made to make sense. Human beings make sense, or can be made to make sense. Life and humanity are linear, quantifiable, coherent, or can be made to be so. Everything can be explained in terms of a grand conceptual schema of categorization. Everything can be mapped and put into a box. We will accomplish this, and thus we will master life and nature.”
Rather than calling this a lie, perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a half-truth.
Half-truths are often more insidious than blatant lies, because they contain enough truth to be believable.
In this case, it’s true that we can make sense of life, to a substantial extent. “Sensemaking” is a buzzword nowadays, and as a practice, it has its place and value. The linear, rational mind is good at many things, and it has allowed our civilization to accomplish incredible technological feats.
Yet there is a great shadow in ‘The Cult of Making Sense.’ And the essence of that shadow is this:
Life—and by extension mankind and all other life-forms—are not ultimately linear, quantifiable, measurable, coherent, rational, or containable within any conceptual or categorical system.
Sure, life and man can be seen in these ways, yet there is an equal or greater element of the non-linear, unquantifiable, immeasurable, incoherent, irrational, uncontainable, non-conceptual, and non-categorizable.
Ultimately, with respect to any of these binaries (linear vs non-linear, etc), life and man are truly both, neither, far beyond either.
We are order. We are chaos. We are both. We are neither. We are far beyond anything describable or pin-down-able.
All of Life is this way.
And we do ourselves a grave injustice and disservice when we pretend that this is not the case.
When we try to force life and ourselves to ‘make sense,’ we essentially amputate large portions of what we are, in the process.
These portions are not truly cut away, though. They are simply forcibly shoved down into the dark basement of the unconscious, where they stew in feelings of shame and rejection and rage, waiting to one day erupt and reclaim their rightful acknowledgment as valid aspects of existence.
From a very young age, most people begin forcing the Cult of Making Sense onto their children:
“You must wear clothes, and you must wear them in a proper way. You must learn and speak this rational system of conceptual language. You must speak in ways that ‘make sense.’ You must speak and write in complete sentences. You must use proper capitalization and punctuation. You must have a government-tracked name and numerical identity. You must play in certain intelligible, approved ways. You must act in certain ways. You must not shout. You must not be wild. You must not be unpredictable and chaotic. You must sit still when you are told to do so. You must be a ‘good boy.’ You must fit in. You must not make us look bad. You must be like the other children. You must adopt the coherent lifestyle of your parents so as to seem normal and well-adjusted. You must not sing and dance in the wrong ways or places. You must go to school. You must sit still in this desk for the next 15 years and learn this extremely narrow range of approved subjects that ‘make sense.’”
And so on.
This pattern continues into adulthood, as society and peer pressure push us further into the Cult of Making Sense:
“You must obey millions of intricate laws, mostly written down by dead men. These laws encircle the globe and dictate your behavior in significant ways, wherever you go. You must dress in proper, respectable ways. You must wear your hair in relatively conservative ways. You must not take off your clothes in front of other people, except your romantic partner. You must get a job or start a business. You must earn money. You must drive a car in a certain way. You must live in a boxy house or apartment.
You must not build on your own land in unapproved ways. You must send your kids to school. You must inject your kids with questionable substances. You must allow your personal data and details to be tracked by the government and large corporations. You must obey this lockdown. You must wear a mask. You must not travel here or there. You must not gather in too-large numbers in unapproved ways. You must not get too loud, or wild, or crazy. You must not ingest ancient wisdom-bestowing plant medicines. You must pay these taxes. You must keep track of all your financial activity. You must keep up appearances. You must abide common norms of consumption and entertainment. You must take addictive society-approved and doctor-approved drugs when pressured to do so. You must maintain proper-looking relationships and family activities.”
And so on.
Obviously quite a few of the items listed in the previous two paragraphs are useful, necessary, and basically unavoidable, especially in modern civilization.
Yet, a lot of them are unnecessary and damaging, particularly when enforced in an overly rigid fashion, with little to no sensitivity to the needs and proclivities of individual children or adults.
A Story to Illustrate This
(Note: This story was written down several weeks ago yet I’ve left the time-indicators *as is*, so the story can feel more present and potent.)
For myself, I can share that there is a part of me that was deeply, deeply wounded by being forcibly indoctrinated into the Cult of Making Sense.
Last weekend and again today, a hugely rage-filled part of myself came to the surface to be felt and acknowledged. Both times it was triggered (in part) by a long car-ride. This part of me seems not to like the feeling of being trapped in a small metal box moving rapidly and predictably in mostly-straight lines for hours on end, for whatever (childhood-trauma-related) reasons.
Both times, I held space for this part of myself. I welcomed it to the surface. I cradled it in unconditional Love as if it was my own wounded child. I didn’t try to change it or push it away. I let it be. I let it know that it’s okay exactly as it is. I let it know I am here for it, it’s safe now, it doesn’t need to be afraid, and that I am a grown man now and can protect us.
I asked it questions: Why is it angry? Where did it come from? What does it want? What messages does it have for me? What does it need from me? I sensed into it, searching for what was underneath the rage. I massaged my chest and solar-plexus while doing some intentional breathing and meditation, bringing loving touch to the places where the feelings seemed to be located in the body, while also intending to awaken the Heart and hold everything that was coming up in the cozy alchemical fires of the open Heart.
This was a powerful process. Last weekend while driving to Amsterdam, this rage-full part erupted more intensely, and I sat with it for a long time. Beneath it I discovered a large pool of unfelt sorrow and a sense of powerlessness that I sensed was connected to being forced to go to school for many years as a child. I let myself feel this pain while listening to some songs from my album Jordan’s Heart Jazz Medicine For Our Grandchildren’s Grandchildren’s Grandchildren, and I wept. I cried a lot. It was a deep release in the backseat of our car.
Despite this release, and despite meditating and holding space for it for a long time, I wasn’t able to totally dissolve or move through the density, and I ended up being somewhat grumpy for most of the rest of the day. I wasn’t proud of this, yet I tried not to judge myself. I apologized to Tanja and let her know that I want to focus more intentionally on letting go of such processes in the future—holding space for them, feeling them, then letting go and returning to a more balanced, cheerful energy for our family’s sake. This won’t always be possible, yet I believe it is a skill I can further cultivate.
Today, on another long drive, this part of me again rose to the surface. This time, it was not overwhelmingly strong.
It felt like perhaps it was more manageable this time because 1) I had anticipated the long drive and intentionally cultivated a calm, balanced energy leading up to the drive; 2) The work I did the previous week had helped release some of the pent-up pain fueling this rage-filled part; and/or 3) After starting to read No More Mr. Nice Guy recently, I have deliberately been more direct and less conflict-avoidant in communication, which may be helping me to accumulate less resentment/anger.
Whatever the case, the part came up more gently this time. It was still fairly intense with fiery anger, but again I told Tanja what was happening, that I needed to go within, and then I proceeded to hold space for it in a similar way. This time, it seemed to tell me quite directly and distinctly that its purpose was to protect me from being trapped or forced into circumstances that do not allow me to be me. It seemed to share quite clearly that it had arisen in response to schooling and other aspects of the Cult of Making Sense that I was forced into as a child. It felt sad and angry that I had been forced into so many pre-defined boxes and life scripts that didn’t really suit me or nurture me, and it wanted to be sure that never happened again.
I held it in unconditional Love, and again I let it know that I am here for it, and that it doesn’t need to be so scared, angry, or defensive anymore, because I am a man now; I have a beautiful life and family; I can protect us; I have a high level of personal agency; and I am committed to cultivating healthy outlets through which all aspects of me can be expressed and ventilated.
This time round, I felt I did some good, productive space-holding and healing work with this part of myself, and then I was able to let go of that thread, and have a largely light and enjoyable rest of the day with Tanja and Lila in The Hague in Holland. This felt like solid progress from one week to the next.
Lessons From the Story
I share all this to illustrate how, at age 32, even after over a decade of being on a deep healing and awakening journey, I am still working to mend primordial wounds that were implanted decades ago by the Cult of Making Sense.
I share my story to illustrate that we human beings are vast. We contain multitudes. Much of what we are, will never fit in any predefined box. We contain so much that is wild, nonsensical, enigmatic, mysterious, abstract, etheric, spontaneous, uncontrollable, erratic, eccentric, un-pin-down-able, many-dimensional, and utterly unsayable. We are living poems, tapestries of sheer weirdness, each one an utterly inimitable creation, never seen before and never to be seen again.
When we as a culture do not acknowledge this—when we force human beings into narrowly defined scripts—we wreak havoc on our own souls.
The Cult of Making Sense can be seen as a collective trauma response. It likely emerged from a deep primal fear of our true condition. Unable to embrace the utter mystery, groundlessness, bizarreness, absurdity, multi-dimensionality, ineffability, uncertainty, unresolvability, and chaotically-ordered both-neither-far-beyond-either-ness of (human) existence, our distant ancestors sought to impose order and rationality onto everything—to organize all things into neat-and-tidy boxes, and to conveniently forget about whatever wouldn’t fit into a box. They (unconsciously) assumed that if they did that, Life could be made to feel safe, predictable, ordered, sensible, understood, controlled, accounted for.
And they were sort of right. Life can kinda be made to feel that way. But what they overlooked, is that Life and mankind do not like to be forced to make sense. Deep down, it doesn’t sit right. In our heart of hearts, we all want to be seen and loved in the full majestic peculiarity of what we are. All of Life wants this. Every single thing in the universe just wants to be exactly what it is, and to be loved that way.
The Cult of Making Sense does not allow this.
When everything and everyone has to make sense, Life might feel safe and predictable, but deep down, large parts of us are left feeling torturously suffocated and rejected.
In our souls, we can never fully embrace the Cult of Making Sense, because it isn’t true. It’s a poisonous half-truth. What we truly are, can never and will never make linear, logical sense. Life will never make linear, logical sense. Massive portions of Life and ourselves, will never be grokked or categorized by the rational mind.
Nature is far stranger and slipperier than that.
Stranger and slipperier than we could ever imagine.
And thank Heavens for that!
How marvelously fascinating this makes everything!
We as a culture need to allow space for all that will never fit within the Cult of Making Sense—all in us and in Life that is nonsensical, wild, non-linear, and un-pin-down-able. We ignore this charge at our own peril.
Whatever we suffocate in the dark basement of the unconscious, will eventually ooze forth to haunt us, in one form or another.
As I see it, the only way forward is to bring everything into the light to be seen, acknowledged, embraced, and loved. The great art movements of the 20th century understood this: The Dadaists, Surrealists, Situationists, Beat poets, and so forth, were all creatively disrupting the Cult of Making Sense, bringing forth non-linear words and images to undermine a ‘rational’ culture that was clearly going off the rails.
(Let us never forget that ‘rational’ man killed 100 million of his own species in the 20th century alone.)
To bring everything into the light doesn’t necessarily mean that you personally must now share all your juiciest secrets and the darkest skeletons in your closet with every random person you meet on the street. (Though that could be fun and interesting.)
It begins with letting yourself meet and acknowledge and love all parts of you. This process is ongoing and lifelong. From there, it’s a process of beginning to share more, whether in private conversations, or through essays, art, poetry, and so forth.
To vulnerably and honestly share more and more of what we truly are, is medicine for all of us.
For myself, I can say again that my music is the space where I feel I’m able to share myself most fully. There is great medicine in wildly free artistic expression. And this brings us full circle, all the way back to why making oddball rap songs is like a toasty baby blanket for my soul.
When I make songs, (almost) *NOTHING* is off limits.
I let *ALL* of myself come forth to play.
I get highly experimental. I actually utilize the medium of poetry and rap music as a kind of technology of the soul — a theatre of self in which I can give an externalized voice to any and all parts of me that are calling to be seen, felt, expressed, acknowledged. All characters and sub-personalities are welcome.
This is an immensely liberating and delightful experience. Sometimes it is also greatly emotional and painful. It is whatever it needs to be in the moment, for whatever parts of me need it. That is the beauty and fluidity of art.
Recently, I’ve been making more silly, absurd, non-linear, nonsensical songs than ever, which has felt especially medicinal for many dimensions of JB that were historically denied or erased by the Cult of Making Sense. I heartily encourage anyone to experiment with nonsensical art-making as a therapeutic practice. Here’s one more recent song I made:
This also leads me to ponder one final meaning of “becoming as little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
If you spend time with a baby, you’ll notice that they do not deny any part of themselves.
Everything is simply allowed to flow through.
All moods and whims and playful impulses are honored, no matter how irrational or incoherent they may seem to ‘adults.’
There is space for all of it.
Effortlessly, they are 100% authentic.
100% true to themselves, in the fullness of what they are.
Rejecting nothing, clinging to nothing, letting themselves be danced by the ever-shifting currents.
There’s something here: A hint. A clue. A possibility. A gesture toward freedom.
How to ‘get there’?
One answer is that the destination is also the mode of transportation.
If a state of innocent, all-embracing, radically-authentic, wildly free playfulness is what you seek…
Start engaging in more innocent, all-embracing, radically-authentic, wildly free play.
Warm, Goofy Love,
P.S. What are your thoughts/feelings? When you comment or ‘heart’ this post on Substack, it helps more people discover my work, and helps me understand my beloved readers more deeply. I love hearing from you! Thank you for your awesome comments on last week’s post on egregores, meta-religion, & differentiating Christ from Christianity.
Jordan Bates is a writer, artist, rapper, space-holder, and men’s leadership coach specializing in creativity, authenticity, pragmatic wisdom, grounded spirituality, psychedelic integration, & holistic life mastery. He offers one-to-one coaching, men’s circles, & retreats. If you feel called to work with him, book a free exploration call to connect heart-to-heart and discover how he may be able to support you.
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I LOVE this. So beautifully played ~
This was a very well written essay and very thought provoking. Thank you for sharing your story. It inspires me greatly to continue to be passionate and curious about the beauty in this world.