Endless Entertainment

At the birdfeeder there were a dozen or more birds chirping away, pecking at the grains, struggling, fighting each other, and when another big bird came they all fluttered away. When the big bird left again they all came back, chattering, quarrelling, chirping, making quite a lot of noise. Presently a cat went by and there was a flurry, a screeching and a great to do. The cat was chased away – it was one of those wild cats, not a pet cat; there are a great many of those wild ones around here of different sizes, shapes and colours. At the feeder all day long there were birds, little ones and big ones, and then a blue-jay came scolding everybody, the whole universe, and chased the other birds away – or rather they left when it came. They were very watchful for cats. And as the evening drew close all the birds went away and there was silence, quiet, peaceful. The cats came and went, but there were no birds.

That morning the clouds were full of light and there was promise in the air of more rain. For the past few weeks it had been raining. There is an artificial lake and the waters were right to the top. All the green leaves and the shrubs and the tall trees were waiting for the sun, which hadn’t appeared bright as the Californian sun is; it had not shown its face for many a day.

One wonders what is the future of mankind, the future of all those children you see shouting, playing – such happy, gentle, nice faces – what is their future? The future is what we are now. This has been so historically for many thousands of years – the living and dying, and all the travail of our lives. We don’t seem to pay much attention to the future. You see on television endless entertainment from morning until late in the night, except for one or two channels, but they are very brief and not too serious. The children are entertained. The commercials all sustain the feeling that you are being entertained. And this is happening practically all over the world. What will be the future of these children? There is the entertainment of sport – thirty, forty thousand people watching a few people in the arena and shouting themselves hoarse. And you also go and watch some ceremony being performed in a great cathedral, some ritual, and that too is a form of entertainment, only you call that holy, religious, but it is still an entertainment – a sentimental, romantic experience, a sensation of religiosity. Watching all this in different parts of the world, watching the mind being occupied with amusement, entertainment, sport, one must inevitably ask, if one is in any way concerned: what is the future? More of the same in different forms? A variety of amusements?

So you have to consider, if you are at all aware of what is happening to you, how the worlds of entertainment and sport are capturing your mind, shaping your life. Where is all this leading to? Or perhaps you are not concerned at all? You probably don’t care about tomorrow. Probably you haven’t given it thought, or, if you have, you may say it is too complex, too frightening, too dangerous to think of the coming years – not of your particular old age but of the destiny, if we can use that word, the result of our present way of life, filled with all kinds of romantic, emotional, sentimental feelings and pursuits, and the whole world of entertainment impinging on your mind. If you are at all aware of all this, what is the future of mankind?

As we said earlier, the future is what you are now. If there is no change – not superficial adaptations, superficial adjustments to any pattern, political, religious or social, but the change that is far deeper, demanding your attention, your care, your affection – if there is not a fundamental change, then the future is what we are doing every day of our life in the present. Change is rather a difficult word. Change to what? Change to another pattern? To another concept? To another political or religious system?

Change from this to that? That is still within the realm, or within the field of ‘what is’. Change to that is projected by thought, formulated by thought, materialistically determined.

So one must enquire carefully into this word change. Is there a change if there is a motive? Is there a change if there is a particular direction, a particular end, a conclusion that seems sane, rational? Or perhaps a better phrase is ‘the ending of what is’. The ending, not the movement of ‘what is’ to ‘what should be’. That is not change. But the ending, the cessation, the – what is the right word? – I think ending is a good word so let’s stick to that. The ending. But if the ending has a motive, a purpose, is a matter of decision, then it is merely a change from this to that. The word decision implies the action of will. ‘I will do this; ‘I won’t do that’. When desire enters into the act of the ending, that desire becomes the cause of ending. Where there is a cause there is a motive and so there is no real ending at all.

The twentieth century has had a tremendous lot of changes produced by two devastating wars, and the dialectical materialism, and the scepticism of religious beliefs, activities and rituals and so on, apart from the technological world which has brought about a great many changes, and there will be further changes when the computer is fully developed – you are just at the beginning of it. Then when the computer takes over, what is going to happen to our human minds? That is a different question which we should go into another time.

When the industry of entertainment takes over, as it is gradually doing now, when the young people, the students, the children, are constantly instigated to pleasure, to fancy, to romantic sensuality, the words restraint and austerity are pushed away, never even given a thought. The austerity of the monks, the sannyasis, who deny the world, who clothe their bodies with some kind of uniform or just a cloth – this denial of the material world is surely not austerity. You probably won’t even listen to this, to what the implications of austerity are. When you have been brought up from childhood to amuse yourself and escape from yourself through entertainment, religious or otherwise, and when most of the psychologists say that you must express everything you feel and that any form of holding back or restraint is detrimental, leading to various forms of neuroticism, you naturally enter more and more into the world of sport, amusement, entertainment, all helping you to escape from yourself, from what you are.

The understanding of the nature of what you are, without any distortions, without any bias, without any reactions to what you discover you are, is the beginning of austerity. The watching, the awareness, of every thought, every feeling, not to restrain it, not to control it, but to watch it, like watching a bird in flight, without any of your own prejudices and distortions – that watching brings about an extraordinary sense of austerity that goes beyond all restraint, all the fooling around with oneself and all this idea of self-improvement, self-fulfilment. That is all rather childish. In this watching there is great freedom and in that freedom there is the sense of the dignity of austerity. But if you said all this to a modern group of students or children, they would probably look out of the window in boredom because this world is bent on its own pursuit of pleasure.

A large fawn-coloured squirrel came down the tree and went up to the feeder, nibbled at a few grains, sat there on top of it, looked around with its large beady eyes, its tail up, curved, a marvellous thing. It sat there for a moment or so, came down, went along the few rocks and then dashed to the tree and up, and disappeared.

It appears that man has always escaped from himself, from what he is, from where he is going, from what all this is about – the universe, our daily life, the dying and the beginning. It is strange that we never realize that however much we may escape from ourselves, however much we may wander away consciously, deliberately or unconsciously, subtly, the conflict, the pleasure, the pain, the fear and so on are always there. They ultimately dominate. You may try to suppress them, you may try to put them away deliberately with an act of will but they surface again. And pleasure is one of the factors that predominate; it too has the same conflicts, the same pain, the same boredom. The weariness of pleasure and the fret is part of this turmoil of our life. You can’t escape it, my friend. You can’t escape from this deep unfathomed turmoil unless you really give thought to it, not only thought but see by careful attention, diligent watching, the whole movement of thought and the self. You may say all this is too tiresome, perhaps unnecessary. But if you do not pay attention to this, give heed, the future is not only going to be more destructive, more intolerable but without much significance. All this is not a dampening, depressing point of view, it is actually so. What you are now is what you will be in the coming days. You can’t avoid it. It is as definite as the sun rising and setting. This is the share of all man, of all humanity, unless we all change, each one of us, change to something that is not projected by thought.