Death Grips, Authenticity, & Choiceless Choice

Question: Eh is an ode to apathy. It’s about the struggle to find meaning, focusing on the distinction between authenticity and the contrived nature of fame and celebrity. By repeatedly saying “like…eh,” Death Grips is making a choice to blow off a fake person, fake people, and/or fake culture throughout the song. My question is this: what are choices and where do they come from?

Michael Richardson-Borne: First, I heard you mention authenticity. What is authenticity?

Q: Being one’s true self?

MR-B: Correct.

Many people think authenticity is a form of bravery or courage to do what one wants, or feels, all of the time. Sometimes this looks like a natural unmediated laissez-faire attitude, sometimes it shows up as a tenacity to follow a vision, to follow one’s heart– to live one’s deepest, most profound story. In short, there’s a ubiquitous belief in our world that, as you said, an authentic person is someone who is not afraid to be their true self.

However, most of these authentic people have a confused notion of what this true self actually is– and their notion is reinforced by a global cultural agreement held in place by billions of people who also have a confused notion of what this self actually is. The agreement is one that is rooted in the assumption of a separate self– that the true self is the body and the associated mental stories that are supposedly attached to this body.

If you look closely, the separative assumption I’m pointing to is revealed in the phrasing, thinking, and context around the language “not afraid to be their true self.” The obvious assumption is that the separate self has to aspire in some way to be the true self– that there is a possibility of being separate from the source of activity and being. From this perspective, you can see that being “counter-culture” is actually anything but– as it’s just a horizontal translation of the same separative illusion at best.

How can one be anything other than their true self, effortlessly? Nobody has to make an attempt– it’s always here, now. Yet, in our culture, it’s made a valued personality trait if one chases the dreams of the separate self. This may be to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer– maybe a political leader, maybe a famous artist, academic, or athlete. Whatever it is, aspire to be different, to be better, to be famous is the message we are bombarded with. Live your most profound story or else be miserable is the choice we’re presented. Both of these options, when rooted in separation, lead to the same destination.

But taking the journey and successfully living the deepest level of egoic authenticity is a very important first step– as finding the pain and emptiness that lives there is often what is needed to have people look for something “more”– beyond the ego. Or, at least, for something else. It’s generally the initial opening to becoming a true seeker, a path that can lead to the surrender to what is living you– where true authenticity doesn’t have an authentic story at all. As we’ve discussed before, stories are from the past or future. Authenticity is alive, in the moment as it’s happening. This is what I call non-separation.

But to your question about choice. Choices are observed movements in consciousness. They don’t come from anywhere, it’s an impersonal happening. To come from somewhere, the cause and effect would have to be separate– which are divisions of the mind. These divisions may be real to us in a certain way, but they still lack the concrete style of reality many of us would like to give it.

Humans are addicted to imagining that they are the author of the choices that are made– but there is no autonomous decision making entity. Everyone from academics like Sam Harris to respected spiritual teachers like Mooji is pointing to this (or flat out saying it), yet the vast majority of the world still fails to comprehend the implications of what these teachers are pointing to– which is a kind of impersonal choiceless awareness or choiceness choice. As I say all of the time, you are being lived much more than you are doing the living.

Now to apathy. Where most people begin with this as it pertains to choiceless choice is, “Well, if I don’t make any choices, then nothing really matters. Since I don’t have to try, I’m just going to sit here and do nothing besides smoke joints and eat burgers.” It’s a kind of threat to become apathetic on purpose. What they don’t realize is that this isn’t their choice either. The statement is coming from the exact same assumption as all of their previous questions and statements– an assumption rooted in separation as an autonomous decision making entity.

Q: You called choice a “movement in consciousness?” What did you mean by this?

MR-B: The confusion most people live is the confusion of who the real actor in “their” life is. They perceive themselves as autonomous decision-making entities and believe something is at stake with each and every decision they personally make.

Science has studied this. Movements happen, then the mind responds to the movements. What you perceive as “you” is an interpretive story that happens a micro-second behind the authentic action itself.

If you take a moment and watch your inner workings, you will discover that the content arises effortlessly without any of your doing. You are merely observing the movements of your consciousness. One of these movements can be called choice.

Q: I understand what you’re saying. But, if I’m not making decisions, who is?

MR-B: Nobody. It’s just not the nobody that you’re identified with as you ask the question. The choice is all part of a single movement which you are observing.

This is making me think of a scene out of Homer’s Odyssey where Odysseus is taking on the Cyclops Polyphemus and tells him that his name is “Outin” or “Nobody.” After Odysseus puts a sword in the Cyclop’s eye, Polyphemus begins shouting that “Outin” or “Nobody” is trying to kill him. Because he is yelling that “Nobody” is trying to hurt him, none of the other Cyclops come to his rescue. It’s a great moment of comic relief as well as teaching of non-separation– what Odysseus is saying is actually true. Nobody is there. And nobody is making the choice to be there.