Middling without a Middle

Avoiding extremes, we abide in the middle.

Extreme views arise out of a basic ignorance of the nature of reality, and ground themselves on a basis that is assumed to be, or argued to be, the true nature of the reality with which they are concerned. Extreme views give rise to extreme behaviors, which are discordant or “out of synch” with the nature of things, and this dissonance between our actions and the way of things produces a constant sense of dissatisfaction. Without adequately diagnosing the causes of our dissatisfaction and applying the prescribed remedies, we lock ourselves into a self-perpetuating cyclical dynamic whereby we unintentionally produce the very conditions for our own future suffering ad infinitum.

But there are no extremes, so there is no middle.

Abiding in the middle, we see that there are no extremes. Why? Because their grounds are merely abstract hypotheticals which are hypostatized as concrete premises, and so they have no true existence, which is the very reason why they are extremes in the first place. If extreme behaviors and the extreme views which give rise to them are not grounded on any principle based on the true nature of things, then that which is ostensibly based on a relationship to them (the middle) also has no true existence.

Grasping at the middle is no different from grasping at extremes, if not worse.

That which opposes extremes is itself another extreme. You would be conceding too much ground to the very thing you are opposing in your effort to oppose them! If you think you see a ghost and try to run away from it even if there is no ghost, you still grant some level of reality to the ghostly appearance by allowing it to cause you to react in the manner that you did, which it otherwise would not have been granted if you saw it directly and immediately for what it was. Borrowing from Arya Nāgārjuna: to make the middle into yet another extreme is like seizing a snake incorrectly in an effort to save yourself from it, making you even closer to danger than you originally were.

Yet extremes are functionally operative. So too, is the middle functionally operative.

The fact that there are no real extremes does not negate the fact that there is the apparent existence of extremes; that there are extremes views and behaviors in operation all around us, both in ourselves and in others, throughout the world. Avoiding the middle, based on the reasoning that there is no middle because there are no extremes, is itself another extreme. Of course you do not carry an umbrella when it is not raining, but if it actually appears to be raining then it is beneficial for you to put up an umbrella.

When extremes cease, so too does middling cease.

When it stops raining it is of no use to keep the umbrella up. When we have arrived at our destination it is of no use to remain in the vehicle. So when we have successfully annihilated not only extreme views and behaviors but also their genetic conditions of origination, the middle itself becomes functionally obsolescent. Outside of its functional existence as the negator of functional extremes, the middle has no true existence.

Meddling Middlers Middle without a Middle.

Having no true existence of their own, Middlers are, paradoxically speaking, not Middlers. Once we have successfully interfered with the lucrative but exploitative business of proliferating extremes, meddling Middlers cease to meddle any longer. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be meddlers, we’d just be assholes. We can distinguish the archetype of the trickster from that of the mischievous joker with the same reasoning—the trickster confounds convention in the interest of bringing some ultimate benefit to themselves and the bewildered, whereas the joker upends convention as an end in itself, bewildering the bewildered even further. The joker is a cynic who disdains the world, and laughs at the expense of the misery of others. The trickster muses at the whimsical way of the world in spite of (or rather, because of) its apparent seriousness, and only ever aims to laugh alongside with others in an effort to share in the joys of the world.

In the same way, though our primary operating mechanisms as functional Middlers are tools of destruction (1) (2), ultimately these tools are only in the service of procuring the constructive foundations of clarity, insight and genuinely lasting happiness, for ourselves and all others.


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