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One month short of my deadline for the University’s final examination my mum and sis came over demanding if i was going to move to their place.

After me having lived by my own (sometimes in dire straits) through the whole university, all of a sudden everyone wants to live in Brasí­lia when i myself was already fed up with the city, and they even buy a condo. But to correctly grasp the drama of the situation i gotta tell you about this final exam.

In most of the Design BA courses in Brazil (and University of Brasí­lia is no exception) your entire academic life is supposed to be translated into a single big final assignment. It ends up being a lot of work. Most people get crazy in their final months, having time for absolutely nothing else. My case was even worse, as I actually was on two assignments (because my University had a strange “competences” thing and i went with the loco strategy of getting 2 by the price of 1 at the same time!). When this case happened, i had already been through 2 months of absolute hell, i was under-slept, overworked, underfed, caffeine-intoxicated. I was a mess. My bedroom was a mess. My computer was a mess.

And then, displaying a blindness to my personal reality that still astonishes me, they demanded that i should move over to stop paying my meagre rent.

There was nothing else to do.

I had to become invisible.

I do not mean super-powers. The rays of light didn’t stop bouncing off of my body. (That would suck, by the way.) I just mean that people did not see me.

It is a fairly common thing, also: clerks and cleaners are invisible — in a bad way. But you can use it.

For example, instead of saying anything that would begin a long and tiresome argument, i just said to my sister, when she asked me to move: “Maybe, probably, i don’t know…” And i said it with the perfect intonation to make them go away. I did not defy, i did not try to justify myself, i did not play the game.

So, let’s try to go “practical” here — that pesky word is in the title after all.

  1. So, first lesson. You do not want it. You do not want to be seen. You must not want, or else you will sub-consciously make yourself seen. The problem is most of the time you do want to be seen. You do. Really. Even when you are trying to hide. We humans have that strange thing of liking other humans, it is bizarre. We mostly prefer being mistreated than being ignored. To become invisible, you change this “look at me, i need attention” impulse inside yourself. (I do not mean you turn anti-social and start hating people, i just mean that, when you are invisible, you must stop wanting to attract attention, you must not need people to notice you and worry about you and care about you).
  2. Second lesson is: Do not play the game. Stop. Almost all the time we (and yes, that means YOU) are playing games. What i do mean by that:
    relationships or personal exchanges where the people involved take specific roles and there are previously defined standards to judge behaviour and performance. “She is the jealous girlfriend”, “He is the funny guy who never takes things seriously”, or even “alcoholic Father, criticizing Mother, understanding Daughter and rescuer Son”. Seems a bit complicated, but after some time paying attention you start to see the “recipes” in the ways people interact with each other.

    Those games are not, in themselves, bad. Groups usually need some role-playing to work easily, and games can be a pathway to personal development. But usually we are bound on those roles. We become locked in those previously defined standards. To become invisible, you simply refuse to play. If people around you keep on putting you on those prefabricated roles, just walk away.

  3. The problem with games is not the prefabricated roles, but the fixed judgements. That is: people judge you not by what you do, but by what you were supposed to do, according to the game. Who you are, or if you have qualities or defects, if you are good or bad, all those things will be decided not by the people around you, but by rules. And that really, really sucks. It sucks because it restricts your movements. You need protection against that, and the only one that works is stop making judgements (can take that as lesson three). Again, the difficult part is to realize how much you do it yourself. Once you stop judging people, you can see the ways you are being judged, how this changes your behaviour, and how you can simply ignore it all.
  4. And the fourth and final lesson is: you do what is best for everybody. At every single moment, you take the situation you’re in with an open mind and try to find the best form af acting you can have, considering not only personal gains, but your whole reality including context, which means amongst other things everyone around. This is not trying to take advantage over the people around you. It is also not trying to help. Try to find the best possible action, here and now. In the broadest sense possible. Slap some faces once in a while, if those people need to wake up, for example. But be whole, be open, be attentive, be interested. Every single second. Every single breath.

Those four ideas might seem, at first glance, quite a burden. It might seem a lot of work. If so, just do it and do not question too much. You’ll discover that they are quite liberating. They enhance freedom.

Because freedom is something built, it does not happen by itself and it can’t be given or guaranteed.

On the other hand, the lessons might seem to some to be too common sense to be of any use. If it’s your case, maybe you are already invisible — but then you would understand the value of acting this way. Most likely, you are not taking those teachings seriously enough. It is not enough to say (or pretend) that you do not want to be seen, this has no effect, you must realy truly deeply stop this desire inside yourself. {If this is still too hard on you maybe you can take some preliminary exercises.}

Now if you can do that, and you can do that for time enough that it becomes an habit, it becomes something fixed and available inside you (instead of an effort), then you will begin to notice a number of things.

The first thing is that, yes, the world around you is trying to fuck you up. Like, it is making you want to buy things that you do not need, forcing you to have relationships that are based not on trust but on shackling the other person, and so on. But even more importantly, you’ll see that the world around you can only do that using things that are already inside you. It can only create desires by using the desire you already have. It can only create a state of constant anxiety by using the fears you (know you) have, but never actually forced yourself to face.

Probably some oriental guy would say (exactly the same thing) as “your worst enemy is yourself”. With less metaphors, i say that the individual can use his own impulses as a powerful tool, but most of the time people are doing exactly the opposite. They are using themselves to construct higher walls for their own prison.

And the technical term for this prison, in case you are wondering, is La Société du Spectacle, or Spectacle Society. This is a society where, supposedly, there are mechanisms of control that not only force you to accept your own slavery, they force you to want it.

Those mechanisms of control are all around us, in seemingly innocuous forms, like TV, like mobile phones, like a sugar-flooded diet. Make no mistake: those things are controling you. They are. But we must understand control as a complex process.

Both the controlled system and the control mechanisms are made up of various parts that interact in variable ways, sometimes even unpredictable ways. The existence of control means that we can find in those complex processes specific patterns. In simple systems, we can discriminate between native patterns and patterns that where imposed by the control mechanism. But day to day life in the Spectacle Society often you cannot make this distinction.

And the difficulty of becoming invisible comes directly from that complexity. The devilishness of the Spectacle Society is exactly that you can’t distinguish what you want from what you are being made to want — a car gives you freedom to go anywhere or it just forces you to buy more and more fuel? BOTH!

Now, there is a whole school of thought that, faced with such situation, takes the stance that what’s needed are better ways to identify the enemy. Those guys are the post-modern guys. They are always trying to find an enemy to fight. Either they distort Marxist idea of Commodity to refer to TV, or they create new forms of stratifying the demographic data, or they apply old labels (such as bourgeoisie) in context where they do not fit, you get the idea.

But there is another possibility. And i mean, we can live as if there where no enemies. Instead of fighting against someone (or something), we are building.

The mechanisms of control, besides blocking us from doing some things, also allow us to do other things. For example, the rules of mathematics impede you to sum 2 and 3 and finding anything other than 5, in this sense they diminish your freedom. On the other hand, these same rules make you capable to understand quantities and predict all kinds of mathematizable problems.

Society, for example, even before the creation of broadcast technologies, used control mechanisms extensively to maintain itself. The seemingly innocuous Gossip, for example, is one of the strongest forms of control. Everyone knows who “is a slut” and who “can become senator one day”. And, again, the strenght of Gossip comes from everyone doing it.

We do not need to fight the control mechanisms. Never for one instant forget that they are there and that they are trying to fuck you up. They are. But instead of fighting, learn to use the control mechanisms. Learn to see the patterns. Learn to not take them for granted.

Create your own names for these mechanisms. Try to see them for what they are, do not blindly aply the categories you were trained to use since childhood. Uncondition yourself. Unhypnotize yourself.

Try to apply the same ideas you learn from studying the Spectacle to create structures of freedom.

And, in case your efforts attract the wrong kind of attention… BECOME INVISIBLE.


One Comment

  1. thanks alot i really needed some outside feedback I really need help.

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By Websites tagged "invisibility" on Postsaver on 31 Oct 2008 at 11:17 am

    […] – The Practical Guide to Invisibility, or how to stop worrying and … saved by footballpro692008-10-27 – Liu Bolin Invisibility saved by Tryggi2008-10-26 – 7 Tips for […]

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